Barcelona wonderkids who failed after playing La Masia, including PSG star Icardi and former Spurs ace dos Santos – The US Sun


LA MASIA has long been heralded as one of the most revered talent centers in world football.

Barcelona’s legendary academy boasts a huge list of talented graduates who honed their skills in Catalonia.


Not all Barcelona wonderkids are up to snuffCredit: AFP-Getty

From Messi to Guardiola, Xavi to Iniesta, Busquets to Puyol – the list can go on and on.

Naturally, given his stellar reputation – players who make waves within the academy quickly garner enthusiasm from fans and coaches alike.

But what happens to those who are not quite retained?

Is everything down since La Masia failure? Or can things still be salvaged?

At SunSport, take a look.

Giovanni dos Santos

Considering he’s made 37 first-team appearances for Barcelona, ​​it seems difficult to include the Mexican as an outright failure.

But things went wrong afterwards.

Touted as ‘the next Ronaldinho’, Dos Santos bid farewell to Camp Nou with a hat-trick against Real Murcia in his last game before signing for Tottenham in 2008.

Within a year, however, he had been loaned out to Ipswich, a humiliating and fast-paced run for the quick-footed striker.

Seemingly out of Spurs’ boozy Christmas party in 2009 unable to stand, Dos Santos was never imagined by new boss Harry Redknapp – and is now a free agent at 32, after a stint in America in his native country.

    Giovani was once nicknamed


Giovani was once dubbed ‘the next Ronaldinho’Credit: Reuters


The 6-foot midfielder plays in the classic mold of a La Masia midfielder, unflappable in possession – a metronomic figure at the heart of a team.

His problem ? He was never going to be better than Sergio Busquets, three years his senior.

His Barcelona first-team career lasted nine minutes, with a 0-0 draw with Deportivo La Coruña in May 2011.

At 30, Romeu now plays Premier League football regularly at Southampton, via stints at Chelsea, Stuttgart and Valencia.

    Romeu was good... but not as good as Busquets


Romeu was good… but not as good as BusquetsCredit: Rex Features

jeffrey suarez

When little-known academy star Jeffren finished Barcelona’s humiliating 5-0 draw against Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid in stoppage time – it appeared the winger had the world at his feet.

After floating around the first team for five years, Jeffren has finally risen to the top, scoring a victory over his fiercest rivals.

But things fell apart dramatically as he was only due to make six more La Liga appearances for Pep Guardiola’s men.

An injury then wiped out his chances at Barca, paving the way for a nomadic career – since visiting Sporting Lisbon, Eupen, Grasshoppers and AEK Larnaca.

At 32, he now plays for Thai club Lamphun Warrior.

    Jeffren once put Barcelona 5-0 up against Mourinho's Madrid


Jeffren once put Barcelona 5-0 up against Mourinho’s MadridCredit: Reuters

Mauro Icardi

If anyone proves you can bounce back to be a superstar after La Masia rejection, it’s Mauro Icardi.

The Argentine has been bizarrely underutilized by Barcelona’s academy, never even coming close to the first-team photo.

He left for Sampdoria, spending a season at the Genoese club before moving to Inter Milan in 2013.

A controversial, goal-laden period followed, in which the striker scored 124 goals in 219 appearances, became captain – and outraged the ultras.

The 29-year-old now plays for Paris Saint-Germain.

    Icardi was bizarrely underutilized despite being on the books at Barca


Icardi was bizarrely underutilized despite being on the books at BarcaCredit: FC Barcelona

Isaac Cuenca

Cuenca is another curious case of a winger once dreamed up by Guardiola – before seemingly falling off the face of the earth.

The fast wide-man played regularly at the start of the 2011-12 season, even providing a hat-trick of assists in a Champions League game against BATE Borisov.

A serious knee injury hampered his progress the following year, and a disappointing loan spell at Ajax followed.

He never managed to recapture the magic of his early months at Barca and has since represented Deportivo, Bursaspor, Granada, Hapoel Beersheba, Sagan Tosu and Vegalta Sendai.

    Cuenca was a regular fixture in the 2011-12 season


Cuenca was a regular fixture in the 2011-12 seasonCredit: Getty Images – Getty

Gay Assulin

So-called football aficionados were convinced Gai would be the next big thing when, aged 16, he signed his first professional contract with Barcelona in 2007.

Even at that tender age, he was a regular in Guardiola’s all-conquering Barca B side – the kind of pottery striker long associated with the famed Catalan club.

When Pep stepped in to take on the heavy lifting, Gai was tipped for first-team action.

It was Pedro, however, who made the step on the wing – with Gai limited to just 56 minutes of a Copa del Rey draw with Cultural Leonesa in 2009.

Having had a difficult relationship with then-Barca B boss Luis Enrique, Gai turned down a new contract in 2010 – joining Manchester City instead.

However, he also failed to qualify for the Etihad and is now a freelancer – surprisingly, he never added to his lonely international cap earned as a wonderkid in 2008.

    Gai Assulin was once in a rush for greatness but only played once for Barca


Gai Assulin was once in a rush for greatness but only played once for BarcaCredit: PA:Empics Sport

Jonathan Soriano

Soriano was an odd case from the start.

He signed specifically for Barcelona’s B team at the age of 24 from rivals Espanyol – dropping two divisions in the process.

The Spaniard went on to score as prolifically as any of the club’s reserve team forwards – netting 39 goals in 51 appearances.

Those exploits earned him just one first-team call-up, playing the final five minutes of that same Copa del Rey draw against Cultural Leonesa in which Gai Assulin featured.

His unusual career took another turn in 2012, when he finally stepped out of Barca’s reserves and into the Austrian spotlight, scoring 174 goals in just 203 appearances for Red Bull Salzburg.

He then enjoyed two prolific seasons in China with Beijing Gouan, before moving to Al Hilal in 2018.

Soriano returned to Catalonia, reporting for Girona aged 34 until his retirement last season.

    Swapped La Liga for Barca reserves at 24


Swapped La Liga for Barca reserves at 24Credit: AFP

Adama Traore

Spotted playing for his home side as an eight-year-old in the Catalan town of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat, Adama was an extraordinary talent who sparked a lot of excitement at La Masia.

He was thrust into the first team as a 17-year-old in 2013, playing back-to-back games against Granada and Ajax… before disappearing from the fold.

Traore returned briefly for two Copa del Rey assignments the following season – but soon left under a cloud – frustrated by his lack of reward for his outstanding performance in Barcelona’s B team.

He left for Aston Villa in 2015 but only really started to realize his potential under the unlikely tutelage of Tony Pulis at Middlesbrough.

Now 26, Traore is back at Barcelona on loan – but recent reports suggest he could be back at Wolves after failing to impress Xavi.

    Adama presented for Barcelona at the age of 17


Adama presented for Barcelona at the age of 17Credit: Getty Images – Getty

Marc Muniesa

Considering the Spaniard’s lack of impact at Stoke City between 2013 and 2018, it’s hard to believe Marc Muniesa is a Champions League winner.

The 30-year-old picked up a winners’ medal despite not appearing at all in the run up to their 2009 triumph over Manchester United in Rome, due to being an unused substitute in the final.

Muniesa had actually received a red card on his first-team debut four days prior.

Like Ibrahim Afellay and Bojan, he swapped Barcelona for the Potteries after three more appearances – but his opportunities for Mark Hughes’ side were limited.

The most league appearances he made in a season was 19 in 2014-15 – and after a spell at Girona, Muniesa now plays for Al-Arabi in the Qatari Stars League.

    Muniesa is one of football's lesser-known Champions League winners


Muniesa is one of football’s lesser-known Champions League winnersCredit: Getty Images – Getty

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