By Matt Farr
European giants Manchester City and Barcelona are set to go head-to-head for the signature of Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin this summer, according to a report.
Spanish news outlet Mundo Deportivo believe that the two mega-rich clubs are looking towards the 21-year-old full-back to strengthen their defensive options ahead of next season.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is expected to make major changes to his defence in the summer after a host of worrying displays this term, and that could see a number of incomings and outgoings.
Gael Clichy, Bacary Sagna and Pablo Zabaleta are all out of contract at the end of the season, and with each defender also over the age of 30, the Etihad chief is desperate to inject some youth into his back-line.
£50million summer signing John Stones, meanwhile, has proven to be a disastrous piece of business for the club to date, although Guardiola is not expected to offload the young England star.
Barcelona are long-term admirers of Bellerin, and fancy themselves as the favourites to beat the Premier League side to his signature.
Bellerin was a member of the club’s La Masia academy between 2003 and 2011 prior to his move to Arsenal, but after a remarkable rise as one of the best young full-backs in Europe, Barcelona want him back.
The major stumbling block for both sides, however, is that the Arsenal defender only recently committed his long-term future to the north London club.
His new deal now runs until 2023, but both City and Barcelona will be looking to capitalise on the current uncertainty at Arsenal to push through a deal.
Football Insider verdict
With no clarity as to whether manager Arsene Wenger will continue in or leave his post at the end of the season, there could be a negative impact on the players. Without knowing who will be managing the club next season, some contract negotiations have stalled – predominantly Ozil and Sanchez – and the ongoing uncertainty presents an ideal opportunity for clubs to swoop for their most-prized assets. If Wenger does go at the end of the season, some of the club’s other stars could follow him out of the door. Bellerin is one of Arsenal’s best talents, and they must ensure he remains at the club as long as possible. However, both City and Barcelona could tempt him – or any Arsenal player for that matter – with the prospect of silverware, while Barcelona have the advantage of his previous Nou Camp experience in their favour. It may be a tough sell in the coming seasons, but Arsenal must convince him to stay put.
In other Arsenal transfer news, this senior Arsenal man has reportedly snubbed interest from the Chinese Super League.