Sergio Busquets is Barcelona's best-kept secret. He won't win many popularity contests, and he won't make many end of the season highlight shows Yet, arguably, he's the best player at his position in the world.
With 21 starts, Sergio has been on the teamsheet more than any other player besides Victor Valdes and Lionel Messi. Playing primarily as a defensive midfielder, Busquets recycles possession and cedes it to Barca's sparkling playmakers with great efficency.
Not blessed with outstanding speed and not prone to get stuck in, Busquets still elegantly leads the team in tackles per game according to WhoScored.com. He uses his understanding of the game to position himself in the right situations to win the ball back.
Once he has the ball, he usually tries to find a teammate as quickly as possible, then continues to move, providing a safe outlet for a return pass. Because of this, he is second to Xavi in passes per game among Barcelona players. His passing accuracy is above 90%, although some will criticize him for playing primarily safe passes.
That's to miss the point a bit, as his role is to give the ball off to a more attack-minded player to do this. Still, he does average 4.8 long balls per game, fourth on the team.
However, it's fair to say he does not excel in providing the final ball, registering only one assist this season. He did score one goal, which is about the amount he scores per season.
With his understanding of the game, he's very adept at dropping into the defensive line to become an extra CB which is quite useful. His lack of speed can become a problem, but it usually isn't.
Another criticism that can be legitimately leveled at him is that, despite his height (second tallest on the team besides Gerard Pique), he is not a particularly good header of the ball in either attack or defense.
Busquets is an interesting case, invisible to the casual viewer, yet central to the Barcelona philosophy. Not the most athletic, limited in a few ways, and yet absolutely outstanding at what he does. His one-touch football is perhaps the best on a team that is filled with the best one-touch players.
He recovers the ball quickly, protects it, and plays it off. It's not complicated, at least, it doesn't seem so. But it's vital.
His heading is adequate, but he really could do better. We were reminded of this in the Spanish Supercup when Cristiano Ronaldo scored off a corner. It's true that Real Madrid are a taller team, but Busquets is taller than Cristiano.
Busquets is not horrible at headers of course, but it would be quite useful for a small team like Barcelona for its taller players to be at their best.
With second-place Atletico Madrid leading a so-far unimpressive Barcelona by 1-0, the Blaugrana had to dig deep. Adriano fired a bullet into the top corner to draw the scores level, but perhaps even more importantly, Sergio put Los Cules ahead with a smooth move.
The ball swung in from a corner. Gerard Pique battled for the header, but the players cancelled each other out. The ball fell to the floor, dropping into the middle of a mob. A frantic scramble in the box ensued, yet the ball found Busquets. The Atletico defenders rushed to him. Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois positioned himself for the save.
Any other player would have blasted it as it came, but Busquets feinted. While the Catalan paused, the men in the red and white jerseys slid past, like Wile E. Coyote off a cliff, and Busquets gracefully stuck it into the opposite corner. Sumptuous.