Borussia Dortmund signed Marc Bartra from FC Barcelona in what looks to be a promising transfer. Alex Truica of Barcelona Blog Grup14.com assesses BVB’s latest addition and whether he is cut out for the job.
That’s what you call a steal: Borussia Dortmund paid just €8 Million for Marc Bartra – a deal that is cheap due to a buyout clause in his contract with Barcelona.
His release clause dropped to €8 Million due to the limited playing time he picked up last season. The 25-year-old defender, a La Masia graduate, was only the fifth-choice centre-back for Barcelona’s coach Luis Enrique behind the starting CBs Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano – and also behind the injury-prone veterans Thomas Vermaelen and Jeremy Mathieu. Bartra played just 24 games in all competitions in 2015/2016.
It happened over and over again that Bartra was somehow overlooked by several coaches over the years. The defender has been a first-team squad member at Barça for six years, but never managed to nail down a spot in the starting eleven or even be the third choice centre-back.
He patiently waited for his chance, but the feeling of Barcelonistas is that he never really got a chance to prove himself, although he embraces the typical virtues of a Barca defender – he is humble, hard-working, quick and can pass cleanly out of defence.
Nevertheless, there was always something lacking in his game – something integral in a centre-back’s game: Toughness, uncompromising grit and some cynical tenacity that is occasionally required to avoid cheap goals.
A pretty fitting example for that is one of his most famous scenes in a blaugrana jersey – unfortunately in a not overly flattering way: When Bartra lost a sprint against Gareth Bale in the final of the Copa del Rey in 2014 at the halfway line just for Barcelona to concede the crucial goal five minutes before the final whistle to lose the Copa.
Although being in clearly better position, he got harshly outpaced by the Welshman, who even went out of bounds to round the defender.
Many branded him as too good and naive in this situation, he just should have fouled Bale whatever the consequences.
Just take a look at Sergio Ramos in this season’s Champions League final against Atletico, when he denied Atleti a golden 3-on-1 opportunity with a cynical foul on the halfway line.
Bartra did not opt for a professional foul to stop Bale, but got outpaced and Barça lost. Since then, he is labeled as the ‘good kid’ at the center of the defence, but apparently too good at heart.
Barcelona missed the opportunity to loan him out at an earlier stage of his career to grant him much needed playing time. Occasional games in the Copa or as a sub surely didn’t help him develop to his full potential.
Neither Pep Guardiola, Tito Vilanova, Gerardo “Tata” Martino or Luis Enrique trusted him enough to become a regular at his boyhood club. Here’s hoping Thomas Tuchel gets the best out of him so he can take the next step in his career. The tools are clearly there, all he needs is a manager to trust in him.
Many German media sites published a dpa report according to which Dortmund have found the player who will replace Mats Hummels next season. As far as his ball-playing skills are concerned, Bartra can definitely compensate the loss of Dortmund’s former skipper.
However, Tuchel’s back line will need an authority figure that can conduct the defence. The Spanish international can be a great second centre-back, yet he has no experience in leading several team-mates, and he doesn’t possess the physical presence to be the main keystone of BVB’s defence.