With this summer’s Euro 2016 campaign on the horizon, Premier League players have had an extra bit of motivation to impress and stay fit this season.
Of the Arsenal squad, a host of superstars will represent their respective nations in France, with 24 countries set to battle it out to become the continent’s top dogs.
Despite a wealth of Gunners players being set to feature at the tournament, a number will sit out and be forced to watch on from the sidelines.
Arguably the most unlucky not to play a role in the competition this summer is Hector Bellerin.
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The young Spaniard has been one of the North London club’s most trusted and consistent performers over the last 12 months and a real asset to Arsene Wenger’s men.
Bellerin moved to England from the fabled Barcelona youth academy and has been transformed from an attack-minded winger into a mobile full-back. The 21-year-old’s style of play is reminiscent of current Spain international Jordi Alba, who gallops forward at every opportunity for club and country – just like Bellerin does at Arsenal.
The young star has transitioned well into playing in defence and has not been a weak link in that regard; the opposite has almost been true.
Then why is this prodigious talent not being given a look-in at international level?
Spain’s squad is loaded with top-class players from front to back and as such making the cut is always going to be a difficult task for a youngster.
However, right-back is one area where Vicente Del Bosque is not overly blessed with world beaters and there is certainly a case to suggest that Bellerin should have been in consideration given his club form.
The three options selected by La Roja for recent friendly fixtures against Italy and Romania are likely to be the trio that boards the plane to France.
Cesar Azpilicueta has proven himself at Chelsea, despite playing on the left more often than not, while Juanfran and Mario Gaspar have done enough to push above Bellerin in the pecking order.
Experienced head Juanfran has been one of the unheralded heroes of the Atletico Madrid revival under Diego Simeone but does not encapsulate a world-class option.
Gaspar has only three caps to his name but has had a promising start to international football and scored a memorable goal against England in Alicante recently.
Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal will also be in the reckoning, but his stock has fallen slightly since losing his place at club level to Brazilian Danilo.
It seems to be only a matter of time before Bellerin represents his country and the right-back surely will play an important role for Spain in the future.
However, it is extremely likely that the Arsenal man will be unfortunate to miss out this time round, as Del Bosque opts for more experienced options in France.