“I don’t want to play Barcelona, that would be too strange,” Dani Alves said ahead of the UEFA Champions League quarter-final draw. Sure enough, that’s exactly who his new club Juventus drew, meaning a couple of emotional nights in store for the Brazilian. It probably won’t help, but we turn back the clock to the first of Alves’s 391 appearances for Barça, a 4-0 win against Wisła Kraków in 2008, and see who lined up alongside him.
1 Pedro Rodríguez
This was a milestone match for Pedro too, the 21-year-old forward making his first Barcelona start. His real breakthrough came in 2009/10, though, when he surpassed Giovanni Silva’s 1997/98 club record by scoring in six competitions in a single season and also helped Spain lift the 2010 FIFA World Cup – two years later he added a EURO winners’ medal. He bagged 99 goals in 320 games for Barça before joining Chelsea in 2015. Now on course for the Premier League title.
2 Thierry Henry
Henry was only 22 when France were crowned European champions in 2000. He had signed for Arsenal from Juventus the previous year and went on to become the club’s all-time leading marksman with 228 goals. He left in 2007 and had stints with Barcelona and New York Red Bulls before a brief return to north London on loan. Currently works as a high-profile television pundit in England as well as assisting Belgium coach Roberto Martínez.
3 Andrés Iniesta
Scoring the winner in the 2010 World Cup final rubber-stamped Iniesta’s super-star status, but he had long been integral for club and country. Superb at UEFA EURO 2008, he was player of the tournament when Spain won UEFA EURO 2012. Above all, Iniesta has been an enduring presence for Barcelona, his elegance pivotal to their ‘tika-taka’ style, and alongside Xavi Hernández he was the heartbeat of an Azulgrana side that won three UEFA Champions Leagues. Now in his 15th season at the Camp Nou, he has 28 trophies and counting.
4 Xavi Hernández
A Barça midfield stalwart for 17 seasons, Xavi was instrumental for club and country as they came to dominate the sport. He was central to Spain’s victorious UEFA EURO 2008 and 2012 campaigns and ever-present as the Roja lifted the 2010 World Cup. In all, he amassed 25 trophies with the Blaugrana, the 2015 UEFA Champions League final against Juventus capping an illustrious Camp Nou career. It was his last game before joining al-Sadd in Qatar where, aged 37, he still plays.
5 Carles Puyol
The all-conquering Spain and Barcelona teams of the late 2000s/early 2010s were acclaimed for their slick, passing football. Yet there was also a steely element epitomised by Puyol. The shaggy-haired centre-back was the ultimate competitor, fighting for every challenge and inspiring those around him – fans called him ‘the Wall’. Barcelona captain for ten years, he lifted every trophy at club and international levels and retired in 2014. Today he is an agent with Marc Bartra and Bojan Krkić on his books, and plays a lot of padel (a mix between squash and tennis).
6 Víctor Valdés
Valdés became Barcelona’s undisputed No1 under Frank Rijkaard in 2003/04 and remained so until departing for Manchester United over a decade later – with 535 outings, he is sixth on the club’s all-time appearances list. With Spain, he had the misfortune of being the same age as Iker Casillas, having to wait until he was 28 to earn the first of 21 caps. A Belgian Cup winner with Standard Liège last term, he is currently first-choice at Middlesbrough.
7 Samuel Eto’o
Cameroon’s most decorated player, Eto’o won the UEFA Champions League with both Barça (twice) and Internazionale Milano, scoring in the 2006 and 2010 finals. After landing Olympic gold and the first of two Africa Cup of Nations titles, he made his name at Mallorca. He subsequently headed to Barcelona in 2004 and spent five years there, scoring 109 goals in 144 Liga games. He picked up three Spanish titles, later adding a Serie A crown with Inter, and he has since had stints in Russia and England. Now 36, he plies his trade with Turkish team Antalyaspor.
8 Seydou Keita
Keita was 28 when he arrived in Catalonia from Sevilla. The Mali midfielder, whose career began in France with Marseille, Lorient and Lens, was in and out of the starting XI over the next four seasons, yet the rotation policy served him well: reliability was his forte. He won 14 trophies with Barcelona before a lucrative 18-month stay in China. Spells at Valencia (where his uncle Salif played with distinction in the 1970s) and Roma followed, before last summer he went to Qatari outfit el-Jaish.
9 Rafael Márquez
The pony-tailed defender made 242 appearances in all competitions over seven seasons with Barcelona. Márquez became the first Mexican to win the UEFA Champions League, in 2006, and has represented his country more than 135 times, including at four World Cups. He left Barcelona for New York Red Bulls in 2010 and transferred to Club León in his homeland in 2012, subsequently returning to Europe with Verona in summer 2014. Now back at boyhood team Atlas.
10 Éric Abidal
A versatile, tactically aware defender, Abidal emerged at Monaco and Lille but it was a move to home-town club Lyon that really launched his career. He lifted the Ligue 1 title in each of his three seasons before joining Barcelona in 2007. He quickly settled, a cornerstone of Josep Guardiola’s team, before being diagnosed with a liver tumour in March 2011. He had surgery and, incredibly, started the UEFA Champions League victory over Manchester United two months later. Abidal had periods back at Monaco and Olympiacos before retiring in 2014. Today he runs a foundation raising funds and awareness for those undergoing medical care.
11 Dani Alves
The motor of the Sevilla side that rose from obscurity to claim back-to-back UEFA Cup titles in 2006 and 2007. The marauding right-back departed for Barcelona in 2008 where he collected six Liga titles, three UEFA Champions Leagues and four Copa del Reys. He is now 33 and, in his first campaign with Juventus, still key for club and country – becoming just the sixth Brazilian to reach 100 caps in March.
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