Iván De la Peña (born 6 May 1976), nicknamed Little Buddha, is a
professional Spanish footballer. Gifted with great technique and
vision for the game, he plays the role of attacking midfielder.
In 1991, at the age of 15, De la Peña was brought from his home
in Santander into the youth setup for FC Barcelona, touted as
the next Maradona. After years in the youth system and the
1994-1995 season in the reserves team, De la Peña made his debut
under coach Johan Cruyff in the first match of the 1995/1996
season. Coming on as a substitute, he scored the final goal to
secure a 2-0 victory over Valladolid.
He was part of a supposed new generation for Barcelona, a
generation who eventually were all sold under coach Louis Van
Gaal who had the reins in the club from 1997-2000. Apart from De
la Peña the players were Albert Celades, Javi Moreno, Quique
Alvarez, Roger García, and Toni Velamazán.
During his time at Barcelona, De la Peña was named joined 'Rookie
of the Year' in the 1995/1996 season (with Fernando Morientes
and Jordi Lardín), and won it himself in 1996/1997 under coach
Bobby Robson. As an up and coming player, he looked poised to
represent his country at the Euro 1996, but national coach
Javier Clemente did not select him, and De la Peña would have to
wait until 2004, when he finally made his debut for the Spanish
Louis Van Gaal was hired as manager of Barcelona in 1997, and
before the 1998/1999 season, De la Peña was shipped off to SS
Lazio. After playing a year for Olympique Marseille, he returned
to Barcelona on loan in 2000/2001 under coach Llorenç Serra
Ferrer, but neither here, nor in his previous clubs, had he been
After another year at Lazio, he was out of contract, and Iván De
la Peña then signed with RCD Espanyol in the autumn of 2002.