Where are they now? Barcelona’s XI on Lionel Messi’s debut v Porto

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On November 16, 2003, a little-known Argentine by the name of Lionel Messi made his Barcelona debut with a 15-minute cameo in a mid-season friendly with Porto.

Barcelona took on Porto in the inauguration of the Estadio do Dragao, which had been built ahead of the following summer’s Euro 2004.

Porto ran out 2-0 victors, with Messi squandering a couple of half-chances to score. What became of him? We’ll never know. But we’ve taken a look back at the Barcelona XI that started ahead of him.

Albert Jorquera

Perennial reserve goalkeeper Jorquera spent 15 years at Barcelona as he rose through the ranks of La Masia but made just 24 appearances in all competitions for the first team.

He retired aged 31 after a single season as first-choice stopper at Girona to join his family’s jewellery business, having studied for a degree in gemology while still a Barca player.

Oscar Lopez

A regular for Barcelona’s C and B teams, Lopez made just 13 appearances for Barcelona’s first team and his subsequent career was marred by injuries, meaning he retired with only 102 senior appearances to his name.

Oleguer

A more regular fixture in Barcelona’s first team, Oleguer made 167 appearances over six years in the senior squad, winning two titles and the Champions League along the way.

Since retiring as a 31-year-old following a spell at Ajax, he has become best known for his political campaigning for Catalan independence.

Rafael Marquez

Now we’re talking. Marquez was still in his first season at Barcelona at the time of the Porto friendly, but he became a mainstay of the side, becoming the first Mexican player to win the Champions League in 2006.

In 2018, he became the first player to captain his country in five World Cups, coming just a year after he was arrested for alleged ties to a drug trafficking organisation.

Fernando Navarro

The man who made way for Messi, Navarro spent the most successful part of his career at Sevilla, where he arrived after being a member of Spain’s victorious Euro 2008 squad and won the Copa del Rey and two Europa League titles.

He retired in 2018 after suffering relegation with Deportivo.

Xavi

Never heard of him.

READ: Trying to understand how Xavi ended up winning the lottery in Qatar

Sergio Santamaria

Another Barcelona youth product who failed to leave a lasting impression on the first team, Santamaria won the Golden Ball as the best player at the Under-17 World Championships in 1997, ahead of Ronaldinho, Gabriel Milito and Sebastian Deisler.

But his senior career was spent mainly in the Spanish lower leagues, retiring at the age of 31 due to injuries.

Ramon Ros

Ros’ solitary La Liga appearance for Barcelona came as a substitute for Oscar Lopez in a 1-1 draw with Sevilla at the start of the 2003-04 campaign.

He left Barca for second-tier outfit Lleida in 2005 but was forced to retire aged 26 after injuries decimated his two seasons at the club.

Gabri

A loyal servant to Barca, Gabri made almost 200 appearances for the club over seven years, winning two titles and the Champions League.

He returned to Barcelona as a youth coach upon his retirement and has also had spells in charge of Sion and FC Andorra.

Luis Garcia

A cult hero at Liverpool thanks to his performances in their run to Champions League glory in 2005, Garcia spent two spells at Barcelona but failed to truly establish himself at the Camp Nou.

We were quite excited to see him play for his final club, Central Coast Mariners, mainly because he was the only good player on the pitch. He got sent off 10 minutes into the second.

READ: Remembering Luis Garcia at Liverpool – and a connection you can’t fake

Luis Enrique

Messi knows Enrique better as his manager rather than team-mate, with the former Spain international retiring at the end of the 2003-04 season.

He then managed Messi at Barcelona between 2014-2017, guiding the side to the treble in his first season.

Enrique recently told Catalunya Radio there was “tension” between him and Messi at times but stressed: “I can only say good things about Leo Messi.”


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