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BARCELONA

Busquets is still key to Barcelona and Spain

Despite the 31-year-old showing signs of decline, Barça are still more balanced and tougher to beat with him in the side.

Busquets is still key to Barcelona and Spain

In an up and down season so far, Barcelona are still a greater force with Sergio Busquets and, although the player nicknamed the 'octopus of Badia' (for his ability to suck up and distribute every ball that comes his way) has been showing signs of decline, he remains a key component in Valverde's side

Managing Busquets' playing time

Clearly, the Barça midfielder needs to manage his minutes on the pitch - an approach which now applies to the national side after he watched Spain's drubbing of Malta from the bench - but it is no coincidence that in Barcelona's three league defeats this season Busquets did not feature in two and was a substitute in the other. In hindsight, it's not hard to image that the goals scored by Aduriz at San Mamés, Azeez at Los Cármenes and, particularly Campaña at Ciutat de Valencia, could have prevented with the holding midfielder on the pitch.

Barça are still a more balanced side with Busquets in it and, although playing every four days now seems behind him and with his participation being rationed by both Valverde and Robert Moreno, he still has a big say in shaping and maintaining the footballing identity forged by Barclona and Spain over the past decade. 

The end of an era

Moreover, despite the finger-pointing in the away-leg Champions League collapses against Roma and Liverpool, Busquets is the only survivor from that era-defining midfield three with Xavi and Iniesta and is the player Messi still looks to and has an understanding with. Wiser and not quite as irrepressible, he is still the sine qua non of a Barça side looking to stretch out an era that appears to be nearing its end.