The Barca XI the last time they started a La Liga season without Lionel Messi

Nostalgia
Bojan Krkic

Barcelona begin their 2019-20 La Liga campaign against Athletic Bilbao on Friday night but will be without Lionel Messi for the first game for the first time since 2009.

Messi is recovering from a calf strain and will not be risked, meaning Barça will have to make do without a player who has scored 14 goals in the past nine season openers, including five braces and a hat-trick.

Ernesto Valverde will hope his side can repeat what Pep Guardiola’s men did back in 2009 when Messi was still recovering from an ankle injury but his team-mates recorded a 3-0 win over Sporting Gijón. Here are the XI players that started on that occasion.

Víctor Valdés

Valdes started all 38 games in La Liga in 2009-10 and conceded just 24 goals, 10 fewer than second-placed Real Madrid. Los Blancos actually scored four more goals, but in a tight season decided by only three points, Barça’s strong defensive record proved crucial.

Valdes would remain at the Nou Camp until January 2015 when he reunited with Louis van Gaal at Manchester United for an unhappy 18-month spell which saw him play only twice and be sent out on loan to Standard Liège.

Dani Alves

Alves set up two of the three goals against Gijón and would finish the season with three goals and 11 assists in La Liga from 29 appearances.

He stayed until 2016 before spending a season at Juventus, two at Paris Saint-Germain, and then returning home to Brazil to sign for his boyhood club, São Paulo, in August 2019. He decided to take the No.10 shirt…

Carles Puyol

This would be Puyol’s last season before injuries and age started to reduce his appearances. He played in all but six games in La Liga, plus another 16 in cup competitions, but the following year he appeared only 17 times in the league.

Still, he remained an imperious figure whenever fit until eventually hanging his boots up at the end of the 2013-14 season with two years left on his contract having finally accepted defeat in his battle with injuries.

Gerard Piqué

Pique only had one season at Barcelona under his belt at this point. He now has 11 and is sure to once again be a key figure at the heart of the defence in 2019-20.

Maxwell

A summer signing from Inter, Maxwell was second choice behind Eric Abidal but actually made eight more appearances in La Liga that season after the Frenchman got injured

Currently PSG’s assistant sporting director, Maxwell was the most decorated active footballer in Europe at the time of his retirement, with nine trophies won at Barcelona alone.

Sergio Busquets

Busquets was coming off the back of his breakthrough season, which finished with a start in the Champions League final win over Manchester United.

He firmly established himself as first choice in the holding midfield role in 2009-10, starting 33 of the 38 games in La Liga, and it’s a position he’s never looked like relinquishing since.

Seydou Keita

This was the start of the second of four seasons for Keita at Barcelona before he left for Dalian Aerbin in the Chinese Super League in 2012.

The Mali midfielder was rarely one of the most heralded players at the Nou Camp during that time, but he was clearly trusted by Pep Guardiola, making 188 appearances across those four years, including more than any other outfielder in 2010-11.

He scored one and set up another against Gijón.

Xavi

We couldn’t possibly sum up the genius of Xavi and the contribution he made to Barcelona, but 16 assists in La Liga that season – four more than Messi – provide a small hint.

What we can tell you is that we still can’t quite get over the fact that Xavi joined Al Sadd in 2015 and played for another four seasons before hanging up his boots and then taking over as manager.

He also won the lottery…

READ: Trying to understand how Xavi ended up winning the lottery in Qatar

Bojan Krkic

Bojan had been a phenomenon in Barcelona’s youth teams and had broken Messi’s record as the youngest player to play for the first time when he made his debut at 17 years and 19 days in 2007, but by the time of the Gijón game it was probably clear to most he wasn’t in fact the ‘new Messi’.

Still, he scored in this game and made 163 appearances in total for Barça before starting a gradual climb down the latter that has seen him play for Roma, Ajax, Stoke City, Mainz, Alavés and now Montreal Impact.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Another summer signing from Inter, Ibrahimovic set a record as the first player to score in his first five La Liga games, but he finished the season with a modest 16 goals and, more pertinently, failed to hit it off with Guardiola.

“If Ibra and I have spoken only twice in six months, there is a reason, but it is better for the club if I don’t talk about it,” the boss said.

Unsurprisingly, Ibrahimovic left the Nou Camp after just one season, joining Milan on a loan which was later made permanent.

Pedro

Having only appeared sparingly for the first team at this point, Pedro was promoted for the 2009-10 season, scoring 23 goals in 52 appearances in all competitions.

He became the first player to score in six different club competitions within the same season and year, but he’d never score as many again in a single campaign for the Catalans.

Still, he continued to play regularly for a further five seasons until joining Chelsea in 2015. Now 32 and starting his fifth season at Stamford Bridge, he is sure to play a key role for Frank Lampard’s side in 2019-20 following the departure of Eden Hazard.


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