The wantaway Barcelona starlet who could be the perfect option for Liverpool
The 60-second story
- Full name: Martín Montoya Torralbo
- Date of birth: April 14, 1991
- Place of birth: Barcelona, Spain
- Height: 5ft 9in
- Position: Right-back
- Current club: Barcelona (60 apps, 2 goals)
- National team: Spain U21 (22 caps, 1 goal)
- Honours: La Liga (2010/11, 2012/13), Copa del Rey (2012), U21 Euros (2011, 2013)
La Masia doesn’t excel at producing right-backs, but for a long time Martín Montoya was billed as the exception. As Luis Enrique’s most frequently used defender in the Barça B side that finished in a play-off spot for promotion to La Liga in 2011, it looked certain he would establish himself as a first-team regular some day. That theory was only further strengthened when, in August of the same year, Vicente del Bosque had enough confidence to call Montoya up for Spain before he had even made his La Liga debut.
Much has changed since then. While in 2012 he produced a promising string of displays under Tito Vilanova, Montoya’s appearances with the first team have diminished rather than augmented in the subsequent years. The naming of old boss Enrique as new Barça manager in 2014 left most presuming that Montoya would be back in the picture, given their shared history, but the Asturian has barely included the right-back in matchday squads, let alone handed him regular minutes up until recently.
Why? Few know, and fewer still are willing to share the details. The ‘Montoya case’, as it has been dubbed, is a rare example of a situation that even the best-informed members of the Catalan media have little idea about. Until December he had only played one official game for Barça this season – a decent enough showing against Athletic in September – after which he disappeared from the scene once more.
Even much-maligned signing Douglas was above him in the pecking order, and the Brazilian’s substandard performances have only created further questions over what exactly Montoya has done wrong.
Inevitably, the farce culminated with the young Catalan letting Barça know he wishes to be sold in the winter window, with a loan move not an option. Enrique’s reaction was to give him two starts in a row for the first time this season – quite possibly too little, too late.
Last week Montoya's agent reiterated the player's desire to leave, telling Cope: "Since we wrote to the club, Martin has played four times. This made us happy. But our idea is still the same and the player wants to leave. We are waiting for the club to select a new sporting director so we can speak with him and find the best possible solution."
Why you need to know him
Montoya’s lack of playing time makes it difficult to form accurate conclusions on his current level, or whether he has actually pushed on to any degree over the last few years. Nonetheless, during his most regular run of appearances for the Barcelona first team in 2012, he looked a solid, modern right-back.
He was handed a starting place in the absence of injured Dani Alves for the 2012 Copa del Rey Final against Athletic, and coped admirably with the pressure. Montoya never put a foot wrong in the 3-0 victory, playing 90 minutes in Pep Guardiola’s last trophy win with the Blaugrana.
In the months that followed, he managed to take advantage of Alves’s continued fitness problems. Deputising well for the Brazilian, Montoya earned regular league appearances in the autumn of 2012, including playing half of a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid at the Camp Nou in which he almost scored the winner with a late shot that rattled the bar. While not capable of changing a game like Alves, he never looked out of his depth, which should be encouraging for any club looking to take him off Barcelona’s hands.
Slightly more reserved in his positioning than Alves, Montoya is generally secure when defending. Going forward he is always a willing option out wide, and intuitively understands the kind of movements an attacking full-back needs to make in order to aid the other forward players in a team that dominates possession. Though naturally a right-back, he has filled in at left-back on multiple occasions.
While Montoya is happy to make runs into the opposition area, his decision making in the final third is sometimes poor, and that hesitance can result in the ideal moment to attack slipping away. It isn’t uncommon to see him doubt when he should have crossed, allowing opponents enough time to recover.
His lack of clarity has sporadically manifested itself at the other end of the pitch too, and he has sometimes made errors when facing his own goal. Like any conclusions on his strengths and weaknesses, however, the fact that he has rarely played needs to be taken into account: the 23-year-old Montoya could very well be more assured than the 20-year-old version.
"Hopefully he can turn the situation around. He’s a great full-back and has the quality to stay here for many years. I hope he doesn’t leave Barça," said good friend Pedro Rodríguez, who offered words of encouragement for Montoya after his showing in Barça’s 5-0 win over Cordoba. Manager Enrique was less clear: "I don’t know what will happen in the future, but I can say that he won the right to play the last two games."
Did you know?
Martin’s older brother Marcos plays in the fifth tier of Spanish football with UD Viladecans.
- Shooting 5
- Heading 5
- Passing 7
- Tackling 6
- Pace 8
- Dribbling 6
- Creativity 6
- Work-rate 7
What happens next?
Barcelona’s transfer ban makes losing any player in the coming transfer window a potential problem. It is perhaps no coincidence, therefore, that Montoya’s first consecutive starts of the season coincided with stories that the club weren't confident their appeal to the CAS would be accepted. Those fears were proved right.
Montoya has explicitly asked to be transferred, and keeping a player against his will is always a risk, but Barça are conditioned by their unusual situation. As Douglas, the other alternative to Alves, is evidently not up to standard, the Catalans won’t be keen to lose their academy graduate if they are unable to sign a replacement. Juventus have been keen for a while, Bayer Leverkusen too, while a reunion with Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich has also been mooted. So too has a switch to Liverpool, but they and the other interested parties may need to match his €20 million buyout clause to get their hands on him.