After much talk by FC Barcelona fans and the media—including myself—Tito Vilanova started young Marc Bartra into a game. With the injuries to starters Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique, Barça is thin when it comes to the center backs. For nearly two seasons, most fans and critics would agree that Barcelona has not done enough to bring up their young Masia-bred CBs. Instead, both Pep Guardiola and now Tito Vilanova rely on center defensive midfielders turned CBs to play the position.
While having a CDM as a CB has not been terrible for Barcelona, it hasn’t always been pretty. In my last article, Messi and Barcelona: A Team of Destiny in La Liga, I discussed how this team is in need of a true CB. Here are a few of my quotes:
“I understand Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol are still out with their injuries, but Tito Vilanova cannot continue to throw out central defensive midfielders and just make them into defenders. Eventually, it’s going to come back and bite you. It’s happened in the past and it will happen again.”
I’m hopeful the time for Barça’s young CBs will come soon…”
“This team needs natural/true CBs and soon. I truly hope the young CBs get a shot… But I’m not holding my breath.”
Well, I’m glad Tito Vilanova reads my articles (Gracias, Tito!) because he sent out Marc Bartra for Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League game against Celtic.
Don’t get me wrong, I know part of the reason he had to send Bartra out there was because of the injuries to Pique and Puyol, as well as the one-game suspension of Sergio Busquets (red card in last CL game). If Busi was available, Sergio plays CDM and Alex Song would’ve moved to CB.
Nevertheless, Bartra was finally given the shot everyone wanted to see the kid get.
And boy, did he make the best of his opportunity.
Marc nearly made it 1-0 after a sweet Andres Iniesta pass to Bartra who headed the ball towards net, but it went right to the hands of Celtic goalkeeper Fraser Forster.
Bartra made a nice steal on a potential Celtic attack in the 24th minute. Marc came close to heading the ball in again in the 29th minute as he came up into the box and missed a cross from Iniesta.
Marc Bartra’s 1st half stats: Four tackles (100 percent), two interceptions, three clearances, no fouls, 96 percent passing accuracy, two shots (one on target).
Marc continued his great play in the second half. Bartra was calm, cool, and did not make any mistakes—given that Celtic did not have too many runs at goal.
In the dying seconds, Jordi Alba grabbed the game winner as Adriano’s cross found the feet of “the flying squirrel” that is Alba who gave Barcelona the win and moves them closer to winning Group G.
Marc Bartra’s final stats vs. Celtic: Five tackles, three interceptions, 5-of-5 effective clearances, 46 passes (which was more than any Celtic player) at 93 percent accuracy.
After the comeback win, Marc Bartra told the media that it was Tito Vilanova that helped him get ready for his performance against Celtic.
“Tito has helped me a lot the past days. He has found the right moment to let me make my debut this season.”
While I’m happy that Tito helped Marc prepare for the game—both physically and mentally—Tito had plenty of other games where he could have sent Marc in to play. Could it be stubbornness in the part of Vilanova? Maybe. But I’m glad that Tito decided it’s time to put him into a game. Tito could have gone with a back line of Adriano as a CB like he was in El Clásico to go along with Javier Mascherano, Jordi Alba, and Martin Montoya. Instead, Tito finally knew Marc Bartra could not be passed over anymore.
At the postgame interview, Tito Vilanova displayed just how much confidence he had in Marc Bartra.
"Bartra is at the first team because I wanted it. We had the money to sign a center back this past summer, but I told the club to save it."
I’ll take Tito’s word that he believed in Marc all of this time and that’s why he didn’t sign a CB. The same cannot be said about Sandro Rosell—who desperately tried and failed to get Thiago Silva.
Am I happy that all of my complaining about not starting Marc Bartra has been vindicated? Of course!
But it’s not just because to say “I told all of you so”; it’s because I just wanted to see this kid’s hard work finally be put to use. Marc Bartra worked hard to finally make the first squad, and it’s great to see another Masia success story.
It’s even better that it’s a Masia defensive player success story.
Marc Bartra stated how much Tuesday’s game and win versus Celtic meant to him.
“This is one of the happiest days since I've been at the club. As a youth player, you work years for these moments."
“I only think of succeeding in Barça because it’s the team of my heart.”
I’m sure I speak for all Culés when I say we are all happy for you, Marc, and we know you will succeed with this club.
Marc needed a shot.
He finally got his shot.
And he showed the football world that he could be the next great Blaugrana defender.
There is hope at center back for FC Barcelona.
Xoel, The Voice of FC Barcelona on Bleacher Report.
Don't forget to check out my other columns:
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!