Barcelona’s struggle to find a suitable player for the right back position is not something new. The problem in this position rooted itself at the club when Dani Alves left the club in 2016. Since his departure, in the past 6 years Barca have tried 5 different players in this position. None of them were impressive enough to solidify his position as the undisputed first choice. Barca have spent nearly €57M Euros on the position. The acquisitions of Nelson Semedo and Sergiño Dest both resulted in failure to solve the problem. Firstly, Sergi Roberto who is naturally a central midfielder was used as a makeshift right back. Secondly, Oscar Mingueza who plays mostly as a center back was used in the position as well. Finally, The latest to play in the position is Ronald Araujo who is also a center back. But all attempts have resulted in unsatisfactory outcomes.
It was pretty evident that both Barca management wanted to resolve this issue in this summer. Barca attempted to recruit the 24 year old Moroccan Noussair Mazraoui of Ajax as a free agent. Although the attempt resulted in a failure after Bayern Munich made an offer. Bayern lured away the Moroccan with an offer of almost double salary than that of Barca. Barca’s attempts of finding a solution did not stop there. The person of interest here, Héctor Bellerín, was not Barca’s 2nd or even 3rd choice. He was Barca’s last resort incase the attempts at the other targets such as Villareal’s Juan Foyth and Dortmund’s Thomas Meunier also ended in failures which they now have.
Héctor Bellerín is definitely not the player he once was when he left Barcelona in 2011. Bellerín eventually rose up the ranks to become a starter of the first team at Arsenal. He had some memorable moments during 2015-2017 in the Premier League. He slowly fell down the ranks after persistent injury problems started to hinder his career in starting from 2018. Bellerín’s career hit a major block when he suffered a cruciate ligament rupture in 2019. The injury sidelined him for 31 games and he missed a total of 240 days. After recovering from the injury Bellerín tried his best to regain his place in the starting line up of Arsenal. After an injury as big as that everything just didn’t turn out to be the same as before. His persistent fitness issues after that big injury didn’t help his situation either.
The time of Bellerin at Betis
In hopes of a revival of a his career, in the 2021-22 season Héctor Bellerín joined Real Betis on loan. He played a total amount of 32 games across all competitions. The cruciate ligament injury has definitely had an effect on Bellerín’s work rate. Now he just can not run back and forth between defense and attack as frequently as he could before it. Although, Bellerin registered only 1 assist across all competitions, his defensive work rate was something worth looking at. His defensive contributions were far better than that of Sergiño Dest despite Dest playing almost the same amount of games as him. Statistically, he rivaled Sergi Roberto when he last played as the first choice of Barca back in 2019-20.
Bellerín made at least 121 more forward progression passes than Dest just in the league. When it is known that he reduced his attacking work rate. The difference of games started between the two is just 4. Bellerin made 38 more clearances than him in the entire season. He made 22 more clearances than what Sergi Roberto was able to achieve in 2019-20 season. In the 23 league games Bellerin played with Betis, Betis were able to achieve 8 clean sheets. With Dest in the line up Barca only managed 2. The statistical comparison shows that undoubtedly Bellerin had to offer more defensively to Betis than Dest had for Barca. But another factor that comes into play here is that Betis play a much more less attacking set up than that of Barca. In the set up of Betis fullbacks are not needed go much high up in the pitch.
What is evident though is that Héctor Bellerín started on the correct path to his career’s revival. He wanted to continue on this path by joining Betis permanently after the loan ended. In the end that did not materialize as Betis were having a hard time the entire transfer window registering their existing players in La Liga due to their strict FFP (Financial Fair Play) rules let alone new ones.
The Barça option
After his return to Betis became difficult, he had offers from other clubs. He prioritized waiting for Barca when the opportunity came. Even in 2016 in an interview with German outlet DW TV he said that he would not receive Barca’s call if they came for him back then. How time has turned the tables. This one year contract with Barca might just be his last chance to prove himself. He has the chance to show the world of football that he has something significant left to give it. Barca also find themselves in the position of justifying the return of their graduate after 11 years away.
Although, Bellerin has impressed at Betis, but by no means will he be a starter at Barca from the very beginning. He has not been tested under pressure in recent seasons. It will be another test for him climb through the ranks and earn the confidence of Xavi. However his situation is just like another La Masian who returned to the club in a 6 month loan not too long ago, Adama Traore. He will be looking to get his career back on track. by earning the confidence of Xavi. At the beginning, he will most definitely be a rotation option. As time progresses, he hopefully becomes a starter if he can become an asset important enough. What is certain that it will definitely be interesting to see how the return of this fellow La Masian turns out to be throughout the year.