Arsenal may have walked into a dangerous transfer saga with regards to Hector Bellerin by delaying contract talks on several occasions over the course of 2016, according to the Evening Standard.
The 21-year-old has become the subject of affection for both Manchester City and Barcelona this week with the latter seeming to launch an all-out charm offensive in the Catalan media.
Bellerin has been pictured on the front of Sport newspaper on Monday and Tuesday while Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre has openly spoken about the club's desire to bring him back to his hometown.
Mestre went as far as to compare Bellerin's situation to that of Cesc Fabregas, who left Barcelona as a 15-year-old, broke into Arsenal's first-team before subsequently returning for a large fee. There is now a chance that Bellerin will be offered the same path.
But, as with Fabregas, everything will depend on Bellerin's decision. Fabregas was open about his desire to go back to his first club while Bellerin has done little to suggest he feels the same way. However, thanks to Arsenal's tactics in contract talks, the Spanish right-back has been given food for thought.
Article continues below
Delayed contract talks
Bellerin only signed a new deal in 2015 and is believed to be earning around £50,000-a-week. That deal is due to expire in 2019 but reports would have us believe that a two-year extension, including a big wage rise, was on offer.
That, according to reliable journalist James Olley, is not the case. In fact, Arsenal have chosen to delay contract talks with Bellerin's representatives on several occasions throughout the last year, leaving themselves open to a potential problem if either Man City or Barcelona come in with a tempting offer.
The reason for the delay is the fact that Arsenal have failed to tie down Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez to new contracts. Together, they cost the club £75m in transfer fees but both are worth far more to Arsene Wenger than that. They are the marquee additions keeping Arsenal in title contention but both seem dissatisfied with the lack of progress at the club.
Their contracts are due to expire in 2018 but allowing them to run until the end of the season could force the Gunners to sell for well below their market value. If there is still no agreement in January, speculation will grow intensely.
But Bellerin is threatening to add to those problems if his head is turned by Pep Guardiola or Luis Enrique. While he is not as important to Arsenal's immediate future, he is seen as a key pillar in their long-term project and is arguably just as valuable.