The news broke out last week: FC Barcelona’s coach, Tata Martino, had recommended his new club to go after Colombian defending sensation in Argentina, Eder Alvarez Balanta.
The 20-year old center back has been dubbed the best defender of the Argentine tournament in the little time he has spent in first division, and many see in him a perfect cross between Jorge Bermudez’s hierarchy in the back and Ivan Cordoba’s speed and agility.
Eder Alvarez Balanta
Be it as it may, the truth is Balanta is only 20-years old and he has played a total of 15 games with River Plate, having scored two goals. Reports coming out of the Nuñez Club set the price tag for the young player at 50 million euro.
Barcelona has been doing a great job, at least for the last six years, of promoting young talent from their lower divisions. This way, adding to the magnificent miracle that was to be able to boast three of the best players in the world in the same generation, like Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, the club has managed to put their confidence in Piqué, Alba, Valdés and Cesc, plus promote unknown players like Busquets and Pedro, who became world-wide stars in no time.
However, last year, the team took a drastic turn in their philosophy, and sold Thiago Alcantara, one of their potential best future talents, to Bayern Munich due to a technicality in his contract.
Also, players like Fontás and Deulofeu were loaned out –a move Barça had always despised, arguing it was better for young players to be home even if only training with the best, than away despite the fact they could get more playing time. Finally, the only player who was promoted this summer, Sergio Roberto, has not been counting for Martino at all, who rather see Alex Song taking a spot in the middle, when Busquets, Xavi or Iniesta are not available.
This change in their philosophical approach to the younger generations could be the reason why Martino and his staff are looking out in order to fill in the gaps with players that have been brought up at home.
The new coach’s first request when he arrived to Barcelona was to sign a center back. With Puyol still out of commission Tata needed a solid defender in case the captain could not make it back in the best shape. The club told him to put his trust in Marc Bartra.
The youngster has been a part of the first squad since 2010, but he has only played 15 games with the team. Guardiola, Tito, Roura and now Martino didn’t seem to have too much confidence in a player who lead the Spanish Under 21 defense to the European title of the category this summer. But after Mascherano suffered a serious injury at the beginning of the tournament, Martino had no other choice but to team him up with Pique.
Bartra has since been doing a great job, becoming one of the most valuable players in Barça’s matches against Celtic in the Champions League and Valladolid in La Liga.
Now, the 22 year old would see his trajectory completely thrashed should the team invest 50 million (or 20, or 30…) in signing Balanta, a player who is two years younger than him, and has half the experience at the top level –although they have played the same amount of games, Balanta has just arrived to professional soccer, while Bartra has seen it all already.
So the question remains, why would FC Barcelona go after Eder Balanta when Marc Bartra is a fan favorite and a home-grown product?