Arsenal have been given a boost in their hopes to keep Hector Bellerin at the Emirates Stadium for the long-term after Barcelona boss Luis Enrique claimed there is not any better right-back for the La Liga giants than Sergi Roberto. The manager's quotes appear to close the door on making a big investment for a new full-back, despite recent reports claiming that the club wanted to lure the Gunner's star back to the Nou Camp.
Bellerin has been heavily linked with a return to Barcelona in recent times after he has progressed as one of the best full-backs in Europe since he left La Masia to move to the Emirates Stadium in 2011.
Reports increased in the summer after the departure of Dani Alves to Juventus left a big gap at the Barcelona right-back, leaving Enrique with former winger Aleix Vidal and midfielder Roberto as his only non-specialist options to cover the role.
However, the La Liga champions eventually opted against signing a new right-back, prioritising improvements in other parts of the fields to sign Paco Alcacer, Samuel Umtiti, Andre Gomes, Jasper Cillessen, Denis Suarez and Lucas Digne.
But the reports about Barcelona's interest in signing Bellerin remerged after Vidal fell out of favour with Enrique during the opening games of the season, having been left out of the squad in the last four games.
Sport recently reported that Barcelona had thus earmarked the signing of the Arsenal defender as the top priority for the summer transfer window, in a deal that could be worth around €35m (£30.4m, $39.4m).
Barcelona vice-president Jordi Mestre later did little to diminish those claims after revealing his admiration for Bellerin.
However, Enrique has now appeared to close the door to his arrival after Roberto has enjoyed an impressive start to the campaign as right-back.
The Barcelona academy star was recently called up for Spain for the recent internationals, ahead of Bellerin himself, and was the Man of the Match during the weekend 5-0 victory over Sporting Gijon, assisting Rafinha and Arda Turan in two goals while playing a crucial role in the build up of another one scored by Neymar.
"I watch a lot of games and I don't see any better right-back than Sergio Roberto," Enrique said in the press conference "At least for Barcelona, who always have the ball. I'm delighted that he feels good in that position, although he can play in the midfield roles, too. He's capable of beating a man, passing with quality..."
Roberto himself claimed that he is every day better in the full-back role despite originally being an offensive midfielder. "I feel more and more comfortable at right-back," the Barcelona star told the media after the game. "I'm learning all about the attacking and defensive responsibilities."
Mundo Deportivo recently reported that some at Barcelona believed that it was nonsense to break the bank in Bellerin when they already have the 24-year-old Roberto at their disposal. Enrique looks to be agreed. Nevertheless, the Catalans may still go into the market to sign a low profile player to replace Vidal and back-up Roberto.