Where are they now? The 14 Barcelona kids given debuts by Pep Guardiola

Quick Reads

Barcelona are renowned for giving academy graduates opportunities in the first team, but what became of those to break through during Pep Guardiola’s four years in charge?

Guardiola had managed the B team before replacing Frank Rijkaard in 2008 and used that experience to integrate players into the first team.

We’ve taken a look back at every academy product Guardiola handed a senior debut to at Barcelona.

Oier

With Victor Valdes well established as Barca’s No.1, Oier made just two first-team appearances for the club before joining Granada in 2014.

The goalkeeper then had spells with Real Sociedad and Levante before returning to Catalonia with Espanyol in January 2020.

Alberto Botia

Botia made his one and only Barcelona appearance against Deportivo La Coruna in La Liga in 2009, coming on as a late substitute for Gerard Pique in a 2-2 draw.

He made another 139 La Liga appearances with Sporting Gijon, Sevilla and Elche before joining Olympiakos in 2014.

The 31-year-old spent four years in Greece, winning three league titles, and is now playing in Saudi Arabia with Al-Wehda.

Marc Muniesa

Muniesa made his debut aged 17 years and 57 days against Osasuna in 2009, although it was one of only four appearances for the club.

The defender joined Stoke City on a free transfer in 2013, but his five years with the Potters were plagued by a string of injury problems.

After making a brief return to La Liga with Girona, he’s now playing for Qatari outfit Al-Arabi.

“For me and my family, we will be grateful all our lives to Pep Guardiola for giving me my debut with Barcelona,” Muniesa told Sportskeeda in 2018. “It’s a moment we will remember all our lives.”

Sergio Busquets

He’s done alright, hasn’t he?

Thiago

Thiago was regarded as one of Barcelona’s brightest prospects and made his first-team debut against Mallorca in 2009 when he was just 18 years of age.

But after failing to break up the trio of Busquets, Xavi and Andres Iniesta, the midfielder reunited with Guardiola at Bayern Munich in 2013.

He has won seven consecutive Bundesliga titles and four DFB-Pokal’s in Bavaria but looks set to leave the club in 2020.

Jonathan Dos Santos

The younger brother of Giovani Dos Santos, Jonathan made 19 appearances under Guardiola and remained at Barcelona until 2014.

The Mexico international then played alongside his brother at Villarreal and has spent the last three years in the MLS with LA Galaxy.

Gai Assulin

Assulin was compared to Lionel Messi after excelling at Barcelona B and made his senior debut against Cultural Leonesa in the Copa del Rey in 2009.

The Israeli midfielder decided to join Manchester City in 2010 but made no first-team appearances at the club before heading back to Spain two years later with Racing Santander.

He currently plies his trade for Politehnica Iași in Romania.

“Training with Barcelona’s first team was the best experience I’ve had in my career,” Assulin told us in 2018. “I learned so much. I’m proud to say I was training with such big players.

“I’ve learned from Messi, Henry, Zlatan. They’re all different types of players, so it was great to see how they operate and pick up little things from them.”

READ: The story of the ex-Barca & Man City youngster who ended up in Kazakhstan

Marc Bartra

Bartra was handed his debut by Guardiola against Atletico Madrid in February 2010, but the centre-back never managed to establish himself as a regular starter.

The most abiding memory of his time at the club was getting burned for pace by Gareth Bale for the Welshman’s iconic match-winner for Real Madrid in the 2014 Copa del Rey final.

He signed for Borussia Dortmund in 2016 before returning to La Liga with Real Betis two years later.

Oriol Romeu

Romeu only made two first-team appearances for Barcelona before being sold to Chelsea for £4.35million in 2011.

The midfielder failed to make an impact at Stamford Bridge and has since carved out a decent career at Southampton, making over 150 appearances for the Saints.

“Guardiola was amazing with young players,” Romeu told The Guardian in 2016. “Sometimes he used to spend longer with us than with the senior players. He loved to correct things to make us better.

“We all learned a lot from him. He loves football, he loves being a coach and that comes out in the results of every team he picks.”

Sergi Roberto

Roberto made his senior competitive debut in a 5-1 win over lower league side Ceuta in the Copa del Rey in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since.

The 28-year-old has established himself as a key player for the Blaugrana, showcasing his versatility by playing in central midfield or right-back.

He has won six La Liga titles and famously scored a last-minute winner to complete Barcelona’s 6-5 comeback against PSG in 2017.

Martin Montoya

Montoya was tipped to eventually succeed Dani Alves at Barcelona and made his senior debut in a 3-0 win against Mallorca in 2011.

But he fell out of favour under Luis Enrique and joined Valencia in 2016 in search of more first-team opportunities.

The right-back then made the switch to Brighton in 2018 and has featured regularly for the Seagulls over the last two seasons.

Isaac Cuenca

Cuenca broke into the first team during Guardiola’s final season at the Nou Camp, making 30 appearances in all competitions.

A string of knee injuries hampered his development and the winger joined Deportivo La Coruna after being released by Barcelona in 2014.

The 29-year-old then had spells in Turkey and Israel before joining Japanese side Vegalta Sendai in 2020.

Cristian Tello

Tello netted a brace on his Champions League debut against Bayer Leverkusen in 2012 and was tipped for a bright future at Barcelona.

The winger made 86 appearances for the club but fell down the pecking order following Neymar’s arrival and joined Real Betis on a permanent deal in 2017.

Gerard Deulofeu

Deulofeu was another highly-rated winger from the La Masia academy, but his path into the first team was blocked by a collection of superstar forwards.

“It was very hard because you’re playing well for Barca B and you know that you have Messi, Neymar and Pedro ahead of you, a lot of really good players and you have to decide if you want to be patient or leave and live other experiences, and play,” Deulofeu told beIN Sports in May 2020.

After loan spells at Everton and Sevilla, Deulofeu joined the former on a permanent deal in 2015 but returned to the Nou Camp for a second spell in 2017.

The Spain international made 10 La Liga appearances for the club before being sold to Watford in 2018.


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