You might think having the best footballer who ever lived – don’t @ me, Cristiano – in your side would mean you don’t have to spend all that much on the other ten blokes to put out a top-quality side, but you’d be wrong if Barcelona’s recent transfer history is anything to go by.
The five-time European Champions have spent close to £1,000,000,000 – probably easier just to say a billion, isn’t it? – on new players in the last five years and few, if any, of those signed have made the grade.
Though they’ve skid along with Messi and Suarez to a series of league title wins in recent years, now their world-class player(s) are slipping over the hill and turmoil has enveloped the Catalan giants, with results and their league position sliding. Questions are being asked as to what you get for a billion quid.
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On current form, they probably should’ve just bought Newcastle and dropped Messi in at centre-forward – that would’ve saved about £650,000,000!
Frankly, they’ve signed so many flops that it’s too much to name them all, but here are some of the greatest hits in that squandered ten-figure sum…
Phillipe Coutinho – £145m
Signed (at last) in the January transfer window of 2018 in a deal that would add up to £145million in total, though linking up with his old Reds’ team-mate and top nibbler Luis Suarez – maybe Barca should’ve had Brendan Rodgers in as manager? Just a thought – the Brazilian looked like he was missing the cool winter breezes of Merseyside from the start, and never truly fitted into a side that still revolved around Messi.
He was shipped off to Munich on loan last summer and will likely never play for the Blaugrana again, while Liverpool haven’t been bad since he left.
Malcom – £36.9m
No, not the bloke you ask to fix your cracked phone screen, but a tricky Brazilian winger who sparkled for Bordeaux in France before making a big-money move to Barca.
And, 15 games and 1 goal later, he made a similarly sized move to Zenit St Petersburg.
Ousmane Dembele – £112.5m
It’s all about Haaland and Sancho now, but back in 2017 French winger, Dembele was the teenage Dortmund star top clubs across Europe were tracking. The Germans didn’t want to sell, but when Dembele threatened to strike – not the goal-scoring kind of strike – they were, err, forced to accept just £112.5m for a player who has since struggled to establish himself on the Nou Camp stage.
Despite scoring some scintillating goals, his most memorable contribution for many will be the butchering of an injury-time chance in last season’s Champions League semi-final first-leg against Liverpool that may have made a difference a few weeks later.
Martin Brathwaite – £16m
The route to Barcelona via Middlesbrough is not a well-trodden one, and Brathwaite’s arrival probably shows why. The Spanish giants required special dispensation to sign the forward due to a spate of injuries from Leganes. He’s made 7 appearances and scored one goal, but, importantly as a Boro flop, he’s inspiring Championship donkeys everywhere to aim for the stars.
Yes, Patrick Bamford one day you too could play for Barcelona.
Bamford with a great block… from his own team’s shot…
— The Second Tier (@secondtierpod) June 21, 2020
Andre Gomes – £33m
A Portuguese midfielder tasked with filling a Xavi-shaped hole, the former Valencia man had a tough time of it in his three years in Catalunya before being, eh, rewarded with a move to Everton. Fortunately, their squad is peppered with other Barca rejects (Lucas Digne, £15m, Yerry Mina, £11m), so he doesn’t feel quite so out-of-place.
Antoine Griezmann – £108m
The French forward does at least have the record of winning at Atletico Madrid to justify the nine-digit outlay on his talents last summer, it’s just not clear where he fits as Messi’s mate Suarez still gets a game. In fact, he’s become something of a bench ornament, a la Coutinho, already this season – he came on for just one minute against his former team-mates of Atleti this week in Barca’s 2-2 draw – and will be hoping that whoever is in charge next season can find him a spot in the team ahead of youngsters like Riqui Puig and Ansu Fati.
At least there’ll be plenty of moody shots of him on the sidelines if he decides to make another documentary about himself.
Mi afición, mi equipo, MI CASA! @atleti ?⚪?
Mes supporters, mon équipe, MA MAISON ! @AtletiFR ?⚪?
— Antoine Griezmann (@AntoGriezmann) June 14, 2018
Paulinho – £36m
Yes, that Paulinho, from Spurs. Barca were somehow strong-armed into forking out this extraordinary fee by Guangzhou Evergrande in the Chineses Super League back in 2017 for Nabil Bentaleb’s former midfield partner. More shocking still, less than a year later, Barca sold him back to the same club – and at a £2m profit – following 49 appearances and 9 goals in Spain.
Thomas Vermaelen – £17m
You might think that signing hobbled Arsenal defenders is a sign of decline, and you’d be right, but no one at Barcelona thought this was a bad idea back in 2014 when desperate for defensive reinforcements, they signed off on this deal, as well as 18m Jeremy Mathieu, another grizzled defender. Vermaelen, a fine footballer, made just 34 appearances over five years before departing in 2019.
Arda Turan – £31m
Another midfield option chewed up and spat out in the post-Xavi era, he arrived from Atletico in 2015 and his five-year contract expired this week with little fanfare. In between those two points, he played just 55 times for Barcelona, spent two-and-half years on loan back in Turkey, during which time he was handed a suspended sentence for firing a gun in a bar. He’s now without a club. I think that means this move was not a success.
Arthur – £28m
Arthur was just swapped this week for Juventus’s Miralem Pjanic to pull an accounting trick and work around Financial Fair Play regulations having signed in 2018 for £28m. His valuation of £72m for the purposes of this chicanery makes it a profitable move, though everything else about it makes it feel like a loss.
Even if everything goes perfectly for Barcelona, this move was all wrong. https://t.co/84DZOfWfPS
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) June 29, 2020
Frenkie de Jong – £67.5m
Another who arrived last summer, it’s still too early to make a call on the 23-year-old fulcrum of Ajax’s Champions League semi-final side from the 2018-19 season. He should at least be a solid player for the club in the coming years, though the upheaval behind-the-scenes makes it hard to count on anything at the moment, even Dutch prodigies in Barca red-and-blue.
Paco Alcacer – £27m
Arrived from Valencia with high hopes of replacing the ageing Suarez, but was loaned out after scoring 15 times in 50 appearances to Dortmund, where he scored 12 times in 14 games and was signed permanently.
So very Barcelona.