sport

Bartra: Xavi exit would leave hole

Barcelona defender Marc Bartra believes that if team-mate Xavi Hernandez signs for MLS outfit New York City "a huge hole will be left in the dressing room" at the Catalan club.

The 34-year-old veteran midfielder is reported to be on the verge of calling time on his 16-year career with Barca to join up with former international and club team-mate David Villa at the newly formed franchise, which is owned by Premier League champions Manchester City.

If Xavi seals the move to the US, he will become the third Barca vice-captain to quit the club in the last season, with Victor Valdes seeing out his contract and Carles Puyol retiring from football due to knee problems.

All three players graduated from the club's La Masia academy and spent the entirety of their playing careers with Barca.

"Those three players are leaders, three great players that, if Xavi's departure is confirmed, will leave a huge hole in the dressing room," Bartra told a press conference.

"Personally Xavi has helped me a lot, and so it would be very sad news for me if he leaves, but we will respect his decision, he has earned everyone's respect."

Fellow academy graduate Cesc Fabregas has also left Barcelona, but the club have brought in Luis Suarez from Liverpool and Ivan Rakitic from Sevilla.

The club are expected to sign a defender to cover the loss of Puyol, and reports suggest they are close to striking a deal with Valencia to sign French defender Jeremy Mathieu for around 20million euros (15.8m).

Bartra insists he views the potential arrival of the 30-year-old positively, even it means he faces further competition for a place in Luis Enrique's starting line-up next term.

"We are building a very good team, and if a centre-back arrives, it will make the team more competitive," said the 23-year-old.

"Mathieu is a great player and had a very good last season with Valencia. But I have to forget about whether another centre-back is coming or not, I have to focus on training and contributing to the team.

"We all start from scratch and whoever comes in must prove they are good enough to play for Barca, even though I know whoever comes in will be top quality. The important thing is that everyone is working towards the same objective."