The Spain international’s future at the Emirates Stadium has been the subject of much discussion in recent weeks, with Barcelona and Manchester City both reported to be chasing his signature by The Daily Mail – after Sport discussed interest from the Catalans.
That prompted Arsene Wenger to tell journalists last week that the club want to agree a new contract with the right-back – his current terms are due to expire in 2019 – that will improve his salary to the level his rapid development has justified.
As quoted by Sky Sports, he said; “He has nearly three years to go, we always try to get the players to the [financial] level where we think they deserve to be. We will try to extend his contract, his long-term future is here.
Countryman and teammate Cazorla has now given his take on the situation in an exclusive interview with International Business Times, insisting Arsenal must do what they can to keep hold of the 21-year-old defender.
He said: “We’ll see [what happens with Hector]. It is clear that Hector is the right-back of the future. You could see in the victory over Swansea how good he is. He was all over the place and never stopped running. For Arsenal it would be a mistake to let him go.
“It is obvious that many teams want him. There has been talk about Manchester City and Barcelona. He is a player with great potential and I am sure he will also be a key part of the future of the Spanish national team.”
Since becoming an Arsenal regular during the 2014/15 season, Bellerin has established himself as one of the best attacking right-backs in Europe due to his combination of speed, technical ability and creative instincts.
He claimed a place in the PFA Team of the Year last season and a report from Football Observatory in July ranked him as the most valuable defender in the world.
With that in mind, there’s an obvious temptation to cash-in, especially if Arsenal can inspire a bidding war between Manchester City and Barcelona. Right-backs aren’t exactly hard to replace, after all.
But Bellerin’s overlapping runs have become an integral feature of the Gunners’ forward play in recent campaigns, this season allowing Theo Walcott to tuck inside and operate almost as a second striker alongside Alexis Sanchez. That’s paid dividends for the England international, who has already claimed five goals and two assists in the Premier League this season.
Here’s a look at Bellerin (left) and Walcott’s (right) heat maps from their 3-2 win over Swansea City last weekend, courtesy of Whoscored, to illustrate our point.