Barcelona have reportedly sent representatives to London in order to keep tabs on Arsenal right-back Hector Bellerin during Tuesday's UEFA Champions League round-of-16 second-leg fixture against Bayern Munich.
Arsenal return to the Emirates Stadium trailing Bayern 5-1 on aggregate, but Barca sporting director Robert Fernandez will have his eyes on Bellerin, according to Spanish daily El Mundo Deportivo (h/t Calciomercato).
The report indicated Fernandez will take in Bellerin's performance against Der FCB alongside Barca scout Urbano Ortega as the Catalan giants step up their attempts to reclaim former La Masia member Bellerin.
Eurosport UK reported Manchester City are another powerhouse vying to sign the Spain defender, and Calciomercato said Bellerin would be inclined to leave Arsenal if manager Arsene Wenger were to depart:
Barca's pursuit of a new right-back comes after Dani Alves departed the club last summer, with manager Luis Enrique turning to midfielder Sergi Roberto as a makeshift solution for much of this season.
The tactician finally brought Aleix Vidal in from the cold at the start of this year, but the Blaugrana confirmed last month that a dislocated ankle would keep him sidelined for five months, pushing the need for a replacements.
Bellerin left La Masia for Arsenal's academy in 2011, following the career path of fellow Barca alumni and former Gunners star Cesc Fabregas, and like Fabregas, Barcelona hope he'll one day choose to return to Catalonia.
Bleacher Report's James McNicholas recently suggested Bellerin is one of the few stars around whom Arsenal could build their future, although that future is far from certain based on recent form:
The north London club aren't likely to sell their star easily, however, after handing him a new six-and-a-half-year deal in November, which won't expire until the end of the 2012-13 campaign.
The Guardian's David Hytner also reported Bellerin would be inclined to leave Arsenal if Wenger did the same, and he told the club's official website of his displeasure with the squad's lack of fight in Saturday's 3-1 defeat at Liverpool:
We’re very frustrated with how the game went. After the tough weeks we’ve had, the team should have gone onto the pitch, motivated and ready from the start.
In the first half it didn’t feel like we were ready and then we went 2-0 down. We wanted to do everything. We got one goal back and had a chance to make it 2-2, but sometimes it’s too late. We just need to start the games better.
We need to realise that it’s just not the way to go. We need to push harder, to start the games with a better attitude and just go for it because we showed that when we go for it and want something, we can do it.
It's exactly that kind of winning mentality that will have undoubtedly lured the likes of Fernandez back to Bellerin, who will already be schooled in Barca's ways after spending eight years in their academy.
Arsenal's Champions League fate appears sealed as they require a minimum of four goals if they're to advance through the round of 16, but Bellerin in particular could have other motivations to perform at his best.