As Barcelona announced on their official website, Sergio Busquets has signed a contract extension that will tie him to the club until at least 2018, with his release clause remaining at €150 million. It just so happened that he signed this new contract on his 25th birthday, too. And with Thiago Alcantara having departed, Fabregas' future uncertain and the club unable to attract top-flight players, Busquets' contract extension could not have come at a better time—a much-needed morale booster.
Vastly underrated and one of the most talented yet hated footballers at this present moment (largely thanks to his great play-acting skills), Busquets has established himself as one of the most important players at Tito Vilanova's disposal and has played a pivotal role in assisting Barca to 15 titles in five years.
When former coach Pep Guardiola took the bold step in promoting the youngster five years ago from the Barcelona B team, many doubted his ability in locking down a regular first-team spot and was seen as an act of friendship due to Guardiola's affiliation with Busquets' father, Carles. However, they may be forgiven for their premature remark.
Despite Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita still ever-present in the first-team setup, Busquets was able to make 41 appearances. He built solid relationships with midfield partners Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta as the trio guided the side to the club's most successful season, winning in all six of the competitions the team completed in. And the midfield trio are now seen as a formidable force.
His impressive performances did not go unnoticed as national head coach Vicente del Bosque followed Guardiola's lead in calling up the player and made adjustments that have proved successful as Spain claimed the World Cup for the first time in their footballing history.
Busquet's success can be attributed to two key factors: his humbleness and his great work ethic. Although talent has played a big part in assisting the player in becoming the 'world's best defensive midfielder', it is his ability to shy away from the limelight and constantly put in the hard yards away from the spot light which has helped him establish himself as the world's most underrated player.
He also possesses a great footballing mind and his understanding of the game is second to none.
A quality passer and virtually unreadable with the ball at his feet, Busquets is able to control the pace of the game. He has on many occasions, played in a decisive pass behind the defence and fooled players with silky skills. He is a "foul magnet" and often mixes short and long passes to Xavi and Iniesta, leaving defenders clueless.
In defence, Busquets has the ability to read the game, often intercepting passes and making tackles at crucial times. And although he lacks the aggression that Carles Puyol possesses at the back, he has proved a handy backup defender.
And although Barca's recent success cannot be solely attributed to his presence within the team, with Lionel Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, Puyol and Samuel Eto'o all playing crucial roles, it can be said that Busquets has dramatically improved a side and has assisted the Blaugrana in their pursuit of world football domination.
He offers tactical flexibility to a team that prides itself in playing a tiki-taka, pass-and-move style of play and his all-round football attributes have not only allowed him to be dangerous up front but also a wall in defence, and the 25-year-old consistently proved pivotal in keeping opposing midfielders at bay, most notably his performance in keeping Wesley Sneijder quiet during the 2010 World Cup final.
Although hated and controversial due to his "Oscar winning" play acting skills, his performances on the pitch undoubtedly override his much-maligned personality when it comes to diving.
He has proved pivotal in Barca's success, and his contract extension is a shining light in an otherwise dimly lit Barca dressing room.
Follow Cronan on Twitter: @cronan_yu
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