Héctor Bellerín would consider an offer from Barcelona in the summer, if Arsène Wenger was to leave Arsenal. The Spanish right‑back has emerged as a prime target for the Catalan club and the pursuit has begun, with the newspaper Mundo Deportivo splashing with the story of Barça’s interest.
The leading La Liga clubs routinely use the Spanish press as their first port of call in these situations – in an attempt to turn the head of their target – and Barcelona have indicated that money would be no object in a prospective deal for Bellerín, who began his career in their youth system.
Barcelona want the best in the world for every position and their scouts believe that Bellerín, who has three Spain caps, fits the bill. They have been concerned at the form of their current right-back, Sergi Roberto.
Bellerín signed a six-and-a-half contract at Arsenal in November, which is worth £115,000 a week, and he did so partly because he was told at the time that Wenger would extend his stay at the club beyond the end of the season, when his present deal expires.
Bellerín has a debt of loyalty to the manager but, more importantly, he enjoys playing for him. When Manchester City pushed hard to sign Bellerín last summer, the 21-year-old opted to stay put because he felt he was in a good place under Wenger. It should be noted that Arsenal’s position was not to sell.
The Guardian understands that were Wenger to leave it would change Bellerín’s thinking – and it would impact on the futures of other key players, principally Mesut Özil and Alexis Sánchez, each of whom will have one year to run on their contracts in the summer.
Özil said in an interview with Kicker magazine in January that his future at Arsenal was linked to that of Wenger. “The club knows that I want to be clear what the manager is going to do [in the future].” Özil will not consider extending his contract until it is revealed whether Wenger will stay or go, and neither will Sánchez.
Wenger, who is under remorseless pressure from a section of the club’s support, has the offer of a two-year extension on the table but he wants to gauge the general mood before he makes his decision. He has been enigmatic on the subjectof his future and, in his most recent comments relating to it, he said that he was determined to continue as a manager – although not necessarily at Arsenal.
There is also the issue of whether Arsenal will once again be able to secure qualification to the Champions League. If they failed to do so, it would have serious ramifications not only for Wenger’s future but for the squad’s most coveted players. The team sit fourth in the Premier League.
Wenger’s future has come to have an all-consuming feel, with some players in his squad convinced that he will stay and others far less certain. From one camp to the next, there have been conflicting messages. Barcelona have picked up on the uncertainty and they hope to exploit it in the case of Bellerín. The 21-year-old left their academy for Arsenal in 2011 – at the age of 16 – but it has often been suggested that Barcelona would be the one club that could tempt him away from north London.
Arsenal’s position remains consistent. If they were to receive an official offer from Barcelona for Bellerín, they would turn it down. They have sold a clutch of players to Barcelona in the past – Thierry Henry, Alex Hleb, Cesc Fàbregas and Alex Song – but they maintain that those days are over.