Héctor Bellerín, former Barça academy player, is linked with a move back to his fellow club. But with a right-back position that has been lacking a certain kind of consistency and solidity since the departure of Dani Alves, is Bellerín what Barcelona really need or does he leave open the same holes Semedo has been suffering? Let’s analyse who Bellerín is and what can he bring to the blaugrana cause.
The three-times FA Cup and Community Shield winner, Héctor Bellerín, has come to a crossroad. After six years of first-team football in London, he might have felt the need to change. And Arsenal’s eternal crisis and lack of high competitive seasons may have something to do with it. Especially when you are a talented, young footballer that is reaching his peak years. But at the end of the day, it is all too relative to talk about motives for a divorce, since both the North London club and the Spanish player are taking the path back to the light, really slowly but effectively.
As Arsenal is beginning its journey back to success with Pep Guardiola’s alumni, Mikel Arteta, Bellerín came back from yet another series of injury that have, until now, compromised much of his career. Perhaps, taking aside those fitness issues, he may already have been in a big club and we would not even be talking about a potential transfer for him in this stage of his career.
Unfortunately for him, he has been heavily influenced by injuries throughout his whole professional life. After he had his breakthrough season with Arsenal, in the 2014/2015, nobody would have thought the unfortunate series of events that would have characterised him later on.
Up until 2018, Bellerín’s only fitness problems had been a couple of groin strains and ankle injuries, which resulted in a mere four weeks away from football in four years. As his talent was developing in what has always been a great place to play entertaining football, his body had always responded well to the Premier League’s workloads. Until the 2018/2019 season.
While that campaign opened with the same continuity he showed in the previous ones, the problems began to show their marks just before Christmas. In a league game against Southampton, Héctor Bellerín sprained his ankle. Nobody knew, but that was going to be the start of a new delicate, unfortunate era for the Spaniard. And after the return on the pitch, a month later, Bellerín’s knee couldn’t take it anymore. Against Chelsea, the tragedy came to a sad reality: cruciate ligament rupture, meaning the end of the season for the footballer and the beginning of a long ordeal.
Héctor Bellerín already was a strong option to sign for Barça in 2017 before they went for Nélson Semedo | Photo by Julian Finney via Getty Images
Beginning last season still as injured, he slowly recovered from the trauma, getting back to full fitness around late October 2019. But the lack of luck followed him furthermore. After a month of benches and a small number of minutes on the pitch, he got injured again. This time, hamstring. But will has never been an issue for Bellerín, as he eventually got back onto the pitch a month and a half later and felt enough trust and faith from Arteta, who rarely left him out of that starting eleven spot until the end of the course.
Héctor Bellerín’s career has been a journey. As much as he has always shown character and determination, he has always been one of the most talented players Arsenal has developed over the last decade. Offensive and aggressive on the pitch, his dynamism and speed form a phenomenal conjunction down the right-back side. But apart from physical aspects of his game, even his technical ability has shown improvements year after year, as he has registered 25 assists in his 205 appearances in a red shirt. Just imagine what some pure Barça style training could do to him and to his overall affinities.
He has always been a pure talent, but at the same the risk of getting another Nélson Semedo or Ousmane Dembélé is huge. What do I mean by that? Barcelona’s problems in the last few years have always been the defensive system. Not the defensive players, but the collective all together. How a team defends is the representations of a group’s effort, rather than the individual brilliance, which can help in moments but not in a long-term vision. And next to this very problem that has been afflicting Barça ever since Dani Alves’ departure is the fact that lots of players bought by the Catalan club have resulted in a false promise, due to technical misconceptions or injury addiction.
Without pushing too much against Semedo, the Bayern Munich game emphasised yet again how fundamental the full-back positions are in modern football. It is no surprise that Guardiola has spent a lot on those kinds of player: Danilo, Benjamin Mendy, Kyle Walker and joão Cancelo.
At the same time, it is just the same with the likes of Liverpool, who completely changed the way football is perceived through the wings and the quality brought by both Andrew Robertson and Trent Alexander-Arnold, and Bayern Munich, who found in Alphonso Davies and Joshua Kimmich the foundations of another complete and powerful wing work combo with Leroy Sané and Serge Gnabry up down the line. Full-backs are the present and the future of football, both defensively and offensively, but especially tactically.
While Barcelona has never shown much interest in reinforcing those full-back positions – apart from Semedo –, football was evolving and the Catalan club has found itself in a blind spot. After many consider Nélson Semedo’s time has come to an end, the question on whether to begin to improve such a crucial yet difficult position to fill starts to arise. And without thinking too much of the similarities between the Portuguese international and Héctor Bellerín, Barça seems to be set in changing names, but not concepts.
Would Bellerín really be a big upgrade to Barcelona’s current options? | Photo by Naomi Baker via Getty Images
Bellerín can be extremely talented and exciting for both the future and the present, especially if he really ends up in a place like Barcelona, where he could refine his technical and offensive movements skills. But the doubts in whether his defensive work will ever improve to such heights will always be there, as Barcelona has shown not to care much about improving their full-backs¡ defensive positioning.
As much as Jordi Alba and Semedo can have excellent offensive movements and ball abilities, they have rarely shown improvements on the other end of the pitch. That is the risk that signing a player like Héctor Bellerín for Barça could bring. A talented full-back, but without a prior defensive foundational work behind him. And injury prone. Does Barcelona really need to make such a bet, again?
There are lots of opinions regarding this latest rumours on Bellerín. Many are against it for fitness reasons, many for footballing ones. Other are in favour because it would bring some new flavour to the Camp Nou. But there are really not many who think it would bring a bettering of the team.
As much as having such talented players on a Barça side should excite every football fan because of what Barcelona itself represents and its technical bible dictates, the only reason behind such a transfer would purely be of a renewal. Changing faces, bringing in some new players, rebuilding around new personalities. But even with a bargain deal in the region of €20 or 25 million, in many ways, Héctor Bellerín would bring to Barça the same features Semedo currently provides. Nothing better, nothing worse.
Five players that Barcelona could off-load in order to sign Erling Haaland
In Catalonia, many news outlets are reporting that President-elect Joan Laporta is keen to bring the Norwegian sensation, Erling Braut Haaland, to Barcelona. Laporta’s excellent ties with Haaland’s agent Mino Raiola are known throughout the footballing fraternity. He is keen to use this cordial relationship to bring probably one of the most talented young centre-forwards to Camp Nou.
Haaland’s Contract situation
There have been many rumours about Haaland’s contract and his release clause. It’s said that Dortmund have let in known privately that Haaland’s contract includes a release clause of €75 Million. However, this is valid only from 2022; if any club wishes to sign him before, they need to open talks with Borussia Dortmund and his agent Mino Raiola.
With all said, it looks certain that almost every big club in the world will be looking to land this deal which is rumoured to cost €110 Million. Barcelona’s precarious financial situation means that Laporta and his team needs to make a decision to make some big sales in order to complete the dream of signing Haaland. We take a look at 5 players that Barca can sell in order to get the required funds.
The market value of the Brazilian currently stands around €47 Million. After his very successful loan spell at Bayern Munich, he publicly stated that he was determined to make it big at Barcelona. Ronald Koeman also said that he admires the qualities Coutinho has and would be an integral part of his project. However, six months into the season, it seems that the Brazilian has gone out of favour at the club. The emergence of Pedri and Moriba also doesn’t help his case. It has been reported that if Coutinho plays 100 matches for the Blaugranes, the club will need to pay an additional €20 Million to Liverpool.
Given the fact that Barcelona have many parasitic clauses in the contract with former Liverpool player, it’s very doubtful that any club would be willing to offer what his market value is. A long term injury which has forced him out for a big chunk of the season will also play a part in deciding the transfer sum the Catalan club can get in the transaction.
The French forward has not been able to fit perfectly in the system Barcelona plays, he has produced some good performances in the new year, but lacks the ability to move the ball quickly and take on defenders. Former Barca legend, Hristo Stoichkov, had some very harsh words for Griezzy, “Whenever Griezmann is on the pitch, Barcelona play with ten players. If they want to do something in the long term, they have to sell him. Trincao and Braithwaite must be on the team. What is Griezmann doing there?”, said the Bulgarian to Marca.
Griezmann is currently valued at €58 Million, given his wonderful finishing and relentless work off the ball, many big clubs might be interested in getting his services. The French forward will turn 30 this month, a number many clubs will be looking at very closely while making their decision to sign him.
The Danish forward, without any doubt, is a very hardworking player and has improved on various skills of forward play in his time at Barcelona. With that said, it’s a no brainer to realise the fact that he cannot be Barcelona’s only No.9. Many PL clubs from the bottom half are rumoured to be fond of the former Leganes man. With Barcelona targeting Sergio Aguero and Memphis Depay, the danish would certainly become a fringe player and the club will be open to hearing offers for him.
The Dominican Republic fullback was brought in with the motive to give Jordi Alba some competition at the left-back spot. Under all the three managers Barcelona has had during his tenure at the club did not play him much. Barcelona were open to selling him in the January window itself with Inter Milan in the pole position to acquire his services. However, due to some personal reasons, the move was stalled and Junior ended up staying for the remainder of the season.
The Bosnian midfielder was part of what one can say the worst deal that Barcelona has ever made. It’s a relatively known fact that Pjanic was a part of the deal which was meant to ‘balance the books’ by the Bartomeu administration. The former Juventus man has failed to add anything new to the squad and has been out of favour for a long time now. A deal that would see him go to some other big club in Europe would benefit both parties.
The Twist: Leo Messi
After the very unfortunate leaking of Messi’s contract, the entire world is aware of the astronomical contract he has. If the Argentine wizard decides to leave eventually at the end of the season, the club will surely free a very big amount from the wage bill which can be used to make some necessary additions to this squad.
It remains to be seen how things will pan out in the coming summer, but one thing is for sure that Barcelona needs to clear a lot of their squad depth in order to realize the dream to bring the Haaland to Camp Nou.
Jorge Messi will travel to Barcelona on Monday to listen to Barça’s offer, where they will offer him a renewal for another 3 years.— Barça Universal (@BarcaUniversal) March 13, 2021
— TNT pic.twitter.com/ld93SO6JKV
A thing that can be said with certainty is that Laporta is keen to make the signing of Haaland a reality, and come July, Barca will be into the most important transfer window of their history which will shape the future of the club for many years to come.
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