Six La Masia graduates who returned to Barcelona: Deulofeu, Pique…

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Gerard Deulofeu playing for Barcelona against Real Murcia in the Copa del Rey, Nou Camp 29 November 2017.

Adama Traore has packed up his weights and his baby oil, leaving Wolves to return to Barcelona.

It leaves the Premier League without one of its most unique players, but Traore originally developed in Barcelona’s youth system ‘La Masia’ and emerged into the senior set-up a completely unrecognisable figure to the one we know him as today.

The confident, ball-carrying runs that form the central part of his game in 2022 were raw and incomplete when he made his Barcelona debut in 2013.

Even more surprisingly he looked totally different – where his muscles are now there was a skinny, slender frame.

He left Barcelona in search of game time, deemed unnecessary by the club, and undertook a road trip no one has ever willingly taken, moving to Aston Villa and then onto Middlesbrough and Wolves.

“There were a few problems with the club,” Traore has said of his time at Barcelona. “[There were] some misunderstandings and so I decided to leave because I wanted to develop as a player.

“I’d rather not go into what happened with me and the club. I didn’t leave in the best way but I took the decision to leave and I don’t regret it”.

But now that the Blaugrana have decided that he is a good footballer after all, Traore has joined a long list of players whose career paths have taken them back to Barcelona, where it all started.

Here are six other La Masia graduates who left Barcelona only to return later in their careers.

Gerard Pique

Pique is potentially the most “Did you know that he used to play for X?” player in the world.

The answer is yes, everyone knows Pique used to play for Manchester United. But what you might not know is that Wayne Rooney thinks he returned to Barcelona in 2008 because of…Bolton?

“Bolton away more or less finished Gerard Pique’s career at United,” Rooney said. “He was young and got bullied there and I think that’s when Fergie decided that, physically, he wasn’t right for the Premier League.”

Jordi Alba

In 2005 Alba was released by the Barcelona academy for being too small. Presumably all of the growth hormones had to be stockpiled for Lionel Messi.

But that didn’t stop the full-back from playing for a local Catalan team where he was eventually picked up by Valencia.

As with many on this list, eventually Barcelona accepted they had been wrong. They re-signed the Spanish international in 2012, with his height no longer an issue.

Cesc Fabregas

Fabregas is still holding on to his career by his fingertips, still not retired at the age of 34 despite being a fringe player for Monaco.

When he does eventually call it a day it will bring to an end a brilliant career featuring a World Cup victory in 2010.

But both La Liga and the Champions League are missing from his trophy cabinet. He returned to Barcelona from Arsenal in 2011 in hopes of winning both but while they won both the season before he joined they failed to do so during his three-year stint back in Catalonia.

The season after he left, they won them both. Oh dear.

Luis Garcia

Garcia developed through the La Masia system but was loaned out four times until Barcelona decided they didn’t want him.

He moved to Atletico Madrid in 2002 but after one impressive season, Barcelona decided that no, sorry, they did in fact want him and he was re-signed thanks to a buy-back clause.

Yet one year later, you guessed it, the Catalan club changed their mind once more. They sold him to Liverpool where he was reunited with Rafa Benitez who he had played under on loan at Tenerife.

Nothing of note happened in Liverpool’s 2004-05 season of course…

Eric Garcia

Garcia left Barcelona in 2017 to join Manchester City’s youth academy but returned last summer, garnering comparisons to Pique.

“Returning to Barcelona is a brave move,” he has since said, which is something of an understatement.

From a financially wealthy club almost guaranteed to win silverware every year, Garcia moved to a financially volatile and uncompetitive squad. We’ll see how it pans out.

Gerard Deulofeu

Some of the players on this list returned to Barcelona to great glory. For Deulofeu that wasn’t quite the case.

He struggled for game time after graduating from La Masia to the senior side and eventually left permanently for Everton in 2015.

Yet thanks to a release clause he returned to Catalonia in summer 2017… only to move to Watford six months later in January 2018.

In total, he made just 12 league appearances for the club across his two stints.

By Patrick Ryan

 


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