Barcelona wonderkids who didn’t make the grade at La Masia, including PSG star Icardi and ex-Spurs ace dos Santos – The Sun

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

Barcelona's fabled academy boasts an enormous list of talented graduates to have honed their skills in Catalonia.

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

Naturally, given its stellar reputation – players making waves within the academy quickly gather the excitement of fans and coaches alike.

But what happens to those that don't quite make the cut?

Is it all downhill from La Masia failure? Or can things still be salvaged?

We at SunSport, take a look.

Giovani dos Santos

Given that he made 37 first-team appearances for Barcelona, it seems harsh to include the Mexican as an outright failure.

But things subsequently went badly wrong.

Touted as "the next Ronaldinho", Dos Santos waved farewell to the Camp Nou with a hat-trick against Real Murcia in his final match before signing for Tottenham in 2008.

Within a year, however, he had been farmed out to Ipswich on loan, a humiliatingly quick descent for the fleet-footed attacker.

Reportedly carried out of Spurs' boozy Christmas bash in 2009 unable to stand, Dos Santos was never fancied by new boss Harry Redknapp – and he now plies his trade at LA Galaxy, still only 30-years-old.

Oriol Romeu

The 6ft midfielder plays in the classic mould of a La Masia midfielder, unflustered 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 all of nine minutes, featuring in a 0-0 draw with Deportivo La Coruna in May 2011.

At 28, Romeu now enjoys regular Premier League football at Southampton, via stints at Chelsea, Stuttgart and Valencia.

Jeffren Suarez

When little-known academy star Jeffren rounded off Barcelona's humiliating 5-0 romp of Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid in stoppage time – it appeared the winger had the world at his feet.

Having floated around the first-team for five years, Jeffren has finally achieved the pinnacle, scoring in a victory over their fiercest rivals.

But things fizzled out spectacularly, as he was only to make six more LaLiga appearances for Pep Guardiola's men.

Injury subsequently wrecked his Barca chances, paving the way for a nomadic career – since turning out for Sporting Lisbon, Eupen, Grasshoppers and AEK Larnaca.

At 32, he now plays for Slaven Belupo in Croatia.

Mauro Icardi

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

The Argentine was bizarrely under-utilised by Barcelona's academy, never even coming close to the first-team picture.

He departed for Sampdoria, spending a season at the Genoan club before transferring to Inter Milan in 2013.

A goal-laden, controversial spell followed, in which the striker fired 124 goals in 219 matches, became captain – and outraged the ultras.

The 27-year-old has spent this season on loan at Paris Saint-Germain.

Isaac Cuenca

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

The pacey wide-man featured regularly at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, even providing a hat-trick of assists in a Champions League match against BATE Borisov.

A serious knee injury curtailed his progress the following year, and an underwhelming loan spell at Ajax followed.

He failed to ever recapture the magic of his initial months at Barca, and has since represented Deportivo, Bursaspor, Granada, Hapoel Beer Sheva, Sagan Tosu and Vegalta Sendai.

Gai Assulin

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

At even that tender age, he was a regular for Guardiola's all-conquering Barca B squad – the kind of pottering attacker long-associated with the famous Catalan club.

When Pep stepped up to take the big job, Gai was tipped for first-team action.

But it was Pedro, however, that made the step up on the wing – with Gai limited to just 56 minutes of a Copa del Rey tie 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 – instead joining Manchester City.

He also failed to make the grade at the Etihad, however, and now plays in his native Israel – astonishingly having failed to ever add to his solitary international cap earned as a wonderkid in 2008.

Jonathan Soriano

Soriano was a bizarre case from the get-go.

He signed specifically for Barcelona's B team as a 24-year-old from rivals Espanyol – dropping down two divisions in the process.

The Spaniard then scored as prolifically as any striker has for the club's reserve side – bagging 39 goals in 51 appearances.

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

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

He then had a prolific couple of seasons in China with Beijing Gouan, before transferring to Al Hilal in 2018.

Soriano has now returned to Catalonia, turning out for Girona as a 34-year-old – for whom he has scored three goals in 12 games.

Adama Traore

Spotted playing for his local side as an eight-year-old in the Catalan town of L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, Adama was an extraordinary talent that sparked much excitement at La Masia.

He was thrust into first-team action as a skinny 17-year-old in 2013, featuring in consecutive matches against Granada and Ajax… before disappearing from the fold.

Traore returned briefly for two Copa del Rey assignments the following season – but he soon left under a cloud – frustrated at his lack of reward for outstanding performances in Barcelona's B squad.

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

At 24, Traore is now a bona fide star for Wolves in the Premier League.

Marc Muniesa

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

The now-28-year-old collected a winners' medal despite not actually featuring at all during the run to their 2009 triumph over Manchester United in Rome, by virtue of the fact that he was an unused substitute in the final.

Muniesa had actually been red carded on his first-team debut four days previously.

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

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

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