Where are they now? The Barcelona B XI from Messi’s last game in 2005
Lionel Messi made his first-team debut for Barcelona in a 1-0 win over Espanyol in October 2004. The rest, as they say, is history.
But he remained a part of the Barcelona B team throughout the 2004-05 season, making his final appearance for them in a 4-0 win over Osasuna B in May 2005.
So what happened to Messi’s team-mates from that game? We’ve taken a look to see how they’ve all fared over the last 16 years.
GK: Javi Ruiz
After loan spells at Gimnastic, Almeria and Badalona, Ruiz left Barcelona in 2006 and joined Sant Andreu in the third tier of Spanish football.
The goalkeeper moved back to Barcelona with Espanyol in January 2008 but didn’t make a single first-team appearance during his two-and-a-half years at the club. He then returned to the lower divisions before hanging up his gloves at the age of 32 in 2012.
Since retirement, Ruiz has become a goalkeeping coach and is currently working with Belgian side KAS Eupen.
RB: Dani Fernandez
Fernandez trained with the first team and played in friendlies under Frank Rijkaard, but never made a competitive appearance for the club.
The defender followed Jordi Cruyff to Ukrainian side Metalurh Donetsk in the summer of 2006 but struggled to adjust to life in the country.
He later enjoyed spells in the Netherlands, Belgium and Greece before returning to Spain with CE L’Hospitalet. The 39-year-old saw out his playing career with the Catalan side, announcing his retirement in 2019.
CB: Pepe Mora
The oldest member of this team, Mora spent just one season in Barcelona’s academy and then returned to former club Castellon in 2005.
He never played in the top flight but carved out a decent career in the La Liga 2, representing the likes of Recreativo de Huelva, Hercules and Alaves.
Mora retired in 2018, seeing out the last of his playing days at Spanish amateur side Borriol.
Not to be mistaken with the Manchester City midfielder, Rodri made his Champions League debut on the same day as Messi but it was one of just eight Barcelona appearances.
He was shipped off to Deportivo La Coruna in 2006 before embarking on a nomadic career with another 10 clubs, including Hercules, Spartak Moscow and Eupen.
The 37-year-old reunited with fellow La Masia graduate Dani Fernandez at CE L’Hospitalet in 2017 and retired at the same time as him.
LB: Carlos Pena
Pena was a mainstay for the Barcelona B side but was never given a first-team opportunity, eventually leaving the club on a free in 2006.
The left-back went on to make 298 appearances in La Liga 2, playing for big clubs like Real Valladolid, Real Oviedo and Getafe.
Having spent his entire career in Spain, he joined Indian Super League franchise FC Goa in 2018 before retiring two years later.
“I spoke to the players who had formerly played in India,” Pena said in an Instagram Live chat with Jofre Mateu. “I remember asking you. I also asked Edu Bedia and Ferran Corominas and they convinced me to take the decision.
“It is not easy to go out of Spain. You told me about the place and the club and now I am very happy that I took this decision. These two years I have had great memories from India and Goa especially.”
CM: Dani Fragoso
Fragoso initially started out in Espanyol’s and Real Madrid’s academies before joining Barcelona B as a 22-year-old in 2003.
He never spent more than two years at any particular club and spent most of his career in the Spanish lower divisions, apart from a five-week stint in MLS with Chivas.
The midfielder was last seen playing for lower league side Atletico Algabeno during the 2020-21 season.
CM: Joan Verdu
Verdu played in just two cup games for Barcelona but enjoyed an impressive career in La Liga, making over 250 appearances for Deportivo de La Coruna, Espanyol, Real Betis and Levante.
The 39-year-old then had brief stints in Italy and China and signed a one-year deal with CE L’Hospitalet in the Spanish fifth division last year.
CM: Arnau Riera
Despite being captain of that Barcelona B team in the early 2000s, Riera couldn’t establish himself in the first team and was released in 2006.
He headed to England with Sunderland but would make just two first-team appearances for the Black Cats, including a League Cup defeat to Bury in which he was sent off.
The midfielder was immediately frozen out by manager Roy Keane and spent time out on loan at Southend United and Falkirk.
“It was a massive shock. I’d signed a three-year contract and moved to a new country,” Riera said in 2018. “I’d grown up watching Roy Keane and was so looking forward to learning from him.
“I was training, always on my own. The only times Keane spoke to me was when he needed a couple of extra players for a training session to make up the numbers.”
He then returned to Spain in 2009 and had three seasons in the lower leagues before suffering an ACL injury which ended his career. The 40-year-old now runs a hotel in Spain and has also studied for a qualification in social education.
The last time someone with a LaLiga past signed for Southend, it was former Barça B captain Arnau Riera 🇪🇸
— La Liga Lowdown 🧡🇪🇸⚽️ (@LaLigaLowdown) October 1, 2019
RW: Lionel Messi
He’s done alright for himself.
✨ History made together.
Thank you, Leo Messi. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/c02krCE6iL
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) August 8, 2021
CF: Cristian Hidalgo
Hidalgo made just under 100 appearances for the B side, but his Barcelona career amounted to 60 seconds in a cameo appearance against Zamora FC in 2006.
He was released by the club at the end of the 2005-06 season but still has fond memories of his time in the La Masia academy.
“For me [being at Barcelona] felt like being in the land of milk and honey,” he told Goal and Spox in 2020. “Young players were given certain values like humility and respect, but we didn’t have to worry about anything.
“The team included so many great personalities such as Carles Puyol, Fernando Navarro or Xavi and Andres Iniesta, who all knew what it was like to come from La Masia to the professional squad and to earn a living just among many world stars.”
The 38-year-old has been on a world tour since leaving Elche in 2012, enjoying spells in Cyprus, Bulgaria, Israel, India, Morocco, Romania and Andorra. He’s now back in his native Spain with UDA Gramenet, who play in the sixth tier.
Javito made his senior debut in December 2004 and stole the spotlight during Messi’s final game for Barcelona B, scoring a hat-trick against Osasuna.
But an early diagnosis of thrombosis prevented him from becoming a regular member of the first-team squad, and he joined Greek side Aris FC in 2006.
The winger bounced between Greece and Spain for several years and was last seen playing for Spanish fourth division side Coria in 2020.