Barcelona’s La Masia graduates XI: Stars who now play elsewhere
Barcelona (11/2 to win the Champions League, and 6/5 for La Liga) have officially produced the most amount of players currently plying their trade in Europe’s top five leagues, with 43 stars, which got Coral football experts thinking…
We have come up with a starting XI of La Masia graduates that have been with the Catalan club for at least three years between the ages of 15 and 21, who have now permanently moved on from Barca.
That means the likes of Chelsea’s Cesc Fabregas, who left the Spanish giants for Arsenal at 16, and Manchester United-linked Victor Valdes, without a club, are ineligible for this line-up.
Current and ex-Premier League players that missed out on the following XI, meanwhile, include Edu Campabadal (formerly of Wigan, now Cordoba), Iago Falque (Spurs now Genoa), Jordi Gomez (Sunderland), Ruben Rochina (Blackburn, now Granada) and Oriol Romeu (Stuttgart on loan from Chelsea).
Pepe Reina (now at Bayern Munich) – Goalkeeper
The former Liverpool stopper may have missed out on this XI, if Valdes were not without a club following his release from Barcelona and a subsequent serious knee injury, but Reina has also had a distinguished career to date.
Madrid-born Reina managed 49 appearances for Barca in total, before being sold to Villarreal, but has won silverware in England, Italy and with his nation Spain, for whom he has earned 33 caps. Linked with a return to Barcelona in the summer, he instead moved to Bayern as understudy to Manuel Neuer.
Andreu Fontas (Celta Vigo) – Centre back
Fontas, 24, was a promising defensive midfielder/centre back coming through La Masia, and made 16 first team appearances for Barca, but was later sold to Celta Vigo in 2013, helping them to a ninth-place La Liga finish last term. He does have a buy-back clause inserted in his contract, so may yet turn out for the Catalan giants once more in future.
Fernando Navarro (Sevilla) – Centre back
Barcelona-born Navarro, now 32, spent 13 years at Barca as a youngster, making 21 La Liga appearances for them in the process, but a knee injury stalled his career. Was later sold to Mallorca, but has been with Sevilla since 2008, the year he earned his only two international caps.
Marc Muniesa (Stoke City) – Centre back
Another young star that was tipped for a long Barcelona career, before a knee injury cruelly wrecked his chances, Muniesa is now trying to prove himself again in the Premier League with Stoke City.
Although originally a centre back, the 22-year-old has been utilised mainly as a left back for the Potters, and has impressed under ex-Barca player Mark Hughes, despite being used sparingly since joining in 2013.
Jonathan dos Santos (Villarreal) – Defence midfield
Although arguably less talented than his older brother Giovani, the Mexican midfielder stayed 12 years at Barca up until this summer.
Dos Santos junior, 24, featured 28 times spread across five seasons for the Catalan club’s senior side, but was unable to challenge the likes of Sergio Busquets and Javier Mascherano, so now plays for Villarreal alongside his sibling.
Thiago Motta (PSG) – Centre midfield
Brazilian-born Italy international Motta, 32, started his professional career in Spain with Barca, playing in 139 senior games for them, but was later sold to Atletico Madrid after an injury-hit spell. He later had a successful stint with Serie A giants Inter Milan, before joining French side PSG, where he is a crucial member.
Mikel Arteta (Arsenal) – Centre midfield
One of the most underrated players in this team, it is still hard to believe Arteta has yet to earn a cap for Spain. The 32-year-old spent five years with Barca as a youngster, but never made the first team.
Arteta, therefore, sought the shores of Britain, where he first turned out for then Scottish titans Rangers, before joining Everton, after a brief spell with Real Sociedad. He is now the current captain of Arsenal.
Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich) – Attacking midfield
Born in Italy to World Cup-winning former Brazil star Mazinho, Spain international Thiago, 23, is perhaps the best player in this XI. However, as has been the case with a few others we have mentioned, he has suffered heavily with knee injuries, but only after moving on from Barcelona this time.
Thiago was sold to German giants Bayern, after eight years with Barca, and will hope to overcome his fitness issues to avoid becoming a player who failed to live up to his promise. His younger brother Rafinha is still flying the Alcantara flag at Barcelona, though.
Isaac Cuenca (Deportivo La Coruna) – Right wing
A highly talented winger, who came through La Masia’s academy at such an unfortunate time, with the likes of Lionel Messi, Neymar, Pedro and Alexis Sanchez ahead of him in that period. He did, however, manage to make 30 first team Barca appearances.
Cuenca, who has also suffered with knee issues during his career so far, was once linked with Liverpool, but now turns out for Deportivo.
Giovani dos Santos (Villarreal) – Left wing
Dos Santos senior is also a Mexico international, and was highly regarded during his six years with Barcelona. In his first season playing with the seniors, he made 28 La Liga appearances, and hit a hat-tick in his final game for the club, but was then sold to Spurs that summer, where his career took a nose dive.
The 25-year-old has had loan spells with Ipswich Town, Galatasaray and Racing Santander since, but is now resurrecting his career with Villarreal.
Bojan Krkic (Stoke City) – Striker
Bojan really was a player who was tipped for the top, after becoming Barcelona’s youngest ever player and breaking many more records along the way.
He made 163 appearances for Barca across four seasons, but it was clear his performances started to decline. Bojan was later sold to Roma before resigning again, but was immediately sent out on loan to Ajax, where he failed to really impress. Now, the 24-year-old plays alongside fellow former La Masia product Muniesa with Stoke, but has again flopped so far, failing to score in his first five games.