Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Pique, Fabregas and new boy Jordi Alba all played their part in creating history this summer, and will once again pull on the famous scarlet and blue shirt of Barcelona to prove that despite missing out on La Liga and Champions League titles, the ‘Barca way’ is still the way to play.
Six of the eleven players who started that EURO 2012 final in Kyiv have all had varying journeys to the Barcelona first team, but there is one thing that they all share in that pursuit to walk out in front of the Camp Nou and that is the building where tiki-taka is the footballing mantra.
Currently a conveyor belt for some of the most technically gifted players in the modern game, the likes of Martín Montoya and Sergi Roberto are amongst La Masia’s latest graduates set to be more prominent fixtures in the senior setup as a generation of young players with such confidence and fearlessness shapes successes at club and international level. Of course not all of its residents have made the transition from exciting prospect to a player whose name is bellowed by 90,000 Cules as the following La Masia graduates prove.
Giovani Dos Santos
Even at the twenty-three, the Mexican forward looks wasting his tremendous talent that convinced Barcelona to bring Dos Santos and his brother Jonathan to the club. After a starring role in the 2007 FIFA Under-20 Championships Dos Santos was tipped to have a more prominent role in senior squad proceedings and teammate Ronaldinho even declared that the Mexican was the most skilful at the club. Dos Santos had to wait for Rafael Marquez to be granted EU status before he could get his chance and while his skill and ability was never in doubt, it seems his work ethic was. One of the first players that Pep Guardiola moved out of the club, the move to England with a young, exciting Spurs side looked the perfect move, but limited appearances and loan spells at Racing Santander, Galatasary and Ipswich Town suggest Dos Santos has yet to fulfil his potential.
More than a few eyebrows were raised by Arsenal fans when Arsene Wenger sought to fill the Cesc Fabregas-shaped void in central midfield with the Everton player who had also graduated from the famous La Masia academy and made the jump from B team to first team alongside Pepe Reina. Arteta made his debut aged 16 replacing Pep Guardiola, but with the former Barcelona coach and Gerard, a big money signing from Valencia expected to pull the strings, Lorenzo Serra Ferrer loaned Arteta out to PSG which was followed by a forgettable spell at Real Sociedad before he found a home by way of Goodison Park. His successful stint at Everton was then ended when Wenger brought Arteta to the Emirates in the 2011 summer transfer window.
The Espanyol frontman graduated from the Barcelona B team in the 2002-03 season, showing the kind of goal-scoring form that looked certain to give Garcia an opportunity to impress in the first team. Struggling for minutes on the pitch along with another fellow youngster by the name of Andres Iniesta, Garcia was unable to break the forward partnership of Patrick Kluivert and Javier Saviola and did not feature in the new look Barca under Rijkaard. After a loan spell at Levante, Garcia moved to Zaragoza where he secured a place in Luis Arogones’s Euro 2008 winning squad before making a big money move to Real Betis who were relegated from the top flight in his first season. Now playing his football at Espanyol, Garcia still struggles to match the early potential that made him such an exciting Barcelona prospect.
Navarro was promoted from the Barcelona B team in the same year as current players Andres Iniesta and Victor Valdes but found his first team chances halted by the signing of swashbuckling Argentine Juan Pablo Sorin. In a season where Louis Van Gaal was responsible for one of the worst finishes by a Barcelona side in recent history, his replacement Frank Rijkaard brought in fellow Dutchman Giovanni Van Bronckhorst to fill the left back spot as Navarro was sent out on loan to Albacete. Another temporary transfer to Mallorca followed before the move turned permanent and the defender helped the club finish seventh in the 2007/08 season. Now a permanent fixture at Sevilla, the tough tackling full back was also a member of Spain’s Euro 2008 winning squad.
Breaking into the first team squad at the age of eighteen, Coach Lorenzo Serra Ferrer handed Reina his debut for the Catalan club who went on to make 30 appearances for the club during two trophy-less seasons. When Charly Rexach replaced Ferrer in the hot seat, Argentine Roberto Bonano was given the number one jersey which saw Reina loaned out to Villarreal where Reina helped Manuel Pellegrini’s side become one of the most attractive sides in La Liga and in Europe. When Rafa Benitez brought Reina to Liverpool he repaid the faith by helping the Merseyside club to the FA Cup and League Cup picking up the Golden Gloves Premier League award for three years running and still remains one of the best keepers in the league.