La Masia has provided a long list of talented players since its inception.
Where would FC Barcelona be without its mentoring program and philosophy on how to play football?
Over the past few years we've seen a number of young, talented offensive players like Pedro, Cristian Tello, Isaac Cuenca and Thiago Alcantara come up from the B squad and contribute greatly to the first team. Gerard Delulofeu could join the first team sooner than expected.
But one thing we have not seen much are young defenders coming up from the B squad and contributing.
Andreu Fontàs did not play well last season as he struggled adjusting to the Liga action and eventually was lost for the season with a knee injury.
One young defender that was able to prove his merit with the first team was Martin Montoya. The right-back replaced Dani Alves on a few occasions and showed he is Barça's right-back of the future.
The Barça defense has been good but not great for a few seasons now. Last season was tough as Carles Puyol suffered from injuries along with Gerard Piqué. Eric Abidal was out with his liver transplant.
Javier Mascherano did a great job filling in for Puyol and others. Now with Seydou Keita gone, Mascherano may be more needed at central defensive midfield than center-back.
It is expected that Mascherano will sign an extension with the Catalan giants until 2016 in the next couple of days, according to Sport.es (via Goal.com).
With Sandro Rosell getting one of the best signings this offseason in former Masia product Jordi Alba, the focus has now shifted to CB as Carles Puyol is getting up there in age.
Barcelona has stated the 2012 summer budget was €40 million. Jordi Alba was a steal, costing the club €14 million. The club now has €26 million to spend on a CB.
But should FC Barcelona go looking for a new CB?
I say no.
Because they have two young CBs who deserved a shot at becoming the future full-time center-back for FC Barcelona in Marc Muniesa and Marc Bartra.
Let’s break it down some more.
After Jordi Alba was signed, rumors began to surface that FCB were interested in signing Athletic Bilbao CB/CDM Javi Martinez. While I do believe Javi is an excellent player and is essentially what Barça needs,—someone that can play both CB and CDM—Javi's cost is too high. Martinez has a buyout clause of €40 million and Bilbao is not going to budge on that number nor will they accept players in return as they have a Basque-player only rule at Athletic Club.
Don't get me wrong, I'd be more than happy if Javi Martinez somehow ends up playing for Barça.
There are other options at CB for FC Barcelona to look into.
Chelsea CB David Luiz is a name that has come up to possibly make a move to the Camp Nou. Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen has been rumored as well. Both Luiz and Vermaelen would cost well over €25 million.
Olympique Lyon's Dejan Lovren is another player that Barcelona can go after. Recently, Lovren put up a photo (shown here via MundoDeportivo.com) on twitter of himself by a FIFA 12 screenshot which shows FC Barcelona beating Real Madrid 6-0 on the video game.
The tweet showing said photo has since been removed.
Could this be a small way of showing that he loves FCB? Perhaps. Dejan later stated on Twitter it was just a game and the photo means nothing.
Sure it doesn't mean anything, Dejan.
The Croatian defender has an estimated transfer value of €14 million.
Sedar Tasci of VfB Stuttgart is a player who is also rumored to have caught the attention of Barcelona. According to Bild (via CrunchSports.com), Tasci has a €10 million release clause in his contract.
While all of the players mentioned are talented and would bring plenty to Barcelona, does Barcelona need to spend €10 to €26 million or even more on one of them?
I don't think so, personally.
That being said, I wouldn't be shocked if Sandro Rosell and Tito Vilanova decide to get Lovren or Tasci since signing either one of them would cost under €15 million.
But why not give Marc Muniesa or Marc Bartra a shot?
Muniesa with the ball.
Marc Muniesa is a talented young center-back who will be on the first team in 2012-13. Marc has been part of La Masia since he was 10 years old. Muniesa made his first team debut in 2009. Marc is a solid defender who can play both center-back and left-back.
Muniesa's game has been compared to Carles Puyol's style of play.
“Barcelona will meet with (Marc) Muniesa on Tuesday to discuss a contract extension. As soon as that has been taken care of, a move to Ajax is an option. He is open to a transfer. We want to sign him on a one-year loan deal. I'm awaiting a phone call from Barcelona now."
It is true that Muniesa is in negotiations to extend his contract with Barcelona, which expires next year. However, there has been no confirmation that Muniesa has agreed to a possible loan to Ajax.
If I was Sandro Rosell or Tito Vilanova, I do not loan out Marc Muniesa.
He's been waiting patiently to be a part of the first team and now that he's made it he's going to be loaned to Ajax?
I can understand if Barça officials want Muniesa to go gain experience as a starter at Ajax for a year and, yes, Marc is still very young and lacks experience at age 20.
But where else to both learn from great players and gain experience than with Carles Puyol, Gerard Piqué and FC Barcelona?
We'll see what happens with Muniesa.
Marc Bartra flying high.
Barcelona has another Marc at center-back to put in and gain experience: Marc Bartra.
Bartra is seen by many Barcelona pundits as being more first team ready than Marc Muniesa. Bartra started at La Masia when he was 11 and he was promoted to the B squad in 2009. Marc made his first-team debut in 2010.
Marc Bartra has more of a Gerard Piqué-type of style to his game although Bartra is more Puyol-style as far as strength and heading the football.
Bartra is a year older than Muniesa (21) and has played more games in the second division and with the first team than Muniesa as well.
Marc Bartra has a solid technical game and ball control skills. He also has great awareness of the game, meaning he reads the opposing forwards' movements and attacks very well. Also, Bartra's defensive timing and speed are excellent.
Marc Bartra is young but has enough experience both in the B squad and with Spain's U-21 squad to finally get consistent playing time in La Liga.
He is ready to prove himself with the first team.
Tito has decisions to make.
As we all saw last season, a shaky defense will bend and eventually break. For FC Barcelona, their defense—due to lack of speed, costly mistakes and inability to defend the counter attack along with injuries—cost them a shot at repeating as La Liga and UEFA Champions League champions.
Tito Vilanova did not make the mistake Pep Guardiola made the past two years and ignore the importance of revamping the defense. Jordi Alba is a tremendous signing albeit he plays offensively many times.
But remember that Jordi's speed and ability to get back on defense will pay dividends.
With Seydou Keita leaving, Barcelona are looking to find a central defensive midfielder to support/back-up Sergio Busquets.
Tito has a decision to make: either go for a center-back or a CDM.
With Barça trying to be more financially responsible, it would be best to not spend a ridiculous amount of money on a CB who could easily cost over €30 million. That money could be used on a CDM like Yann M'Vila, who would cost less than Javi Martinez, David Luiz or Thomas Vermaelen.
Let's not forget Barça still have Javier Mascherano, who can play both CB and CDM.
But the biggest reason why Tito Vilanova and FC Barcelona should not sign a new center-back is because the club needs to finally give Marc Muniesa and Marc Bartra a shot at being Carles Puyol's successor.
Marc Muniesa and Marc Bartra have paid their dues, and their time to prove themselves is now.
How will their games improve if they don't get experience?
Sometimes trial by fire is the best route to take.
Follow me on Twitter:@XoelCardenas
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