Where are they now? Barcelona’s XI from Lionel Messi’s final game in 2021
Lionel Messi’s time at FC Barcelona stands – surely – as the greatest spell any player, anywhere, has had at one club. The Argentinian scored 672 goals in 778 appearances for the Catalan club and lifted countless silverware across his 17 years as a first-team regular.
But he didn’t get the send-off that his legendary service deserved. Barca finished a distant third and his final game was a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Celta Vigo on the penultimate weekend of the season. Messi scored (of course he did) but Celta came from behind to win at an empty Camp Nou – still without fans due to the coronavirus restrictions.
A few weeks later Messi waved a tearful goodbye after the club’s financial difficulties made it almost impossible for him to continue at the club. Things have changed quite dramatically in just over two years, and we’ve checked in on what became the final Barcelona XI from Messi’s time at the club.
GK: Marc-Andre ter Stegen
Ter Stegen has been a mainstay in between the Camp Nou sticks since joining from Borussia Monchengladbach in 2014, making under 300 appearances. The German was one of Josep Bartomeu’s first signings as a replacement for Victor Valdes and has proved an inspired addition.
His form dipped a little during Messi’s latter years but he was back to his brilliant best in Barcelona 2022-23 La Liga triumph. Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois has serious competition for the title of best ‘keeper in Spain.
CB: Clement Lenglet
Lenglet joined Barca in 2018 from Sevilla after his €35million release clause was met. He got off to a promising start to his career at Camp Nou and helped win La Liga in 2019 but later struggled with confidence and became increasingly accident-prone. The Frenchman was criticised heavily for giving a penalty away 72 seconds after coming as a sub vs Levante in his last season at the club.
A loan move to Spurs last season regained some of his form and he’s now on loan at Aston Villa.
CB: Gerard Pique
The centre-back is up there comes to modern-day Barca legends, having made 397 appearances during his 14 years at his boyhood club. He won the lot for club and country and called it a day at the age of 35 midway through Barcelona’s 2022-23 title-winning campaign.
Nowadays Pique is the owner of Segunda side FC Andorra and set up his own his own Kings League, which is like Masters Football on a huge sugar rush.
🚨| The official attendance at the Spotify Camp Nou for the King's League Final Four is 92,522! 🏟️🌟🔥
Gerard Pique has done a madness!!!!! pic.twitter.com/oOSK2wIFWA
— 𝚄𝙶𝙾𝙲𝙷𝚄𝙺𝚆𝚄⚡️ (@UgoOsinobi) March 26, 2023
CB: Ronald Araujo
Araujo joined Barca from Uruguayan side Boston River in 2018 and after playing for the B team, made his senior debut the following year.
The Uruguayan is still in Catalonia and was exceptional in Barca’s most recent title win. He’s arguably the club’s best defender now.
DM: Sergio Busquets
Another legendary figure from the Pep Guardiola era, Busquets stayed at Camp Nou until the end of last season before calling it a day. The classy midfielder made a total of 722 appearances (only Messi and Xavi made more) and amassed a fat trophy haul with Spain and his club.
Busquets is currently in Miami with his mate Lionel, playing for David Beckham’s Inter Miami in MLS. 11 appearances at the back end of the 2023 season and a Leagues Cup win has been a fun start.
Sergio Busquets finds Lionel Messi who finds Jordi Alaba and Inter Miami makes it two!
Barcelona to the states! 🤩
— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 4, 2023
The rising star is still only 20 but has already developed into one of Barcelona’s best and most important players. He didn’t overlap with Messi for long but cherished every moment they shared on the pitch together.
“Messi used to give us advice on how to be calm during matches, Pedri recalled.
“He always told us to feel free on the pitch. Leo Messi is the best player I have ever seen. To have had the chance to play with him is an honour. He always had a great attitude towards me and treated me very well from the moment I met him.”
In January, he made his 100th La Liga appearance and was part of the title-winning side last season.
CM: Ilaix Moriba
Moriba didn’t have quite the same impact as Pedri did. Despite becoming the fifth youngest goalscorer in Barca’s history, Moriba only managed one season in the first team as a rotation player before he was sold to RB Leipzig in 2021 for £16million.
After only two appearances, Moriba spent a season and a half back in La Liga on loan with Valencia. He’s since returned to his parent club but is struggling for game time.
RW: Ousmane Dembele
A signing that many consider to have caused some of the financial problems that led to Bartomeu’s resignation, Dembele is a signing that many Barca fans would rather forget.
He played over 100 times for Barca and there were occasional moments but a lack of consistency, injuries and arguments caused his downfall – he ultimately struggled to live up to his €105million price tag.
In August he moved to PSG for less than half of what Barca originally bought him for. He’s yet to open his account for the Parisiens.
LW: Jordi Alba
Another one who has joined old pal Leo in Miami, Alba was also coming to the end of his time at Barca at this point. He stayed for two more seasons before joining Inter Miami this summer after his contract expired.
The Spaniard made over 313 appearances for Barca and was a key part of Luis Enrique’s treble-winners of 2014-15.
ST: Lionel Messi
Safe to say that Barcelona’s greatest-ever player is enjoying his swansong out in Miami.
ST: Antoine Griezmann
Arguably the right player at the wrong time, Griezmann was always playing second fiddle to Messi in the position that he was best at and never really reached the form he did at Atletico Madrid before.
The following season he rejoined Diego Simeone’s side on loan and has been there permanently since. He’s once again established himself as one of the best players in Spain and will soon become Atleti’s all-time top goalscorer.