Leaving home and moving to a new country is always a challenge – especially when you’re a teenager and making the switch on your own.
But that’s the step Hector Bellerin had to take when moving from Barcelona to Arsenal. So what are his earliest options of swapping La Masia for London?
“We were blowing, we had no breath whatsoever [in early training sessions],” he told Arsenal Player. “We were thinking ‘what have we got ourselves into? This is not what we came here to do!” But then in the afternoon we played some football.
“That was what struck us the most though. When we were back at Barcelona everything was with the ball, even every single physical activity, it always involved the ball.
“So it was a bit different to us but by the second season I wasn’t one of the last players in the runs, I was one of the first, so you could see the improvement I had made physically.
“That’s certainly the thing that struck me the most at first.”
Bellerin was made to feel welcome here by a number of people – some of whom he still has contact with on a daily basis.
“I could name a lot of people but if I had to say one on the pitch, then obviously Steve Bould was one of my biggest mentors, I’ve always said that,” he added. “He’s probably the one I learnt the most from here at Arsenal.
“But as well Dennis Rockall was our kit man, and he really made us feel at home from the very first day. He got us into English culture, and even taught us some cockney rhyming slang. A load of that stuff, he told us all sorts about where to go on holiday here in the UK, all random things like that, but it was good for our knowledge and helped us settle in.
“He was a very welcoming person and was always taking care of the foreign guys. He retired a couple of years ago and it was sad, because you always like to see those sort of people around the club.
“It’s the same with Vic Akers in the first-team dressing room. I could name a lot of people who helped me at the start at Arsenal – my landlady and family that I lived with – everyone made me feel at home.”
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