As little as two seasons ago, Hector Bellerin was an unknown quantity in the Arsenal reserve ranks. Fast forward a couple of years, and he now holds the title of undisputed right-back for his club this season and has claimed a place in the Premier League’s PFA Team of the Year.
Puzzling then, it would seem, that the fledgling full-back is yet to sport the red of Spain at full international level.
In the run-up to the last squad announcement, Bellerin appeared to be doing everything possible to place himself firmly in Vicente del Bosque’s thoughts.
He assisted both goals in his side’s North London derby draw with Tottenham, which he followed up with a solid Champions League performance against Barcelona, reportedly earning plaudits from Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique after the final whistle.
Much like Cesc Fabregas, Bellerin rose through the ranks of La Masia before making the switch to Arsenal. And, if rumours are to be believed – and once more like the Chelsea midfielder – he may one day return to his home of Catalonia.
In some sense, he was lucky to make his way at Arsenal. The Gunners were facing an injury crisis at right-back, with Mathieu Debuchy and Callum Chambers both out. The Spaniard impressively stepped up and hasn’t stepped down since.
What is perhaps more impressive is how he was able to hold down the spot, and it speaks volumes about his talent.
Bellerin is the archetypal, modern-day full back. His blistering pace is perhaps his greatest asset, and he may likely be the speediest player in the Spain ranks.
Fitting that stereotype, he excels going forward, given his past as former winger, and shown spells of real creativity at the top end of the pitch.
With his past as a winger comes questions over his defensive capabilities, but at 21 he has plenty of room to grow and improve in this area.
In justification of his decision to omit the Arsenal starlet, Del Bosque stated that the Under-21 side, for whom Bellerin is still eligible, had an important Euro 2017 qualifier against Croatia to contest.
It’s difficult to object to the veteran boss’ decision to omit him, given the plethora of options at his disposal. The likes of Juanfran, Dani Carvajal, Cesar Azpiliacueta, Aleix Vidal and Mario Gaspar are all ahead of Bellerin, while even Sergi Roberto can put in a shift at right back.
While there is a wealth of talent standing in his way, much in the same way Bellerin ousted Debuchy in the Arsenal team, he has the potential make the right-back spot his own one day. But not today.
As such, Euro 2016 has likely come too soon for Bellerin and Del Bosque is unlikely to take him, especially as he does not know how the young full-back will fare at international level – at a major tournament no less. But, given his meteoric rise, perhaps in a few years he will be one of the first names on the plane.