Barcelona is one of the best teams in the world and arguably has the best academy in football at the moment. Many academy players including Lionel Messi have played a crucial role in the club’s success in the 21st century.
In recent years, academy products like Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Victor Valdes have either left the club or retired. However, Barcelona has coped with the departure of these influential players by signing top class players for hefty fees.
A combination of the club’s academy and financial might has helped Barcelona compete on all fronts for many years. However, because of the quality of the Barcelona team, many players had to leave the club in search of regular playing time. Some of these players are from the academy while there are others who were signed for hefty fees.
Denis Suarez is the latest Barcelona player to make a move to the Premier League and this gives us the opportunity to name a starting XI featuring former players of the Catalan club currently playing in the Premier League.
Goalkeeper - Claudio Bravo (Manchester City)
In 2014, Victor Valdes left Barcelona and Barcelona signed Claudio Bravo from Real Sociedad for €12 million as a replacement. They also signed Marc-André ter Stegen in the same summer but Bravo was the club’s first choice in league games while ter Stegen played in the cup competitions.
The Chilean only conceded his first goal for Barcelona after 754 minutes thus breaking the club record of not conceding from the start of the season. He played 75 times for Barcelona winning the treble and Zamora Trophy in his debut season. In total, he won eight trophies with the Catalan club before joining Manchester City in 2016.
Bravo was signed as City’s first choice goalkeeper but he struggled in England and was replaced by Ederson Moraes after only one season. However, the veteran started in goal in the League Cup matches in 2017/18 which his side eventually won.
Fullbacks - Hector Bellerin (Arsenal) and Lucas Digne (Everton)
The Barcelona team is full of world class players and hence, many players from the La Masia have opted to join a Premier League club at a young age to enhance their first team chances. Hector Bellerin, like Cesc Fabregas, joined the Arsenal academy from Barcelona at a young age.
Bellerin made his first-team debut in September 2013 but he only established himself in the first team after injuries to Mathieu Debuchy, Calum Chambers and Nacho Monreal presented him an opportunity the following September.
The Spaniard has gone on to play 181 times for Arsenal winning the FA Cup and the Community Shield twice each. He was linked with a move back to Barcelona recently but the player has opted to stay loyal to the club that groomed him.
The relationship between Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain isn’t great but in 2016, PSG sold Lucas Digne to Barcelona for €16.5 million. The Frenchman spent a season on loan at Roma while at PSG because he was playing second fiddle to Maxwell. Surprisingly, he moved to Barcelona where Jordi Alba is the undisputed starter at left-back.
Digne played 46 times in his two seasons at Barcelona winning four trophies before moving to Everton last summer for £18 million. The 25-year-old has impressed in England and has three goals and assists each in 22 games so far.
Honourable mentions - Kiko Femenia (Watford) and Martin Montoya (Brighton)
Centre-backs - Yerry Mina (Everton) and Marc Navarro (Watford)
Yerry Mina joined Barcelona in January 2018 for €11.8 million from Palmeiras and the player was considered the future of the Barcelona defence. He played six times in his the second half of the 2017/18 season which included a horror performance in Barcelona’s only league defeat of the season - a 5-4 loss against Levante.
Mina had a spectacular World Cup for Colombia during which he scored three goals. After the World Cup, Barcelona was willing to part ways with the towering centre-back and he was sold to Everton for €30 million on Premier League deadline day.
Like Everton, Watford also has a thing for former Barcelona players and Marc Navarro is one of three former players from the Barcelona academy currently playing for the Hornets.
Navarro is a right-back by trade but he can also play as a centre-back. The 23-year-old spent nine years of his youth career with Barcelona before graduating from the academy of rivals Espanyol.
The Spaniard played 36 times for the Espanyol senior team before joining Watford last summer. Navarro hasn’t been able to break into the Watford side and could be on his way out of the club soon.
Midfielders - Oriol Romeu (Southampton), Andre Gomes (Everton) and Denis Suarez (Arsenal)
Oriol Romeu joined the Barcelona academy from city rivals Espanyol and played 49 times for the Barcelona B team in the Segunda Division. He also played twice for the senior team before joining Chelsea in 2011.
Barcelona had first refusal rights for Romeu if Chelsea wanted to sell him in the future. He played 33 times for Chelsea before spending a season each on loan at Valencia and Stuttgart. In 2015, he joined Southampton on a permanent deal and continues to be a key player for the Saints.
Andre Gomes is one of three Barcelona players to join Everton last summer. However, unlike the other two players, Gomes only joined the Merseyside club on a loan deal.
Gomes signed for Barcelona in 2016 which cost the club €35 million, plus €20 million in add-ons. However, the Portuguese international struggled with form in his first season under Luis Enrique and was rarely used by Ernesto Valverde in 2017/18.
The 25-year-old is at a club where he can play regularly and get his career back on track. Maybe, he should consider a permanent exit in the upcoming summer transfer window.
Denis Suarez is the latest player to leave Barcelona for a Premier League club in search of regular playing time. That being said, Suarez joined Barcelona from Manchester City in 2013.
Suarez initially played for the Barcelona B side before going on loan to Sevilla and permanently joining Villarreal. In 2016, Barcelona signed him back using their buy-back clause. He went on to play 71 times in the next two and a half seasons but a significant number of those appearances came off the bench or in cup competitions.
At Arsenal, the 25-year-old has the opportunity to work under Unai Emery who was his manager at Sevilla.
Forwards - Alexis Sanchez (Manchester United), Pedro (Chelsea) and Gerard Deulofeu (Watford)
The front three of this XI have a combined 485 appearances and 148 goals for Barcelona. Of these 148 goals, 146 were scored by Alexis Sanchez and Pedro Rodriguez.
Pedro is a product of the Barcelona academy and he played 321 times for the Barcelona senior team scoring 99 goals while also winning 20 trophies! The Spaniard played alongside Leo Messi, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o, Luis Suarez, David Villa, Neymar and even Alexis Sanchez while he was at Barcelona.
Alexis joined Barcelona in 2011 from Udinese and he was one-third of Barcelona’s front three of that time featuring Leo Messi and Pedro. He scored 47 goals in 141 games for Barcelona before joining Arsenal in 2014.
The Chilean scored 80 goals in 166 games for Arsenal before joining Manchester United in January 2018. Pedro, on the other hand, moved to Chelsea in 2015 but only has 35 goals in 161 games for the Blues.
Completing the XI is a La Masia graduate who is playing for his second Premier League club.
Deulofeu joined Everton on loan from Barcelona in 2013/14 before joining the club permanently in 2015. Barcelona used their buy-back option to sign him in 2017 but after only half a season, he was loaned out to Watford.
Watford made Deulofeu’s move permanent ahead of the ongoing season and the 24-year-old has scored some spectacular goals for the Hornets this season.
Honourable mention - Adama Traore (Wolves)