The greatest Argentine players in Barcelona history
There are some sides that players around the world dream for playing for at least once in their career. Barcelona being one of them. The Catalan club’s penchant for playing stylish football and winning dozens of trophies gives them a huge reputation worldwide. It means that players from all over the world want to play weekly at the Nou Camp including from places like Argentina where the club has a huge following. Many of Argentina’s biggest names have played for the Spanish behemoth leading to some truly iconic moments. With that in mind, who are some of the greatest ever Argentineans to play for Barcelona?
Diego Maradona’s exploits for Argentina are well-known but there is a lot less known about some of his club highlights. Case in point – Maradona’s brief stint in Spain with Barcelona. Indeed, his time with Barca was his first foray into European football in general having joined from Boca Juniors in 1982. Despite being there for less than two seasons, Maradona unsurprisingly mesmerized fans across La Liga. Aside from scoring 38 goals in 58 games for the club, he was magical in El Clasico derbies winning two and even earning a standing ovation from Real Madrid fans in one 1983 clash. His time in Spain was cut short following an ugly brawl in a 1984 match against Bilbao setting up his iconic move to Italy with Napoli at the end of the 1983/84 season.
Barcelona found themselves in a rebuilding phase at the start of the 2000s which saw numerous names come and go from the Nou Camp – Roberto Bonano being one of them. Bonano was signed in 2001 from River Plate with the idea of him being their new no 1 keeper. He was Barca’s first choice for much of the 2001/02 season but the club struggled for form during this time. Bonano retained the position for the first half of the 2002/03 season before being dropped in favour of a young Victor Valdes. Bonano would never recover from this and he would leave to join Real Murcia in 2003 after making 51 appearances for the club.
At the start of the 21st century, it seemed like Javier Saviola was going to be Argentina’s next big superstar. With pace, tricks and lethal finishing, he had all the talent required to do just that. It was why Saviola moved to Barcelona in 2001 from River Plate with bags of potential. The first season for Saviola looked promising netting 17 times and earning a spot in the 2002 FIFA 100. That would be Saviola’s peak though as he never bettered this record and scored much more infrequently. With coaching changes and other players emerging from the wings, Saviola was pushed aside to loan spells with the likes of Monaco and Sevilla. Eventually, Saviola left the club to join arch-rivals Real Madrid in 2007 after scoring 70 goals in 170 appearances for Barcelona.
Versatility can be both a hindrance and a blessing for some players – for Javier Mascherano, it was very much a blessing. Capable of playing as both a defensive midfielder and a defender, Mascherano was deployed in all these positions during his 8-year spell with Barcelona. Joining from Liverpool in 2010, Mascherano’s metronomic passing and sturdy tackles made him an excellent utility player to help dictate the tempo of a game. His consistent efforts meant he was always picked no matter what competition he was playing in. It’s why Mascherano won a plethora of trophies with the club including 5 La Liga titles, 2 Champions League trophies and 2 FIFA Club World Cup trophies. Mascherano’s own crowning moment would come in the 2013-14 season where he was named Barcelona’s Player of the Year despite his side only winning the Spanish Super Cup. His excellent performances also saw Mascherano be nominated for FifPro’s World XI for five years running underlining his excellent performances. Mascherano eventually left in 2018 to join Chinese side Hebei Fortune having achieved everything a player could win in European football.
The Milito brothers, Gabi and Diego, headed to Europe with success on their mind. Whilst Diego experienced that with the likes of Inter Milan, Gabi headed to Spain and his fortunes arrived in 2007 when he signed for Barcelona from Real Zaragoza. Milito’s determined nature and excellent aerial abilities saw him feature regularly in the backline just as Barcelona’s success under Pep Guardiola really took off. Contributing regularly over the space of four seasons, Milito won 4 trophies with Barcelona including 2 La Liga titles as well as the 2011 Champions League trophy. In 2011, Milito left Spain and returned to Argentina with Argentinos before retiring from playing just one year later.
If any player has become synonymous with Barcelona in the 21st century, it’s Lionel Messi. Messi’s illustrious career has almost entirely played out at the Nou Camp where he has broken record after record for the club. Messi’s never-ending list of highlights has seen the Argentine genius record mind-boggling stats for Barcelona. This includes 50 goals in the 2011/12 La Liga season in an overall campaign where he scored a record 73 goal in 63 games across all competitions. Messi also won 10 La Liga titles with the club as well as 4 Champions League trophies. His 672 goals in 778 games for Barcelona is also a club record and he won no less than 6 Ballon D’Or trophies during this time as well. Messi shocked the world when he left to join French side PSG in 2021 however Messi’s time in Spain has seen him be declared one of the greatest players of all time.