One of the most promising defenders to have emerged through La Masia in recent times has been Andreu Fontas. However, the 22-year-old is yet to make an impact at Camp Nou and finds himself now on loan at Mallorca and aiming to do enough to either make the move permanent, or to convince Coach Tito Vilanova to take him back.
Having made his Barcelona debut in August 2009, Fontas was regarded with considerable promise. Comfortable on the ball and positionally astute, the youngster was seen as the heir to Gerard Pique and as a left-footed centre-half, he was expected to complement the existing pool of right-footed defenders. There was also the realisation that the ageing legs of Carles Puyol would not hold out forever and that Barcelona may need to promote from within to develop the type of player consistent with the ideals of the club. The high-profile failure of Dmytro Chygrynskiy suggested that a fluid ball-player in the mould of Pique was what was required.
Three years later however, Fontas remains a peripheral first-team figure. Despite recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury picked up in January 2012, Guardiola and now Vilanova have preferred to convert midfielders such as Javier Mascherano, Alex Song and most recently Adriano into central defenders, rather than fall back on Fontas. Whilst the back-line has looked unsettled at times this season, Fontas has not been seen as the answer. In the meantime, attention has instead focused on the emergence of 21-year-old Marc Bartra to potentially fill that problem centre-half position.
Fontas therefore moves to Palma unsure of his future in Catalonia. Yet having played a mere eight senior games in his career so far, the switch allows the defender to pick up some invaluable experience. With such little room for error in challenging for the La Liga title, there has been scant opportunity to blood Fontas and give him the game time he sorely needs. Central defenders, like goalkeepers, require as much experience as possible to develop the mental attributes required to succeed at the top level. By joining Mallorca, the La Masia graduate can refine his game in a less pressurised environment where an injury crisis should offer him some early time on the Iberostar pitch.
Given Mallorca’s encouraging early season form, it is important that Fontas grabs any opportunity to establish himself in the first team. If he is able to pick up experience and develop his game, he may well have the pick of both Mallorca and Barcelona come the end of the season. If not, his future may lie in less glamorous surroundings.