Barcelona are on course to successfully defend both the La Liga title and the Copa del Rey, and they are the favourites to retain the Champions League having defeated Arsenal 5-1 on aggregate in the last 16.
Luis Enrique’s men, who are currently on a remarkable 39-game unbeaten run, have been simply exceptional this season, but they could get even better in the summer by bringing back one of their former youngsters.
Hector Bellerin, who was born in Barcelona, started his football career as a winger in their youth teams but he moved to Arsenal in 2011. He joined Watford on loan in November 2013 and, having been recalled from that loan spell by Arsene Wenger, went on to make his Champions League debut in September 2014 away to Borussia Dortmund.
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Ever since he broke into the Arsenal first-team towards the back end of 2014, Bellerin has improved massively and this season he has made the right-back position well and truly his own.
The Spaniard has played well on a consistent basis and has become a regular, starting 28 of Arsenal’s 30 league games so far and helping to ensure that only Manchester United have kept more clean sheets than the Gunners.
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His quality performances effectively forced French international Mathieu Debuchy out of the club, albeit on loan, in order to get some playing time, and his emergence is also a reason for Calum Chambers’ apparent stagnation at the Emirates.
Bellerin is known for being one of the fastest players in England and he uses that pace defensively, to make recovery tackles, but also in an attacking sense to give his teammates a genuine outlet going forward.
The youngster is lightning quick but he also has vision, providing as many Premier League assists so far this season as Chelsea playmaker and former Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas.
Bellerin has good awareness, lots of energy and with his ability to come out on top in most one-on-one situations, he has all the essential attributes of a modern day full-back.
The talented defender can count himself unfortunate that he is yet to break into Vicente del Bosque’s Spain team, although he does face stiff, direct competition from Premier League winner Cesar Azpilicueta, Villarreal star Mario Gaspar, and Atletico Madrid’s Juanfran.
Current right-back options
Dani Alves, who joined Barcelona from Sevilla back in 2008, has been a magnificent servant for the Catalan club and over the past four or five years has arguably been the best attacking full-back in world football.
That said, the 32-year-old Brazilian has received a fair amount of criticism from some people for his lack of defensive awareness and he’ll be into the final year of his contract next season.
Pacey Spaniard Aleix Vidal, who only made his Barca debut in January, is currently the understudy to Alves at right-back. Although he is capable of playing as a full-back, it isn’t the 26-year-old’s natural position, having made a name for himself at Sevilla as a winger.
24-year-old Martin Montoya has become a somewhat forgotten man after showing signs of real promise in 2011. Having moved to the club’s famous La Masia academy system at the age of eight, Montoya expressed his desire to leave the Nou Camp in December 2014 and has spent this season on loan at both Inter Milan and currently Real Betis.
Highly-rated Brazilian Douglas agreed a five-year deal with Barca in 2014, but he was criticised by fans for his poor debut performance in a 0-0 draw at Malaga and has made just three senior appearances for the club.
Will Barca sign Bellerin?
Bellerin signed a new long-term contract to keep him at the Emirates prior to the start of the current campaign and he has repaid the faith that Arsenal showed in him by being the best right-back in the Premier League this season.
However, a move back to his hometown and to the current best team in the world would surely be extremely difficult to resist.
Current Barca stalwart Gerard Pique along with Fabregas both started their careers at Barcelona before moving to Manchester United and Arsenal respectively and then eventually returning to the Nou Camp.
As with Pique and Fabregas, it seems inevitable that Bellerin will return to the five-time Champions League winners if they come calling one day in the future and so it might be a matter of when not if.
There’s no doubt that Bellerin has a very bright future ahead of him, and having only turned 21 on Saturday, he has the potential to become one of Europe’s very best right-backs over the next five to ten years.
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