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Youngster Eases Barca's Defensive Woes

The whole football world was egging Barcelona to splurge on a world class defender during the last transfer window.

Their central defensive cordon of Gerard Pique and Javier Mascherano- with veteran Carles Puyol looking on longingly from the treatment table- left them badly exposed at times last season.

And to be sure, Barca did comb the market for a ready-made first-choice stopper. All of Thiago Silva, Daniel Agger, David Luiz and Vincent Kompany were mentioned as possible signings, only for none to arrive when the transfer window slammed shut.

All the while, Barca may already have had their future central defender in their ranks, and it has now been confirmed that he can actually leave the club as a free agent at the end of the season.

22-year-old Marc Bartra has been a rock in Barca’s defence for the past two games, helping them keep clean sheets in La Liga against Almeria, and in the Champions League against Celtic.

He was especially impressive against the Hoops, and garnered praise from manager Tata Martino for shackling danger-man Giorgios Samaras with his physicality, movement and tactical awareness.

Suddenly, Barca’s focus has gone from scouring the globe for a new defender, to planning some time around the negotiating table to extend Bartra’s contract at the club.

Fortunately for Barca, La Masia graduate Bartra does not appear to be considering an exit, and suggests that if he is offered a new deal, signing it will be a formality.

“I am very relaxed about the contract situation -- my agent and the club are discussing that,” Bartra said.

“I just need to focus on my football. I have been here 12 years and hope to be here for many more. I know that the club and my agent are working on the subject. I do not think about what might happen later.

“Bit by bit I am feeling more loved here -- I am in the first-team squad two seasons now, picking up things from the best players in the world. In Glasgow it was incredible, everything, not just the game, but the atmosphere too. There was a lot of pressure, but you transform that into motivation to do well.”

With Barta set for a longer run in the first-team, his confidence is growing match-by-match. And he says he is empowered by the fact that Martino has faith in his ability.

“Personally, everything has gone well from pre-season until now,” he said.

“[Martino] has shown confidence in me and I am happy with that. I remember in pre-season there was a lot of talk about whether another centre-back was coming or not.

“It would have been more difficult for me if that happened, but Martino gave me confidence by saying he was not going to sign anyone. So it has gone well for me.”

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