No fewer than three products of La Masia are currently plying their trade at Villarreal, namely Javier Espinosa, plus brothers Jonathan and Giovani Dos Santos, thus adding a distinct touch of Barça to Marcelino’s ‘Yellow Submarine’.
Espinosa joined the side this summer, and got his first taste of first team football in preseason friendlies against Swansea and Sassuolo, scoring a goal and looking particularly promising in the game with the Italians. Born in Toledo, near Madrid, he made his Barça debut against Espanyol B in 2009/10, the season the team won promotion to Division 2A. He was still officially assigned to the U18 team at the time, but continued to make sporadic appearances under current FCB first team manager Luis Enrique. Two season later, 2011/12, he was made a permanent member of Barça B, which by then was being managed by Eusebio Sacristán.
The Do Santos brothers, sons of former Brazilian star Zizinho, are a paradigmatic case. Both joined the Barça youth structure to later take separate paths towards professionalism before finally being reunited this season at Villarreal. Attacking midfielder Giovani made his FC Barcelona first team debut in a preseason match on 28 July 2006, in which he even managed to get on the scoresheet. He is most remembered for a brilliant hat-trick against Real Murcia in the 2007/08 league season, as well as for scoring the winner against Stuttgart in the Champions League. The season after, he embarked on a journey around a staggering array of different clubs: Tottenham Hotspur, Ipswich Town, Galatasaray, Racing Santander and then Real Mallorca to eventually join Villarreal on 9 July 2013. He’s got off to a fine start with his new club, scoring a goal against Astana in the Europa League preliminaries.
While his brother was on his trek around Europe, Jonathan remained at Barça until last season. Despite appearing in some of his new club’s preseason friendlies, he has yet to play any competitive matches.