Barcelona youngster Sergi Roberto has enjoyed something of a breakthrough season at the Camp Nou, just months after nearly being deemed surplus to requirements. However with the midfielder set to turn 24 in February, the remainder of the season could determine whether he has a long-term future at the club.
Since joining the club as a 14 year old, the Catalan has struggled to break-in to the first-team picture, but unlike many other graduates of Barcelona’s outstanding youth system, he has never been sent out on loan to gain experience and first-team action at other clubs.
Rated by Barca
That suggests that Luis Enrique and his recent predecessors have all rated the midfielder and have felt he added value to the squad but until this season his game time had been extremely limited. In the summer, he was a 23 year old who had only made seven first-team starts in the league and it seemed Sergi Roberto’s days at the Camp Nou were numbered.
However with Barcelona unable to make new signings, Luis Enrique opted to hold on to the player for the start of the new campaign with the number of midfielders at the club down in any case due to the departure of Xavi.
The decision looked to most casual observers to be a temporary fix to keep squad numbers ticking over until the arrival of re-inforcements in January when Barcelona’s transfer ban will be lifted.
Make or break season
Sergi Roberto must have known that this season and particularly the first half of it was going to be ‘make or break’ for his Barcelona career. An injury to Dani Alves provided him with his first break as he performed admirably in an unfamiliar right-back position in the opening weeks of the season. Although the Brazilian would return, it was those showings that perhaps earnt the trust of Luis Enrique and it wouldn’t be long before Sergi Roberto would get his chance in a more advanced role.
He has featured both as a winger and in his preferred central midfield role. His stand-out performance came on the wing in the biggest match of all as he played a starring role in Barcelona’s 4-0 win at the Bernabeu in El Clasico, with his lively burst and pass setting up Luis Suarez for the opener.
What Sergi Roberto has proved is that he is more than capable of coming in and doing a good job and his versatility makes him an asset to the squad. However it is still difficult to see how he is going to ever break into this side on a regular basis. The midfield trio of Iniesta, Busquets and Rakitic is clearly Luis Enrique’s preferred option in big games and with Arda Turan coming in January, it will become more competitive still.
Aleix Vidal is also arriving next month and will presumably take the right-back role once Dani Alves moves on while further up the pitch Sergi Roberto, who is yet to score in La Liga, is never going to dislodge Neymar, Leo Messi or Luis Suarez.
His form this season means Luis Enrique will be keen for him to stay particularly given he is a Catalan and the number of local-born players at the club is starting to dwindle. It’s likely the player who is popular with the fans will remain at the Camp Nou in January but his long-term future is ultimately likely to rest with the player himself.
It will probably just become a question of how long he is willing to remain a bit-part player at the club he loves. It’s a common dilemma for young players at the Camp Nou but Sergi Roberto must feel as though even when he does well, it isn’t enough to keep him in the side and the more that happens, the more likely it is that he’ll have to start looking for new employers.
Written by Mark Sochon
Follow Mark on Twitter @tikitakagol
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