Is Barcelona Target Hector Bellerin the Man to Replace Troubled Aleix Vidal?

Rik Sharma@@riksharma_Featured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2016

Hector Bellerin applauds Arsenal fans.
Hector Bellerin applauds Arsenal fans.Associated Press

It has been a tumultuous week in the life of Aleix Vidal. And his situation is progressively worsening.

Barcelona coach Luis Enrique held the right-back responsible for the club's shock 2-1 defeat by Alaves at Camp Nou earlier in September.

While no player on the team pulled their weight that day, Vidal’s performance was especially wretched, and Barcelona’s boss responded by leaving him out of the squad to take on Celtic

And then the squad to take on Leganes.

And then the squad to take on Atletico Madrid.

He has been discarded on three consecutive occasions, with the situation fast seeming a lot like last year’s.

Aleix Vidal has had a problematic time of late.
Aleix Vidal has had a problematic time of late.David Ramos/Getty Images

Enrique realised he could not rely on the Spaniard and ended up overplaying Dani Alves and using Sergi Roberto out of position, rather than giving him opportunities, as the importance and intensity of the games rose.

Vidal had showdown talks with Enrique at the end of the season and left them happy and content ahead of the new season.  

But after his repeated omissions, he has appeared more frustrated than ever. A photo published on Instagram of himself in training accompanied by emojis of a zipped-shut mouth and a raised middle finger provoked outrage in Spain, with most newspapers wondering if he was taking a dig at his coach.

Sport’s Gerard Romero had a theory on why Vidal might have been so upset on Thursday. The journalist explained:

The manager is not satisfied with the player's performances in training and the player has a list of his own grievances, too.

The latest is being put in a position in training which was not right-back. It was a little detail which left Aleix Vidal annoyed with his manager.

Aleix has been playing as a forward in training, while Nili, a Barca B player, was filling in at right-back.

Shortly afterwards, Vidal struck back on Instagram again, an explanation of sorts. He wrote:

Needless to say, nothing about the previous message was about my coach, just that I wanted to show I am tired of [the media] trying to publicly provoke a bad relationship where there is none. I take criticism but not destructive ones or those lacking respect, and I don’t want to leave any doubt that I will keep fighting despite the situation.

Gol FCBarcelona @golfcbarcelona

Aleix Vidal carga contra la prensa https://t.co/P1Z6NNxFut

It was a trite comment. What could he have expected by making such a childish post with the world watching? Such anger and resentment shouldn’t be aired in public.

It will have been a different mix of emotions this week 700 miles north-west of the Catalan capital, across the English channel, in London.

Hector Bellerin read the news coming from his homeland with some excitement.

Most players who leave La Masia at a young age do so in search of minutes, not because they have lost hope of appearing for the club of their dreams. 

This was just so in Bellerin’s case, who found at Arsenal a much clearer route to the first team than could be seen at Camp Nou, with Alves in his pomp.

Bellerin tries to shackle Andres Iniesta.
Bellerin tries to shackle Andres Iniesta.Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Bellerin, then just 16, explained to Spanish television show Punto Pelota (h/t the Daily Mail) that manager Arsene Wenger had promised him a fast-track pass to Arsenal’s first team. He wrote:

After evaluating things I decided to join Arsenal. When you want to be a professional you have to look to make your way. And I believe the right path for me was to choose Arsenal.

We met Mr Wenger and it went so well. It was all too much for me but I paid full attention to everything he said. When there is a team that guarantees you can play in the first team and above all in the Premier League, then it is very difficult to say no.

Mr Wenger was explaining to me how the club was and the project they had prepared for me and above all he wanted to get to know me.

Sport's Tomas Andreu said this personal touch from Wenger could be what persuades Bellerin, now 21, to renew his contract at the Emirates instead of moving back to Catalonia in a €35 million deal.

But would he succeed where Vidal has failed? There is no knowing how he will react to the challenges thrown at him by Luis Enrique, who demands a lot of his players, but for a youngster, leaving his home and his people to break into a leading Premier League team is an impressive feat and one that speaks well of his mindset.

On to his physical attributes. Bellerin is fast. Very fast. Jordi Alba fast. The speed Alba offers Barcelona is a vital tool for them on the left, and adding a player who can attack with the same dynamism down the right will be a useful tool.

Like Vidal, Bellerin started as a winger and was moved backwards into his current position at Arsenal.

Bellerin has rewarded Arsene Wenger's faith thus far.
Bellerin has rewarded Arsene Wenger's faith thus far.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

He made his Arsenal debut in central midfield in September 2013, something that speaks highly of his technical skills, before eventually breaking into the team in 2014-15 after a loan spell at Watford.

With each passing week, he grows in stature and ability, and Barcelona’s vice-president Jordi Metre couldn’t resist singing his praises after the Catalan media reported the club’s interest.

Per Sport's Toni Frieros, he said: “We’ve already seen him as a Cule. He’s a great player, there’s no doubt about that. Wenger convinced him to move and promised him something which we couldn’t. We could not promise him that within two years he would be playing in Dani Alves’ place.”

Bellerin would be following in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas, who moved back to Barcelona the summer Bellerin traded the Camp Nou for the Emirates.

Bellerin has come a long way in a short time.
Bellerin has come a long way in a short time.Frank Augstein/Associated Press

That return didn’t go particularly smoothly, with Fabregas leaving for Chelsea in 2014 after a frustrating spell at the club that ended with a lot of fans unhappy with his performances.

In fact, there has been a history of Barcelona signings from Arsenal proving troublesome. Fabregas, Thomas Vermaelen and Alex Song, just to name three men who failed since making the move. Alexander Hleb, Marc Overmars, Emmanuel Petit to name three more.

But Bellerin should buck the trend. There is a gap for him at the club, with Vidal so clearly not in coach Luis Enrique’s favour. 

Sergi Roberto is the current first-choice right-back, and while he has been a revelation in that position, the club could do with proper competition, and that is just what Bellerin would offer, as well as possessing a different skill set to the versatile midfielder, giving the coach options depending on the opponent Barcelona are facing.

Signing him could prove tricky, but if the Catalans bring Bellerin in, they would be making a move for arguably the finest young right-back in the world.