Marc Bartra has a seemingly impossible decision regarding his Barcelona future in front of him. Whether the La Masia graduate was to head out on loan to Sevilla, which have asked for an option to buy him at the conclusion of the season, or he moves permanently to Tottenham or an Italian club; Bartra doesn’t want to regret his decision.
The 24-year-old defender has always put the club over his own personal pride, and his trophy-case is full due to his sacrifices. Yet, there comes a time in every player’s career, especially those that have been brought up through the academies of top clubs, where they must choose between club achievement and ultimately, their legacy.
Being a first-choice centre-back
After several seasons in the first team, it doesn’t appear that Marc Bartra will be a first-choice centre-back at Barcelona any time soon. From Pep Guardiola to Tito Vilanova to Gerardo Martino to Luis Enrique, Bartra’s playing time has fluctuated, but he has never been considered a mainstay as a starter.
With only 14 appearances across all competitions this season to his name, Bartra is clearly seen as nothing more than a substitute for Luis Enrique. It’s a compliment to Bartra that he should expect to be an instant starter on any club that he would move to, and his style would fit easily into any La Liga or Serie A side.
National team standing
Often, the Barcelona name can help youth players find places on national teams, but Bartra might be one of the rare examples of the reverse effect coming to fruition. Developing centre-backs isn’t just a Barcelona problem as the Spanish national team struggle with depth behind Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos and Bartra has found himself getting recent call-ups.
To make sure he is in the picture for the upcoming European Championships this summer, the young defender will need to be playing on a consistent basis. Vicente Del Bosque may very well be facing his last international tournament and be set to retire afterwards. With that in mind, bringing a squad that he believes knows what it takes to raise another trophy is a must.
If one of his first-choice centre-backs goes down, Del Bosque will want his alternates to have the ability to step in and help avenge the difficult 2014 World Cup campaign. Bartra lost out to Raúl Albiol and to a certain degree Javi Martínez for a spot in Brazil and leaving Barcelona may be his only chance to ensure that he is on his way to France.
A possible return
As current teammates Gerard Piqué and Jordi Alba have proven, leaving the confines of Catalunya doesn’t rule out a potential return someday.
A 24-year-old is nearing his prime and while it is less likely that a player at that age will leave and return, Bartra does have an ace up his sleeve: He recently made former Barcelona defender and club icon Carles Puyol his agent.
If Bartra was to show his great potential at another club, who better to negotiate a return to the Camp Nou than a former captain with spectacular relationships with those within the club?
Bartra signed a contract extension in March of 2014, showing his commitment to his boyhood club. For all the reasons why Bartra may need to seek greener pastures for playing time, the pull of winning trophies with Lionel Messi and his other longtime compatriots may still be quite strong.
Players often say to media that they play to win trophies for the club that they love, and nothing that Bartra has ever done would indicate that he doesn’t truly mean those sentiments.
Pedro recently struggled with the same pull that Bartra now faces, and even though the Catalan defender can’t seem to take time away from Javier Mascherano or Gerard Piqué, at least he doesn’t find himself behind Messi, Luis Suárez and Neymar in attack.
Players are people off the field too, and this fact is often forgotten when players relocate for new opportunities. With Marc Bartra’s personal life recently undergoing a large change with a new addition to his family, he may not want to endure an English winter without them or make them deal with it.
Moving to Sevilla may be the best option for all parties on and off the field, but having spent his whole life in Catalunya would still make any change of address difficult for the defender.
Whether Bartra goes out on loan, permanently changes clubs or chooses to continue to duke it out at the Camp Nou for playing time, Marc Bartra certainly has a difficult decision. He would be missed, but few would argue that a change of scenery may be best for the player.