Is There Still a Place for Marc Bartra in Luis Enrique's Barcelona Revolution?

Jason PettigroveContributor IJuly 27, 2014


Marc Bartra has to be one of the unluckiest members of Barcelona's current squad.

As he begins his third season with the first-team squad, not only have the club gone out and bought Jeremy Mathieu from Valencia, but rumours are rife that they are ready to acquire more central defenders.

Per Mundo Deportivo (via John Drayton of the Daily Mail), Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen is the latest to be linked with a switch to Camp Nou.

If Barcelona capture Thomas Vermaelen, Marc Bartra's first-team options are diminished further.
If Barcelona capture Thomas Vermaelen, Marc Bartra's first-team options are diminished further.Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

The 23-year-old Bartra must be wondering what he has to do to fulfil a dream of a starting berth at the heart of the Barcelona defence.

His recent "party line," per, is fooling no one:

It’s my third year and I’ve been through a lot, from not getting a sniff to playing a bit and then getting picked for big games. Now I feel mature and excited about giving all I can to the first team. There will be more competition and we will have to grit our teeth and fight for a place in the team”.

The best thing we can do is to accept that there are no guaranteed starters and reserves – we are all the same. There are players with more cachet, but the most important thing is what they bring to the team as a whole-Luis Suarez has already shown he is one of the best strikers in the world.

Tito Vilanova was steadfast in his refusal to blood any youngsters unless absolutely necessary but when Tata Martino took up the hot seat with a mantra that the full squad would be utilised, Bartra must've been beside himself.

That he was then only used because injuries forced Martino into a corner says a lot more about a club that professes to give youth it's chance than it does about the excellent young defender that the Catalans have in their ranks.

Think back to last season's Copa del Rey final. Marc Bartra was the best Barcelona player on the pitch, but those with selective memories only recall Gareth Bale turning on the afterburners and leaving Bartra in the dust.

Bartra's goal and an otherwise excellent all-round defensive performance are completely forgotten.

In almost all of the other games that he played toward the back end of last season, he excelled. So why is it that he has to set about proving himself all over again?

The youngster's assertion that the entire squad will have to fight for their places is an interesting one. Gerard Pique hasn't enjoyed the best of times recently but will Luis Enrique honestly have the bottle to drop a World Cup winner in favour of a 23-year-old with only a handful of first-team games under his belt?

It's highly unlikely Mathieu will be dropped either even if he fails to settle quickly. You don't pay out €20 million for a benchwarmer, especially when the player only has a few seasons left at the top level at best.

Jeremy Mathieu is likely to be a first choice in the heart of the Barca back line.
Jeremy Mathieu is likely to be a first choice in the heart of the Barca back line.Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Similarly, any other acquisitions are unlikely to sign unless there is a guarantee of minutes on the pitch.

If Bartra finds he genuinely cannot break into the first-team starting picture on a regular basis, for whatever reason, then surely the time has come, or is on the horizon, where he should seriously consider his options.

There will be no shortage of takers and Bartra is too good to be sat around as a bit-part player at Barca.

While the lure of playing alongside stars such as Neymar, and representing the club you support and grew up with is patently obvious, Bartra risks stunting his own development and future growth if he stays in the shadows for too long.

It's now or never.