His career could have been so much different.
We’re all familiar with the notable alumni from Barcelona’s La Masia academy.
Xavi, Andres Iniesta and none other than Lionel Messi, all graduated from the famed centre of excellence and went onto make their mark in Catalonia.
But what became of those players who never made the step up to first-team greatness?
Ladies and gentleman, meet Cristian Hidalgo Gonzalez, the greatest La Masia superstar you’ve never heard of.
The Spaniard was tipped for superstardom from a young age after shining for both Barcelona’s C and B teams in his formative years.
Originally a striker, the Barca Brains Trust moulded him into an exciting winger to utilise his pace and silky dribbling.
Hidalgo would benefit from the willingness of then Barca manager Frank Rijkaard to throw young players into first-team action.
The Spaniard’s performances for the youth sides had not gone unnoticed by the Dutchman.
He was rewarded with a cameo appearance in the second-half of Barca’s Copa del Rey clash with Zamora CF in 2006.
The Catalonia club were 3-1 winners on the night and the youngster had been given his very first taste of first-team football.
A short but sweet one albeit.
Hidalgo continued to make match-day squads under Rijkaard for the remainer of the 2005/06 season.
However his regular spot on the Nou Camp bench proved to be in vein, as he would fail to make another appearance for the first-team.
One game and one moment that came prior to his Copa de Rey debut would ominously foreshadow the end of his tenure at Barca.
The Spaniard’s chances of becoming a regular were all but over in 2004 after Messi burst onto the scene to make his debut.
Sitting alongside Barca’s then No30 was Hidalgo, who had lined-up alongside the Argentine in the youth ranks.
With his side narrowly leading Espanyol by one goal, Rijkaard turned to his bench for inspiration.
Staring back at him were two fresh-faced La Masia graduates who he was forced to make a choice between.
The Dutchman gave Messi the nod to replace Deco and the rest is history.
Hidalgo’s Barca career would peter out after the hierarchy allowed his contract to expire in 2006.
He was promptly snapped up by Deportivo La Coruna for whom he would go onto make 30 appearances in his first season.
The Spaniard netted his first goal for his new side against none other than La Liga juggernauts Real Madrid in what was a shock 2-0 win.
Hidalgo’s regular outings would dry up in his second season as he made just 14 appearances in Spain’s top flight.
An emotional return to the Nou Camp would be the standout moment of his penultimate campaign.
The Spaniard scored Deportivo’s consolation goal in a 2-1 defeat against his former employers.
A bittersweet return.
Hidalgo was released by the Blues and Whites in 2009 and joined Spanish second division side Hercules.
Spells with Elche, Larnaca and Bulgarian club Cherno Varna then followed as he became one of football’s journeymen.
The Spaniard’s fall from grace would take him on further journeys to Israel, India, Morocco and Romania.
Now 35-years-old, the once Barca prospect can be found playing for FC Ordino in Andorra’s top tier.
Hidalgo’s career trajectory outlines a startlingly demise for a player who was once tipped for the top.
Ironically, the Spaniard cites Messi as someone who would feature in a best 11 of players he’s played with throughout his career.
If it wasn’t for the Argentine’s emergence, Hidalgo’s career could have taken an entirely different path.
- The fall from grace for Turkish wonderkid Emre Mor is a warning for all young players
- Why Marco Reus would be one of football’s greatest had he not been plagued by injuries
- Axel Witsel has emerged from the footballing graveyard to prove his doubters wrong