Football Features

What happened next? Every U23 player to leave Barcelona for the Premier League since 2003

By Harry Edwards

Published: 10:00, 28 March 2020

Barcelona’s academy has churned out numerous top-class talents over the past couple of decades with the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and a certain Lionel Messi, all graduates from their world famous La Masia.

In reality, only a select few will make the grade at the Camp Nou given they are at one of the biggest clubs in world football and consequently, a number of them opt to seek pastures new in search of greater first-team opportunities.

For many, Premier League clubs offer the perfect escape route for aspiring footballers, with the allure of competing in arguably the most reputable league in world football allied to the potential riches on offer, representing an enticing prospect.

Cesc Fabregas

Joined: Arsenal (2003)
Fee: Compensation
Premier League apps: 350
Current club: Monaco

Fabregas joined Arsenal expecting more first-team action and his decision certainly paid off. By the age of 17, he was a regular in the Gunners’ engine room. He eventually returned to Barcelona in 2011 but after a mixed three-year spell was moved on to London to sign for Chelsea where he won the Premier League twice. Fabregas left London for a second time in January 2019, moving to Monaco where he remains.

Gerard Pique

Joined: Manchester United (2004)
Fee: £4.5m
Premier League apps: 12
Current club: Barcelona

Pique was highly-rated at United but found it impossible to break up the Ferdinand-Vidic axis. He returned to Barcelona after four years where he has since developed into one of the best defenders in world football.

Fran Merida

Joined: Arsenal (2005)
Fee: Free
Premier League apps: 6
Current club: Osasuna

A classy midfielder in the same mould as Fabregas, Merida didn’t live up to expectations and left to join Atletico Madrid in 2010. From there, he has taken in spells in Portugal and Brazil but is now back in La Liga with Osasuna.

Daniel Pacheco

Joined: Liverpool (2007)
Fee: Free
Premier League apps: 5
Current club: Malaga

The diminutive attacker showed immense potential while at Anfield but struggled for minutes in the Premier League. Pacheco’s finest moment in England was helping Norwich achieve promotion to the Championship in 2011 but, in 2020, he is currently at Malaga having spent time with Real Betis, Alaves and Getafe.

Giovani dos Santos

Joined: Tottenham (2008)
Fee: £4.7m
Premier League apps: 17
Current club: Club America

Touted as one of the best young talents at Barcelona, it was a surprise when Giovani was allowed to leave to join Tottenham. The flamboyant Mexican’s time in north London was short-lived, however, and after a return to Spanish football he spent four years with LA Galaxy winning three Gold Cups. Giovani is now in his native Mexico with Club America.

Gai Assulin

Joined: Manchester City
Fee: Free
Premier League apps: 0
Current club: FC Politehnica Isai

Another player tipped for greatness in his youth, Assulin was capped by Israel aged 16. His club career failed to hit the heights expected, though, and he is now with Romanian side FC Politehnica Isai after an 18-month spell without a club.

Ruben Rochina

Joined: Blackburn Rovers (2011)
Fee: £385,000
Premier League apps: 22
Current club: Levante

Rochina made a reasonable start to life in the Premier League but he was unable to help Rovers avoid relegation. Rochina stuck around Ewood Park for a bit in the Championship before returning to Spain. Currently he plays for Levante, moving in the summer of 2018.

Oriol Romeu

Joined: Chelsea (2011)
Fee: £4m
Premier League apps: 173
Current club: Southampton

Romeu found himself playing regularly for the Blues under Andre Villas-Boas but was unable to convince the club’s subsequent managers of his worth. After numerous loan spells he completed a permanent move to Southampton where he became a key member of the side. However, under Ralph Hasenhuttl recently, Romeu’s playing time has been reduced.

Jon Toral

Joined: Arsenal (2011)
Fee: £300,000
Premier League apps: 0
Current club: Hull City

Although Toral spent six years as an Arsenal player, he failed to feature for the Gunners, instead excelling in the Championship on loan with Brentford and Birmingham. Toral also enjoyed spells with Granada and Rangers before joining Hull permanently in 2017, playing 50 times for the club so far.

Cristian Ceballos

Joined: Tottenham (2011)
Fee: Free
Premier League apps: 0
Current club: Al-Wakrah

Ceballos was unable to force his way into Tottenham’s first-team plans with his only football on these shores coming while on-loan with Charlton. Nowadays, Ceballos can be found playing in Qatar, joining Al-Wakrah last summer.

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Marc Muniesa

Joined: Stoke City (2013)
Fee: Free
Premier League apps: 57
Current club: Al Arabi

Muniesa failed to make the step-up to Barcelona’s first-team paving the way for a move to ‘Stokealona’ three years ago. The ball-playing defender proved to be a hit at the bet365 Stadium, lining up on the left or in the middle, although he’s now at Al Arabi after spending a year with Girona post-Stoke.

Hector Bellerin

Joined: Arsenal (2011)
Fee: £425,000
Premier League apps: 151
Current club: Arsenal

Arsenal’s most successful recruit from Barcelona since Fabregas. Bellerin emerged as one of the finest young talents in Europe at the Emirates since dislodging Mathieu Debuchy from the first-team although injury has curtailed his progress. Despite interest from other major clubs, Bellerin is currently contracted to the Gunners until 2022 after signing an extension two years ago.

Julio Pleguezuelo

Joined: Arsenal (2013)
Fee: Free
Premier League apps: 0
Current club: FC Twente

The teenage centre-back actually started out at Atletico Madrid before spending two years at Barcelona. In 2013 he became the latest player to swap Catalunya for London by moving to Arsenal where he has captained the U21 team. The youngster spent a season on loan in the Spanish Segunda Division with Gimnastic before joining FC Twente in 2019.

Sergi Canos

Joined: Liverpool (2013)
Fee: Free
Premier League apps: 0
Current club: Brentford

An exciting right winger who lit up the Championship with Brentford last season, Canos was deemed surplus to requirements by Liverpool and he was offloaded permanently to Norwich. Cano is currently on the wings for Brentford.

Mohamed El Ouriachi

Joined: Stoke City (2015)
Fee: Free
Premier League apps: 0
Current club: CE L’Hospitalet

The Moroccan winger failed to make an impact after joining Stoke in 2015, and after a loan spell with Espanyol B last season, is now in the Spanish lower leagues with CE L’Hospitalet.

Adama Traore

Adama Traore celebrates in his side's victory at Carrow Road.

Joined: Aston Villa (2015)
Fee: £8.5m
Premier League apps: 94
Current club: Wolverhampton Wanderers

A hugely promising talent who excites and frustrates in equal measure, Traore barely featured as Villa suffered relegation last season but he remained in the top-flight after joining Boro following their promotion. He then got relegated again but after adding an end product to his dizzying dribbling, earned a move to the Premier League with Wolves where he is flying.

Gerard Deulofeu

Joined: Everton (2015)
Fee: £5m
Premier League apps: 127
Current club: Watford

Deulofeu was outstanding during a loan spell at Everton in 2013/14 and re-joined the Toffees permanently in 2015 following an indifferent spell with Sevilla. Outrageously gifted, the fleet-footed winger fell out of favour with Ronald Koeman before rejoining Barcelona then falling out of favour with Ernesto Valverde. After a successful loan spell with Watford last season, Deulofeu is now at the Hornets permanently.