Barcelona, Spain. 4th Aug, 2019. Riqui Puig of FC Barcelona during the Joan Gamper Trophy 2019, football match between FC Barcelona and Arsenal FC on August 04, 2019 at Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain.

Where are they now? The five Barcelona kids Ernesto Valverde tipped for stardom in 2019

James Young

During his final season in charge of Barcelona, former boss Ernesto Valverde tipped five kids from Barca’s famous La Masia academy for future success. 

After being criticised for results in the Champions League and his style of football, Valverde pledged to incorporate youth more, selecting five promising talents for increased consideration. SPORT journalist Jordi Gil revealed the five La Masia starlets that Valverde identified as having the potential to make it at Barcelona.

We’ve taken a look at how they’ve fared in the four years since then.

Riqui Puig

Compared to Andres Iniesta when he broke through, Puig played for Barca for three seasons as a squad rotation player in midfield before leaving for MLS outfit LA Galaxy at the age of 22.

Playing under a turbulent time at Camp Nou with four different managers, plus the pressure of coming through during a transition phase for the Catalan side, made things hard for Puig.

Still, he lifted a Copa del Rey with the club. Puig played 29 times for the Galaxy in MLS this season and scored a screamer on his debut.

Oriol Busquets

No relation to Sergio, Oriol is actually related to another footballer – Pol – who played in the lower leagues for Llagostera and Cava.

Confusingly he also operates as a defensive midfielder, but ^ Busquets only made two appearances for Barcelona’s first team in the Copa del Rey before a loan spell with Twente.

In 2021, Busquets moved to Clermont in Ligue 1 but only made 10 appearances before FC Arouca in Portugal signed him the following season.

Busquets took part in Arocua’s Europa Conference League campaign this season but they crashed out to Brann of Norway in the third qualifying round.

Juan Miranda 

Representing Spain just under 80 times at youth level, Miranda had plenty of eyes on him as he made a name for himself as a promising young full-back.

Described as the next Jordi Alba, Miranda only made four appearances for Barca and was sent on loan to Schalke for the 2019-20 season.

Miranda went on loan to boyhood club Real Betis the following season before signing permanently in 2021. He has established himself in the Betis side, making 31 appearances in all competitions last season, while he  scored the winning penalty in the 2022 Copa del Rey final.

There are worse legacies to have than helping the team you supported as a kid win their first trophy in 17 years.


Moussa Wague

Playing as an attacking right-back, Wague was one of the breakout stars of the 2018 World Cup with Senegal, becoming the youngest African goalscorer in World Cup history – when he scored vs Japan at the age of just 19 years and 263 days.

At the time he was playing for mid-table Belgian side Eupen and came through the Qatar-funded Aspire Academy.

Wague’s career appeared to be on an upwards trajectory and after Senegal went out in the group stage on the fair play rule, Barca swooped in to pick up the in-form teenager.

He had to wait until the end of the season to make his full debut due to a delay in paperwork, but played three times for Barca in the league during the 2018-19 season.

“A dream come true, I’m really happy to play for the best team in the world, it was a day I will never forget,” he told Barcelona TV following his debut.

Unfortunately for Wague that was as good as it got playing for Barcelona. The following season he was loaned out to Nice and only managed five appearances.

Another loan spell to PAOK in Greece the following season was cut short after a severe knee injury kept Wague out for nine months of the season.

Since then, Wague has played in Croatia for a year with Gorica and now finds himself in Cyprus with Anorthosis Famagusta. We hope he can rediscover some of the form that he found in 2018.

Abel Ruiz

Barcelona were desperate for a Luis Suarez replacement during this time and Ruiz was scoring goals for fun at youth level. Twenty-five goals in 38 for Spain’s Under-17s set the precedent high but Ruiz only managed 20 minutes in La Liga, coming on as a late substitute for Philippe Coutinho in an end-of-season dead rubber in 2019.

A loan followed to Braga and the Portuguese side signed Ruiz permanently in 2020 for €8 million and so far has been in good form. Ruiz was the top scorer in the Taca de Portugal as Braga went on to win it in 2021 and scored twice against Porto in the semi-final.

He also made his Spain debut the same year vs Lithuania in a friendly and appears settled in the north of Portugal.

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