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Later this month, FC Barcelona travel to England to face Manchester City in the Champions League. And England might be the birthplace of modern football, but it’s also a place where Barça are very much in fashion. A staggering number of former players are now at clubs in the the Premiership or the the second-tier Championship, the vast majority of whom were products of Barça's own academy. We're pretty sure a squad like the one below would be a serious contender for silverware.
Victor Valdés (Manchester United)
With six Ligas and three Champions League titles, Valdés is one of the most successful goalkeepers of all time and holds the record for the most appearances in goal for the Barça first team. After two decades at the club, he announced his departure midway through last season. Following recovery from a cruciate ligament injury, he has recently reunited with former manager Louis Van Gaal at Old Trafford.
Héctor Bellerín (Arsenal)
Originally a product of the Barça youth system, Bellerín moved to the Arsenal academy in 2011, where he was given his first professional contract two years later. He spent his first season on loan to Watford, but has since been recalled to Arsenal, and despite struggling to win a place in Arsene Wenger’s team, the right-back did make his Champions League debut against Borussia Dortmund last September.
Marc Muniesa (Stoke City)
The central defender and sometimes left-back became Barça’s second youngest debutant of all time in May 2009, but for the next four years he played most of his football with the B team. In July 2013, he went to Stoke on a free transfer. He’s a popular player in the Potteries and whenever Mark Hughes, a former FCB man himself, has called on his services, Muniesa has made a strong case for a more regular place in the starting line-up.
Damià Abella (Middlesbrough)
Ten years have passed since the right-back made his Barça first team debut against Athletic Bilbao in 2004. He made a further eight Liga appearances but ended up successfully plying his trade with Racing Santander, Betis and Osasuna before landing at Championship side Middlesbrough last summer. Sadly, a long-term knee injury has kept him side-lined since the start of the season.
Ignasi Miquel (Norwich City)
The centre/left back was at La Masia for five years before being transferred to Catalan lower league club Cornellà. He then got picked up by Arsenal at the age of 15, where he was soon captaining the reserves and getting the occasional run-out in the first team too. After a spell on loan at Leicester, he was sold to Championship side Norwich at the start of this season.
Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
The Basque midfielder came up through the Barça youth ranks but never made it into the first team. Instead, he had spells at PSG (loan), Rangers and Real Sociedad before spending six hugely successful seasons starring for Everton. He was signed by Arsenal in 2011, where he has continued to flourish and is now the first team captain. He’s just signed an extension to his contract, but will miss the next three months or so of the season with an ankle injury.[[DES_1]]
Cesc Fàbregas (Chelsea)
The attacking midfielder started out at La Masia but at the age of 16 joined the Arsenal academy. He grew into one of the biggest stars in the Premiership, and after a long will-he-won’t-he saga, the World Cup winner finally returned to FC Barcelona in 2011, joining the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets in a formidable midfield. After three seasons back in his native Catalonia, he returned to London, this time to Chelsea, where he is an automatic first team choice under José Mourinho.
Yaya Touré (Manchester City)
Signed from Monaco in 2007, the Ivorian was a huge success in his three years at Barça, after which many fans were sorry to see him leave for Manchester City. He’s idolised at the Etihad, where he was voted Player of the Year last season, and has also won the last three editions of the African Player of the Year Award. He’s scoring goals too – averaging almost one every three games.
Andrea Orlandi (Blackpool)
Although Orlandi was born in Barcelona, he started out at the Alavés academy in the Basque Country. From 2003 to 2006, he played on loan for Barça B, making just one official first team appearance against Athletic Bilbao in May 2006. After successful spells at Swansea and Brighton, he is now at Blackpool in the Championship, where he has been the second most used midfielder of the campaign so far.
Alex Song (West Ham)
The Cameroonian is still an FC Barcelona player, but he’s spending this season on loan to the Hammers. Of course, he is no stranger to London, where he spent several seasons at Arsenal (plus a short period on loan to Charlton). He recently announced his retirement from international football, preferring to concentrate on his club career, and therefore did not go to the African Cup of Nations.
Jordi Gómez (Sunderland)
Although Gómez was a product of the FCB academy, he ended up making his professional debut with city rivals Espanyol. He went on loan to Swansea City, and then followed Catalan manager Roberto Martínez to Wigan Athletic. He saw out his contract despite Wigan being relegated, but at the end of last season moved to Sunderland, where he’s a permanent fixture in the first eleven.
Jon Toral (Brentford)
Toral and Sergi Samper were an outstanding midfield pairing in the Barça youth teams, but the former left for Arsenal when he was just sixteen. Last summer Arsene Wenger played the Catalan in a couple of preseason friendlies with the first team before deciding it would be better for him to go on loan to Championship club Brentford, where his performances have confirmed that he oozes potential.
Alexis Sánchez (Arsenal)
After catching the world’s eye with his performances at Udinese, Sánchez became the first Chilean to play for FC Barcelona in 2011. He was soon being regarded as one of the best strikers in world football, but even so was not guaranteed a regular start in Barça’s star-studded forward line. He left for Arsenal last summer, where he is currently the fourth highest scorer in the Premiership with twelve goals.
Bojan Krkić (Stoke City)
A product of La Masia, although Bojan never quite managed to get a regular place in the Barça first team, he still made over one hundred official appearances for the club. The last three years have been an unsettled time for him. He left for Roma, but after one season was loaned out to AC Milan. Then he returned to Barça only to be loaned out again, this time to Ajax. But at Stoke City this season he finally seems to be living up to his true potential.
Eiður Guðjohnsen (Bolton Wanderers)
After a three-year spell at Barça, where he became the first Icelander to win the Champions League, Guðjohnsen has not played at any club for more than a season, with spells in France, England, Greece and Belgium. Last summer he returned to Championship side Bolton, the same club he left to join Chelsea fourteen year ago, and where he made 59 appearances and scored 19 goals.
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