On the eve of the FIFA World Cup, Spanish football was rocked by the Julen Lopetegui debacle, the newly appointed Real Madrid coach was forcefully withdrawn from the tournament, to be replaced by Fernando Hierro. It was a massive setback to the 2014 champions so close to the start of the competition.
Amidst the whole tragedy, however, a former Barcelona starlet was fulfilling his Premier League dreams – an unusual career path for a La Masia graduate. Marc Navarro joined Watford on a five-year deal for an undisclosed fee from Espanyol.
Javi Garcia is gradually setting up something of a Spanish dynasty at Vicarage Road. There won’t be a boring moment for his latest inductee in Hertfordshire as he will have both former Real Madrid and Barca trainees Kiko Femenia and Gerard Deulofeu as company.
“Marc has attracted interest from a host of top European clubs, therefore we are delighted to have secured his services,” Watford’s chief executive Scott Duxbury told the club’s website.
Navarro is Catalonia born and bred, he grew up and was schooled in the autonomous community, kids in the region dreamt of just two sports; basketball and football, Navarro opted for the latter.
Building a successful career at Barcelona isn’t a piece of cake, just a few youngsters managed to make it to the big stage. With La Masia talents being deemed just not good enough, the club’s hierarchy has turned to bringing in more and more mercenary imports.
Navarro was well aware of this and started off at lower side CF Badalona in 2001 at just six. Despite his tender age, he exhibited something quite astute and after just one year with the Segunda club, this was enough to alert the scouts of the big brother; Barcelona.
The young defender’s progress didn’t stop there, his development was fast-tracked due to a superior skill set and physique beyond his years. He was heralded to break into the main team sooner rather than later but that never happened, Navarro’s progress somehow stalled and Barca was happy to allow him to leave.
Espanyol saw what their bigger neighbours didn’t, Navarro was just 16 when he made the move and was given comfort at RCDE Stadium. Navarro spent two years with the developmental squad and as soon as he turned 18, the defender was farmed out to Damn to gain first-team experience.
He returned with plenty. Still, he had to prove his worth with the club’s reserve team. There he spent three years, racking up 44 appearances and eight goals and at that point, there was no way the senior managers could resist.
Navarro was eager to make good use of his opportunity. He had waited seven years to be considered and the defender didn’t disappoint. Navarro started and scored on his debut in January 2017 in a memorable 3-1 victory over Granada. That made him the first youth graduate to achieve the feat since Raúl Tamudo in 1997.
Still dissatisfied, he wanted to do more. Navarro was rewarded with another starting berth and further proved his value. He netted the only goal in the club’s 3-1 defeat by Sevilla. Samuele Longo was the last Espanyol player to achieve such in his first two games in the 2012/13 campaign.
Navarro finished the campaign superbly, notching up a dozen appearances. He was rewarded with a bumper deal and played an even bigger role last season featuring 24 times for Quique Sanchez Flores’ team who finished 11th.
At Watford, Navarro will have to do a little more to displace Daryl Janmaat on the right side of the defence. His versatility will appeal to Garcia who had to deal with a number of injuries last season.