Barcelona have confirmed the signing of Hector Bellerin on a one-year deal from Arsenal.
Bellerin started his career at Barcelona, a member of the club’s famed La Masia academy, but left to join Arsenal in 2011 as a 16-year-old, following in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas who also returned to the Blaugrana later in his career.
After being an unused substitute in two matches in the 2012/13 EFL Cup, Bellerin finally made his Arsenal debut in the third round of the 2013/14 EFL Cup, a 25-minute appearance in the penalty-shootout win over West Brom. But the Spaniard would later be sent on loan to Watford, playing eight times across a three-month spell.
Bellerin eventually became a regular in Arsenal’s starting XI and has gone on to play 239 times for the Gunners, winning three FA Cups and being named as vice captain along the way. However, injuries have always haunted Bellerin and he eventually lost his spot in the Arsenal team, being sent on loan to Real Betis last season.
It was at Betis that Bellerin re-found his feet, playing 23 times in La Liga to help the club to a fifth-placed finish, missing out on a Champions League spot by just five points. According to reports earlier this summer, Bellerin was keen to stay at Betis on a permanent basis, wanting Arsenal to terminate his contract to push the move through.
And while Arsenal have now terminated his contract, Betis are not the destination, with Barcelona swooping in to add Bellerin to their defence, replacing Sergino Dest who has been allowed to join AC Milan on loan. Bellerin’s agent confirmed the defender had taken a pay cut to sign for Barcelona, stating a “significant effort” to return home.
“We today say goodbye to Hector and we thank him so much for his loyalty and commitment to Arsenal Football Club,” Mikel Arteta said.
“During his 11 years with Arsenal, Hector won three FA Cups and made nearly 250 appearances – such a huge contribution to the club. I’m privileged to have played in the same squad as Hector for three seasons, wearing the Arsenal shirt and sharing many great moments on and off the football pitch together.
“We thank you Hector and wish you and your family all the best for your return to Barcelona.”
La Masia to Barcelona via England
As mentioned, Bellerin isn’t the only player to move from La Masia to Arsenal and then back to Barcelona, with Fabregas doing the same. There are more instances of La Masia graduates eventually returning to the Barcelona after spells in the Premier League.
Gerard Pique is perhaps the most-successful example, joining Manchester United from La Masia before returning four years later to become an integral part of the defence in Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering side.
Last season Adama Traore made his return to Barcelona, albeit only on loan from Wolves, having spent seven years in English football after initially joining from La Masia. Unlike Bellerin, Pique and Fabregas, Traore signed for three English clubs on a permanent basis, playing for Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Wolves before his Barcelona loan.
Eric Garcia also returned to Barcelona last season from the Premier League, having joined Manchester City’s academy from La Masia in 2017, playing 35 times for the English side. In his first season back at Barcelona, Garcia already bettered his appearance tally, playing 36 times and he appears to be one of Xavi’s first-choice centre-backs.