Barcelona’s Lost Generation: 12 La Masia Stars Who Didn’t Make the Grade at Camp Nou

Barcelona’s fabled La Masia academy was supposed to provide world class first team stars forever more after as many as many as 11 of the 18 selected for the victorious 2011 Champions League final against Manchester United had emerged from its training pitches.

But with that generation either gone, going or simply ageing, there has been much talk about where the next crop of talent is coming from.

Barça haven’t welcomed new first team stars off the production line and have been increasingly forced to turn to the transfer market in a bid to stay on top. So much so, in fact, that with Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta and others rested, the team which drew 0-0 with Celta Vigo on Tuesday night didn’t feature a single home grown La Masia player, the first time since 2002.

With the future uncertain, here’s a look back at Barça’s lost generation and 12 academy graduates who didn’t make the grade at Camp Nou…

12. Victor Vazquez

Victor Vazquez was part of the same Barça youth team as Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique and Cesc Fabregas at La Masia in the early 2000s after joining the club at the age of 11.

But while the others progressed to first team level at Camp Nou and elsewhere – Pique and Fabregas joined Manchester United and Arsenal respectively – Vazquez was left to climb the ranks with Barça B, playing close to 120 games for the reserves.

The midfielder played three times for first team, but wound up signing for Club Brugge in 2011. He then moved to Mexico and now, aged 31, has found his feet with Toronto FC in MLS.  

11. Sandro Ramirez

Sandro Ramirez was deemed not good enough for Barça when he was released in the summer of 2016, having only been kept for as long as he was because of the club’s transfer embargo and inability to sign other players.

The striker had been brought in at the age of 14 from his home in the Canary Islands and went on to play 12 times in all competitions during the 2014/15 treble season.

Sandro, still only 22 years of age, looked as though he had found his feet in La Liga after scoring 14 goals for Malaga in 2016/17, but a move to Everton proved a failure and his career has well and truly stalled as a fringe player on loan at Sevilla.  

10. Adama Traore

Catalan-born winger Adama Traore was an electric talent when he was progressing through the academy ranks at La Masia, making his senior debut as a 17-year-old just six weeks after playing his first game for Barça B.

That first team bow, a game against Granada in which he replaced Neymar, was one of only four games he played in two seasons, before a modest €10m sale to Premier League side Aston Villa in 2015.

22-year-old Adama is now playing regular first team football, but it is with Middlesbrough in England’s second tier and is a far cry from the elite surroundings at Camp Nou.  

9. Jonathan dos Santos

The younger brother of Giovani, another La Masia player who didn’t make the grade at Barça, Jonathan dos Santos had been brought to the club at the age of 12 after catching the eye of scouts during a youth tournament in France.

The Mexican midfielder ultimately went on to play first team games in five consecutive seasons between 2009 and 2014, but never more than eight in a single campaign.

Dos Santos then played over 120 games for Villarreal, but can now be found in Major League Soccer with Los Angeles Galaxy. He is 27 years old and is likely to be at the 2018 World Cup. 

8. Carles Planas

A Barça B captain and sharing the forename of a Camp Nou legend, Carles Planas’ future prospects looked bright when he emerged on the scene after graduating from La Masia.

Born in the Catalan town of Sant Celoni, he first joined the academy ranks at the age of nine and became a regular for the second string by the time he was 20.

Planas played twice for the first team in the 2012/13 campaign, but returned to the B team and was eventually let go. He joined Celta Vigo and is now a fringe player at Girona, aged 27.

7. Jordi Masip

Home-grown goalkeeper Jordi Masip emerged from Barça B just as Victor Valdes’ Camp Nou career was drawing to a close. But instead of being called up to replace the experienced stopper, he became third choice after Claudio Bravo and Marc-Andre ter Stegen were signed.

A Barça player since the age of 15 when he joined La Masia, Masip, now 29, played ultimately just four first team games in three seasons after being starved off opportunities.

He left as a free agent in 2017, linking up with Real Valladolid to play in the Segunda Division.  

6. Jean Marie Dongou

Cameroonian talent Jean Marie Dongou was brought to Barça’s attention by the Samuel Eto’o Foundation at the age of 13 and was playing for the club’s B side from just 16.

Dongou’s first team debut came in the Copa del Rey in December 2013 and he had also played in both the Champions League and La Liga just a few weeks later, his only senior appearances. 

The diminutive attacker was subsequently released three months shy of his 21st birthday in early 2016 and joined Real Zaragoza, before moving to Gimnastic in the Spanish second tier.  

5. Wilfrid Kaptoum

Wilfrid Kaptoum was another youngster from Cameroon unearthed by the Samuel Eto’o Foundation, making the switch from Africa to Spain in 2008 when he was just 12 years old.

Strong performances for Barça B during the 2015/16 season earned him an opportunity in the first team, even scoring a goal in the Copa del Rey against Valencia that helped the team set a new club record of 29 games unbeaten.

Still only 21 years of age even now, central midfielder Kaptoum was released in January 2018 after recovering from a knee injury. He is now starting afresh with Real Betis’ reserve side.  

4. Isaac Cuenca

Winger Isaac Cuenca has become something of a journeyman since being released by Barça in 2014, three years after being called up to the first team for pre-season at the age of 20.

The player went on to make his senior debut a three months later and actually played a total of 30 games in La Liga, the Copa del Rey and Champions League in the 2011/12 season. But a subsequent injury ravaged loan at Ajax in 2012/13 was not a success.

Cuenca, who had first joined Barça at the age of 11, didn’t play at all the following season and joined Deportivo La Coruna upon his release. Now 26, he is with Hapoel Be’er Sheva in Israel.

3. Marti Riverola

Having been part of the club since the age of eight, Barcelona native Marti Riverola made his first team debut in December 2011 following a positive loan spell with Vitesse Arnhem in the Netherlands the previous season.

The midfielder had starred for Barça B, but his senior bow at 20 years old, a Champions League game against BATE Borisov, proved to be both the beginning and the end.

Riverola joined Bologna as a free agent only a few months later in 2012 and is currently playing for Reggiana in Serie C, the third tier of Italian football, aged 27.  

2. Marc Muniesa

Marc Muniesa was touted by many to eventually replace Carles Puyol at the heart of the Barça defence after making his first team debut in 2009 less than two months after his 17th birthday.

He had been with the club since the age of 10 and his first senior game actually came before his debut for Barça B. But a 2012 knee injury appeared to wreck his chances and he was released a year later, at which point the defender joined Stoke.

Muniesa, now 26, was never a regular for the English club and was sent on loan to newly promoted Girona for the 2017/18 campaign, spending a lot of time on the bench.  

1. Sergi Samper

Sergi Samper, who was long billed as ‘The Next Xavi’ and also drew comparisons with Pep Guardiola, was being linked with a move to Manchester City in 2012 when he had only just turned 17. 

Born in Barcelona, the local player turned out over 100 times for Barça B from 2013 to 2016, featuring in a handful of first team games during that period as well.

Samper signed a new contract at Camp Nou as recently as 2016, but has since been loaned to Granada and Las Palmas rather than make the permanent first team breakthrough back home. His last loan was cut short through injury and, at the age of 23, his Barça career looks over.