La Masia: Diego López

Photo courtesy: Noelia Déniz

Luis Figo will always be despised for swapping the Blaugrana for Los Blancos back in 2000. Bernd Schuster and Michael Laudrup, two midfielders who also made the move directly, aren't remembered with as much disdain as the Portuguese attacker. Brazilian legend Ronaldo, Samuel Eto'o, Gheorghe Hagi, Javier Saviola, Robert Prosinecki and even current Real Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui all played for both sides with buffer clubs in the middle. The only notable player to make the move directly from Real Madrid to Barcelona is none other than Luis Enrique, swapping shirts in 1996 on a free transfer. At youth level, it should be no surprise that the two academies try to poach each other's talent and multiple players have made the switch over the years. The chances of players breaking through with either first team is slim regardless, but making the move as a teenager does provide some immunity to the vicious treatment of players viewed as traitors at first team level. The most recent talent to make the move from the capital to Catalonia is 16-year-old Diego López, a dynamic striker from Asturias.

Diego López Noguerol was born on May 13, 2002 in the small village of Turón, about thirty minutes south of Oviedo and Gijón. He played for local team Figaredo until 2010 before spending one season at nearby Xeitasa. He reportedly scored more than 150 goals at Figaredo and 54 goals in his one season at Xeitasa. This output was enough to get him noticed by Sporting de Gijón and a spot at the famed Escuela de Fútbol de Mareo. His incredible goal-scoring record slowed a bit at Gijón as he developed other parts of his game from 2011 to 2017.

He made the move to Real Madrid's Cadet A squad for the 2017-2018 season with the guidance of agent and former Sporting player Emilio Gutiérrez. Oddly enough, Gutiérrez had spent time in Barcelona's youth academy from 1987 to 1989 before making 69 appearances for Barcelona B. Maybe it was Gutiérrez's familiarity with La Masia or maybe it was the promise of a proper footballing education that the fabled Catalan academy provides, but either way López spent just one season at Real Madrid before joining Barcelona and finding a spot on the Juvenil B squad.

Within weeks of arriving at La Masia, the forward scored two goals in a preseason match in August against Real Madrid, only being outdone by teammate Ilaix Moriba's hat-trick. He followed that brace up a few weeks later with another brace, this time in a 7-1 win over Llagostera in a cup final.

Manager Francesc Artiga Cebrián's Juvenil B doesn't get the same attention of Barcelona B or the Juvenil A and Cadet A squads due to the star-studded names in those teams, but López is certainly one to watch out for alongside fellow summer signing Brian Peña from Espanyol. Ilaix, who has been spreading his appearances across the Juvenil A and Juvenil B teams this season, partners with Peña in a midfield that oftentimes outclasses their opponents and provides terrific support for López.

López may not have the buzz around him that Abel Ruiz, Nils Mortimer of Juvenil A or even teammate Juame Jardi all have as future superstars as number nines, but the potential of the 16-year-old is still very high. One thing is certain, any player that has attracted the attention of both Barcelona and Real Madrid must have something special about him.