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Barcelona’s 10 best transfers of all time

Abidal: Barcelona decided to sign Griezmann instead of Neymar

La Liga giants Barcelona are one of the biggest clubs in the world in terms of fanbase and success on the pitch.

The Blaugrana have become famed for having one of the best academies around in La Masia which has produced names like Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Lionel Messi among others over the years.

However, over the last 20 years especially they have also splashed the cash to remain at the elite level.

Plenty of money has been wasted on deals for the likes of Philippe Coutinho and Antoine Griezmann in more recent seasons which have left the club in an awful financial position.

But, they have done some clever business, too, as displayed by our list of Barcelona’s top 10 transfers of the last 20 years.

Ronaldinho – €30m (from PSG, 2003)

In the summer of 2003 Barcelona had a decision to make. There were three superstars on their list of targets – Ronaldinho, David Beckham and Thierry Henry.

In the end, they beat Manchester United to the acquisition of PSG maverick Ronaldinho.

Even though the Brazilian was known for his dribbling ability and tricks, he translated this into majorly effective performances for the Blaugrana.

He helped the club become elite again, winning the Champions League in 2006 and previously winning the Ballon d’Or.

His fitness and partying lifestyle led to a slightly acrimonious departure.

Samuel Eto’o – €24m (from Mallorca, 2004)

Eto’o was part of the youth set up at Real Madrid before moving to Mallorca initially on loan and then on a permanent basis.

The Cameroonian eventually left Mallorca as the top domestic scorer in their history as he joined Barcelona instead of going back to Madrid.

Eto’o made the step-up the Barcelona seamlessly as his devastating finishing ability powered the Blaugrana to victory after victory.

He really was one of the best around during his time at Camp Nou, and his exit as part of the Zlatan Ibrahimovic deal continues to baffle.

Gerard Pique – €5m (from Man Utd, 2008)

Pique had the unfortunate task of attempting to break into the Rio Ferdinand-Nemanja Vidic partnership at Man Utd and as that was the best pairing around at the time, he opted to return to Barcelona in 2008.

Pique was at La Masia before heading to Manchester so was already engrained in the culture of the club, while he jumped at the chance to play under new head coach Pep Guardiola.

Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi
© ProShots – Gerard Pique and Lionel Messi

For a nominal fee of €5m, Barcelona secured a player who would go on to win eight La Liga titles, three Champions League titles and seven Copa del Rey trophies before retiring in 2022.

Dani Alves – €30m (from Sevilla, 2008)

Alves was already a special player when at Sevilla, but at Barcelona he became the undisputed best right-back in the world.

Full-backs were no longer mostly about defending, and Alves proved this as he emerged as one of the most creative players in Europe, forming a devastating tandem down the right-hand side with Lionel Messi.

In 321 starts for Barcelona in his first spell, he recorded 74 assists.

It is not an exaggeration to say that, five years after Alves left the club, they failed to replace him, which is why they decided to bring him back in the January of 2022 for another six months.

Javier Mascherano – €24m (from Liverpool, 2010)

Mascherano spent the majority of his career before Barcelona as a central midfielder, acting an anchor in the middle of the park for the more creative players to flourish.

However, he was soon adapted into a centre-back, and alongside Pique he flourished in the role, acting as a suitable replacement for Carles Puyol.

With Barca having so much of the ball under Guardiola, the head coach sought the need for better control at the back, and so Mascherano became a defender.

At €24m, this represents a cracking piece of business for Barcelona and a poor one from Liverpool.

David Villa – €40m (from Valencia, 2010)

One of the best and most underrated attackers of his generation, Villa was almost 29 when he signed for Barcelona for a rather hefty fee given his age.

However, he soon paid back the investment with a stunning first season at Camp Nou. He scored 23 goals as Barca won a league and Champions League double.

David Villa
© ProShots – David Villa

Villa scored a fine curling goal in the Champions League final win over Manchester United at Wembley.

He was less prolific in his next two seasons before departing to Atletico Madrid but will still be fondly remembered by Barca fans.

Jordi Alba – €14m (from Valencia, 2012)

Guardiola largely played with Eric Abidal at left-back during his tenure with the club, but after he left there was a recognised need for someone more attack-minded.

With Alves on the right, Barca sought someone equally as creative on the other side and so looked to Alba of Valencia.

Alba actually played both left-midfield and left-back at Valencia so his prowess going forward was known, while the price tag of €14m was a steal.

The Spaniard was a key part of Barcelona’s squad for over a decade before moving to Inter Miami in 2023.

Neymar – €86m (from Santos, 2013)

Although the manner of Neymar’s move to Barcelona from Santos eventually led to the club and vice-president Josep Maria Bartomeu being charged with tax fraud, it’s safe to say the player’s transfer fee of €86 million was repaid comfortably by Neymar’s performances for the club.

The young Brazilian’s talent certainly needed time to adapt to European football in his first season, but by the 2014/15 campaign Neymar was at his very best with 39 goals in 51 games as Barca claimed a domestic double and the Champions League.

In total, Neymar scored 105 goals and recorded 76 assists in just 186 games for the Spanish giants and won no less than six major titles before earning his club a remarkable profit with a €222 million move to PSG in August 2017.

That remains a world record transfer fee.

Luis Suarez – €82m (from Liverpool, 2014)

After fluttering his eyelashes at the club for a number of years, Suarez finally got the move he’d been dreaming of in 2014 when he left Liverpool to join Barcelona.

Despite signing on a five-year deal for a record €82m, Suarez was immediately banned from playing or even training with his new club until October after biting Giorgio Chiellini at the 2014 World Cup. But eventually, he got to work.

Luis Suarez
© ProShots – Luis Suarez

Over the course of six seasons at the Catalan club, Suarez scored a remarkable 195 goals and bagged a further 113 assists in 283 games for the club and picked up no less than four league titles, four Copa del Rey trophies and the Champions League in 2015.

Alongside his superb individual talent, Suarez formed one third of Barca’s feared ‘MSN’ attacking line of Messi, Neymar and the Uruguayan striker and, despite his routine bouts of madness off the ball, proved to become one of the best forwards in the world.

Ivan Rakitic – €18m (from Sevilla, 2014)

A few eyebrows were raised when Barcelona opted to sign Rakitic from Sevilla as at that time they already had a stacked midfield with Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets.

However, the Croatian had emerged as one of the best midfielders in La Liga away from Barcelona and Real Madrid during his time with Sevilla, so the Blaugrana jumped at the chance to sign him for a relatively cheap fee.

Rakitic added another dimension to the Barcelona midfield and when Xavi left for Qatar the damage wasn’t as much as it would have been if not for his presence within the team.

He earned multiple La Liga victories, multiple Copa del Rey victories, and one Champions League in 2015. He rejoined Sevilla in 2020.

Read more about: La Liga, Barcelona, Barcelona, Antoine Griezmann, Gerard Pique, Ivan Rakitic, Jordi Alba, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez, Neymar, Sergio Busquets, Zlatan Ibrahimović

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