Revisiting Barcelona’s 8 La Masia debutants from 2008-2009
In 2008, Pep Guardiola took charge of Barcelona and promoted eight players from the B team he had managed the previous season – but where are they now?
In his first summer in charge, Guardiola was busy in the transfer market, selling Ronaldinho, Deco, Edmilson, Gianluca Zambrotta and Lilian Thuram, while bringing in future stars Dani Alves, Seydou Keita… and Alexander Hleb.
But it wasn’t just Guardiola’s signing that helped make Barcelona a side worthy of winning their first treble, it was his knowledge of La Masia and B-team players…
With Victor Valdes well established as Barca’s No.1, and newly signed Jose Pinto and Jorquera also ahead of him, Oier was always going to struggle for playing time.
His big break came in the Copa Del Ray, where he came on as a substitute in a 2-2 home draw against CD Alcoyano, but his next and final appearance didn’t come until over a year later. . Barca had already won the league title by keeping goal in a 2-1 defeat at Mallorca.
Oier, once capped by Spain at under-19 level, made 119 appearances for Barca B but left Catalonia for Granada in 2014. He was then loaned to Real Sociedad a year later and loaned out again in 2017 at Levante, which he continued. definitely join.
The 32-year-old is now back at Barcelona with city rivals Espanyol but is very much a substitute at the Estadi Cornella-El Prat and rarely appears.
Not only was Pique one of Guardiola’s summer signings, he was also a La Masia product. And the transfer proved not only Guardiola’s shrewdness in the transfer market, but also his absolute faith that Barcelona could develop the best players in the world.
Pique had been at Barcelona since 1997 but before he could sign a professional contract with his boyhood club, Manchester United moved in to take the promising teenager in 2004 with the promise of first-team football.
It turned out he made just 23 appearances in four seasons for United, thanks in large part to the central defensive duo of Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic, and in the summer of 2008 he was cleared to return to the Camp Nou for just £5million.
It turned out to be a masterstroke as Pique played 45 games in his debut season alone. Ironically, having not even made the bench for the 2008 Champions League final for United, Pique watched the 2009 final as Barca beat his former club 2-0.
The defender has made over 600 appearances for the club, winning eight La Liga titles, seven Copa Del Reys, three Champions Leagues, six Supacopa de Espana, three UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups. FIFA, without forgetting more than 100 Spanish selections, a World Cup and a European Championship.
It is safe to say that it can be considered a success.
READ: The ups and downs that took Pique from Man Utd pariah to Barca icon
Botia had to wait until the last match of the 2008-09 season for his first-team chance. Three days after Barcelona completed their historic treble, the team had to end the season away at Deportivo La Coruna, where Botia came on as a late substitute for Pique in a 2-2 draw.
That game turned out to be the centre-back’s only appearance before a loan spell at Sporting Gijon, which was made permanent in 2010.
He joined Sevilla in 2012, making 25 appearances in his first season, but spent the following year on loan at Elche before joining Olympiakos in 2014. Botia spent four years in Greece, winning three league titles , then joined Al-Hilal in 2018. The 33-year-old remains in Saudi Arabia today, rotating for Al Wehda.
Botia was so highly rated early in his career that Luis Milla called him up to represent Spain at the 2012 Olympics alongside Euro 2012 winners Juan Mata, Javi Martinez and Jordi Alba.
Spain were knocked out of the tournament in the group stage after losing to Japan and Honduras, while only managing a 0-0 draw with Morocco. Luis Milla has been sacked and Botia hasn’t appeared for Spain at any level since.
Despite being one of 10 La Masia graduates in the matchday squad for the 2009 Champions League final, Muniesa’s career at Barcelona didn’t go as planned.
He was just 17 years and 56 days old when he made his debut in the 2008-09 season against Osasuna, but that was just four appearances for the club.
He represented Spain at U17 and U21 level, winning the 2013 European Under-21 Championship, and two weeks after that success joined Premier League side Stoke City on a free transfer.
Muniesa was mostly used as a substitute player, however, and made just 67 appearances in four seasons for England before joining newly-promoted La Liga side Girona for the 2017-18 season. He made his move permanent the following summer and is now settling for Qatari side Al-Arabi.
Remarkably, after all that, he is still only 30 years old.
Day 23: No, just kidding. Here is Marc Muniesa against Burnley. I’m going to cry. pic.twitter.com/6rrs0H0Fhd
— Wizards of Drivel (@wizardsofdrivel) April 10, 2018
Guardiola’s insistence on ball retention saw Sanchez, a central midfielder, promoted to the first team to replace the right-back.
Like Oier, Sanchez made his first appearance for Barcelona in a 2-2 draw with CD Alcoyano. He then made a further seven appearances for the first team in the treble season, but due to the emergence of Sergio Busquets and Thiago, he struggled to truly establish himself in the team.
He spent the majority of the season with the B team, and spent the next two years on loan at Xerez and Getafe before canceling his contract in 2011 to join Neuchâtel Xamax in Switzerland. He spent just a year there before returning to Catalonia to join Espanyol, where he made 270 appearances in eight years.
Sanchez, 34, has also represented Catalonia three times, and is now back there, having signed for Girona earlier this year after a short stint in Australia with Western United.
Busquets had been a vital player for Guardiola when he coached the B team, helping them secure promotion to the Third Division as champions.
And at the start of his first season in charge of the first team, on September 13, 2008, Guardiola offered Busquets his La Liga debut at Camp Nou.
Despite a disappointing 1-1 draw with Racing Santander, his confidence in the midfield was such that Guardiola handed him 41 appearances in his debut campaign, including a start in the Champions League final win over Manchester United .
Since then, Busquets has managed over 600 first-team appearances. Like Pique, he’s won it all, most of them multiple times.
A member of Spain’s European U17 Championship-winning side in 2008, Thiago was another of Guardiola’s successful graduates at La Masia in the 2008-09 season.
He made his first-team debut when he was just 18, coming on as a substitute in a 2-1 defeat at Mallorca, and despite it being his only appearance of the season, Guardiola has clearly saw a future for him.
However, despite his obvious quality, breaking up the trio of Busquets, Xavi and Iniesta proved too much of a task for Thiago at club and international level, making just 101 appearances in five seasons for Barca and winning only four caps for Spain between 2011 and 2013, although he won the U21 European Championship twice during that time.
In 2013, his lack of playing time at Camp Nou saw Thiago leave to join Bayern Munich under their new manager – a certain Pep Guardiola.
In three seasons together in Germany, the pair have won all three Bundesliga titles, with Thiago adding four more to his collection (plus a Champions League in a second treble of his career) since Guardiola’s departure, racking up more than 200 appearances for Bayern.
These days, he’s chasing the treble as a key member of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool squad. An absolute trophy monster.
READ: Liverpool’s incredible record with Thiago and Fabinho starting together
Torres had played under Guardiola for the B team and made his first-team debut at the end of Guardiola’s first season in charge, in that loss to Mallorca, but only made one more appearance before being sold to Malaga that summer.
He has since had a nomadic career, playing for Levante, Getafe, Betis, Sporting Gijon, Perth Glory, Elche, El-Arabi and – well, phew – CD Lugo, Segunda Division outfit.
By Chris O’Byrne
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