Hector Bellerin says England has an edge over Spain in youth player development, having started his football career with Barcelona’s La Masia (2003-2011), and making a switch to Arsenal football academy where he learned the ropes until 2013.
The defender joined Arsene Wenger’s side as a 16-year-old kid, and was signed to Watford on a 2-month loan deal soon after his arrival.
His performance for the club against Yeovil Town eight days later earned him a full season extension although he was recalled to Arsenal in February 2014.
Image: Hector Bellerin
Citing higher level of professionalism in youth team management as the difference between Spain and England, the 22-year-old told Arsenal.com that his decision to leave La Liga for the Premier League added a boost to his growth as a professional footballer.
He confessed during the chat that his “first good taste of playing as a professional” was experienced at the Emirates Stadium.
“When I was at Barcelona it was all about the football,” the Spaniard said. “It was a completely different mentality.
“Also the league was way different in Spain. You play against the other teams in your region.
“Everything is much more professional in England, at an early age,” he added.
“I remember doing hydration tests, body fat tests, mobility tests, looking at the data after the games, during training sessions – everything.”
He compared the opportunities which come when players travel around England for matches, saying it helped him mature into a better player.
“For us that meant Catalonia and we only had a couple of games each season that were difficult for us. That was against Espanyol, the other top division team in the city.
“But here playing for Arsenal we used to play all around England against other Premier League teams. So the difference was really big in loads of senses.
“I also think in England you have to travel a lot and spend nights in hotels from an early age. That gives you a really good taste of what it’s like as a pro footballer. You learn early on that it can be a lonely life.
“Of course you are with your team-mates, but you find out early that there a lot of things that you cannot do, and there are a lot of family events that you can’t attend.
“You need to realize that from a young age and the fact you have to travel so much to play against teams far from home, it gives you an early taste of how it is at the top level.”
Image: Hector Bellerin
Bellerin first scored for Arsenal on 1 February, 2015, in their 5-0 win against Aston Villa.
In the 2014-15 season, he broke Theo Walcott’s 40-metre Arsenal sprint record by 1/100th of a second.
Arsenal has reportedly told Barcelona that the youngster is not for sale, insisting he will not be permitted to leave this summer, according to a report from the Independent.
Meanwhile, Alexis Sanchez is being courted by Real Madrid as a possible replacement for disgruntled Cristiano Ronaldo.