Arnau Martinez of Girona FC looks on during the LaLiga EA Sports match between CA Osasuna and Girona FC at El Sadar on November 4, 2023, in Pamplona, Spain.

5 La Masia academy graduates currently thriving away from Barcelona

Barcelona’s La Masia academy is probably the most famous in world football, having produced the likes of Pep Guardiola, Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta.

But not every talented prospect that comes up through the club’s youth ranks makes it there, while a fair few go on to catch the eye elsewhere.

Amid the club’s struggles this season, we’ve checked in on five La Masia graduates who are thriving away from Barcelona. Which of this lot could Xavi do with right now?

Takefusa Kubo

Kubo joined Barcelona as a 10-year-old after impressing on a trial, but he was forced to leave the club and return to Japan in 2015 due to FIFA regulations.

When the talented forward returned to Europe four years later, he didn’t come back to Barcelona and instead joined arch-rivals Real Madrid.

“Due to FIFA regulations, we had to wait until he turned 18 to get him back, but I know there was not a very serious follow-up on him,” Joan Vila, who coached Kubo at La Masia, explained in an interview with AS.

“When he was 18, Barcelona called him. But they didn’t show real interest. In the end he joined Real Madrid.”

The 22-year-old didn’t get much of an opportunity in the Spanish capital and was frequently loaned away, but he’s now settled at Real Sociedad – and shone as they finished ahead of Inter to top their Champions League group.

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Eric Garcia

Barcelona haven’t been afraid to bring back home their prodigal sons in years gone by, and Garcia followed in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique in signing for his hometown club after time in England.

The Spain international showed glimpses of quality upon his return to the Camp Nou, and was part of Xavi’s side that won La Liga with a ridiculous defensive record last term, but he never really kicked on to nail down an undisputed first-team place.

Relegated to the fringes, Garcia has joined fellow Catalan side Girona on loan for the 2023-24 campaign – and now he’s featuring for European football’s biggest overachievers, challenging Real Madrid at the summit and sitting eight points clear of his parent club.

Arnau Martinez

Another local lad shining in Catalonia… for upstarts Girona. Martinez spent eight years developing his skills at La Masia but was released in 2016.

He’s since forged his path at the Estadi Montilivi and has frequently been linked with a move back to his boyhood club. The Spain Under-20 international has made no secret of his dream to represent his boyhood club, but he sounds happy enough to star in Girona’s surprise title charge for now.

“If I go back, it would be to play in the first team”, the right-back told TV3 back in November.

“Obviously I’d like to return to Barcelona, ​​just as I would like to go to any great club, and they are among the best in the world.”

Alex Moreno

Another Barcelona academy graduate involved in a title challenge that nobody saw coming, Moreno spent a brief year on the club’s books as a teenager before embarking on something of a journeyman career elsewhere in Spain.

The left-back eventually established himself as a quality La Liga player at Rayo Vallecano and Real Betis, evidently impressing Unai Emery and signing for Aston Villa shortly after his compatriot was appointed.

Admittedly, Moreno has tended to play back-up to fellow Barca old boy Lucas Digne, but he’s been a decent squad player and has got some gametime of late.

Lionel Messi

Barcelona’s greatest-ever player famously honed his craft on the training pitches of La Masia after moving from Rosario as a youngster.

“I didn’t want to leave [Barcelona] for PSG and that was an overnight decision,” the era-defining icon said of his teary-eyed departure back in 2024.

“I wanted to stay in Barcelona, but I had to get used to a different place, a different place from the one I had lived in terms of the city.”

Messi won a couple of Ligue 1 titles in Paris, but he’s also enjoyed his greatest triumphs with Argentina, winning the Copa America in 2021, the World Cup the following year, and a couple more Ballon d’Or to boot.

The 36-year-old never cut an especially happy figure in the French capital, but nowadays he’s living his best life as he winds down his career in Miami alongside old pals Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and Luis Suarez.

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