Spain’s attacking options are well known. La Roja have some of the best midfielders in the world and strikers with experience and plenty of confidence. Where they do have some worries is at the back. The centre back pairing of Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos is probably one of the best in the world but should either one pick up an injury or a suspension, well then Spain could have a few problems. Step forward Marc Bartra.
Bartra joined Barca back in 2001 from city rivals Espanyol at the age of 11. He came up through the youth ranks and had more than a few admirers. He was part of the underage Spanish squads too and it seemed that it was only a question of time before he forced his way into the Barca senior team.
Pep Guardiola believed in him and although he played mainly in the B team, he made his debut at 19 against Atletico de Madrid in 2010. He won a league medal that year and the year after and when injuries to Carles Puyol meant that a new partner was needed for Pique, many thought Barca would turn to Bartra. Unfortunately for the defender his inexperience counted against him and the likes of Javier Mascherano was played out of position rather than risk fielding the youngster.
Some Barca fans started to get a little frustrated that the likes of Bartra was left watching from the stands whilst midfielders were left filling a void and in some cases doing a poor job. Yet, there were still a few who believed in him. The young Catalan became the 38th player to make his debut under Vicente del Bosque when he played against South Africa in November 2013. It did raise a few eyebrows but despite not playing that much at Barca many believed he was still one for the future and that maybe he needed to move to play more regularly.
Rumours that other clubs were watching him became a regular occurrence but when Puyol and Pique both picked up injuries, Tata Martino was forced to play the central defender and he has shone ever since. The image of Gareth Bale shooting past him in the Copa del Rey still haunts him but it is one small blot on his copybook and he has learned from it. It has been mostly forgotten that he also scored his first Barca goal in that game and after the game he took the defeat on the chin like a pro. But what can he offer Del Bosque that others can’t?
The Spanish Coach has been very loyal to Raul Albiol and that doesn’t look like changing. If Del Bosque does opt to bring a fourth central defender it is believed that Iñigo Martinez and Bartra are the ones who will fight it out for the final place. Martinez may be the favourite but the Blaugrana youngster is still in contention.
His ability with the ball is what one would expect from some one who came up through La Masia. He likes to make a tackle and loves to dribble with the ball. It may be for that last fact that Bartra may get the nod as Del Bosque may see him as a like for like replacement for Pique. Although Pique has years more experience, both players came up though the same system and that may be on Del Bosque’s mind when he names his squad.
Right now Bartra will be firmly focused on next weekend’s La Liga climax but no one would be surprised if he was occasionally distracted by thoughts about Brazil. It may be too soon to bring him to the World Cup but he is definitely one for the future. If he were to go to Brazil it would an amazing end to the season for the defender who has really developed this season.