Barcelona have one of the most sacred and influential institutions in the world of football in the form of La Masia. At its peak, the famed Catalan academy was producing talents on par with the ruffled streets of Brazil. Having been around since 1702, 'The Farmhouse' was first used to house young footballers associated with Barcelona in 1979 and it hasn't looked back ever since. As a graduate and an advocate of the centre's ideals, Pep Guardiola had said:
"The player who has passed through La Masia has something different to the rest, it's a plus that only comes from having competed in a Barcelona shirt from the time you were a child."
Some notable Barcelona recruits from La Masia of late
Aside from your 'Messis' and 'Xavis', the Spanish giants have witnessed a plethora of skilled players rise up the ranks, scraping their way through all the different youth teams, to finally don the prestigious Blaugrana jersey. In recent times, the likes of Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati have manifested the traditional Barcelona style with a commendable degree of success.
Elsewhere, La Masia graduates have been making waves outside the club for a long time now. Owing to his sublime technical skills, Dani Olmo secured a €22m to RB Leipzig from Dinamo Zagreb, having spent seven years in Barca's youth setup, from 2007-2014. In Portugal, Alex Grimaldo has been turning in consistent performances at the left-back position ever since his transfer from Barcelona to Benfica was confirmed in 2015.
However, not every player that inherits the club's philosophy at La Masia goes onto become a superstar. In fact, there have been a lot more failures than success stories in Catalonia that have gone explicablly unnoticed. Here, we take a look at 10 such flops over the last 21 years:
#10 Andreu Fontàs
Andreu Fontàs was part of the proverbial Barcelona B team, that finished 3rd in the Segunda division back in 2011. The promising set of players were touted to be the next generation of La Masia laureates to break into the first team. However, it wasn't to be.
A victim of his own versatility, the utility man was often used as left-back cover for Eric Abidal and even as a defensive midfielder at times. This, along with his horrendous injury record, earned him a permanent ticket to Celta Vigo, where he stayed for 5 years. Fontàs now plies his trade for MLS side Sporting Kansas City.
#9 Jonathon dos Santos
Jonathon dos Santos and his brother, Giovanni dos Santos, both deserve a spot on this list, having had disappointed on an unfathomable level. Having joined La Masia together as children, the duo seemed to be right at home in Barcelona with their initial style of play, linking impeccably with the ideologies of the club.
While the latter had flair and resilience that attracted several clubs, the younger sibling, Jonathon dos Santos, was never able to escape his brother's shadow, let alone make his own mark.
Just a rotational option for Pep Guardiola during his time at Barcelona, Jonathan's initial promise soon faded away and gave way to everlasting mediocrity. The 31-year-old midfielder was shipped off to Villareal as a result. He has been in MLS for the past four years with LA Galaxy.
#8 Isaac Cuenca
Initially occupying a keen sense of positioning and technique, Isaac Cuenca's time at Barcelona was riddled with injuries. The Spanish winger spent two separate spells with La Masia before being called up to the senior squad. While Cuenca was impressive in fragments, his constant fitness issues ensured that the Reus-born forward would never be able to capitalize on his obvious talent.
A typical La Masia product, possessing the tactical intelligence imparted in the Catalan academy, Cuenca only managed to make 30 appearances for the first team, contributing to 16 goal involvements. However, this decent output couldn't cover for his erraticity and lack of consistency and he was subsequently sold to Deportivo La Coruna. At 30, the Spaniard is currently on a career break.
#7 Martín Montoya
He was supposed to be La Masia's answer to Dani Alves. Barcelona had high hopes for Martín Montoya. The pacy Spaniard wasn't particularly dreary during his time with the Blaugrana, as compared to others on the list. However, he failed miserably in front of the insurmountable expectations, the fans had from him.
Montoya was one of the better La Masia players of the 2010s. However, like his batchmates, the Catalonian failed to capitalize on the occasional chances he was spared and was eventually ousted from the club on a permanent basis following two loan spells.
Even though Montoya has carved out a relatively decent career outside Barcelona, he had the potential to achieve so much more. He is currently contracted to mid-table regulars Real Betis.
#6 Marc Muniesa
Another member of the fabled 2010/11 Barcelona B side, Marc Muniesa spent four years at Camp Nou, jumping between the B team and the senior side for the first three seasons. As fate would have it, Muniesa faced a horror knee injury in his first game as a senior squad member, painting an accurate picture of what was to come.
He failed to make a substantial mark after his recovery and was subsequently dumped at the door of Stoke City in 2013. Although Muniesa was a regular starter under Mark Hughes, his constant injury struggles meant the Catalan was booted out of the Bet365 Stadium as well.
Following a brief spell with Girona, Muniesa joined Qatari outfit Al-Arabi, where he remains till date.
#5 Keita Baldé Diao
An unusual inclusion for some, Keita Baldé Diao was contracted to Barcelona for a total of seven years between 2004-2011. But unlike others on the list, this La Masia graduate was released before he could make his first-team debut.
Balde was destined for greatness, on course to become the complete forward. His tendency to cut inside, coupled with his clinical finishing, attracted a hoard of suitors during his time at Lazio. 53 goal contributions in under 140 matches for the young prodigy only furthered his case. Monaco came calling in 2017, paying €30m for his services.
However, his persistent injury record and a severe lack of stability prevented the Senegalese forward from reaching his true potential. Touted to flourish at Barcelona, the 26-year-old spent last season on loan with Sampdoria.
#4 Sandro Ramírez
Having experienced a decent run of form for the B team, Sandro Ramírez was drafted into the first squad in 2014. To everyone's amazement, it only took the Spanish striker 12 minutes, to score his first senior goal. Going a step further, the brawny center-forward ended the season with at least one goal in each competition and a hat-trick to his name. Nevertheless, he was released by Barcelona, who only viewed him as a squad player.
After a fiery season with Malaga, Sandro was snapped up by Everton, where he was supposed to capture his true form. However, even at €6m, the transfer turned out to be a huge disaster. Sandro crashed miserably at Goodison Park, failing to deliver at a bigger stage. Adding salt to his wounds, the Toffees decided to cut the losses, rather than put their trust into the youngster.
Now at 26, the once Barcelona prospect has gotten relegated with Huesca.
#3 Sergi Samper
During his days in La Masia, Sergi Samper was poised to inherit Serio Busquets' throne in Barcelona. His laudable footwork and wide passing range meant that comparisons with Barcelona's number 5 were inevitable. Even though Samper impressed initially, he dropped the ball soon after.
The Catalan midfielder spent most of his senior career, contracted to Barcelona. Samper was groomed from the beginning to succeed at Camp Nou, playing 13 matches for the first team, after a century of appearances with the B team. However, after two mediocre loan spells with Granada and Las Palmas, it became apparent that his career had stalled. In 2019, Samper signed with Japanese side Vissel Kobe on a free transfer.
While his Barca teammates Andres Iniesta and David Villa, joined Vissel in the twilight of their careers, Samper has been with the club since the age of 24.
#2 Bojan Krkić
The prodigal son, the original 'next Messi' - Bojan Krkić has seen it all. The Spanish winger had a career trajectory almost identical to that of Messi in his early days at Barcelona. Having come through La Masia, Bojan broke the Argentine's record of being the youngest debutant at Camp Nou when he made his first appearance just 19 days after his 17th birthday.
The then-teenager went on to score 12 goals in his maiden season with Barcelona, adding to the hype. However, his flying start never transpired into anything and he was sold to Roma and then moved to Stoke City from Italy.
After displaying glimpses of his talent with the Potters, Bojan was subsequently acquired by MLS side Montreal Impact. An impactful story of what excessive pressure of expectations can do to a 'wonderkid', the current chapter sees him unemployed for the first time in his career.
#1 Jeffrén Suárez
With 9 clubs in 8 different countries on his resume, Jeffrén Suárez's 13 year-long career has taken him all over the world. The La Masia graduate's offensive abilities caught the eye of club manager Pep Guardiola, who started including the teenager in his matchday squads thereafter. The crowning jewel of Jeffrén's career came in the 10/11 season's El Clásico, where he came off the bench to score the final goal in a 5-0 win.
However, the Venezuelan international's career took a huge nosedive after that incident. His sub-par performances prompted Barcelona to cash in on the forward, selling him to Sporting CP for €3.75m. He is now worth 6.67% of that amount.
Thereupon, the 33-year-old former resident of La Masia went on to play professional football in Belgium, Switzerland, Cyprus, Croatia and the UAE. In June of 2021, Jeffrén signed with Lamphun Warrior FC, in the second division of Thai football.