Hector Bellerin has more than doubled his wages to commit himself to Arsenal until 2023, with the club also close to making Mesut Ozil the highest paid player in their history by extending his contract until 2019.
Progress in talks with Alexis Sanchez, however, remain slower and the futures of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Kieran Gibbs, Jack Wilshere, Per Mertesacker and Santi Cazorla will hinge on the rest of this season.
The priorities, though, have been Bellerin, Ozil and Sanchez, with the club yesterday receiving a big boost at Bellerin’s decision to ignore interest from both Manchester City and Barcelona.
Although further renegotiations and increments are again likely, Bellerin’s new contract eases fears that he might follow Cesc Fabregas back to Barcelona and commits him to the club until the age of 28. Indeed, despite joining the Barcelona academy at the age of eight and only leaving in 2011, Bellerin said yesterday that he now feels most affinity to Arsenal.
“I’ve been here a long time and feel like this is my home; I am happy to be a Gunner for many more years,” he said. “I wasn’t thinking about anything else other than staying here and continuing my development here.”
Bellerin only made his debut in September 2014 but has since established himself both as a first-team regular and one of the outstanding young full-backs in Europe. Arsene Wenger describes him as “a true Arsenal man” and Bellerin said that the club’s traditions had informed his decision to stay.
“Arsenal is not only about being a footballer, you have to be a good person to play here,” he said. “That’s what everyone transmits inside the club. I’m a player who tries to be an example for everyone, not just on the pitch but off it as well. Now I’ve just got to keep on progressing, keep working hard to be the best player I can be, and hopefully help the team to be where it’s got to be, to win some silverware.”
Bellerin’s previous £40,000-a-week contract, which expired in 2019, had been the subject of renegotiation for several weeks and his new deal will be worth around £100,000-a-week.
Both Ozil and Sanchez are currently on around £140,000-a-week and will be offered deals approaching £200,000. Wenger believes that Arsenal’s on-field progress will decide whether they do formally sign and the commitment of Bellerin will certainly aid in the process of convincing other players that the club are moving forward.
Arsenal believe they are now in a stronger position both on and off the pitch than when they lost Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Robin van Persie in consecutive summers.
Their squad has an experience and depth that was ultimately lacking in the Fabregas era, while their financial firepower has been enhanced since 2014 following new commercial deals that are no longer tied to funding the construction of the Emirates.
Negotiations with Sanchez, however, appear more complicated than with Ozil and it is understood that he would like a buyout clause inserted in any new deal.
Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gibbs and Wilshere are also all out of contract in 2018 but there have been no talks over new deals and their futures are likely to hinge on likely first-team opportunities next season.
Oxlade-Chamberlain and Gibbs have played some first-team football this season but are not currently in Wenger’s first choice starting team. Wilshere has gone on loan to Bournemouth, where he is now playing regularly for a team who are in the top half of the Premier League ahead of their visit to Arsenal on Sunday.
Mertesacker and Cazorla, who are both out of contract at the end of this season but currently injured and into their 30s, will not be reviewed until after Christmas. Mertesacker hopes to return again in January but there is no prognosis currently on Cazorla following his Achilles tendon injury. Cazorla is seeking the advice of a specialist and has not yet returned to training.
Arsenal play Paris St Germain at the Emirates on Wednesday night and have the incentive of knowing that a win will guarantee their progression to the last 16 of the Champions League as group winners. That would allow Wenger to rest many of his first-team, notably Sanchez, from the trip to Basle next month ahead of the festive sequence of matches.