Hector Bellerín believes England is a better place for young players to develop in comparison to his native Spain due to a higher level of professionalism and more opportunities being available.
Bellerín, 22, joined Arsenal from Barcelona’s highly-rated La Masia academy at 16. The talented fullback believes that a change of scene so early in his career was beneficial for him as it allowed him to develop both as a player as well as a professional.
“I remember doing hydration tests, body fat tests, mobility tests, looking at the data after the games, during training sessions, everything. When I was at Barcelona it was all about the football. It was a completely different mentality,” Bellerín said as quoted by the club’s official website.
Bellerín is currently on international duty with Spain u21s at the European Championships in Poland and spoke about the opportunities young players get in England that helps give aspiring professionals a deeper insight – an example being the UEFA Youth League competition, a Champions League equivalent at U19 level.
Youngsters qualify based on how their senior side fared domestically and as fixtures are scheduled for the same day across the age-groups, youngsters often find themselves travelling with the first-team. It’s small instances like this which can really inspire players to push on with their development and make a senior breakthrough.
“Also the league was way different in Spain. You play against the other teams in your region. 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,” Bellerin added. “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 is like as a pro footballer. You learn early on that it can be a lonely life. Of course you are with your teammates, 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 cannot attend.
“You need to realise 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.”