Borussia Dortmund confirmed late on Tuesday that defender Marc Bartra has left the club with immediate effect, joining La Liga side Real Betis on a five-year contract. No details pertaining the transfer fee have been reported as of the time of this writing.
The 27-year-old had joined the Black and Yellows in the summer of 2016 from FC Barcelona. A back-up centre-back for the Spanish national team, Bartra slotted into the spot vacated by the defection of Mats Hummels to Bayern Munich that same summer.
He has appeared in a total of 51 matches across competitions for the Ruhr side, scoring five goals. A strong passer of the ball, Bartra’s strengths in the build-up phase have at times been offset by defensive deficiencies. Positioning errors, individual mistakes and tactical lapses have been a part of the Catalan’s time at Dortmund.
He arguably had his strongest phase at the Westfalenstadion in early 2017, until the attempted mass-assassination of the players and staff on the team bus before a UEFA Champions League match against Monaco forever changed things.
Bartra suffered a complex arm injury that forced him out of action for a month and whose long-term effects likely played a role in his wish to leave Dortmund for his home country.
Even before the attack, the 27-year-old had quickly developed into a fan favourite for his complete identification with the club. That shone through in an emotional statement Bartra penned on Tuesday:
I can barely put into words the moments and feelings I have had in the last one-and-a-half years. I would never have considered it possible to receive so much affection and support from one of the best football-families in the world. You are role models for everyone! I have given my all in every moment. We were able to win a first cup after a number of years and to celebrate that triumph together. This moment and all others I will never forget.
Chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke said:
Marc Bartra is a wonderful person and a great football player, who won our BVB hearts right away. Unfortunately he has experienced horrible things due to the still inexplicable, cowardly attack. Against that background we respect Marc’s wish to return to his home country and leave everything behind him. Because we feel a special connection to Marc we showed a notable good will in discussing the transfer fee. Borussia Dortmund wish Marc Bartra and his family all the best for the future. We will forever be connected with each other.
Despite Watzke’s statements, it seems as though sporting motifs played the biggest role in Bartra’s decision to push for a transfer.
In a message on his social media channels, the Spain international exclaimed that “things fundamentally changed for me over the last two months,” before thanking both Thomas Tuchel and Peter Bosz, but not Peter Stöger. Bartra has since removed the names of his first two BVB coaches and instead thanked “the coaches who trusted in me.”
Dortmund’s interim head coach Stöger, of course, had rarely used Bartra and not once included him in the 18-man squads in 2018.