Barcelona has the best academy anywhere, with many world-class players having come through La Masia’s ranks over the years.
Xavi, the current manager, and legends Carlos Puyol and Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets, as well as Lionel Messi, all graduated from the academy. Gavi and Ansu fati look set to follow these footsteps.
When FM 2012 was released, Barcelona’s success at bringing through youth meant that their squad was full of ‘wonderkids’With FM Scout We decided to pick the top 15, so we took a look at who made it and who fell into obscurity.
Pol Balleste was once a promising young goalkeeper and could be the next Victor Valdes. But he never lived up the hype. He didn’t make a single appearance at Barcelona before moving on to the lower divisions in Spain.
Balleste is now 26 and plays for UD Melilla.
Bartra, who was actually recruited to the Barcelona team by Carlos Puyol, started with great promise. However, his career has been filled with highs and lows.
Bartra transferred to Borussia Dortmund. There, he was particularly affected by the terrorist attack that took place on the team bus shortly before a Champions League knockout. Bartra is now 30 and plays for Real Betis. However, he has not fulfilled his potential and has since left.
Gareth Bale can take the credit for effectively ending Bartra’s Barcelona career, after utterly destroying him in the 2014 Copa Del Rey final.
Gareth Bale turns 32 today 🎈
Never forget Marc Bartra’s victory in Copa del Rey Final⚡️
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 16, 2021
Another centre-back, Sergi Gomez was a highly regarded 18-year old in FM 2012, but failed to play in a single league game for the club.
Nevertheless, he has forged a decent career for himself, picking up a Europa League winners medal at Sevilla in 2020, before completing a move to Barcelona’s other club Espanyol this summer.
The left-sided centre back is one of the more unlucky players on the list. As one of the most highly rated defenders in the academy, Muniesa was on the verge of breaking into the first team when he suffered a serious knee injury which kept him out for most of the season.
In 2013, Muniesa completed a shock move to Stoke City to link up with ex-Barca striker Mark Hughes, before eventually returning to Catalunya with Girona. The Spaniard now plays in Qatar for Al-Arabi.
Going from the sunny Barcelona beach to a wet and windy Stoke, one can only speculate about whether he regrets his career choices.
Martin Montoya came through as a backup for Dani Alves at right-back, and did well for a while, before leaving on loan to Inter Milan and Real Betis.
The central midfielder was touted as the next Sergio Busquets, with his excellent passing and vision drawing many admirers whilst in the B team.
However, he failed to break into the team, and after a few loan spells, terminated his contract to move to Japan where, now aged 26, he plays with Andres Iniesta at Vissel Kobe.
Espinosa failed to break into the Barcelona midfield, and moved to Villarreal on a free transfer in 2014. However, the Spaniard continued to struggle, and was eventually loaned out and released. After a few more loans, Espinosa now plays in Cyprus for AEK Larnaca.
The only player on this list still playing for Barcelona, Sergi Roberto, like his age-mates, initially found it tough to break into arguably the best midfield of all time. However, Roberto’s versatility came in handy, as he found a path into the team as a utility right-back.
Roberto became a regular first-teamer, with over 200 appearances for the club in both midfield and full-back, and will forever be remembered in Barcelona folklore for *that* goal against Paris Saint-Germain in the famous remontada.
On this day, 2017:
Sergi Roberto completed Barcelona’s epic 6-1 comeback against PSG 👀pic.twitter.com/1SEAMZMjcS
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 8, 2019
With no senior appearances, the midfielder left Barcelona B to sign for Real Madrid B. He later became a starter at Alaves, before earning a move to Watford in the Premier League, where he remains a regular player.
— SPORTbible (@sportbible) November 21, 2019
The biggest success story from this group, Thiago was highly rated at Barcelona, but with Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas ahead of him, a starting spot was hard to come by.
Moving to Bayern Munich in 2013 was a masterstroke, as he became a crucial player for seven seasons, winning every trophy on offer, before joining Liverpool as a bona fide superstar last year.
Barcelona really regret this one…
One of the highest-rated wingers in the academy at the time, Deulofeu has had a relatively strange career path.
With two separate spells at Barcelona, as well as two separate spells at Everton, the Spaniard even made it into the Spain squad, winning four caps for his country.
After a fairly successful period at Watford, Deulofeu, now 27, finds himself at Udinese in Serie A.
Despite scoring some incredible goals along the way, relegation battles are not what seemed destined for Deulofeu, who would have imagined spending his prime as an integral member of the Barcelona squad back in 2012.
This goal will never get old 😱
More FA Cup magic from Gerard Deulofeu tomorrow? 🐝pic.twitter.com/xWfsY2wmln
— GOAL (@goal) May 17, 2019
Another La Masia product turned journeyman, Cuenca would go on to play for seven different clubs after leaving Barcelona. He is currently injured, after spending last season in Japan’s top flight with Vegalta Sendai.
The brother of Thiago Alcantara, Rafinha opted to play for Brazil instead of Spain, and has had a relatively good career despite regular injury problems.
Currently warming the bench at PSG, he had two successful spells at Celta Vigo, as well as spending time at Inter Milan on loan. A talented playmaker, he will, unfortunately, have to live in the shadow of his older brother.
One of the best young talents in the world when breaking through, Bojan was widely considered to be the next Lionel Messi.
As a small, technical forward, the comparisons seemed obvious, and the Spaniard looked to be destined for greatness. However, he fell victim to injury, and after failing to rediscover his form, spent time out on loan across Europe.
He ended up at Stoke, where he was impressive despite being the antithesis of what Stoke are all about, but regardless possesses a Champions League medal.
Bojan famously thought he had scored a late winner in the Champions League semi final to send Barcelona through, but the goal was inexplicably disallowed. His career could have panned out so differently if it stood…
Like a few of his old classmates, Bojan now plays in the Japanese top flight with Vissel Kobe.
READ: Where are they now? A ‘new Lionel Messi’ for every year since 2006
Jean Marie Dongou
With one Copa Del Rey goal in Barcelona colours to his name, Jean Marie Dongou was yet another wonderkid who ended up in the wilderness.
Despite turning into a world beater on FM 2012, the Cameroonian currently plays in the Finnish Veikkausliiga, after a few years in the Spanish Segunda Division. Not quite Samuel Eto’o.
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