Analysis: Does Eric Garcia still have a place at Barcelona amid interest?

The return of Eric Garcia to Spanish football has been curious at every turn. A rising star in the La Masia academy, he moved to Manchester City to make it with Pep Guardiola. Only when he reached the first team, he decided early on he wanted to head back to Catalonia. It hasn’t exactly been a glorious homecoming either.

Arriving into difficult circumstances, Barcelona were at a low ebb when Garcia arrived, as they dealt with the exit of Lionel Messi. Around him was a defence in disarray for the most part, with Ronald Koeman bending the principles of ‘the Barcelona way’.

The debate around Garcia has been framed in many ways, but there is no doubt that he is suited to a particular system, and when he is taken out of it, then he struggles to defend.

Dubbed as a Barcelona defender for the next decade, for as intelligent and as good on the ball as he is, Eric has failed to clear doubts about his raw ability to defend top forwards.

Those doubts clearly extend to the management at Barcelona. Although he started several games at the beginning of this season, since he has dropped out of the side, only playing when others are not fit. Over the summer, Xavi Hernandez gave his blessing for Barcelona to bring in two new central defenders, Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen, at great cost.

Barcelona’s recent history has shown that he is the fourth-choice central defender, with even Marcos Alonso shifting into the middle to cover the position. Many of his performances have been good this season, yet there is a degree of trust in Ronald Araujo, Kounde and Christensen that does not exist for Garcia.

It has led to speculation that Garcia may end up leaving at the end of the season, a reunion with Arsenal Manager and former City Assistant Mikel Arteta. Sport say that the 22-year-old is intent on fighting for his place though.

Many will be wondering if he still has a place in Barcelona’s squad though. As he moves further into his twenties, the natural move would be to seek more minutes.

His major problem is that all three of those defenders ahead of him could be there for most of the next decade. Christensen is 26, Araujo 23 and Kounde just 24. Particularly the latter two seem destined to retain their place. Both have better physical resources than Garcia and although the Catalan is better with the ball, the other two are far more suited to repelling world class forwards.

Perhaps in Guardiola’s Barcelona, he would have a place. Yet that domination of the ball and games seems a thing of the past, and Garcia must adapt to come out on top in uncomfortable situations, if he wants to dislodge those ahead of him.

If it is first team football he wants, Barcelona should perhaps consider whether they can cash in on him. While naturally he should compete for a spot, if Garcia is content with the likely possibility that he will be a rotational option, then he is as good as it gets for Barcelona. Particularly against less powerful attacks, and in games the Blaugrana dominate, he is effective. Should his ambition seek more than that, then perhaps a separation lies down the line.

Tags Arsenal Barcelona Eric Garcia
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