Barcelona’s current financial predicament can be traced back to rash decisions made under the imprudent management of former president Josep Bartomeu. The erratic politician is largely to blame for plunging the world’s largest football club into a financial morass.
However, given their wealth throughout history, Barcelona has been known to make bizarre transfer decisions from time to time, regardless of management.
Barcelona’s worst signings before Bartomeu
Before Neymar’s record-breaking sale in 2017, which completely destabilized Barcelona’s transfer dynamic, the club had a brief history of spending big money on eventual failures. The Blaugrana’s €25 million acquisition of Dmytro Chyhrynskyi in 2009 was so disastrous that the Ukrainian was returned to Shakhtar Donetsk 11 months later.
While Marc Overmars was regarded as a gifted winger during his time at Arsenal and Ajax, the Dutchman’s career took a massive downturn after joining Barcelona for €29.3 million. In 2009, they overpaid for the services of supposed Brazilian prodigy Keirrison, paying €14 million for someone who went on to make no appearances.
With such a long history of misreading the transfer market, it’s no surprise that Barcelona is currently short on funds. Their reckless spending has finally caught up with the club, with the Catalan giants barely scraping by to pay the wages of the employed players.
Taking their penchant for excessive spending into account, here are five instances when Barcelona grossly overpaid for a single player:
Number 5: Miralem Pjanic – €60 million
Miralem Pjanic’s €60 million move to Barcelona has proven to be a colossal flop, with his arrival causing the club far more harm than good. Pjanic’s move was only made possible by selling promising youngster Arthur Melo to Juventus, resulting in a double whammy for Barcelona.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina international had a nightmare debut season at Camp Nou, scoring zero goals in 30 appearances for the Blaugrana. Pjanic could only manage 1,295 on-field minutes in his first season with Barcelona after failing to gain Ronald Koeman’s trust throughout the 2020-21 season.
While the initial deal was labeled a disaster from the start, Pjanic was expected to at the very least bring some much-needed creativity to Camp Nou. However, due to a lack of a defined role in the first team, the 31-year-old midfielder failed to make an impact and was loaned out to Besiktas for a season this summer.
With Koeman no longer at the helm of Barcelona, Pjanic will be hoping to repair his tarnished reputation next season.
Number 4: Zlatan Ibrahimovic – €45 million + Samuel Eto’oIbrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s move to Barcelona in 2009 created a lot of buzz in the footballing world due to the nature of the deal. He was the first non-Bartomeu signing on the list. In order to obtain the Swedish talisman from Inter, the Blaugrana agreed to send a proven Samuel Eto’o the other way.
Eto’o had already cemented his place in club history as a result of his invaluable contribution at the time of the transfer. Regardless, Pep Guardiola showed no hesitation in agreeing to part ways with the Cameroonian legend and an additional €45 million in favor of Ibrahimovic. Inter and Eto’o were unsurprisingly the clear winners of the deal, making a mockery of Barcelona’s poor negotiating skills.
Ibrahimovic would only stay at Camp Nou for one season before being loaned out to AC Milan due to a dispute with Guardiola. He was eventually sold to the Rossoneri in 2012 for a pittance of €24 million. Eto’o, on the other hand, became the first player in history to win two consecutive continental trebles, accomplishing the feat with Inter in his debut season.
Number 3: Antoine Griezmann – €120 million
Antoine Griezmann‘s €120 million transfer to Camp Nou has put a massive dent in the club’s finances and is the perfect example of Barcelona’s recent reckless spending. After relentlessly pursuing his signature the previous year, the Blaugrana successfully captured their target in 2019 for an exorbitant fee.
Griezmann was the star of a thriving Atletico Madrid team before his unfortunate move to Barcelona. Despite their strong interest in the player, the Catalan giants had no predetermined plans to integrate the French superstar into their starting lineup. As a result, Griezmann was left stranded on the left flank, with Barcelona failing to capitalize on the forward’s true potential.
On the evening of Antoine Griezmann’s transfer in 2019, Barcelona realized they didn’t have enough money to fund the move and needed to find €120 million quickly.
The club received a loan of €85 million from an investment fund and a loan of €35 million from a bank for the transaction.
Griezmann was only able to produce 35 goals and 17 assists in two seasons with his new club. Due to his insignificant contributions and exorbitant wages, the Frenchman was finally kicked out of the club this year, with Barcelona sending him back to Atletico. Los Rojiblancos can now sign him permanently for the bargain price of €120 million next year after selling him for a whopping €120 million.
Number 2: Ousmane Dembele – €135 million
Ousmane Dembele’s big-money move to Barcelona epitomizes a panic purchase in football. After losing Neymar to PSG for a world-record fee of €222 million in 2017, the Catalans went into a frenzy. As a result, they were desperately looking for a suitable replacement for the departing Brazilian.
Barcelona paid €135 million for Dembele after being impressed by his 10 goals and 22 assists in his lone season with Borussia Dortmund. With the deal having the potential to be worth up to €145 million, a lot of weight was placed on Dembele’s young shoulders.
Despite obvious talent, injuries have cruelly taken away the 24-year-promising old’s career. Notably, Dembele is currently undergoing treatment for his 12th major injury in his Barcelona career. Nonetheless, paying more than €100 million for an unproven youngster was never wise, and the Spanish giants have yet to recover from this colossal loss.Number 1:Philippe Coutinho -€135 million
Philippe Coutinho‘s move from England to Spain may be the strongest contender for the title of worst signing in Barcelona’s history. The Blaugrana’s record signing has struggled to adjust to life in Catalonia, making him the ideal candidate for the top spot on this list.
Coutinho, who was signed during the 2018 winter transfer window, was expected to become an instant star at Camp Nou. The Brazilian attacker was a key figure at Liverpool and had all the makings of a Barcelona player. Coutinho was set to dazzle the Blaugrana audience with his exceptionally creative and dribbling abilities.
On the other hand, Coutinho was unable to find his footing at Camp Nou due to poor player management and a dismal injury record. A season-long loan with Bayern Munich did little to resurrect his career. Barcelona’s acquisition of the Brazilian is without a doubt the most overpriced transfer in the club’s history, with the deal reportedly worth a whopping €160 million (inclusive of add-ons).