Barcelona’s La Masia XI that found success elsewhere
Very few teams have dominated both domestic and European football at the same time over a decade like Barcelona did between the 2005/06 season and the 2014/15 season. During this period of dominance, they won 22 trophies including 6 league titles and three Champions League titles.
The key to Barcelona’s success was their fabled academy - La Masia. The most notable La Masia products that played for Barcelona during their decade of dominance feature Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta, Xavi Hernández, Carles Puyol, Sergio Busquets, Víctor Valdés, Gerard Piqué, Pedro Rodríguez, Cesc Fabregas and Jordi Alba.
The academy constantly churned out talented youngsters but many of them couldn’t make the step up to the first team. Some of these players made the grade elsewhere and then there are few others like Gerard Pique that left the club at a young age only to return years later with a wealth of experience.
There are so many players that fall in either one of the categories mentioned above. So many that we can actually make a world-class XI of such players!
Goalkeeper: Pepe Reina
Two Spain internationals, Pepe Reina and Victor Valdes, were part of Barcelona’s youth teams at the same time. Despite being the younger goalkeeper by 7 months, it was Reina who made his senior debut for Barcelona first. He made his debut in December 2000 and went on to play 49 games for the club by the end of the 2001/02 season.
The arrival of Robert Enke ahead of the 2002/03 season meant that Reina was free to leave the club and he joined Villarreal. Funnily, a few months after Reina’s departure, a change of manager happened and Valdes went on to become Barcelona’s first choice goalkeeper - a position he held until his departure in 2014. That could have been Pepe Reina's place.
Reina, on the other hand, became a success at Villarreal, helping them qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the very first time.
After three successful seasons at Villarreal, he moved to the Premier League to play for Liverpool and he went on to become one of the greatest goalkeepers in the club’s history. In fact, he won the Premier League Golden Glove in his first three seasons at the club.
After leaving Liverpool, Reina has represented Bayern Munich and Napoli. He is still contracted to the latter.
Interestingly, Reina made his debut for Spain in 2005 almost five years before Valdes got his first cap. Although he has played #2 to Iker Casillas and now David De Gea, Reina has played in goal for Spain in 36 games.
The 35-year-old is part of Spain’s current World Cup squad and this will be his fourth time at a World Cup. In fact, since his debut, he has been part of every Spain squad for a major tournament except Euro 2016.