Lionel Messi has rightfully become one of the best Barcelona players in recent history. The current two-time World Player of the Year has far surpassed the 100-goal mark for the club and finds himself in the company of a number of other Barcelona modern greats.
While Messi still has a number of years at the top flight, there are very few doubting that the little Argentine can become the greatest footballer of all time.
Until then, these are the 10 Barcelona greats of the past 20 years that I had the unenviable task of compiling.
Current manager and former club captain, Pep Guardiola heads this list of the 10 best players for Barcelona over the past two decades.
Captaining the “Dream Team” to Champions League glory in 1992, Guardiola was considered one of the finest midfielders of his generation.
In 12 years of service for the first team, Guardiola won 16 trophies and represented a new brand of footballer the Spanish League was not familiar with—manager Johan Cruyff utilising the young Spaniard as an anchor in midfield.
Luis Enrique’s move to Barcelona came about in controversial fashion. A free transfer from fierce rivals Real Madrid left the Barca fans skeptical about their new midfielder.
Enrique, however, quickly won the hearts of the Cules by eventually becoming club captain and winning back-to-back league titles.
His impressive goal-scoring form for a midfield player and his tireless work ethic means he takes his place alongside other greats who have donned the Barcelona colours.
Playing alongside strike-partner Romario, Hristo Stoichkov became one of the most popular Barcelona players of his time.
The Bulgarian was another player who was a vital piece of Johan Cryuff’s “Dream Team” that won four consecutive La Liga titles.
The former European Footballer of the Year endeared himself to fans with his scoring ability and is synonymous with one of the most successful periods in the club’s history.
One of the finest passers of the ball the modern footballing world has seen. Xavi Hernandez has become one of the key components to manager Pep Guardiola’s success.
The midfielder acts as the heartbeat for the current Barcelona side, playing in some of the most jaw-dropping passes to the Barcelona forwards and dictating the game like no other can.
Entering the twilight of his career, Xavi is one of the most decorated footballers of all time, winning every major honour at club level and internationally.
Luis Figo became one of the most loved Barcelona players in recent memory when he arrived at the club from Sporting Lisbon in 1995.
Another who would captain the side under Johan Cryuff, Figo was instrumental in the club’s title successes both domestically and in Europe.
A shock move to rivals Real Madrid in 2000 left Barca fans with a fierce sense of hatred for their once idol.
The scorer of the winning goal in the 1992 Champions League final and a dead-ball specialist, Ronald Koeman was an integral to the Barcelona back line under Johan Cruyff.
Koeman won a host of domestic titles to go along with the one European title, and he totalled an impressive 102 goals during his time at the club.
Koeman will always be considered an idol for that period in Barcelona’s history.
Carles Puyol has captained Barcelona during arguably its greatest era. Three Champions League trophies have arrived at the Nou Camp with Puyol at the heart of defence, along with a further five domestic league titles.
His leadership and bravery in the back four has been recognised, and Puyol is considered one of the modern game’s best defenders. Forming an outstanding partnership with Gerard Pique under the management of Pep Guardiola, Puyol has consistently been at the top of his game and leads a host of current Barca players as graduates from the club’s academy, La Masia.
One of the most exciting footballers of the past decade, Ronaldinho arrived in Barcelona following then-President Joan Laporta’s failure to land David Beckham.
Ronaldinho brought with him a brand of football not seen in Spain for a number of years, accumulating a number of personal accolades along the way. He was key to Barcelona’s success under Frank Rijkaard.
Romario has been one of the most impressive goal scorers in La Liga over the past couple of decades. Partnering Hristo Stoichkov up front under manager Johan Cruyff, Romario only spent a short time in Barcelona, but his stay has been memorable.
Helping the “Dream Team” to the league and Champions League double, he also claimed the FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1994.
Rivaldo continues the trend of impressive Brazilians to pull on the Barcelona colours. An impressive goal scorer (even from midfield), he also went on to win the European and World Player of the Year awards.
A memorable moment came in a 3-2 win against Valencia, whereby Rivaldo scored one of the best goals in history—a bicycle kick from the edge of the area. He was applauded for his technique and execution, mainly due to the importance of the goal.