Nearly every single player dreams of suiting up for Real Madrid or Barcelona. Arguably the two most prestigious clubs in the world, they have had some of the best players in history. They are able to sign any player in the world and break world record fees due to their financial situations. But not every signing always pans out as both clubs have had their fair share of blunders throughout the years.
While we can go back in history and compile a list of bad signings, today's list revolves around modern history with players that most fans of both clubs could easily recognize. For every successful transfer, there is usually multiple that turn out to be flops. Depending on the transfer fee, some may not hurt the two rich clubs' pockets while others will certainly become regrettable moves as time goes on.
Considering the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona, the two clubs are always attempting to reign over La Liga by acquiring the best players around, as well as the hottest prospects in the world. Not only are they building a team for the present, but the two teams are always working to make sure they remain on top in the future. And that's exactly why so many of their transfers turn out to be flops, since they bank on the potential of younger players - who may not have proven themselves to be good enough for an elite club. Here are the 10 worst signings made by Barcelona in recent years and 10 from Real Madrid.
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20 Barcelona: Alexander Hleb
Alexander Hleb was a vital member of the Arsenal squad for a number of years prior to his move to Barcelona for €17 million. He followed the best seasons of his career with some of the worst showings, as he never got his career back on track.
Throughout his first season with Barcelona, Hleb barely featured in their matches as he grew upset with coach Pep Guardiola.
The coach advised him to take language lessons in order to improve his chances of getting play time. Hleb was resistant to Guardiola's advice, and it backfired as he ended up being a flop for Barcelona.
19 Real Madrid: Asier Illarramendi
In 2013, Asier Illarramendi became the most expensive player from Spain to be purchased by Real Madrid for a fee of €32.2 million.
Unfortunately for him, his two years in Madrid were very forgettable as his development was significantly slowed down.
Not only did he not get plenty of time to show his ability, but he may have moved too soon to Madrid. He had played for Real Sociedad since his youth days, and once Madrid made him available in 2015, his boyhood club bought him back for half the fee they had received just two years earlier.
18 Barcelona: Alex Song
Alex Song was coming off some brilliant seasons with Arsenal when Barcelona acquired him for a transfer fee of £15 million. Although he had been one of Arsenal's better players in previous years, he failed to reach that level with Barcelona.
In his four years with the club, Song only made 39 appearances while spending most of the time on loan with West Ham United.
Song didn't receive many opportunities to show his worth with Barcelona, and was sometimes played out of position which affected his performances. If you ask any Barcelona fan, he will certainly be among the names brought up as one of the club's worst transfers.
17 Real Madrid: Pedro Leon
Pedro Leon arrived in Real Madrid at a time when the club was attempting to revamp the squad by bringing in new talents. And with Jose Mourinho having been appointed in charge of the team, he wasn't particularly impressed with Leon - although the media often criticized him for keeping Leon on the bench.
Purchased for €10 million from Getafe, it proved to be a waste of money for Madrid as Leon never looked like he belonged there.
And seeing that he failed to turn his career around following his departure from the club, you can hardly blame Madrid or even Mourinho for his fate.
16 Barcelona: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic arrived in Barcelona, not only did the team have to pay Inter Milan a hefty fee of £59 million, but they also got Samuel Eto'o in return - who would help them win the Champions League the very next season. As for Zlatan, his Barcelona stint was a tale of two halves - the first in which he was a consistent scorer while the second saw him struggle immensely.
Soon enough, he was dropped from the starting lineup and sold to AC Milan after just one season with Barcelona. Not exactly how most people envisioned that would transpire.
15 Real Madrid: Kaka
With a €67 million fee, fans had high expectations for Kaka as a Real Madrid player. Many expected him to build on his Ballon D'Or winning season and form the most dangerous duo in Europe alongside Cristiano Ronaldo. Unfortunately for Madrid fans, Kaka spent much of his time dealing with various injuries that significantly slowed him down as a player.
As great as Kaka was during his days with AC Milan, he has been one of the worst purchases by Real Madrid in modern history.
At the time, everyone expected Kaka to continue dominating Europe for many years to come but he couldn't overcome the injuries to be productive enough.
14 Barcelona: Thomas Vermaelen
Thomas Vermaelen has been a Barcelona player for four years and yet he has only made 25 appearances for the club. With a transfer fee of £15 million, Barcelona were expecting much more when they purchased him from Arsenal.
It isn't his lack of talent that kept him out of squad, but recurring injuries that have seriously affected the trajectory of his career. He has earned a reputation as one of the most injury prone players in Europe since he always seems to be on the sidelines for one reason or another - even during his one year loan at Roma.
13 Real Madrid: Nuri Sahin
After having been named as the Bundesliga Player of the Season for 2010–11, Nuri Sahin made the jump from Borussia Dortmund to Real Madrid €10 million. His stint with the club got off to a rough start as Sahin was out of action for multiple months. By the time he returned, he found it tough to get play time - making only four appearances for Real Madrid.
The next summer, he was sent out on a loan to Liverpool and then once again to Borussia Dortmund. Considering that he only made four appearances for Madrid, it's safe to say that the €10 million wasn't well spent.
12 Barcelona: Arda Turan
Arda Turan was coming off some brilliant seasons with Atletico Madrid when he made a shocking move to Barcelona for €34 million. Unfortunately for him, his stint with the club hasn't been nearly as productive, as Turan found it tough to find consistent playing time.
Whenever he did appear for Barcelona, he wasn't exactly playing as well as he had shown in previous years.
Some fans have accused him of being satisfied with just collecting his high salary as Turan's appearances have gotten fewer with every passing year. Needless to say, he went from being one of the best players in La Liga to an afterthought in just one season.
11 Real Madrid: Fernando Gago
Signed for a fee of €20.4 million, Fernando Gago had some good showings for Real Madrid - although certainly not worthy the high investment made by the club in 2007. His early seasons proved to be his most productive as Gago went on to battle injuries later on - holding him back from reaching his full potential.
By the time he had been fully healthy, his place was already taken so Gago was mostly used as a substitute when needed. Given the high fee, the transfer didn't exactly pan out the way all sides involved had imagined.
10 Barcelona: Douglas
Considering that Barcelona only spent €4 million to acquire Douglas, it isn't a huge waste of money. But he certainly isn't good enough to play for Barcelona, and his poor play has reflected that whenever he appeared for the club.
Since arriving in Barcelona, he has gone out on three different loans - failing to make an impression with the teams.
It was a low risk transfer that didn't pay off the slightest, and a move that probably should have never been made in the first place. Douglas simply hasn't proven to be good enough to play for an elite club.
9 Real Madrid: Royston Drenthe
There was a time when Royston Drenthe received plenty of hype as a prospect, earning him a move to Real Madrid at the age of 20. With a transfer fee of €14 million, Drenthe had some decent performances in his first season - but his career would taken a turn for the worse.
Not only did he struggle to be productive on an elite team, but he also had some attitude problems that held back his career. Drenthe has now become forgotten for the most part with fans only bringing up his name when discussing the worst transfers by Madrid.
8 Barcelona: Andre Gomes
Upon joining Barcelona in 2016, there were high expectations for Andre Gomes especially since the club had spent €35 million to acquire his service with the possibility of the fee being raised to €55 million. Given his performances thus far, Gomes has failed to live up to expectations as he hasn't been the player that Barcelona had expected.
Not only does he severely lack confidence on the field, but Gomes has been prone to commit blunders.
This hasn't gone well with Barcelona fans who have jeered him at times. And with Gomes being linked to a potential exit, it will be tough for Barcelona to recoup most of that fee.
7 Real Madrid: Fabio Coentrao
Joining Real Madrid for a high fee of €30 million from Benfica, there were expectations set for Fabio Coentrao that he couldn't live up to. To his defense, it was mainly injuries that held him back from being a prominent starter, as well as Marcelo who outshone him to take over the role.
Coentrao was certainly useful when he was healthy, but he found himself dealing with nagging injuries for much of his stint. Although he remains a Madrid player as of today, he has spent the last seasons out on loan and his permanent exit appears to be on the horizon.
6 Barcelona: Claudio Bravo
Let's get it out of the way: Claudio Bravo was reliable for Barcelona but not the goalkeeper that they needed. To his credit, he had a solid first season although he failed it to follow it up with good performances. By the end of his stint with the club, it was clear that he wouldn't be around for much longer.
Fans were constantly complaining about the goalkeeper position at the time in hopes of signing a bigger name. Bravo would go on to join Manchester City, where he failed to impress as well - at least compared to fans' expectations.
5 Real Madrid: Antonio Cassano
At €5M, Antonio Cassano was bargain for Real Madrid so it's not like the club lost too much money with this transfer. But it has more to do with how badly the move turned out to be as Cassano was unsettled during his stint with Madrid, and was repeatedly criticized for being out of shape.
The club had to fine him at some point after Cassano continued adding on weight, which took away from his ability.
Cassano would also clash with coach Fabio Capello at the time, while being a huge headache behind the scenes during his lone season in Madrid.
4 Barcelona: Dmytro Chygrynskiy
Dmytro Chygrynskiy arrived in Barcelona for a fee of €25 million that the club would regret after just one season. He struggled to fit with his new club and was often caught out of position whenever he played - which upset the Barcelona supporters. While his appearances were very few, fans used to jeer him whenever he played as Chygrynskiy had committed quite a few errors.
The following summer, he returned to Shakhtar Donetsk who paid €15 million to acquire him from Barcelona. And while that isn't a huge loss for a rich club, it is still one of their worst transfers in recent memory.
3 Real Madrid: Rafael Van Der Vaart
In the mid 2000s, Rafael Van De Vaart received plenty of interest from top European clubs following some impressive years with Ajax and Hamburger - but he would end up joining Real Madrid for €13 million. His move didn't pan out the way he had been hoping, as Van Der Vaart found himself warming the bench during his first year with Madrid.
While he got more opportunities in the second season, he wasn't convincing enough for the club to retain his services. Although he had hoped to stay with the club, it was evident that Real Madrid had moved on once they accepted a bid from Tottenham.
2 Barcelona: Lucas Digne
Looking back at his career trajectory, Lucas Digne would have probably been better off staying with Roma. After two impressive seasons with Lille, he was purchased by PSG where he failed to get much playing time - only to be loaned for Roma where he was a starter for the season.
Barcelona would buy him the next summer for €16.5 million - which hasn't exactly been rewarding thus far. It is highly likely that Digne won't be a member of Barcelona for the upcoming season with rumors linking him to an Everton move - which would be a much needed change of scenery for Digne.
1 Real Madrid: Danilo
When Real Madrid added Danilo to their squad for a fee of €31.5 million, they were expected him to be much more than a bench warmer. But he never quite impressed despite getting some early chances, and as we know, Real Madrid tend to be impatient with struggling players.
Danilo found himself on the bench and wasn't featured as much as his fee would have you believe - although he did provide some howlers for fans to remember. Two years later, Real Madrid were able to recoup most of his fee upon his sale to Manchester City.
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