Arsenal defender Hector Bellerin insists he has no regrets about leaving Barcelona, and says his decision to move to the Emirates Stadium has been vindicated now that he's made a senior breakthrough in north London.
The Spain U21 international has enjoyed an impressive debut season as part of Arsene Wenger's first-team squad, making the right-back berth his own in the absence of injury hit summer signings Mathieu Debuchy and Calum Chambers.
Bellerin has established himself as an important part of the Gunners starting XI in recent months, and alongside fellow academy graduate Francis Coquelin his rapid rise has been one of the biggest surprises for the club in 2015.
The 20-year-old has made 23 appearances for Arsenal so far this season - even more games than perhaps even he anticipated at the start of the campaign. However, Bellerin says he's relishing the regular run of matches and enjoying his moment in the spotlight having had to bide his time patiently since arriving from Camp Nou in 2011.
“I left there as a kid and now I feel like a man,” he reflected in an interview with the club's official website. "I’ve grown up a lot because I left at 16 to come to another country, another culture.
“You really have to grow up and there’s a lot of things that have changed. When I was there I used to play as a winger and now I’m playing as a defender. I feel I’ve grown up on and off the pitch and I feel really confident now as a right back.
“I’ve only played there for four years but I’m feeling really confident that I can play there, and that I’m proving to everyone that I can play in the Arsenal first team."
Bellerin had to wait two years for his senior debut, which came against West Bromwich Albion in the League Cup, and could be forgiven for growing a little frustrated as Wenger aired on the side of caution by refusing to throw the player in at the deep end.
It wasn't until the Champions League group stage clash against Borussia Dortmund back in September that the former Barca prospect got his first chance to show what he can do in the Arsenal side this season, but after impressing against top quality opposition he's not looked back since.
“Sometimes you only get once chance and I took it,” he explained. “I’m really happy with my decision, I’m really enjoying my football and I’m really enjoying living in London.
"I’ve got my family over here as well so I’m really settled in the club. I’m really enjoying myself.”
Now it's all about finishing the 2014/15 campaign on a high, individually and collectively, as Bellerin looks to maintain his place in Wenger's team and help Arsenal finish as high in the Premier League table as possible.
The Gunners welcome Swansea City to the Emirates this evening, and know that victory over Garry Monk's men will bring them back level with Manchester City in second place.
With Chelsea having already been crowned domestic champions this year, the runner-up spot and automatic qualification for Europe's elite club competition is the best that Arsenal can hope for, although they also have another FA Cup final to look forward to against Aston Villa at Wembley later in May.
Arsenal fans: How impressed have you been with Hector Bellerin this season? Do you now regard him as the club's first-choice right-back ahead of Mathieu Debuchy? Have your say below...
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