Report: In what can be viewed as a breakout season for Marc Bartra the kid rarely disappointed. Of course there were growing pains and some mistakes, but truth be told, at this point I can only remember one mistake that directly led to a goal, sadly though, that one resulted in Barcelona losing a trophy. But at the tender age, especially for a center-back, of 23 he still has plenty to learn and he surely has a bright career ahead of him.
Bartra came into the season as the third center-back on the depth chart, behind Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano and in front of the injured Carles Puyol. But even though he was the first back-up Bartra didn't make his season debut until a full month after the season had started, as a substitute in the Champions League win against Ajax. But that game marked the start of a stretch that saw Bartra appear in six consecutive matches, "thanks" to a Javier Mascherano injury. During that span he also scored his first goal of the season, the second of his Barcelona career.
After a short spell back on the bench, Bartra again returned to the starting lineup, this time at the expense of Pique, who couldn't avoid the injury bug. That saw Gerardo Martino to often field a center-back duo of Bartra and Mascherano, and the two played very well together. With Mascherano behind as a safety net Bartra was allowed to play closer to midfield where he really thrived as he was also given the freedom to make the odd brilliant run straight into the opposing penalty box.
Bartra's playing time in La Liga suffered a big reduction in the second half of the season, especially in the first two thirds of the back end of the campaign. With Mascherano and Pique both healthy Bartra rarely saw the pitch outside of the Copa del Rey, though there he was also benched for the Semi-Final clash against Real Socieadad.
But Bartra became one of the best and most consistent players over the last two months of the season, after Pique went down with another injury. Bartra started seven of the last eleven league games, the Copa del Rey final and both legs of the Champions League Quarter-Final against Atletico Madrid and he performed at a high level in just about all of them. He even scored the important, yet no so important, game tying goal in the Copa del Rey Final.
This season also marked Bartra's breakthrough on the international stage where after making 37 appearances for various Spain youth teams he made his debut for the senior side. Bartra was called up for two friendly matches in mid-November, starting in the game against Equatorial Guinea and playing the full 90 minutes.
Moment of the season: Bartra's moment of the season is actually a very bittersweet moment. He played a very good game against Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey Final. He was solid at the back and even got involved in attack, firing two shots on goal, one of which was a perfect header that tied the game at one. But the game ended on a bitter note for Bartra as had a chance to stop Gareth Bale who was charging down the left side, but played him too soft and then didn't have the speed to prevent the Welshman from scoring the winning goal.
Marc Bartra's Header vs. Real Madrid in Copa del Rey (via ESPN)
|Started on the Bench
|Shots on Goal
Record with Marc Bartra in the starting lineup: 18-3-3
2014-15 Outlook: Bartra is set (and ready) for an increased role in the heart of the Barcelona defense. But with Pique returning from injury and an outside addition to the center-back corps it's hard to imagine Bartra playing much more than he did this season. I could see a slight increase in minutes, but I wouldn't expect much more than that. Though that's not because he doesn't deserve more minutes or isn't ready for that, but because other defenders on the team will also need to see the pitch.
Next Up: Javier Mascherano