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BARCELONA, Spain — Even in dark Gucci sunglasses, Héctor Bellerín could not walk the few blocks from his apartment to the parking garage where he kept his battery-powered Cupra Born without causing a scene. Most of the swarming fans held their composure; one young woman trembled as she asked this professional football player for a picture. Although he was not competing in the World Cup this year, it did not matter. Being a football player in Barcelona is like being a Kardashian in Calabasas, California, or anywhere else.
“I pay them to do that,” he said with a smirk.
Bellerín had recently returned to FC Barcelona after more than a decade as a defender for London’s Arsenal team. When he was 16, he left Spain to compete in the Premier League; he barely spoke English at the time.
Now 27, he had come back to La Liga as a zoomer’s David Beckham: a world-famous athlete with a cockney accent, a rock-star mullet, and a lucrative one-year contract with FC Barcelona.
In addition to having impressive stats — 14 goals, 41 assists, and seven trophies over 321 career appearances — Bellerín is incredibly stylish, a reformed consumerist with an appreciation for Craig Green and Raf Simons, the facial symmetry of a movie star, and cool designer friends like Supriya Lele and KidSuper’s Colm Dillane.
Two days later, FC Barcelona was competing against Celta de Vigo at a home game. Pedri González, a 19-year-old midfielder, scored a first-half goal to move the team back to the top of La Liga, bringing a stadium of nearly 100,000 football fans to an ecstatic boil. Bellerín, who was out for a few games with a muscle injury, applauded his team from the stands, his face partly obscured by a black Raf Simons ball cap with an embroidered Atari logo.
A few seats behind him, a teenage girl had spent the first 45 minutes of the match glued to her phone. She stopped scrolling at halftime just long enough to let an older couple exit the row. When she saw Bellerín, she gasped.
“Before, if you were a footballer, that’s the only thing you could be,” Bellerín said. “But sports aren’t just sports anymore. Clothes aren’t just clothes anymore,” he added. “Now, everything is everything.”
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