Some of the most famous players in the world have gone on to dawn the red and blue of FC Barcelona. Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona, and Ronaldinho make up just a few in that esteemed list of legendary footballers. But who were the ones crafted and created in Barça’s fabled La Masia academy? Find out!
1. Lionel Messi
Leo Messi was born in Rosario, Argentina, but relocated to Spain at the age of 13 when FC Barcelona decided to pay for treatment to battle his growth hormone deficiency. Messi would develop into “The Greatest Player Of All Time” in the blue and red stripes of Barça, inspiring Blaugrana to 10 La Liga titles, 6 Copa Del Reys, and 4 UEFA Champions League crowns. Messi won the Pichichi (the trophy awarded to the top goalscorer in the Spainsh top flight) on seven occasions, and holds a record 6 Ballon d’Or/FIFA Ballon d’Ors.
2. Andrés Iniesta
Don Andrés etched his name into Spanish folklore when his strike secured La Roja’s maiden FIFA World Cup title. The midfielder made his Barça debut at 18 years of age in 2002, and was an ever-present until his departure in 2018. El Ilusionista holds the distinct record of being named the “Man of the Match” in the FIFA World Cup final, the UEFA European Championship final, and the UEFA Champions League final. Iniesta is the most decorated Spanish footballer of all time with 35 trophies.
3. Xavi Hernández
Xavi’s metronomic passing ability was the heartbeat of the FC Barcelona and Spain side that conquered both club and international football between 2008-2012. Xavi came into La Masia as an 11-year old and made his first-team debut against Lleida on 5 May 1998. The central midfielder is currently the second-highest capped player in Barça’s history with 767 appearances, and has 133 appearances for the national team.
4. Carles Puyol
Captain. Leader. Legend. A versatile defender, Puyol could play all across the backline. He joined La Masia in 1995, and made his debut for the first-team in October 1999 in a win over Real Valladolid. Puyi took over the captain’s armband towards the end of the 2003-04 season, just prior to the beginning of Barça’s great success story in the 21st century. Puyol’s character would embody Blaugrana’s spirit as they went on to win 6 La Liga, and 3 UEFA Champions League titles before he finally hung up his boots in 2014.
4. Sergio Busquets
While all the plaudits went to Messi, Iniesta, and Xavi for Barça’s dominance over Spanish and European football in modern times, Busquets quietly went about his business, undetected, shielding the defence, and transitioning play seamlessly from defence to attack. Vincente Del Bosque put it best when he said, “If you watch the game, you don’t see Busquets. But if you watch Busquets, you see the whole game.”
6. Pep Guardiola
Guardiola is perhaps known more for being the visionary coach than the player. But Pep was pivotal to the success of Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona “Dream Team.” Guardiola operated as the deep-lying playmaker, similar to Sergio Busquets, helping Barça to 4 consecutive La Liga titles (between 1991-1994) as well as the 1992 European Cup. His legacy, however, will be marked for his coaching stint between 2008-2012, when his Barcelona side revolutionized the beautiful game.
7. Cesc Fàbregas
Cesc made his name in England with Premier League club Arsenal under the stewardship of Arsene Wenger. Fabregas developed into one of the world’s finest playmakers during his time with The Gunners, and made his long awaited return to FC Barcelona in 2011 in a deal worth £35 million. While his time with Barça was laden with trophies, Cesc failed to recapture the form that paved the way for his return to the Camp Nou.
8. Gerard Piqué
The Spanish centre-back was thrust into the limelight for his marriage to Colombian pop-star Shakira, but that is not why he is on this list. Piqué was instrumental in Guardiola’s vision of playing out of the back, due to his ability to play in the ‘sweeper’ role similar to German legend Franz Beckenbauer. The defender has won the lot for both club and country; he was selected as La Liga’s best defender during the 2009/10 campaign, and recently won the 2019 Footballer of the Year in Catalonia.
9. Pedro Rodriguez
By the time Pedro arrived at Barcelona’s youth academy he was already 17, but within a couple of years he was a part of the first-team setup partly due to his relationship with manager Pep Guardiola from his Barcelona B days in the years prior. The winger holds the unique record of scoring in six different club competitions in one season as Barça won the lot: La Liga, Copa del Rey, Supercopa de España, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup, and the FIFA Club World Cup. Pedro scored 99 times in 320 appearances for Blaugrana before finding success with English club Chelsea — adding the Premier League, FA Cup, and UEFA Europa League to his list of accolades.
10. Ansu Fati
At only 18 years of age, it might be a little premature to include young Ansu’s name on this list, but his innate talent left us with no choice. Born in Guinea-Bissau, Fati moved to Spain when he was six-years old. He joined La Masia in 2012, aged ten, and would make his first-team debut on 25 August 2019 in a win over Real Betis. The mercurial winger would then set-off on a record breaking spree — becoming Barça’s youngest goalscorer in La Liga, at 16 years and 318 days; the outright youngest goalscorer in UEFA Champions League history, aged 17 years and 40 days; and in 2020, aged 17 years and 359 days, Ansu Fati became the youngest goalscorer in El Clásico with his strike against Real Madrid.