Hector Bellerin is likely to be leaving Arsenal this summer. Fabrizio Romano reports that the right back “has no plans to continue” at the club next season. Bellerin spent the last year on loan with Real Betis, and while the Spanish side would like to bring him back, the finances, particularly Bellerin’s weekly wage, complicate any potential deal. Bellerin also reportedly has drawn interest from Italian clubs.
Bellerin joined Hale End from La Masia (Barcelona’s academy) at 16 years old. He played for the Arsenal youth teams for three years before making his senior debut in the League Cup in September 2013. He was a mainstay in the Arsenal lineup in the final few years of Arsene Wenger’s tenure and continued as the first-choice right back under Unai Emery, but his development wasn’t as pronounced as many expected it would be. When he broke through into the first team, he had the makings of an international-caliber right back.
His growth was further stunted by a torn ACL in January 2019. He has admitted that his injury and recovery were particularly difficult for him, both physically and mentally. To my eye, he never got back to his pre-injury level / form at Arsenal.
Fortunately, his loan to Real Betis seems to have been an extremely positive one. Being back in Spain, close to family, and playing for the club he grew up supporting seems to have refreshed and re-energized him — he said as much on Ian Wright’s podcast during the season. Betis is his father’s favorite club and he really wanted to see his son play for them. The loan made that dream come true, and you can see how emotional it was for both Bellerin and his father from Hector’s social media posts towards the end of the season.
Like most Arsenal fans, I want only the best for Hector Bellerin. He’s long been one of my favorite players at the club. I deeply admire his commitment to social justice as demonstrated both by using his platform to speak up about important issues and by actually taking action through initiatives like his planting trees for Arsenal wins. I also admire his authenticity. He seems to have an understanding of who he is and what he wants, and he does not apologize for living his life as he wants to. I would love to see him return to Real Betis and thrive there.
At the same time, Arsenal are not a charity organization. They cannot keep canceling contracts to shift players out. Getting Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s albatross contracts (especially for guys on the wrong side of 30) had to be done. But giving players away for free isn’t sustainable. Nor is shifting players out for below-market value just because the buyer is crying poverty.
Hector Bellerin has value. At 27 years old, he still has several productive years ahead of him. He just started 22 La Liga matches for a club that finished 5th and won the Copa del Rey. Arsenal should be able to get £10-20M for him. Honestly, I’d be disappointed with less than £15M. And there seems to be a decent chance of that happening!
Mikel Arteta, Edu, and the club have to draw a line in the sand somewhere on outgoing transfers. They need to start getting better returns for players, especially ones that still have a decent bit of value. That all needs to start with Hector Bellerin. Regardless of how much we like him and want him to be happy.