When it comes to setting records and making history, Barcelona certainly do it like no other. In 2010, three players who came through the club’s youth academy were shortlisted to vie for the FIFA Ballon d’Or, an award which has recently been won for a record fifth time by a Barcelona player. In 2009, Barcelona became the first Spanish club to win the treble and also the first football club to win six out of six competitions in a single year. They won five trophies in 2011 and then took things to a whole new level in 2015 when they won the treble for a second time thus becoming the first European club to achieve such a feat.
While great managers certainly contribute to the success, most of the credit goes to the players. Barcelona have had the honor of having some of the best players in football history don their shirts throughout the years. While some of these players are youth academy products, others happen to be signings from other clubs. However, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing when it comes to theirs signings as some players ended up being absolute busts after they joined Barcelona.
Arsenal has certainly benefited a lot from Barcelona’s poor decisions. There’s been a couple of former Arsenal players that have ended up being flops at Barcelona and it makes you wonder just how many times Barcelona will allow themselves to be duped into spending their millions. Not all players came from Arsenal however, and some of them actually happened to be decent players who either weren’t given the chance to prove themselves or just found it hard to adapt to Barcelona’s style of playing. Regardless of the poor performances by these players, the main disadvantage for the club is usually the losses incurred when a player goes to another club for a lower price than the one which they were bought for or worse, for free. Here are the top 15 worst Barcelona signings.
15 Henrique Adriano
Barcelona signed the centre back from Palmeiras in 2008 on a five-year contract then loaned him to Bayer Leverkusen. He was then loaned to Racing Santander the following two seasons and in 2011, went back to his former club Palmeiras on loan. In 2012, Barcelona cancelled his contract and Palmeiras decided to sign him. While his €8 million transfer fee wasn’t too expensive, his signing proved to be wasteful considering his only appearances for Barcelona were in preseason matches.
14 Juan Roman Riquelme
The attacking midfielder joined Barcelona from Boca Juniors in 2002, for a fee of €11 million but his time at the club was perhaps doomed from the start after manager Louis van Gaal described him as a “political signing”. Van Gaal often played him out of position as a winger, thus he wasn’t able to adapt to Barcelona’s playing style and as a result, lost his place in the first team. He was loaned out to Villareal for the following two seasons before they eventually signed him.
At Villareal, his performance improved and he was part of the team that reached the Champions League semi-final in 2006, the same year he refused to join Manchester United, a decision he later regretted. He is considered one of the best playmakers of his generation and even got to wear the iconic number 10 shirt for Argentina.
In 2000, Barcelona signed the Real Madrid youth graduate from Real Betis for €16.5 after Luis Figo’s controversial move to Madrid. The signing proved disastrous for the striker, who only managed two goals during his time at Barcelona. After an unsuccessful loan spell at Marseille, he was loaned to his former club Betis. He however couldn’t replicate the form he once had at Betis and ended up retiring in 2005 after his contract expired.
12 Roberto Bonano
Barcelona signed the 31-year-old goalkeeper from River Plate in 2001 for €1.2 million. He is however best remembered for the mistakes he made in the 2001/2002 Champions League semi-finals first leg in which Barcelona suffered a 2-0 loss to Real Madrid, who went on to win the title. His errors eventually led to him being replaced by Victor Valdes, and in 2003, he left for Real Murcia on a free transfer.
11 Martin Caceres
The Uruguayan defender joined Barcelona in 2008 from Villareal for a fee of €16.5 million. Injuries limited his playing time and even when he could play, he had to make do with a reserve role due to the likes of Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique being preferred over him. Barcelona loaned him out to Juventus the following season then to Sevilla in the next who eventually bought him for around €3 million in 2011.
10 Gabriel Milito
In 2003, the centre back had the chance to join Real Madrid but he failed the medical as Madrid claimed that they couldn’t guarantee his fitness for the next four seasons, so he instead went to Real Zaragoza. After four years with Zaragoza, Barcelona bought him for €18.5 million in 2007. After multiple injuries which once saw him sidelined for 602 days, he was released from the last year of his contract with Barcelona in 2011 and signed with Independiente. He retired in 2012, one year after his Barcelona departure. In his four seasons at Barcelona, he played just 48 games in the league. The Barcelona hierarchy probably wishes they’d handled his signing the Madrid way.
9 Philippe Christanval
The French defender was signed by Barcelona from Monaco in 2001 for €17 million. He however joined Barcelona at a time when they didn’t really need a new defender and Louis Van Gaal’s new system of playing three defenders instead of four did him no favours. His poor display saw him dropped from the French national team and he ended up joining Marseille in 2003 after being released from Barcelona. In 2005, he joined Fulham following a failed trial at Arsenal. He retired in 2009 after being unable to find a new club.
8 Alexander Hleb
It isn’t hard to understand why Hleb claimed that his biggest regret in life was leaving Arsenal for Barcelona. He joined Barcelona in 2008 for a fee of €17 million and while he featured regularly for Arsenal, he mostly found himself on the bench for Barcelona. Before his first season ended, he was already looking to join another team. He was loaned out to three different clubs the following seasons until his contract with Barcelona was cancelled by mutual consent in 2012. The astonishing part is that his four-year contract with Barcelona had a buy-out clause of €90 million. Someone clearly mistook him for a world class player.
7 Javier Saviola
The Argentine forward was 19 years old when he joined Barcelona in 2001 from River Plate for around €36 million. He was quite underwhelming for a person hailed as the “New Maradona” and only managed 49 goals in 123 appearances for Barcelona in the league. With the arrival of Samuel Eto’o and Henrik Larsson in 2004, he lost his place in the team and was loaned out to Monaco, then again to Sevilla the following season before returning to Barcelona for his final season. He joined Real Madrid on a free transfer in 2007. Barcelona probably didn’t mind him joining their fierce rivals, seeing as he was a flop in Madrid too.
6 Dmytro Chygrynskiy
The centre back joined Barcelona from Shakhtar Donetsk in 2009 for a fee of €25 million. His performance was quite abysmal and he was constantly jeered by the Barcelona supporters. Things got worse for him after a particular match against Sevilla in which his mistake led to Barcelona conceding a penalty. Pep Guardiola came out to defend him on this particular occasion but despite his intentions to keep him in the team, he couldn’t prevent him from being sold back to Shakhtar for €15 million the following season.
In 2001, Barcelona signed Geovani from Cruzeiro for €18 million amid reported interest from Arsenal and Juventus. While he was a decent player, he lacked consistency and managed to score only one goal for Barcelona. In his third season, he was loaned out to Benfica who eventually signed him. Following his departure from Barcelona, he went on to play for eight different clubs before he finally retired.
4 Gerard Lopez
Lopez rose from the youth ranks into the Barcelona B-team before joining Valencia in 1997. Barcelona again took notice of him after he helped Valencia reach the 2000 Champions League final and had a decent loan spell at Deportivo Alaves, so they bought him back in a deal worth €22 million. His second stint at Barcelona wasn’t impressive however, and injuries further complicated matters. He eventually left Barcelona for Monaco in 2005.
3 Marc Overmars
When it comes to inflated price tags his move to Barcelona certainly deserves a mention. In 2000, Arsenal somehow managed to convince Barcelona to pay €40 million for Overmars, with Emmanuel Petit also being included in the deal. This proved to be a disaster for Petit left for Chelsea the following season due to lack of playing time and Overmars, whose performance was decent at first, was plagued by injuries which eventually forced him to retire in 2004. He came out of retirement years later but only lasted a season due to knee discomfort.
2 Zlatan Ibrahimovic
In 2009, Ibrahimovic joined Barcelona from Inter Milan in exchange for Samuel Eto’o, one of their best strikers who was valued at €20 million plus a fee of €49.5 million. His time at Barcelona was however marred by constant clashes with Pep Guardiola, who preferred Lionel Messi in the centre forward position. Eto’o went on to win the treble with Inter while Zlatan’s relationship with Guardiola deteriorated and he was loaned out to AC Milan the following season. While his performance was far from poor, he still was a bad signing for Barcelona who only got €24 million from AC Milan after they’d spent €69.5 million on him.
The top spot goes to the nominal Barcelona player. In 2009, Barcelona bought him from Palmeiras for €14 million after some good performances in the Brazilian league. They then loaned him to five different clubs in five years until his contract ran out in 2014. While Henrique at least got to play in preseason matches, Keirrison never got the chance to wear a Barcelona shirt. It’s believed that Barcelona loaned him out in the hope that he would perform well so they could sell him for profit. It is also quite pointless to sign a player and not have him play a single game for the club.