By Arsenal correspondent Tony Hughes
Hector Bellerin has revealed he left boyhood side Barcelona for Arsenal because of the lengths the Premier League giants when to land him.
The Spaniard moved to north London in 2011 to initially join the Gunners’ academy and has emerged as a key player since graduating to the first team.
Bellerin, who is set to face his former club when Arsenal take on Barcelona in their last-16 Champions League tie in February, has revealed he was on the verge of signing his first professional contract with Barcelona when Arsene Wenger’s team made their move.
Speaking to Arsenal’s official website, Bellerin said: “When you get to 16 at Barcelona, it’s the age that you sign your main contract. 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. They made me feel really wanted.”
The Gunners gave Bellerin and his family the red carpet treatment for the weekend, with Wenger personally assuring the then teenager how much he wanted him.
“I came here for a weekend,” Bellerin recalled. “I met the boss and I remember I went to the game. We beat Manchester United and I remember [Aaron] Ramsey scoring. I still have all those images in my mind.
“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.”
The 20-year-old Spaniard has beaten off competition from Mathieu Debuchy to become the club’s established right-back over the last 12 months and is expected to start Monday’s top-of-the-table Premier League clash against Manchester City.