Barcelona's sporting director and chief of scouting spotted in Rome watching Arsenal starlet
What’s the story?
Barcelona’s sporting director, Robert Fernandez, and Chief of Scouting, Urbano Ortega, have been spectators at various stadiums around the world, scouting players they could eventually bring to the club. They were spotted in Rome recently watching the Spain U-21 team play Italy in Rome and in Paris watching French stars Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar and even Corentin Tolisso.
However, there was only one player they had in mind when they went to Rome and that was Hector Bellerin. The Arsenal right-back is the Catalan club’s prime target for the summer ahead, with their problems at right back this season well documented.
The 22-year-old Spaniard has already admitted that being linked to Barcelona is flattering, saying, “It's nice there are a lot of big clubs that are interested in me, but if one of those is Barcelona that's special. I don't forget I grew up in that home and I will never forget my time at Barcelona."
He further added,“I left Barcelona because I felt that the club was not confident in me, I didn’t feel valued and was disenchanted with the club.”
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The Arsenal right back recently signed a new six-year contract that keeps him at the club until the summer of 2023. The Spaniard would cost somewhere in the region of €50 million if he were to be sold in the upcoming window.
The heart of the matter
With both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil refusing to sign contract extensions, the Gunners are resigned to the fact that they could lose two world-class players in the summer. Arsene Wenger did come out fighting during his press conference, claiming that neither player would leave but the fact remains that Arsenal may end up losing both players. However, the one player the London side will be determined not to lose is Bellerin.
The Spanish international signed a new contract in November, keeping him at the club for another six years, thereby thwarting the immediate threat from Barcelona. However, with Arsene Wenger’s future in doubt, the Spaniard might follow his manager out the door.
Even if Wenger stays, that may not deter the Spanish giants from making a bid for the youngster in the upcoming transfer window.
Now with their sporting director and chief of scouting watching the 22-year-old, the Catalans have stepped up their interest in the right back and have even made him their number one target, having never found a proper replacement for Dani Alves.
Parallels from history
Bellerin would be the second Spanish player to cross between Barcelona and Arsenal, with Cesc Fabregas joining the Gunners in 2003 from the Barcelona youth side, before returning to Camp Nou eight seasons later.
However, if Bellerin leaves, it won’t be the first time that Arsenal have sold a first team right-back to a big club, with the Bacary Sagna leaving for Manchester City in 2014 as a free transfer, after spending seven seasons with the Gunners.
Arsenal cannot afford to lose Bellerin, especially as they have no immediate replacement for the young right back. Given that the Gunners may lose both Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil, they will definitely want to keep hold of their other stars if they are to compete for the title next season.
While a move to Barcelona will be tempting for Bellerin, it is unlikely he will make the switch this summer.