Tactical Insights

Where are they now? The 7 players Barcelona let go alongside Lionel Messi in 2021


Lionel Messi is undoubtedly Barcelona’s greatest-ever player, so he left massive shoes to fill when he left for PSG in the summer of 2021. But what about the seven other players that left the Camp Nou that summer?

The legendary Argentinian notched 672 goals and 303 assists in 778 appearances for the Catalan club, with whom he lifted 35 trophies. The club’s financial difficulties left them unable to renew his contract, forcing him to move on to PSG.

“It’s time to say goodbye…it has been a long time, a whole life,” he said, breaking down in tears, at a goodbye press conference.

“I arrived here at 13 years of age and I cannot be more proud of what I have done and experienced in this city where I will surely return one day – that I have promised to my kids.”

We know all about what Messi has achieved since he left Catalonia, but what about the seven others who also waved goodbye that summer? We’ve checked in on what they’re up to today.

Note: we’re only talking players that permanently left the club, whether sold or left on a free transfer, as opposed to players sent out on loan, such as Antoine Griezmann. 

Emerson Royal

A weird one, this.

The Brazilian full-back left Atletico Mineiro in 2019 in a somehow-not-banned “joint financial operation” between Barca and Real Betis involving the two La Liga clubs paying towards the transfer fee to retain a percentage of his economic rights.

Sounds convoluted? Bear with us. Emerson made the vast majority of his appearances for Betis but then moved to Barcelona in 2021 after they took up their €7million option for his signature.

He made three appearances at the beginning of the 2021-22 campaign but was promptly sold to Tottenham, for a healthy profit, before the window closed.

Three years later he remains at Spurs, continuing to take up the old erratic Serge Aurier role in making their fans tear their hair out. He’s absent from Brazil’s Copa America squad this summer and has been strongly tipped to move elsewhere this summer.

Junior Firpo

What was it with Barcelona and erratic ex-Betis full-backs?

Having struggled to perform at the Camp Nou, Firpo signed for Leeds United in the summer of 2021.

Marcelo Bielsa’s side had finished in the top half of the Premier League the season prior, but his arrival coincided with a sharp downturn in form and back-to-back relegation battles that ultimately resulted in the club going back down to the Championship.

Firpo has struggled with injuries across his three years at Elland Road but kicked on to enjoy his best run of form for the club last season, albeit in the second tier.

The Dominican Republic international started their recent play-off final defeat to Southampton but his future in Yorkshire is in some doubt as he approaches the final year of his current contract. We could see him signing for a bottom-half La Liga side in the coming weeks.


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Jean-Clair Todibo

The young French defender had forged a reputation as a promising prospect at Toulouse, but he struggled for regular opportunities after signing for Barcelona in 2019.

Todibo made just four La Liga appearances and was loaned out three times before signing permanently with Nice a couple of years later.

In a more settled environment, the 24-year-old has really developed his game and is fulfilling his potential in Ligue 1. He helped Nice keep 15 clean sheets in 30 appearances and was well worth his first France caps.

Manchester United and Tottenham are said to be among the clubs interested in his services.

Carles Alena

As with so many La Masia graduates, there was hope in some quarters – if not quite expectation – that Alena could grow into a great player for his boyhood club.

But he never made it beyond a fringe player in the Ernesto Valverde era and wasn’t much fancied by Ronald Koeman.

After a decent half-season loan stint with Getafe, Alena signed for the club permanently in 2021. He’s still there three years on, having notched over a hundred La Liga appearances as a solid if unspectacular midfield.

Monchu

Another La Masia prodigy, Monchu made a solitary appearance for the senior team after three years after plugging away with Barca B.

He left the club when his contract expired in 2021, although Barcelona retained a 50% right to any future sale and buy-back option when he joined Granada.

The following year he joined second-tier Real Valladolid and remains there today, having helped them get promoted with a second-place Segunda placing last term.

Lionel Messi of Argentina kissed the World Cup trophy

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every trophy that Lionel Messi has won in his career?

Matheus Fernandes

Former Brazilian Under-20 midfielder Fernandes spent an eyebrow-raising year at Barcelona in 2020-21, having joined the club from Palmeiras.

He reportedly cost €7million but only made a solitary 17-minute Champions League cameo and had his contract terminated, allowing him to return to Palmeiras, in 2021.

We’re still not sure what that was all about. As for Fernandes, he remains on Palmeiras’ books but is currently out on loan at Red Bull Bragantino.

Juan Miranda

The left-back was part of that La Masia generation alongside Alena and Riqui Puig and also never quite made it. He only made one La Liga appearance and was loaned out a couple of times before joining hometown club Real Betis.

He’s since earned one cap for Spain and has played at a decent standard for Betis, prompting intermittent rumours of a return to Barcelona.





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