A brilliant Xl of Barcelona players aged 23 or under: Fati, Pedri, Gavi…

Quick Reads
Barcelona's Ansu Fati celebrates after scoring against Levante. February 2020.

While Barcelona have been knocked out of the Champions League and are enduring a difficult season in La Liga, there are plenty of signs of encouragement for their fans.

A lot of their big-money signings have failed to live up to expectations but Barcelona do have some very talented youngsters on their books.

We’ve compiled an Xl of their best under-23 players, arranged in a 4-3-3 formation.

GK: Inaki Pena

Admittedly, this doesn’t get off to the best start.

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who turns 30 this year, is firmly established as Barcelona’s first-choice goalkeeper and a 32-year-old Neto serves as his back-up.

Pena is yet to make his first-team debut but has produced some impressive performances for Barcelona’s B side, helping them win the UEFA Youth League in 2017-18.

RB: Sergino Dest

After enjoying an impressive breakthrough season with Ajax, Dest reportedly rejected interest from Bayern Munich before completing an £18.7million move to Barcelona in 2020.

Despite struggling with kick-ups during his presentation, the right-back was a regular starter under former boss Ronald Koeman and has made over 50 appearances for the club.

But he has fallen out of favour under new manager Xavi and has recently been linked with moves to Chelsea and Atletico Madrid.

If he decides to stay at Camp Nou, the USA international will get to learn from Dani Alves, who has returned to Barcelona for a second spell.

CB: Ronald Araujo

Araujo joined Barcelona from Uruguayan outfit Boston River in 2018 and was initially assigned to their reserves in Segunda Division B.

The 22-year-old made his first-team debut against Sevilla in October 2019 but was sent off just 13 minutes after coming off the bench.

He still did enough to earn a permanent promotion to the senior squad ahead of the 2020-21 season and was handed their No.4 shirt.

The Uruguay international has since proved himself to be an astute defender and is also a real threat in the opposition box, scoring four La Liga goals for the club.

“I’m very happy to have Ronald on the team,” Xavi said in November. “He has such a great personality. He celebrates everything and to have that type of profile as a defender, to be so engaged with the team, and celebrate everything is hard to find.

“We welcome him with open arms because it’s spectacular to see him train, he’s so positive, he has an excellent character and that’s fundamental to us.”

CB: Eric Garcia

A La Masia academy graduate, Garcia spent four years at Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City before deciding to return to Barcelona on a free transfer in 2021.

He is regarded as the long-term successor to Gerard Pique but has already become a prominent player at Barcelona, starting 14 of their 19 La Liga matches to date in 2021-22.

Unlike Araujo, the Spain international is renowned for his excellent technical ability and likes to bring the ball out of defence.

LB: Alejandro Balde

Balde’s impressive performances for Barcelona’s B side caught the attention of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool.

But the teenager decided to sign a new contract at Barcelona and made his senior debut in a Champions League defeat against Benfica in September 2021.

He has made just five more first-team appearances at the time of writing but we wouldn’t be surprised if he usurps Jordi Alba as their first-choice left-back in the near future.

READ: You only need to see a pass & tackle from Alejandro Balde to know he’s ace

CM: Nico Gonzalez

Barcelona were disappointed to see Ilaix Moriba leave for RB Leipzig in 2021 but they still have plenty of talented midfielders at their disposal. 

Gonzalez, who is the son of Deportivo La Coruna legend Fran, has made 20 appearances for Barcelona this season and has been compared to Sergio Busquets due to his role in midfield.

“[Nico] is a player who can mark an era,” former Barcelona B manager García Pimienta told Mundo Deportivo in August 2021. “If everything goes to plan, he is going to be the heir to Busquets.”

CM: Pedri

While Barcelona have made some terrible deals in recent years, they should be praised for signing Pedri for just €5million from Las Palmas in 2020.

The midfielder enjoyed a brilliant debut season at Camp Nou, becoming one of their standout performers and scoring four goals in 52 appearances in all competitions.

He enhanced his burgeoning reputation during Euro 2020, starting all six of Spain’s games in the competition as they reached the semi-finals.

Pedri’s performances for club and country saw him rewarded with the Golden Boy award in 2021, becoming the first Barcelona player since Lionel Messi to win the prize.

CM: Gavi

The youngest player on this list, Gavi impressed in pre-season was promoted to Barcelona’s first-team squad ahead of the 2021-22 season.

He has already made over 20 appearances in all competitions and is being compared to his current boss and near-namesake Xavi.

“The way he plays the game is spectacular and he has ambition and personality,” Xavi said in December 2021. “He is the future of this club. But not only him, also Araujo, Balde, Nico, Abde [Ezzalzouli].

“They are the future of the team and the club. They are a fantastic generation. At that age I was scared, but they are wonderful.

“Gavi is a difference maker and I’m delighted to have him, but I don’t want to compare him to anyone. He has no ceiling.”

The 17-year-old also made his Spain debut in their UEFA Nations League semi-final win against Italy in October 2021, becoming the youngest player to ever represent the country at senior level.

Gavi celebrates after scoring for Barcelona.

READ: Gavi’s genius turn and solo goal gives Xavi’s youthful Barcelona lift off

RW: Ferran Torres

Despite their financial struggles, Barcelona decided to spend an initial £46.3million to sign Torres from Manchester City in January 2022.

The 21-year-old winger, who came through Valencia’s academy, scored 16 goals in 43 appearances for City and helped them win the Premier League and EFL Cup in 2020-21.

He’s also produced some impressive performances for Spain, famously scoring a hat-trick against Germany in the UEFA Nations League in November 2020.

ST: Angel Alarcon

Alarcon is probably one of the few players on this list that neutrals haven’t heard of but we doubt that’ll be the case for much longer.

The 17-year-old joined Barcelona’s La Masia academy from Espanyol in the summer of 2018 and has been a prolific goalscorer at youth level. 

He’s certainly one to keep an eye on.

LW: Ansu Fati

The jewel of Barcelona’s crown, Fati made his senior debut at the age of 16 in August 2019 and later became their youngest ever goalscorer.

After scoring eight goals in 33 appearances in his breakthrough season, he then missed most of 2020-21 and Euro 2020 due to a serious knee injury.

The Sapin international returned to full fitness at the start of 2021-22 and is now wearing Barcelona’s iconic No.10 shirt following Lionel Messi’s departure.

More Barcelona

Where are they now? The Barcelona B XI from Messi’s last game in 2005

Can you name Barcelona’s Xl from their 3-0 win v Real Madrid in 2005?

A tribute to Barcelona-era Ronaldo and his *other* hat-trick v Valencia

The story of Henrik Larsson’s glorious late-career spell at Barcelona