Dani Alves and other former Barcelona players that played in the Liga MX
With Dani Alves’ arrival at Pumas, we look back at other Barcelona players who have starred in Liga MX, from Giovani dos Santos to Maradona.
Dani Alves completed his move to Pumas on Thursday, turning down an offer from Atlético Paranaense to join the Mexican side. He joins a long list of stars who left their mark in Europe’s major leagues before moving to the Liga MX - players such as Éusebio (Monterrey), Bebeto (Toros Neza) and Iván Zamorano (Club América).
Alves also becomes the latest in a line of former Barcelona players have have tried their luck in Mexico. We take a look at some of the more memorable ones.
Juan Manuel Asensi was the first ex-Barca player to play in Mexico. He spent 11 seasons at Camp Nou, playing alongside some of the club’s greats Johan Cruyff, Johan Neeskens and Hans Krankl. Asensi played his last game for Barça in November 1980 and quit the club midway through the season to join Puebla FC, staying for one season before joining another Mexican side Oaxtepec where he ended his playing career in 1982.
A few years later, Paraguayan striker Raúl Amarilla followed in his footsteps to become the second Barça player to cross the pond and continue his playing career in Mexico. Amarilla joined Barça as a substitute for Quini but he left after three seasons, scoring 15 goals in 56 appearances. After a season back home in Paraguay with Olimpia, he signed for Club América, scoring 22 goals in a brief, six-month spell with Las Águilas.
By the time he left Barça in 1997, José María Bakero had pretty much won the lot with Cruyff’s Dream Team - four leagues, three Copas, the European Super Cup and the European Cup - the club’s first. He decided to see out his playing days in Mexico at Veracruz but he struggled to adapt to a different style of football and left after spending an uneventful six months at the club.
Giovani dos Santos is one of two Mexican players to have made it to Barcelona’s first team. He joined the club when he was just 12 and came up through La Masia, making his senior debut against Athletic Club in September 2007. He was snapped up by Spurs the following summer and spent time in England and Turkey before returning to Spain in 2011. A four-year stint in MLS with LA Galaxy was followed by a move back home to Club América in 2019. But he suffered a serious injury in the Súper Clásico against Guadalajara and after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, was released in June 2021.
For eight seasons, Bernd Schuster was a joy to watch commanding the Barça midfield. He left the club to join archenemies Real Madrid on a free transfer in 1988. He was just a couple of year younger than Dani Alves by the time he decided to see his playing days out in Mexico, joining Pumas in January 1997. But by then his best days were behind him and he couldn’t keep up with the pace of the Mexican league. He played nine games, returning to Europe three months after his arrival for dental treatment and never returned.
Like Schuster, another classy midfielder, Pep Guardiola triumphed at Camp Nou before hanging up his boots for good in Mexico. A youth academy product, Guardiola spent 11 seasons with Barcelona’s first team before his emotional send-off in 2001. Not wanting to play for any other Spanish club, he spent time in Italy and Qatar before being persuaded to join Mexican side Dorados by newly-appointed Spanish coach Juan Manuel Lillo in 2006. It was a discreet finale to his playing career - one goal in 10 appearances, a free-kick against Jaguares. Dorados were relegated and Guardiola returned to Spain to study for his coaching license.
Another former Blaugrana great ended up at Dorados but as a coach not a player. Maradona accepted the DT post with the culichis, in the second tier, the Ascenso MX, in September 2018. He came close to logging promotion but ended leaving the club on health grounds in June 2019.
Emblematic Mexico captain Rafael Márquez is one of three players to have starred in five different World Cup finals and the only player to have played for Mexican clubs both before and after playing for Barça. He started out with Atlas in 1996, joining the Catalans from Monaco in 2003 - by the time he left in 2010, had won every major honour at club level. After leaving Barça, El Káiser spent a couple of years with New York Red Bulls then returned to his first club, Atlas in 2015. He spent three seasons with the Rojinegros, retiring aged 39 in 2018. Márquez is now back at Barcelona for a second spell, he was appointed coach of the B team earlier this month.
Few Barça players have been as exciting to watch as Ronaldinho. A Ballon d’Or winner, two-time FIFA World Player of the Year and a World Cup winner with Brazil, most of his five seasons at Barcelona were electric but his performances dipped towards the end and he was ready to move on by 2008. His fitness remained an issue at his next clubs, AC Milan and Flamengo but the old magic was still there during his brief spell in Mexico with Querétaro. He signed as a free agent in September 2014 and scored eight goals in 30 games as the Gallos reached the Liga MX Clausura final only to lose on aggregate to Santos.
This year, Jenni Hermoso became the first player from Barcelona Femení to move to the Mexican top flight. The all-time top goal scorer in the Spanish top flight, Jenni enjoyed two spells at Barça - from 2014-17, then again from 2019-2022 during which she ended as the Liga Iberdrola’s top scorer three times. The Madrid-born striker remains the maximum goal scorer of all time for Barcelona’s women’s team with 173 goals. In June, she became the star signing of the Liga MX Femenil, joining Pachuca on a two-year deal.