As we approach the Villarreal vs Barcelona match, we thought we would look into a combined XI of players that have played for both teams.
In this case, the cut off has is at least one appearance with the first team in any official match (Liga, Copa, Continental competition, Supercup). The task has proved quite an interesting one, as the main question was, how many players have played for both teams, and could we make a starting line-up?
In the end, one thing I’ve found for sure, defenders have been few and far between, and we had just one keeper.
Two choices here, Quique Setién or Ernesto Valverde. Valverde was more prominent with Barça than he was with Villarreal, but with both teams, the same fate played out - he was sacked during the season. The question is whether Setién will follow the same path as he did during his Barcelona days in failing to finish the season. If I had to pick, I prefer Valverde, because even though his teams have the tendancy to look plain, he can prepare a more solid defensive team.
Another that shares the trait: Seguer. The Catalan coach coached 11 matches at Barcelona in the 1969/70 season as a caretaker of sorts, and arrived at Villarreal in 1978, coaching for two seasons, but at that point of history, Villarreal were in Tercera. Victor Muñoz, who last coached in Primera Getafe during the 2008/09 season - and was the head coach from 2000 to 2003, when he was sacked - doesn’t make it either as he didn’t coach Barcelona even though he was a mainstay at midfield for Barcelona during the 80s
No choice here. Only Pepe Reina has played for both teams. A promising prospect of La Masía, he got his chance in 2000 when both Dutruel and Francesc Arnau suffered injuries and ended the 2000/01 season with 19 league appearances. The next season, he played another 16 league games while sharing the goal with Argentinian Bonano. When Barcelona signed Robert Enke, he was told he could leave, so he did exactly that, signing with Villarreal. What can be said of his first spell here? Starting keeper, and instrumental to reaching the Champions League for the first time. Signing with Liverpool, where he spent a good portion of his career and won the Champions League, he later journeyed into Germany (Bayern), Italy (Napoli, Milan, Lazio) with a brief return to England (Aston Villa) before returning to Villarreal. He was also part of the Spanish squad that won two Euros and the World Cup, acting as reserve keeper and master of ceremonies during the celebrations.
There was another keeper who had some past with Barça but that was Bañuz who didn’t get much chances with Barça B in Segunda, and later signed with Villarreal for the B team, although he had some call ups as a sub
The defence is quite difficult to see how to make it as few players are shared by both teams. The top player that can be seen is Belletti. The Brazilian right back was the starter for Villarreal from 2002 to 2004 when he was signed by Barcelona, where he played for the next three seasons, with the highlight being scoring the winning goal at the Champions League final. The left back would quite easily be Sorín. The Argentinian who spent half a season with Barcelona in 2003, arrived from PSG in 2004, becoming a recurrent player and leaving at the end of his second season to Hamburg. As a note, he was part of the Juventus team that won the Champions League in 1996, albeit he only played one European match that season at the group stage, but he was a more important player for River Plate when winning the Libertadores, also in 1996.
The center-backs lack some depth. Edmilson, who didn’t manage to find his footing with Villarreal, leaving the club two months after arriving from Barcelona, where he had gone to win the Champions League. Current Jorge Cuenca, who played a Copa del Rey match for Barca, would be the main option. Another one would be Serer. A La Masía product, he only played once with Barcelona in Primera moving on to Mallorca and Valencia, where he had some more luck. He arrived at Villarreal in Segunda, with whom he was a starter, and after gaining promotion, he was part of the team, albeit without much playing time, becoming a sub as soon as jornada 4.
Other players: Quintillà played for Barça B, but never for the first team. The same for Quique Martín, who was a center-back and played for Villarreal in the 2001/02 season, and Kiko Femenía. while Xavi Roca was a right-back who had a bit more history at Villarreal from 2000 to 2002, having debutted in Primera with Barcelona at 21. Lastly, there’s Kiko Femenía who didn’t manage to debut with Barcelona.
We find more options in midfield, and also some of the more illustrious. Robert Fernández was one of the best Spanish midfielders of the 80s. Coming from the youth ranks of Villarreal, he soon moved to Castellón and later to Valencia. From there, he signed with Barcelona, where he had his best years as a pro player, while also being part of the Spanish squad that ended up as runner-up in the 1984 Euro. He returned home in 1995 where he became a starter, getting Villarreal to primera and playing the first season with them, and leaving in 1999. Renowned for his offensive capabilities and his powerful shot, he had some nice moments with the club, especially in Segunda, serving as the captain of the club for the historic promotion to Primera
Another important one was Guillermo Amor. An important player during the Dream Team era, winning, among other trophies, the first Barca’s first Champions League. He arrived at Villarreal in 2000, where he was part of the precursor to the first glorious era, playing for two seasons. There, he was a starter during his two seasons with the club, helping the team clinch the 7th spot in his firs tseason, while in the 2001/02 Villarreal didn’t have such luck. Amor went on to retire in Scotland after some months playing there in 2003.
Of course, back to back greats are followed by another great. Juan Román Riquelme. The Argentinian arrived in 2003 from Barcelona, due to them signing Ronaldinho and therefore having too many foreign players on the team. He joined on a two-year loan. What can be said about him? He was the most impressive player of the team that almost reached the Champions League final. So impressive that, after his first season, Villarreal bought the 75% of his rights, with the remaining 25% being given to Barça if Villarreal sold him. For all the love during the start, the end was full of criticism, where the only option was for him to leave. The situation was pretty tense, and thus he returned to Boca Juniors, the same club that had sold him to Barcelona in 2002. After 4 and a half, he returned home. But one thing is for sure, he’s still one of the best players to ever play here.
Notable mentions could go to Roger García (2003 to 2006 with Villarreal) and who could also play left-back, Jonathan Dos Santos and, of course, Denis Suárez.
So many to name: Alcácer who didn’t capture his magic with Borussia Dortmund here, Ilias, who is a young prospect that can become something special, Christiansen (1992/93 Barça and 1998/99 Villarreal) and Cantalapiedra (2015/16 Barça and 2016/17 Villarreal) both prospects from La Masía, with Cantalapiedra being a player mainly for the B team of both clubs; and Nahuel who only played Barça B.
Pizzi was part of the Barça of the late 90s, sharing the locker room with players like Luis Enrique, Ronaldo, Figo or Sonny Anderson. With all those prospects, he didn’t enjoy too much time playing time. He showed his class when scoring 9 goals during his first season in 964 league minutes, racking up a total of 16 goals across all competitions. Not bad considering he was Tenerife’s top scorer in the previous season. That lack of opportunities made him return to Argentina, and have an uneventful mid-season with Porto. Villarreal signed him for the end of the 2001/02 season, where he was a starter, but this time goals were not on his side. As an interesting note, even though he was born and raised in Argentina, he was capped by the Spanish national team.
Sonny Anderson is another interesting one. His first season with Villarreal was splendid, and being a great striker, it was no surprise that he once joined Barcelona as the next Ronaldo. His second season with Villarreal was very different.
Lastly, Gio Dos Santos. Another recent player who had a great first season, while the second didn’t live up to expectation. Nevertheless, he was a good player during his time.