Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin moved to Arsenal in 2011 aged just 16 after graduating from the Catalan giant’s famous La Masia academy, signing his first ever professional footballer’s contract two years later.
Since then Bellerin has gone on to become a mainstay in Arsene Wenger’s team while admitting that it was his first meeting with the Frenchman that helped persuade him to pack his bags and move to London.
The Spaniard was impressed by Arsenal’s proposal and seriousness early on in negotiations just before he signed with Barcelona, the rest is history and it appears to be yet another of Wenger’s major coups by identifying and nurturing immense talent at an early age.
“When you get to 16 at Barcelona, it’s the age that you sign your main contract,” he told Arsenal magazine.
“I was about to sign that, but we knew there were a lot of other options because you always get them from other teams at that time.
“I didn’t have the option to come to Arsenal until I was right about to sign with Barcelona. When it came, they were so serious about it, more serious than any other team.”
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Bellerin was impressed by the sentiment to bring him along to meet the Gunners boss in person and watch an impressive victory over Manchester United. Something that will long live in the memory of the talented Spaniard.
“They made me feel really wanted. I came here for a weekend. I met the boss and I remember I went to the game. We beat Man United and I remember Ramsey scoring. I still have all those images in my mind,” he continued.
“To be 16 years old, to be able to speak to the boss and get reassured that they really wanted me, plus seeing all the facilities at the training ground and how easy they were going to make it for me to adapt, it all made me tell my parents that I wanted to come here.
“I remember I was on the plane back and I already said to my mum that I wanted to come to Arsenal. My mum was like “are you sure you can leave your family and friends?”
“But there was something inside telling me this was the right choice to make and at the moment, I’m very happy that I made that step.”
Bellerin represents yet another major coup from La Masia, following in the footsteps of the infamous Cesc Fabregas acquisition. The esteemed academy along with their fierce rival Real Madrid’s youth set up ‘La Fábrica produce fine footballers that may never have a chance to play in their clubs senior team, yet just like Bellerin, could become a starter for a Premier League side in England.
Our Spanish maestro would make a fine ambassador for the Gunners and only bodes well for our chances of luring more future talent ahead of the pack. They can see what is possible, and how Arsenal with Arsene Wenger can provide a platform for some of the games brightest talents.