Analysis: Manchester United draw explains Barcelona’s interest in Inigo Martinez

Despite their tight budget and relative strength at the position, Barcelona continue to be linked with Inigo Martinez of Athletic Club. On Thursday night against Manchester United, it was discovered why.

Martinez has been in and out of the Athletic Club side this season, with injury issues keeping him out for long stretches. A foot problem has limited him to just 10 appearances all season, accumulating 900 minutes in the process. For the past four seasons, he has been an essential part of Los Leones’ defence.

Barcelona were heavily linked with him last summer, but no move transpired, much to the disappointment of the Basque defender and the irritation of the Basque club. This summer Martinez is out of contract, and will be free to join whomever he pleases.

Fichajes say Barcelona are still in pole position for his signature, although there is interest in the 31-year-old from Aston Villa and Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona now have four relatively reliable central defenders in Jules Kounde, Ronald Araujo, Andreas Christensen and Eric Garcia, albeit the French defender has been operating at right-back for much of this season.

Many have questioned the need for spending limited resources on the Martinez though with alternatives available. Xavi Hernandez has also been happy ot use Marcos Alonso there, and the club have renewed his contract.

Against Manchester United, Barcelona struggled to cope defensively and were just as troubled playing out from the back though. The first United goal came from a giveaway in defence/midfield.

Xavi began with Araujo at right-back, moving Kounde into the middle and Alonso with him in order to try and improve Barcelona’s build-up play. The Catalan coach was keen to have Alonso’s left foot as part of that effort.

Alonso’s struggles illustrate why Xavi and Barcelona are keen on Martinez. The Basque defender is experienced, strong in the challenge and in the air, and importantly, left-footed.

If Barcelona do decide to recruit Martinez then it would solve an issue Xavi clearly feels he has in defence. Andreas Christensen has been in impeccable form of late, but Xavi decided that being right-sided, it was enough of a reason tamper with a winning formula.

It remains to be seen how Xavi will approach the second leg, but with all four of Barcelona’s natural central defenders being right-sided, it is clearly something playing on his mind.

In theory, Martinez should slot into the Barcelona side with relative ease. His injury issues might be something of a concern, but with several months to assess how he recovers, the Blaugrana might be able to take their time over a decision.

Tags Aston Villa Athletic Club Atletico Madrid Barcelona Inigo Martinez
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