La Masia: The Players That Left Barcelona Behind

Barcelona’s world-famous La Masia academy
has encountered numerous issues in the years since producing the unforgettable Tiki-Taka
generation. In parts one and two of our La Masia series, we explored the academy’s
history and its recent problems. In this third and final part, we look directly at the young
players who have left the academy and the club in search of new homes. These are the
players that left Barcelona behind. In 2014, Barcelona were sanctioned by FIFA
for illegally signing players under the age of 18. As a result, the club was forced to
move on the players behind the breach. Three in particular have gone on to have bright
futures. Kubo, a talented 18-year-old midfielder who has just joined Real Madrid this summer
for €2 million, spent years of his footballing education in Catalonia before having to return
to Tokyo. Andre Onana, Ajax’s excellent goalkeeper
who is as well known for his shot stopping ability as his distribution, has shown exactly
what quality he possesses in both the Eredivisie and the Champions League. Ian Carlo Poveda, another midfield prospect,
has spent his pre-season with Manchester City’s first team at the age of 19. Spain’s national youth set-up is concerned
due to the lack of central defenders coming through their ranks – but Eric Garcia is a
shining light within a dearth of other options. Regarded as one of the brighter prospects
from Barça’s academy back in 2017, the teenager has taken the captain’s armband
at youth level and displays a lot of quality on the ball as expected from a modern centre-back.
After turning down a new deal at La Masia, probably fearing his opportunities bottle-necking,
the chance to work under Pep Guardiola was too good to miss Adria Bernabe is another. Having spent five
years at La Masia, he turned down the offer of a contract renewal. Most recently, Bernabe
spent the summer’s pre-season with Manchester City’s first-team squad. The 18 year-old
midfield has followed Eric Garcia’s path and, so far, it appears to have been the right
decision, with Guardiola apparently keen to integrate the playmaker into his long-term
plans in England. Another player currently with Spain’s under-19
side who saw fit to leave Catalonia in search of further first-team opportunities is Sergio
Gomez, who has found a new home at Borussia Dortmund. A talented number 10, creative and a danger
when attacking the box, Gomez moved after Dortmund activated his reported release clause
of just €3 million and spent last season on-loan at relegated Huesca. More recently, Mateu Morey, who had suffered
protracted injury issues, also moved to the Westfalenstadion. The 19-year-old right back
was developing at a rapid rate before picking up a terrible knee injury which saw him miss
the entire 2018/19 campaign. Another key player for Spain at youth level, this time as part
of the country’s victorious Under-17 Euros squad in 2017, Morey offered plenty of drive
and attacking threat from right back. He scored three goals in that tournament and looked
to be every bit the right mould of wing back to fit into Barça’s positive style of play. Jordi Mboula was snapped up by Monaco for
€3m back in 2017. Electric on the ball and an exciting, incisive winger, Mboula was the
kind of player who had promised to get fans off their seats with his flair and technical
ability. Not wanting to pay Mboula the wages required to renew a deal with the teenager,
Barça instead sold their prospect on the cheap to avoid losing him for free. Given
how Mboula has failed to kickstart his career in France, nor make an impact in the first
team, this is one deal which as yet hasn’t stung his ex-employers. One of the most unusual cases is Dani Olmo
who, now 21, left La Masia for Croatia five years ago. Choosing to take the gamble and
feature for a club that would give him a set pathway to the first team, the teenager went
on to make his first appearance for Dinamo Zagreb in the summer of 2014. Had he remained
in Catalonia, the same progress would have been unrealistic. Moving for a free transfer as a 16-year-old,
Olmo has since established himself as a key man for Dinamo and played an important role
in Spain Under-21 European Championship victory in Italy and San Marino this summer. A very
tricky winger with a lot of end product, he’s due a big move and his plan to leave Barça
to catch eyes elsewhere has been astute. It may just have inspired others to do the same. Like Alex Grimaldo, who left in 2016. Barcelona
were faced with a difficult situation with Grimaldo. Three years ago, the youngster had
six months left on his contract at the club and indicated that he had no intention of
renewing. The pathway to the first team hadn’t materialised, despite his extensive experience
with the club’s B team. For a little over €2m, Benfica were able to steal him away.
And the 23-year-old left back hasn’t looked back since, developing into a consistent performer
with an excellent left foot and one of Europe’s most coveted full-backs. Juventus moved to secure Pablo Moreno’s
services when the midfielder was just 16. After netting over 200 goals in La Masia’s
system, as well as playing a key role at national level, Moreno was reported to cost the Bianconeri
in the region of 700,000 euros. The Spaniard is already providing to be a force as part
of Juve’s Under-19 side in the UEFA Youth League and should feature in Spain’s plans
in the upcoming Under-17 World Cup. A technically gifted midfielder, capable of both creating
and finishing moves, the teenager looks set to turn some heads over the next few years. Arguably one of the most marketable youngsters
in La Masia’s ranks, 16-year-old Xavi Simons – who has 2 million Instagram followers – left
for Paris Saint-Germain this summer, where the Dutch teenager will feature for their
Under-19 side in the UEFA Youth League. Barça were not willing to offer a bigger contract
to a talent they were not entirely convinced would be worth the big outlay in comparison
to others on their books. Owing to the presence of Ansu Fati in the system, as well as older
prospects such as Riqui Puig stagnating when exiting their teen years, taking a bigger
contract and getting assurances of a more prominent role in youth football seemed to
be the decisive factors for Simons.

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