Ranking every player to wear No.10 for Barcelona since 1995
Ansu Fati is the latest player to be handed Barcelona’s iconic No.10 shirt, following in the footsteps of some legendary figures.
The La Masia academy clearly isn’t fazed by following some of the greatest footballers in history – including arguably the very best of them all, his immediate predecessor.
We’ve ranked the eight from worst to best.
8. Angel Cuellar
A Real Betis academy graduate, Cuellar moved to the Nou Camp in 1995 and became the first Barcelona player to be officially assigned the No.10 shirt in La Liga.
But he endured a disastrous debut, suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury that kept him on the sidelines for just under six months.
The forward scored two goals in 15 appearances in the second half of the season but then lost the No.10 shirt ahead of 1996-97. He spent a year with the No.11 before returning to Betis.
7. Jari Litmanen
Having played under Van Gaal at Ajax, Litmanen linked up with the manager at Barcelona in the summer of 1999.
He never really recaptured the form he had shown in the Eredivisie and was also plagued by a series of injury problems at Barcelona.
“You have to adapt to a new culture when you move to a different club,” Van Gaal would later say of Litmanen. “Not every player is able to do that.”
The former Finland international lost the No.10 shirt at the end of his first season and then joined Liverpool on a free transfer in January 2001.
6. Juan Roman Riquelme
Once dubbed the ‘next Diego Maradona’, Riquelme followed in his footsteps by leaving Boca Juniors for Barcelona in 2002.
The former Argentina international arrived amid high expectations, only for Van Gaal to reveal the he had been forced upon him as a “political signing” before using the natural-born No.10 as a winger.
He struggled for consistency during his sole season at the Nou Camp and was deemed surplus to requirements following Ronaldinho’s arrival, joining Villarreal on a two-year loan deal.
Riquelme then rediscovered his best form with the Yellow Submarine and made the move permanent in 2005.
“Why didn’t Riquelme triumph at Barca? Because he had a dickhead like Van Gaal as his coach,” Hristo Stoichkov told Radio Impacto in 2020. “It’s clear, isn’t it?
“He did not succeed because of the way Van Gaal put him on the field. But even so, the first year in Barcelona he also enjoyed a lot.
“I enjoyed his goals, passes, plays, stepovers, but when one comes who wants to invent one thing from something else, it’s impossible.”
READ: A tribute to Juan Roman Riquelme, one of football’s best and truest No.10s
Not the midfielder who later played for Manchester City and Hull City, Giovanni was one of Bobby Robson’s first Barcelona signings in 1996.
The former Brazil international was initially overshadowed by compatriot Ronaldo but still produced some iconic moments, including three match-winners against Real Madrid.
Things turned sour, as it did for many over the years, once Van Gaal took over, and he left the club for Olympiacos in 1999.
“Van Gaal is the Hitler of the Brazilian players; he is arrogant, proud and has a problem,” Giovanni said in 2010. “My life with him was horrible, the Brazilians did not want him, he put me down and also fought with Rivaldo and Sonny Anderson. He always gave us the excuse that we were not training well.
“I know that he must have some trauma, he has no idea of football, does not know anything, in the time I was with him he always did the same training, his type is sick, he’s crazy.”
4. Ansu Fati
The 20-year-old has had some moments after inheriting Messi’s No.10 shirt. He’s been handy as a substitute at times, but received limited starts, and it’s looking increasingly likely that injuries will deny him reaching the frightening potential he first demonstrated when he exploded onto the scene a few years back.
“I have experienced Ansu Fati’s case in my own body”, fellow La Masia graduate Bojan Krkic told Marca recently.
“You generate a lot of enthusiasm at a time when the club need a ‘product’ from La Masia. And I don’t like to say it because I like to hear it, but that’s how we are treated.”
Ansu Fati appreciation post. 🔥
🔄 64' Subbed on
🅰 66' Assists Dembele
🅰 68' Assists Lewandowski
⚽ 79' Scores
What a talent 🌟 pic.twitter.com/LgecA1cPzt
— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) August 22, 2022
After wearing the No.11 shirt during his first three years at Barcelona, Rivaldo was then handed the prestigious No.10 following Litmanen’s departure in 2000.
The attacking midfielder then had his best season on an individual level, scoring 36 goals, including a stunning hat-trick against Valencia that helped Barcelona clinch Champions League qualification.
He spent one more season at the Nou Camp but was released from his contract a year early following Van Gaal’s return to the dugout in 2002.
READ: Rivaldo: The story of a great player in a not so great Barcelona team
After starring for Paris Saint-Germain, Ronaldinho rejected Manchester United and decided to sign for Barcelona in a £21million deal in 2003.
The Brazilian arrived at a club that had just finished sixth in La Liga and transformed their fortunes, winning two league titles and the Champions League over the following five years.
He entertained the fans with his skills and also developed into one of the best players in the world, winning the Ballon d’Or award in 2005.
But his infamous love of partying eventually took its toll and Pep Guardiola made the brave decision to sell the forward to AC Milan in 2008.
“Ronaldinho was responsible for the change in Barca,” Lionel Messi later said. “It was a bad time, and the change that came about with his arrival was amazing.
“In the first year, he didn’t win anything, but people fell in love with him. Then the trophies started coming and he made all those people happy. Barca should always be grateful for everything he did.”
READ: A forensic analysis of the night Ronaldinho had Real fans on their feet
1. Lionel Messi
“Before leaving the club [Ronaldinho] was coming off a few months where he was thinking about things,” Messi told Barca TV in 2015.
“He had it in his mind that he was leaving and he told me to have his number. I took it without looking at what he had done with the shirt. If I did, I would not have taken it.”
The rest, as they say, is history.
READ MORE: The five players Barcelona signed alongside Ronaldinho & how they fared
TRY A QUIZ: Can you name Barcelona’s XI from Lionel Messi’s first game as No.10?