Ajax's Onana should reject Barcelona overtures - Bell

Andre Ornana was all smiles after Ajax defeated Tottenham Hotspur in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League semifinal. Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images

Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana should bide his time before considering a return to Barcelona, according to former Cameroon stopper Joseph-Antoine Bell.

The current Indomitable Lions No. 1 has caught the eye for the Dutch giants this season, despite the Amsterdam side's spectacular defeat at the hands of Tottenham Hotspur on Wednesday night, sending the English side to the Champions League final.

Onana's form has prompted reported interest from several European giants, notably Barcelona, where the 23-year-old spent five years at La Masia earlier in his career.

However, former Cameroon goalkeeper Bell -- who was part of the team that reached the quarterfinal of the 1990 World Cup -- has urged his compatriot to think twice before returning to Catalonia.

"There's a problem with this kind of choice because at the moment, at Ajax, he plays every game," Bell told ESPN.

"For a goalkeeper, nothing is as valuable as matches.

"It's during these matches that he'll get experience, and it's through playing that he'll become more and more adept; his reflexes will accelerate, that he'll see things quicker, that he'll have these markers.

"Going to Barcelona is a good thing, because he's at Barcelona, but you mustn't forget that if he does go, it's only to be as a substitute and to play a few matches... fewer matches [than now].

"It's up to him to see how many matches they're ready to give him at Barcelona, and to judge if, at his age, it's right."

Onana originally joined Barcelona from the Samuel Eto'o Foundation in his homeland in 2010, before moving to the Netherlands in 2015. He became first choice at Ajax in 2016, after Barca signed Jasper Cillessen from the Amsterdam club.

"Above all, if he goes there he'll be the backup for a goalkeeper who isn't yet old," said Bell, who won two Africa Cup of Nations titles with Cameroon.

"Marc-Andre ter Stegen is 27, so if [Onana] goes to Barcelona now he'll put himself in a situation where he'll be the backup to someone who still has five or six years ahead of him.

"I think it would be too early,.

"He must go somewhere where he plays regularly."

Onana was part of the Ajax team that won the Dutch Cup by beating Willem II 4-0 on Sunday, and also played every minute of the four-time European champions' continental campaign this term. He may yet end the season with an Eredivisie winner's medal, with Ajax sitting top of the pile - level on points with PSV Eindhoven - with two games to play.

Despite concerns about Onana's potential lack of game time should he return to the Camp Nou, Bell believes the youngster has the mentality to cope with competition for a starting berth -- something the veteran had extensive experience of during his international career due to a long-running tussle for Cameroon's No. 1 shirt with two-time African Player of the Year, Thomas N'Kono.

"First of all, it's a question of personality and of the individual," Bell said.

"If you're someone who has character, as Onana seems to have, you'll be ready to fight.

"The competition could therefore be something that stimulates you, allowing you to progress and to not be beaten, so you'll improve.

"Ultimately, it's an issue that each person must evaluate for themselves; there isn't one rule for everyone.

"I was lucky that there was someone else who came [to the national team] and who wasn't bad at all, who was actually pretty good. His name was Thomas N'Kono.

"The competition, and the existence of both of us, led me to work sufficiently before reaching my top level."