Of all the Arsenal squad there are few, perhaps none, whose connection with the squad is as deep as that of Hector Bellerin.
Among first team players only Mesut Ozil and Emiliano Martinez are longer serving. Only the former has made more appearances.
Whilst Ozil has been ostracised Bellerin has grown in prominence since signing his current contract late in 2016, tying himself to the club for six-and-a-half-years. The Spaniard, although it may be fair to name him an adopted Londoner, is a more vocal presence off the pitch than his on field demeanour indicates and is understood to have been part of Arsenal’s player leadership council since Arsene Wenger’s final season.
The bond between Bellerin and many supporters is deep, going beyond just his performances, which have fluctuated with injuries, to the example he sets for what a footballer can achieve. He is not afraid to speak his mind and to address issues beyond his sport.
Equally Bellerin feels a deep affection for Arsenal. He explained it as cogently as any fan could in an interview with the Guardian last year. “I don’t hate Tottenham because they told me to hate them,” he said. “I hate them because I love Arsenal.”
Yet Bellerin views the current market as a crossroads for his career. At 25 he has ambitions to fulfill his rich potential. football.london understands that he reluctantly finds himself asking whether another rebuild at the Emirates Stadium, even one helmed by Mikel Arteta, is the right place to be for his prime.
Meanwhile several of Europe’s top clubs have him on their radar. football.london revealed earlier today that Bayern Munich are tracking Bellerin, as are Juventus.
Later in the day Paris Saint-Germain advanced their interest further and have indicated a readiness to bid for Bellerin’s services. Arsenal could demand up to £35million though in the current market they may have to settle for nearer to £30million.
On this occasion Bellerin, who rejected the chance to join PSG when he was Unai Emery’s preferred target at right-back, is seriously considering the move. He would be well-placed to establish himself in a position where repurposed central defender Thilo Kehrer and would likely find himself competing in the latter stages of the Champions League. It is a competition in which he has played just 15 games.
Should they wish Arsenal could hold Bellerin to his contract, which has three years left to run. They know they are well-placed to hold out for the fee they want or to simply block any exit; they would have no cause to doubt that their vice captain would be anything less than committed if he is still at the club when the transfer window closes.
Losing a player deemed worthy by Europe’s top sides would be a cruel blow for Arsenal but equally that sale would go a long way to funding reinforcements elsewhere. Meanwhile Ainsley Maitland-Niles, for whom they rejected a £15million bid from Wolverhampton Wanderers and who they are increasingly minded to keep, and Cedric Soares could give Arteta sufficient options on the right flank.
Meanwhile the funds can be redirected to strengthen other positions of Arteta’s squad, notably midfield. There are other players that Arsenal might like to sell first but few who could attract the same interest as Bellerin.
Both sides are understood to be keen to work through any potential bids in a constructive manner, neither wants to part ways under a cloud after such a long and positive association.
And so the unthinkable for so many supporters might just be the most logical step for Arsenal and Bellerin, a chance for the latter to take a step up and for his club to strengthen where they need it most.