Where are they now? Barcelona’s 12 youngest debutants since 1990

Quick Reads
Pedri during the Joan Gamper Trophy match between FC Barcelona and Elche CF, played at the Camp Nou Stadium, on 19th September 2020, in Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona are famed for their production line at the famed La Masia – but how have their youngest debutants since 1990 gone on to fare?

The Catalan outfit have produced some of the finest players of the modern era, but not every hot prospect has fulfilled his potential.

We’ve taken a look at the 12 players to make their Barcelona debut under the age of 18 in the last 30 years, starting with the oldest.

Mario Rosas

One of the most intriguing cases to come out of La Masia, Rosas was described by Xavi as “a mixture of Laudrup and Messi” in an interview with French outfit So Foot.

“If you saw how he played at 15, 16 or 17, you would say, ‘When this guy makes the first team, the Camp Nou will hallucinate,'” Xavi said.

Rosas was given his bow as a 17-year-old on the final day of the 1997-98 campaign by Louis van Gaal with Barcelona already crowned champions, but he was subbed off at half-time as Salamanca won 4-1.

That proved to be his only appearance for the club, and he subsequently played for 11 different clubs, mainly in the second tier, where his slight frame made it difficult to shine.

“When I had to leave, I could not adapt to the new demands that came my way,” he said. “I had to defend more and take on other tasks than I was used to doing at Barca.”

READ: The mystery of Mario Rosas, the man Xavi called ‘a mix of Laudrup and Messi’

Alex Balde

Left-back Balde made his Barcelona bow a month before his 18th birthday as a substitute during a humbling 3-0 defeat at home to Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage.

A handful of appearances have followed for the first team, but he remains on the periphery of Xavi’s senior squad and he’s continuing his development with the B team.

We’ve been fans of his for a while – we can’t wait to see more in the coming years.

Pedri

The best teenager in Europe? We love Pedri. He’s a joy to watch – and it was evident from his first 20-minute cameo as a 17-year-old during Barca’s 4-0 thrashing of Villarreal that they’ve got another special player on their hands.

READ: Call an exorcist – Messi’s soul’s taken Pedri’s body & this dummy is proof

Adama Traore

Traore made just four appearances in all competitions for Barcelona, scoring once in an 8-1 thrashing of Huesca in the Copa del Rey, during his first stint at his boyhood club.

“I’d like to one day play in La Liga again,” Traore told Wolves’ official website. “I did have some action and I did okay. It was at Camp Nou so of course it was nice to feel the atmosphere.”

The winger left Barcelona for Aston Villa when he was still just 19, with Barcelona insisting on a buyback clause, but he was relegated in his only season at Villa Park before suffering the same fate after joining Middlesbrough.

A season in the Championship saw Traore rediscover his mojo and he’s gone on to terrify Premier League defences with a claim as the best dribbler in the world.

We’re still waiting for him to add consistent end product, but the early evidence of his loan back to Barcelona is that he might just get there. He looks like he’s loving life back in Catalonia – it will be interesting to see whether his loan from Wolves will be turned into a permanent deal.

Gerard Deulofeu

We often comment on how strange Deulofeu’s career has been, but it’s worth repeating: he came through the ranks at Barcelona before impressing on loan at Everton, then flopping on loan at Sevilla, opening the door for Everton to sign the winger permanently.

His return to Goodison Park did not go to plan, and he was sent out on loan to Milan, where he impressed so much that Barcelona decided to re-sign him. He once again struggled to establish himself at the Camp Nou, and so returned to the Premier League with Watford, before eventually moving on to Pozzo sister club Udinese. Phew.

“It’s difficult because at Barcelona, you always have eyes on you,” Deulofeu told The Guardian in 2018. “All the people speak. It’s good [in one way] but after, it’s bad because the people think you are Messi or a player with a lot of experience. You have to be careful because you have to go step by step.”

Oriol Riera

A 13-minute cameo against Murcia in 2003 represented Riera’s entire career in Barcelona’s senior team, and the forward has since appeared for nine other clubs, including a short spell in the Championship with Wigan.

The 35-year-old is now back in Spain, serving as an assistant coach at Alcorcon B. His playing career eventually came to an end in 2020 following a short stint at second-tier outfit Fuenlabrada after a prolific two years at Western Sydney Wanderers.

Nano

The second of only two players on this list to make their debut in the 1990s, Nano made just six appearances in all competitions for Barcelona before joining Atletico Madrid.

But the majority of the defender’s career was spent in the lower reaches of Spanish football, mainly with Racing Ferrol (across two spells) and Numancia.

Lionel Messi

Never heard of him.

READ: The story of the two La Masia players better than Lionel Messi at free-kicks

Marc Muniesa

Now playing in Qatar for Al-Arabi, which sounds much more enjoyable than playing in Stoke.

Gavi

The latest evidence that La Masia seemingly has an infinite supply of ridiculously talented youngsters.

Gavi is enjoying his breakthrough campaign, having made his debut 24 days after his 17th birthday in a 2-1 victory over Getafe back in August.

The midfielder’s current contract runs until 2023 but you imagine Barcelona will be doing all they keep one of their star assets at the club for a long, long time.

Bojan Krkic

Bojan was tipped to follow in the footsteps on Messi after scoring 34 goals in his first three campaigns in the first team, having bagged 900 goals for Barcelona’s youth teams.

But the striker struggled under the weight of expectation and began to suffer with anxiety, telling The Guardian in 2018:  “In footballing terms it went well but not personally. I had to live with that and people say my career hasn’t been as expected. When I came up, it was ‘new Messi’. Well, yes, if you compare me with Messi … but what career did you expect?

“And there are lots of things that people didn’t know. I didn’t go to the [2008] European Championship because of anxiety issues but we said I was going on holiday. I was called up for Spain against France, my international debut, and it was said that I had gastroenteritis when I had an anxiety attack. But no one wants to talk about that. Football’s not interested.”

Now 31, after dropping down to the Championship with Stoke and a short stint in MLS with Montreal Impact in the summer, he’s now playing alongside old pal Andres Iniesta at Vissel Kobe in Japan.

Ansu Fati

When Fati emerged as a 16-year-old back in 2019, it was no understatement to say he instantly looked like a player capable of dominating the world stage at the very highest level.

He’s gone on to score a respectable 18 goals for the club in the three years since then, as well as for Spain, but unfortunately frequent injuries have denied him the kind of impact many would have expected.

We’re rooting for him to put his injury troubles behind him and get playing regularly, because he looks like a seriously special player. He’s still only 19 and has all the time in the world to realise his potential at the Camp Nou.

READ: Five records 16-year-old Barca prodigy Ansu Fati has broken in two weeks


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