The Barcelona youth academy, known as “La Masia,” is regarded as one of the sport’s finest institutions. The famed academy is known to identify and nurture world-class talent from a very early age. Some of its graduates include Lionel Messi, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Carlos Puyol, and Pep Guardiola, to name a few.
The academy, which was established by Barcelona legend and visionary Johan Cruyff, has played a massive role in the Blaugrana's dominance of Spanish and European football over the years.
Five Barcelona academy players who had forgettable stints at the club
2010 was a historic year for La Masia, as it became the first youth academy to produce three Ballon D’Or finalists in a single year - Messi, Xavi and Iniesta. While the aforementioned names are famous for their exploits with Barcelona, some La Masia graduates have failed to make a mark at Camp Nou.
On that note, let’s take a look at five Barcelona academy players who failed to make their mark at the club.
#1 Jordi Cruyff
Jordi Cruyff, the son of Barcelona’s biggest icon and the man who founded the famed La Masia itself, Johan Cruyff, joined the La Masia academy as a teenager.
Cruyff Jr. made his debut for Barcelona B in 1992 and made an immediate impact, gaining promotion to the first team in just two days. Operating as an attacking midfielder, Cryuff played a vital role in the Blaugrana’s league campaign.
Moreover, the Dutchman won the Spanish Super Cup in his inaugural season and went on to make 53 appearances for Barcelona. Cryuff scored 11 goals in the red and maroon and later went on to represent the likes of Manchester United, Celta De Viga and Espanyol, among others.
#2 Giovani Dos Santos
Next up, we have a La Masia graduate who broke through to the Barcelona first team alongside Bojan Krkic and Lionel Messi. The three were tipped to be 'the trident of the future,' but things didn’t quite pan out that way - not for all parties involved, at least.
Dos Santos was one of the few who earned his reputation in international football rather than club football, as he flourished more under the Mexican flag.
It was evident from the early years of his career itself, as the now-31-year-old was extremely inconsistent in the 40 appearances he made for Barcelona. The same continued in Tottenham Hotspur, but he showed his best form in club football for Villareal. Dos Santos was involved in 33 goals (18 goals, 15 assists) from 74 appearances for the Spanish club.
However, the Mexican truly prospered in international football, winning the silver ball in the U17 World Cup and the bronze ball in the U20 World Cup. Dos Santos was named the Player of the Tournament in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
In 107 appearances for the national side, Giovanni Dos Santos has notched up 19 goals.
#3 Mikel Arteta
Current Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta started his career at Barcelona's La Masia, making his debut for the now-defunct Barcelona C in 1999. Unlike Cruyff, Arteta never made a senior appearance for Barcelona, as he failed to break through despite earning recognition for his immense potential.
The Spaniard moved to PSG on loan before making a permanent switch to Scottish giants Rangers. After making a brief stop at Real Sociedad, which was Arteta’s dream club, he arrived in the Premier League with Everton.
Arteta was a mainstay at Everton, boasting 209 appearances for the club, registering 35 goals and as many assists.
Mikel Arteta was regarded as one of the finest Premier League midfielders at the time, which earned him a move to Arsenal. In 150 appearances for the Gunners, Arteta found the back of the net 16 times, along with registering 11 assists.
#4 Adama Traore
One of Barcelona’s 'Lost Sons', Adama Traore, began his professional career at Barcelona's esteemed La Masia academy. The current Wolves winger was regarded as one of the best coming through the youth system, making his way to the first team in the 2013-14 season.
The Spaniard made his La Liga debut for Barcelona at the tender age of 17, coming on as a substitute for Neymar.
However, Traore would make just four appearances for Barcelona. managing to score a goal in his 93-minute appearance on the pitch. The 25-year old moved to Premier League side, Aston Villa, in search of regular first-team football. After a stop at Middlesbrough, Traore finally arrived at West Midlands.
Adama Traore has earned his reputation at Wolves, making 125 appearances for the club.
Despite recent struggles, the Spaniard has undeniable potential, as he showed consistently in the 2019-20 Premier League season. The Barcelona graduate has tallied nine goals and 18 assists during his time in the West Midlands.
#5 Mauro Icardi
One of Europe’s most lethal goal-scorers - Mauro Icardi - once plied his trade at Barcelona. The Argentine was a colossus from his youth days, as he scored over 500 goals for youth clubs back home.
Despite strong interest from the likes of Real Madrid, Liverpool, Arsenal and Sevilla, Icardi chose to follow fellow city-dweller Lionel Messi’s footstep.
Born in Rosario like the Argentine wizard, Icardi moved to Catalonia around the start of the Pep Guardiola era. However, Pep Guardiola’s tactics at Barcelona involved the use of attacking midfielders/ false 9 in place of conventional strikers. That forced the Argentine to move to Serie A for more first-team football.
The move to Italy turned out to be the correct one, as Icardi earned his name as a lethal goal-scorer during his time at Inter Milan, making 152 goal contributions (124 goals, 28 assists) in 219 appearances for the Nerazzurri.
The 28-year old now plays for PSG, for whom he has scored 28 goals and provided ten assists in 54 appearances.