Marc Bartra rolled off the Barcelona production line at a time when the hype around La Masia was at its most fervent.
The exploits of Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique & co, saw many stand up and take notice of the world-class quality the revered school seemed to churn out, with every graduate an expected world beater – Bartra included.
Many were already heralding the young centre-back as Carles Puyol’s successor, both for La Blaugrana and the Spain national team.
A lot of pressure and expectation. But having made his Barca debut at 19, he seemed well on his way to making it. Six years on, some may argue he already has, with an honours list that would take some players several careers to achieve. But the significance he played in those success is debatable, given his dwindling playing time.
Before Bartra can even think of becoming a regular the Spain XI, he must first convince Luis Enrique that he is worthy of a regular role in his Barcelona side. He finds himself behind well-established pairing of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano. However, Jeremy Mathieu and even Thomas Vermaelen have racked more minutes than the Spaniard, with Barta making a paltry three League starts.
Come the summer tournament he may not even be a Barcelona player, with technical secretary Robert Fernandez admitting he could leave the club.
Regardless of his strife in Catalonia, Vicente Del Bosque seems a fan of the defender. Given the quality in the Barca and Roja ranks, it can be assumed that Barta has something about him. An archetypal Barcelona centre-back, he is composed on the ball, but adept at winning it back, both on the ground and in the air. He’s also capable of starting attacks from deep with his accurate passing.
Though not a slouch, he isn't the speediest of the defenders, with flashbacks of Gareth Bale bolting past him in the 2014 Copa Del Rey final still likely etched in his mind. One can only speculate how good the defender would be with regular football.
Groomed for the national side, he has made 37 appearances at youth level and won the U-21 European Championships with Spain in 2013.
There seems little argument over La Roja’s first choice centre-back pairing of Pique and Sergio Ramos. But squad places are up for grabs and he will have to watch for competition from the likes of Nacho, Mikel San Jose and Javi Martinez.
Having been named in the last two squads, his place seems more stable than ever, and playing the full 90 minutes in Spain’s recent friendly against Romania will provide a great deal of comfort to. Given the similarities in style of play between Barca and Spain, he slots right in when necessary.
While not the best of what is a very talented bunch he is a solid player who can do a job for both club and country, so expect to see him on the plane this summer.