Messi, Ronaldinho, Xavi: Who is Barcelona's best ever player?

Since the return of club legend Xavi Hernandez as boss in November, Barcelona have seen a dramatic upturn in their form.

Taking over from previous manager Ronald Koeman with morale around Camp Nou at rock bottom, Xavi has masterminded a significant resurgence at Barca, who are unbeaten in La Liga since December and now sit third in the league table.

The highlight of the former Spanish international midfielder’s reign so far, though, undoubtedly came this past weekend as La Blaugrana humiliated fierce rivals Real Madrid 4-0 at the Bernabeu.

Such a result would have been unthinkable during the disastrous reign of Koeman just six months earlier and is a clear indication that Xavi is on his way to restoring Barcelona’s reputation as one of the premier clubs in European football.

Nowhere is the sheer size of Barcelona’s legacy better illustrated than by looking back at the many icons of the game that have represented the club down the years.

In recognition of the recent El Clasico showdown, FourFourTwo took on the sizable task of ranking the 50 greatest players to step foot on to the pitch for Barcelona – and you can check out the seriously impressive list of legends below.

The 50 greatest Barcelona players of all time (as ranked by FourFourTwo)

BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 03: Yaya Toure of Barcelona runs with the ball during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Almeria at the Camp Nou Stadium on October 3, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won the match 1-0. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

50. Yaya Toure

49. Abelardo

48. Marc-Andre Ter Stegen

47. Giovanni van Bronckhorst

46. Gary Lineker

45. Javier Mascherano

44. Lilian Thuram

43. Eric Abidal

42. Rafael Marquez

41. Jordi Alba

40. Johan Neeskens

39. Paulino Alcantara

38. Hristo Stoichkov

37. Victor Valdes

36. Migueli

35. Patrick Kluivert

34. Ivan Rakitic

33. Sandor Kocsis

BARCELONA, SPAIN – APRIL 22: Thierry Henry of Barcelona in action during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Sevilla at the Camp Nou Stadium on April 22, 2009 in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona won the match 4-0. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

32. Thierry Henry

31. Josep Escola

30. Gheorghe Hagi

29. Pedro

28. Carles Rexach

27. David Villa

26. Evaristo de Macedo

25. Romario

BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 06: Luis Suarez of FC Barcelona cel during the Liga match between FC Barcelona and Sevilla FC at Camp Nou on October 06, 2019 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Aitor Alcalde/Getty Images)

24. Luis Suarez (Uruguayan striker)

23. Dani Alves

22. Neymar

21. Luis Suarez (Spanish midfielder, Barca’s first-ever Ballon d’Or winner)

20. Josep Samitier

20 Dec 2000: Josep Guardiola of Barcelona in action during the Primera Liga match between Barcelona and Alaves played at the Nou Camp in Barcelona. Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK/ALLSPORT

19. Pep Guardiola

18. Rivaldo 

17. Gerard Pique

16. Luis Enrique

15. Laszlo Kubala

14. Andoni Zubizarreta

24 Apr 1997: Ronaldo of Barcelona in action during the European Cup Winners Cup Semi-Final second leg against Fiorentina at the Stadio Comunale in Florence, Italy. Barcelona won 2-0 on the night and 3-1 on aggregate. \ Mandatory Credit: Shaun Botterill/Allsport

13. Ronaldo Nazario

12. Carles Puyol

11. Sergio Busquets

10. Michael Laudrup

9. Cesar Rodriguez

BARCELONA, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 27: Coach Ronald Koeman of Valencia celebrates his team’s goal during the Copa del Rey semi final match between Barcelona and Valencia at the Camp Nou Stadium on February 27, 2008 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

8. Ronald Koeman

7. Samuel Eto’o

6. Diego Maradona

BARCELONA, SPAIN – OCTOBER 30: Ronaldinho of FC Barcelona celebrates his goal during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and Real Sociedad, on October 30, 2005 at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Luis Bagu/Getty Images)

5. Ronaldinho

4. Johan Cruyff

3. Andres Iniesta

2. Xavi

1. Lionel Messi

BARCELONA, SPAIN – MAY 08: Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga Santander match between FC Barcelona and Atletico de Madrid at Camp Nou on May 08, 2021 in Barcelona, Spain. Sporting stadiums around Spain remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Scorer of 672 goals in 778 games and owner of pretty much every available club record, it was almost inevitable that seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Messi would head this list.

Directly beneath the Argentinan superstar in this countdown, though, is current boss Xavi.

Celebrated for his imperious ability in the centre of the park, the Spaniard just pips his former Camp Nou midfield colleague Andres Iniesta to the runners-up spot.

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The overall strength of the players featured in the countdown is underlined by the fact that Diego Maradona can only rank sixth, while Ronaldo Nazario can’t even crack the top 10.

The list features no less than eight men who went on to manage Barca after hanging up their boots, of which Xavi ranks the highest.

He won’t topple Messi as Barcelona’s greatest ever player, but if Xavi can continue to produce results from the dugout, then he could one day feature in the conversation as their best ever manager. He’s certainly made a sensational start to life in the role.

Arsenal need respect! (Via The Football Terrace)

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