Mikel Arteta pays tribute to 27-year-old Spanish defender

By | September 4, 2022

Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta has paid a heartfelt tribute to Hector Bellerin following the right-back’s departure for Barcelona on deadline day.

Bellerin originally left La Masia in 2011 to sign for the Gunners and was a servant to the North London club for 11 years, eventually becoming Arsene Wenger’s first-choice right-back.

However, the 27-year-old began to struggle with form and injuries and soon fell down the pecking order at the Emirates behind Takehiro Tomiyasu and Cedric Soares.

Bellerin reignited his career with five assists in 32 games during a loan spell with Real Betis last term – winning the Copa del Rey in the process – and he returned to Arsenal to feature in pre-season.

The Spain international’s proposed permanent move to Betis did not materialise, but an agreement was struck for him to rejoin Barcelona on a free transfer, with Arsenal retaining a 25% sell-on clause.

Bellerin won three FA Cups, scored nine goals, provided 29 assists and made a total of 239 appearances during his time at Arsenal, and Arteta has wished his former teammate well in Catalonia.

“He called me really late last night, that was more a conversation that we used to have when we were teammates and really good friends,” Arteta told reporters in Friday’s press conference.

“Take the coach and the player situation away and get back into that relationship as well. I love the kid, I love what he’s done for the club, he’s someone I have very strong feelings about.

“I know it’s one of his dreams to play there [Barcelona], so hopefully he can fulfil his dream and get his career back where he can, because he’s still very young and has a lot to do.”