As Vicente del Bosque mulls over his options for Euro 2016, with plenty of positions still seemingly up for grabs, one player who is certainly assured of his place is Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets, despite his importance to club and country being overshadowed by both of their recent slumps.
Having emerged on the scene as one of Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona B graduates in 2008, amidst accusations of nepotism as a result of his father Carles playing for the club between 1990 and 1999, the midfielder is now considered La Blaugrana’s conductor and has successfully transferred his role onto the international scene.
He can also take solace from being arguably the most unique player in world football, his vision, simplicity, first touch and intelligence unprecedented and unparalleled in the defensive midfield position, thus setting him apart from any other footballer hoping to take the No 4 shirt for La Roja this summer.
It explains why only matters off the field are threatening to defy his perfection on it. The 27-year-old became a father in March, yet the undeniable joy of conceiving a new life comes the equal pressures of fatherhood, an issue regularly buried under the carpet by followers of the game. Lionel Messi, Claudio Bravo and Marc Bartra are Busquets’ Barca teammates whose partners have given birth this season, and the trio have also suffered fluctuations in form over the course of the season.
Furthermore, there is the issue of his contract. Despite only extending his deal until 2019 just over a year ago, Busquets and his camp are reportedly involved in a dispute with Barca over fresh terms, with the club believed to have reneged on their initial promise of concentrating on talking to the player once they negotiated with Neymar, an agreement that is said to have been struck two months ago.
Both of these headaches can affect one’s psyche, and it can be no coincidence that they have combined in tandem with Busquets’ form, which tailed off between mid-March and mid-April, along with that of Barca, who had lost three matches on the trot for the first time since 2003. One criticism that has commonly been levelled at Luis Enrique is his reluctance to rotate his squad sufficiently, and Busquets has been a virtual ever-present under the Coach.
Nonetheless, no bad form will prompt Del Bosque’s trust in Busquets to dissolve even slightly any time soon. The former Real Madrid boss was named Luis Aragones’ successor after a triumphant Euro 2008, and his appointment soon coincided with the deep-lying man’s Spain breakthrough. Indeed, his role as Del Bosque’s single pivot has only strengthened with the test of time and more so as the Coach considers partnering him with another defensive midfielder.
Having started 70 of a possible 91 games for Spain, including all but 28 minutes of both the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 and only missing La Roja’s last 2014 World Cup group game due to their elimination beforehand, the epitome of poise and consistency is set to dictate his country’s destiny in France for potentially a record-breaking third time.