La Masia. No two words are more feted in the in the nurturing of football prodigies, and Barcelona's esteemed academy has provided the world with some of the finest players the game has ever seen.

Count among La Masia's alumni modern greats Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, alongside former heroes Pep Guardiola and Guillermo Amor, and it is clear this is a footballing school categorised by success.

So deep does the depth of talent run at the Catalonia base, that some players are able to rise to prominence away from Barcelona, without having graduated through the club's structure.

Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique both left before making their mark, instead choosing to see out their formative years in England, but the irresistible allure of Barcelona proved too much for both players.

Jordi Alba, one of the star's of Spain's triumphant Euro 2012 campaign, is the latest player to have been awarded a return to the club that initially showed faith in him, and the former Valencia defender is unlikely to be the last.

Despite the respective departures of Fabregas and Pique, Barcelona's schooling can still be felt in English football, with a number of players at Premier League clubs retaining La Masia connections.

GMF takes a closer look at five players plying their trade in England who could follow in the footsteps of Fabregas, Pique and Alba and, eventually, head back to the Nou Camp to further their careers…

Oriol Romeu - Chelsea

Romeu left Catalonia for London last summer, joining Chelsea on a four-year contract after the Blues agreed a fee of €5 million to bring the midfielder to Stamford Bridge.

The 20-year-old had made only two appearances for Pep Guardiola's first-team during his time with Barcelona, but was a prominent figure for Barca B over the course of three seasons.

Romeu made 22 appearances in his first season with Chelsea, including 11 Premier League starts, and his assured performances at the heart of the midfield led to suggestions Barcelona may explore the option of bringing him back to the Nou Camp.

The terms of Romeu's deal specify that Barcelona are able to buy him back this summer for €10 million or in 2013 for €15 million, and reports suggest this option may be taken up during the current transfer window.
 


Oriol Romeu. (©GettyImages)


Ignasi Miquel - Arsenal

Miquel was unable to make a mark of note during his time among Barcelona's youth ranks; leaving the club for UE Cornellà when he was just 12, before joining Arsenal four years later.

Now 19 and with a burgeoning reputation, Miquel was an ever-present in the Spain side that won the Under-19 European Championship last summer, and is now a reported target for Barca.

Miquel is most adept at operating as a centre-back, but was required to play on the left of defence for Arsene Wenger's first-team last season in the midst of an injury crisis.

Although reports claim Barcelona are considering a £300,000 bid for the young Spaniard, his immediate future is more likely to be with Brighton, where he is expected to go on loan.

Iago Falque - Tottenham Hotspur

Falque initially began his career on the books of Real Madrid, but left after only one season to join the ranks of La Masia, where he spent seven years.

The 22-year-old made one appearance for Barcelona B, scoring on his debut, before becoming involved in a transfer battle, from which Juventus emerged victorious.

Falque's move to Turin entitled Barca to €2.5 million in compensation, but the young attacker failed to make his mark at the club, or on loan spells with Villarreal and Bari, and eventually transferred to Tottenham in January.

After joining Spurs, Falque spent a spell on loan with Southampton, and has yet to show any reason why Barcelona would be interested in taking him back in a hurry.
 



Iganasi Miquel. (©GettyImages)


Ruben Rochina - Blackburn Rovers

Steve Kean pulled off an unexpected coup when he managed to acquire the signature of Rochina from Barcelona in January 2011, with the striker having made 27 appearances for Barca B.

Less than two weeks after joining Rovers, Rochina scored twice for the reserves against Newcastle, but had to wait until April before making his league debut, and a further four months for his first senior goal.

Rochina was unable to flourish last season as Blackburn were relegated from the Premier League, but possesses undoubted potential and may benefit from a season in the Championship.

A return to Barcelona is some way off for the 21-year-old at the present time, but his former club are likely to be monitoring his progress at Ewood Park.

Daniel Pacheco - Liverpool

Having spent four years at La Masia, Pacheco joined Liverpool as a teenager in 2007 and quickly earned the nickname 'The Assassin' from his team-mates for his goalscoring ability.

Despite the desperation of Reds supporters for the forward to be given a crack at first-team football, he has made only five substitute appearances in the Premier League since making his debut in 2009.

A loan spell at Norwich has since followed, while last season he spent time with Rayo Vallecano after a bizarre deal involving Atletico Madrid, but failed to make an impact of note.

The 21-year-old seemingly faces an uncertain future, and may not be afforded the opportunity to prove he is of Barcelona class while still in the red of Liverpool.

Topics:
#Europa League
#Tottenham Hotspur
#Arsenal
#Chelsea
#Premier League
#Liverpool
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