Ten Barcelona products who failed to live up to their billing ft. Bojan, Cuenca and Merida
Barcelona’s La Masia academy is famed for producing some of the finest talents in world football’s recent history. Lionel Messi, is just one example.
Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Arsenal’s Mikel Arteta have all come through the youth ranks in Catalonia as well, with varying degrees of success, along with plenty of other famous names who have now retired.
They have current stars-in-the-making in their first team squad like Munir El Haddadi, Sergi Roberto and Marc Bartra, all of whom were reared at La Masia.
One of the academy graduate’s names will be familiar to Barça and Liverpool fans: Dani Pacheco. The forward turns 24 today and is currently plying his trade with Real Betis in Spain’s Segunda division. He is yet to score his first goal for the club.
Pacheco endured poor loan spells with Norwich City, Rayo Vallecano and Huesca during his time at Liverpool, before leaving permanently for Alorcon in 2013 and then joining Betis in 2014. It has been a steady decline for the player once dubbed The Assassin.
In honour of Pacheco’s birthday, we have dug up some of the other La Masia products who have not lived up to the billing and fall into the category of having been falsely advertised.
Giovani and Jonathan dos Santos
The Mexican brothers were tipped for greatness during the early stages of their careers, but it hasn’t turned out that way for either of them.
Giovani, 25, had an ill-fated spell with Tottenham Hotspur after his time at Barça. He went on a series of loans away from White Hart Lane before returning to La Liga with RCD Mallorca and, more recently, Villarreal. He has enjoyed some success lately and was one of Mexico’s stars at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but a world-beater he is not.
Jonathan, 24, is also at Villarreal, having struggled to break through at Camp Nou.
This one is slightly harsh, as Bojan is not a flop – as such – but he is not what he was expected to be. As a teenager, the young Spaniard was billed as Messi 2.0 and never lived up to it. He has endured a nomadic career up until now, playing for Barça, Roma and Ajax, before settling at Stoke City.
He has impressed for the Potters this season and looks like a real bargain buy for Mark Hughes.
Now Bojan’s teammate at Stoke, the centre-back was tipped to be a defensive great for the Catalan giants. Muniesa won the under-21 UEFA European Championships with Spain in 2013 and looked set to break into Barça’s starting eleven soon after.
However, he suffered a tear to his anterior cruciate ligament and spent six months out of action before moving to Stoke in 2013. He has begun to impress with the Potters, but is still in and out of the team.
The holding midfielder made just one appearance for Barcelona before Chelsea swooped and brought him to the Premier League in 2011.
Every season seems to be the one he is expected to breakthrough and establish himself, but he never does, and has spent the past two years away from the club with Valencia and Stuttgart, on loan spells.
Former Arsenal youngster Fran Merida came through La Masia before being snapped up by the Gunners. They had hoped to pull off a Cesc Fabregas-style coup by poaching him from the Catalans, but famously lightning doesn’t strike twice.
Merida made 16 appearances in three seasons in the Premier League, but did score an absolute belter against Liverpool (below).
He returned to Spain before moving to Portugal (on loan) and Brazil, but has never fulfilled the potential that someone somewhere saw in him. Sadly, he is now without a club at the age of 24.
The young Israeli winger was tipped for a big, bright future in Europe, having impressed in Barcelona’s youth system. He was poached by Manchester City in 2010, after several months of agreeing compensation for the player.
He never played for the senior side, but did spend a short spell on loan at Brighton and Hove Albion before being released by City in 2012.
Since then he has plied his trade in Spain’s Segunda with Racing Santander, Hercules and now Mallorca, though he still has not impressed particularly.
The Venezuela-born forward had a successful career with Spain’s youth sides and Barcelona’s B team before breaking into the senior side.
He moved to Sporting for a lowly fee in 2011 and his start was hampered by injury, before joining Valladolid in 2014. He has never reached the heights that were predicted for him.
One of the wide men who burst on to the scene under Pep Guardiola at Barcelona, Cuenca had impressed on a season-long loan spell away from Camp Nou at Sabadell in 2010/11. He returned to Barça’s B team before being promoted to the main team, but struggled to make much of an impact.
He was loaned to Ajax – which didn’t go well – and then joined Deportivo permanently in 2014. Cuenca’s career has been hindered by injuries, having had to undergo surgery on a knee problem during his time in Catalonia.
Another young prodigy who was plucked from Barcelona at a tender age – this time by Juventus – Falque struggled to live up to the hype, having scored on his only ever appearance for Barça B as a teenager.
He joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2012 but made just one appearance, going on a series of loans away from the club during his two years there, before leaving for Genoa in 2014. He has been in and out of the side this season, scoring three goals in 12 appearances, though he has only played four full games.
Honourable mentions go to:
Kiko Femenía, who was not reared at La Masia but had been tipped for greatness before accusing Barça of leaving him “ruined emotionally.”
Jordi Cruyff, who must be embarrassed every time his father, Johan, harks back to his playing days, as he failed to follow in the legendary Dutchman’s footsteps.
Pepe Reina, who was shipped out of Barcelona for Villarreal before making a name for himself at Liverpool and now warms Bayern Munich’s bench.
Mikel Arteta, not a failure as such, because he has enjoyed a great career, but he never got close to become a Barcelona star.
Gerard Deulofeu, who is yet to live up to the hype and has spent the past two seasons away from Camp Nou on loan. From his time at Everton, it seems as though he prefers to run into dead-ends rather than pass to a teammate.