It's hardly surprising that a host of legendary players have donned the Blaugrana colours to represent Barcelona, one of the historic clubs in the world. From Johan Cruyff to Ronaldinho and Messi, the Catalan club have had a player on their books win the Ballon d'Or 12 times, with Lionel Messi accounting for half(!) of those.
It's interesting to note that there are other illustrious names who have played for the club but not known as much because of their exploits at a different club or at the international level.
An example that comes to mind is that of Mauro Icardi. On loan at PSG and captain of Inter until last season, Icardi represented the Barça U19s before moving to Sampdoria, after which he made the leap to Inter.
He plundered goals consistently for an under-par Inter side, scoring 124 goals and providing 28 assists in 219 games. Due to his problematic wife/agent and limited ability outside the box, Antonio Conte and Beppe Marrotta decided it was best to cut him loose.
On the other hand, Barça were forced into making an emergency forward signing of Martin Braithwaite from CD Leganés on account of injuries and poor squad planning. It's funny how things work out.
Let's take a look at some of the names who have represented the senior team but gone under the radar.
#5 Gary Lineker
Gary Lineker is well-known for his goal-scoring record for the England national team. He also represented Tottenham, Everton and Leicester City in the Premier League. Still active on social media, he tweets regularly in support of those teams.
He moved to Barça from Everton for €3.20 million in July 1986 and scored a respectable 48 goals in 128 appearances. He immortalised himself in the hearts of the fans in the best way possible; by scoring a hat-trick against arch-rivals Real Madrid in a 3-2 victory. He played for the club until July 1989 before his move to Spurs.
He is remembered fondly by the fans and it's no surprise that he is one of Messi's biggest fans.
#4 Mikel Arteta
The current Arsenal boss is receiving plaudits for improving the situation of the Gunners after replacing Unai Emery at the helm. Slowly but surely, there is a clear style of play developing which is a positive sign for the rest of the season and the future.
His coaching stint at Manchester City under Pep Guardiola must have helped, but to credit that solely would be a mistake. He has always been a student of the game. Under Arsène Wenger at Arsenal, he was the coach on the field, dictating play and spraying passes all over.
It starts to make sense when we realise that Arteta did his football schooling at La Masia, Barça's famed youth academy. He was part of the first team for 6 months from July 2000 to January 2001. A loan move to PSG was followed by a €7.90 million move to Rangers. In spite of not succeeding at his boyhood club, he went on to have a successful career ahead.
His way of seeing the game is what convinced Guardiola to hire him as part of his coaching staff and Arsenal to approach him mid-season. He joins an illustrious list of coaches to come out of La Masia.
#3 Ricardo Quaresma
The 36-year old is currently plying his trade in the first division of the Turkish league for Kasimpasa. A flamboyant winger known for his trademark outside-the-boot passes and shots, Quaresma's most productive spells came at FC Porto and Besiktas.
He scored 49 goals and provided 56 assists in 216 matches for FC Porto and contributed 38 goals and 78 goals in 227 matches for Besiktas. Undoubtedly capable of the extraordinary, his career has been characterised by a frustrating inconsistency.
He moved to Barça for €6.35 million in July 2003, the same summer that Ronaldo moved to Manchester United. Much was expected of the two promising wingers from Sporting but only Ronaldo kicked on and reached unprecedented heights through sheer hard-work and determination. Quaresma played 28 times for the club, contributing 1 goal and 2 assist in the process. The hierarchy decided that they had seen enough. He was sold to FC Porto for €6 million.
While he didn't achieve as much as he could have on a personal level, he did play an important role in Portgual's Euro 2016 win. His Barça career could become a case-study on what could have been.
#2 Mark Hughes
The former Stoke manager is known mainly known for representing Manchester United for 6 seasons between 1989 and 1995. He was signed by Sir Alex for €2.75 million in July 1989. He went on to score 88 goals and provide 17 assists in 247 games for the Red Devils. The stint brought 2 league titles and a host of domestic trophies.
What's remarkable is that this was his second stint for United. He was sold to Barça for €3 million in July 1986 before being brought back. Out of 3 seasons in Spain, he was loaned to Bayern Munich for 1 season. In the remaining 2 seasons, he scored 5 goals in 35 matches for the club. While his stay at the club coincided with Lineker's, Hughes wasn't as successful as his compatriot.
Regardless of his performances at Barça, Sir Alex saw it fit to bring him back. The punt paid off as he played a key role in the success that followed. Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Chelsea are just some of the clubs on Mark Hughes' CV.
#1 Diego Maradona
The Argentine legend achieved mythical status after playing a leading role in Argentina's 1986 World Cup win while also playing a starring role in Napoli's unprecedented league wins in 1987 and 1990.
However, his entry into European football came because of his €8 million transfer to Barcelona from Boca Juniors. He won 3 domestic cups with Barça in the 1982-83 season. He contributed 30 goals in 43 appearances for the club, a great return at the time. However, after Barça went trophyless in 1983-84, he was sold to Napoli for €6.97 million. Thus ended his short but productive stay in Catalonia.
In an interview, he admitted that Nunez, President of the club at the time, was the reason why he left the club for Napoli. "The biggest problem was with Nunez. He came every day to the pitch and I didn't like it. Everyone has to be at his place,"
Maradona also revealed some details on their problems: "They took my passport away and this was when I decided to leave because it was a personal document that I needed."
This fight made him leave the club. Boardroom trouble led to Barça being robbed of the best years of Maradona's career. Instead of having a long and successful career in Spain and possibly playing under Cruyff who returned to the club as manager in 1988, El Diez went on to create history with Napoli. C'est la vie!