Griezmann, Dembele and Barca’s 10 worst transfers of all time

Martin Macdonald
Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, Barcelona

For the past 30 years Barcelona have dominated, influenced and outspent all of their European rivals.

While the Catalan giants may not have won as many European Cups as Real Madrid, they’ve welcomed just as many stars through their doors.

However, like any club, the Spanish giants haven’t always made the smartest moves in the transfer window. And alongside some exceptional signings like Luis Suarez, Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi, there have been some stinkers.

Here is a selection of 10 of the worst deals the Blaugrana have made.

Dmytro Chygrynskiy – €25m from Shakhtar, 2009

Pep Guardiola is a legendary figure at Barcelona and helped the club become the best team in the world, but he didn’t always get it right in the transfer market.

The bizarre signing of Dmytro Chygrynskiy from Shakhtar for a hefty fee will remain a small blot on the copybook of the ex-Barca boss.

The Ukrainian never got to grips with Guardiola’s tiki-taka football at the back and looked uncomfortable playing in this fashion.

Just a year after signing, he was sold back to Shakhtar at a €10 million loss.

Philippe Coutinho – €121m from Liverpool, 2018

After Ousmane Dembele failed to immediately replace Neymar in his first six months at Barcelona, the Blaugrana threw money at the problem again by purchasing Philippe Coutinho for an outrageous initial fee of €121m plus bonuses.

The move has turned out to be a disaster for all parties as Coutinho failed to make an impact on the team, regularly taking up the same positions as Lionel Messi before the Argentine left the club.

Philippe Coutinho, Barcelona

Philippe Coutinho, Barcelona

Coutinho came back to Barca after a mixed loan spell at Bayern Munich in 2019-20, and things failed to get any better upon his return.

READ MORE: How €160m Barcelona flop Coutinho won Liverpool the Champions League

Ousmane Dembele – €105m from Borussia Dortmund, 2017

Barcelona were held to ransom by Dortmund as they sought a replacement for Neymar.

Having just recouped the biggest transfer fee ever seen, they were forced to pay over the odds for young French winger Dembele, who had shown plenty of potential first with Rennes, then with BVB. A €105m deal was thrashed out, with a possible €40m to follow in bonuses.

Dembele’s time at Barcelona, though, has been dominated by injury problems, which have seen him fail to get anything close to his best.

Andre Gomes – €35m from Valencia, 2016

When Barcelona opted to purchased Andre Gomes for €35m plus significant add-ons in 2016, they already had a midfield consisting of Ivan Rakitic, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta.

Though squad players are required in a team such as Barcelona, Gomes was never going to break into that trio in midfield as a key starter.

Andre Gomes, Barcelona

Andre Gomes, Barcelona

Injury problems played a part in the unsuccessful stay in Catalunya, but even when he did play, it was usually against the tempo of his team-mates.

READ MORE: How Valencia pulled off an excellent piece of business selling Andre Gomes to Barcelona

Alexander Hleb – €17m from Arsenal, 2008

Alexander Hleb was a neat and tidy, intelligent and creative attacking midfielder during his time at Arsenal, but unfortunately for him he joined Barcelona at a time when they would emerge as the best team in the world.

Andres Iniesta, Xavi, Sergio Busquets, Thierry Henry, Samuel Eto’o and Lionel Messi were on fire throughout the campaign, which left Hleb with just five La Liga starts before March.

Though he wanted to leave on loan to Bayern, he eventually settled for a move back to previous club Stuttgart on loan.

It took until the 2012 January transfer window for him to finally leave after three loan deals away, as his contract was mutually terminated.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – €68m + Samuel Eto’o from Inter, 2009

Financially, Barcelona’s signing of Zlatan Ibrahimovic was one of the worst deals of all time. Barca not only splashed out around €68m for the Inter star, they also handed over a world-class attacker in Samuel Eto’o in addition.

Although Zlatan’s goal record was good – 21 goals in 45 games on the way to winning La Liga and five trophies in one year – his time in Catalunya soon turned sour.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Barcelona

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Barcelona

He fell out with Pep Guardiola, lost his place in the starting XI as Lionel Messi was converted into a ‘false nine’, and suffered the ignominy of seeing Eto’o and Inter beat Barcelona in the Champions League semi-finals.

After just one year at Barcelona he returned to San Siro – with AC Milan – for a cut-price transfer which eventually came to just €24m.

Malcom – €41m from Bordeaux, 2018

Malcom moved to Barcelona in the summer of 2018 off the back of a terrific season in Ligue 1 with Bordeaux, but was unable to continue his progression at Camp Nou.

The young Brazilian impressed in France with his eye-catching long-range shooting. But playing for Bordeaux and Barcelona are very different things and his move to the Catalan giants proved rushed.

There is no doubt that Bordeaux negotiated well to get €41m for a player who was still rather raw, and Malcom found he had taken a big step up too quickly.

Miralem Pjanic – €60m from Juventus, 2020

The fact that Barcelona paid Juventus €60m – plus €5m in bonuses – for a 30-year-old midfielder who had declined badly over the previous two seasons immediately raised eyebrows in Catalunya.

In reality, Barca’s decision to sign Miralem Pjanic and sell Arthur to Juventus at an equally inflated price of €72m – plus €10m in bonuses – was an accounting transfer designed to help both debt-fuelled teams balance the books and make capital gains.

Miralem Pjanic, Barcelona

Miralem Pjanic, Barcelona

While both Pjanic and Arthur struggled at their clubs, there’s no doubt that Juventus got the better end of this deal. The Bosnian has since moved on loan to Besiktas.

Nelson Semedo – €30.5m from Benfica, 2017

Dani Alves left Barcelona in 2016 and they are still yet to fully replace him at right-back. Aleix Vidal was awful, Sergi Roberto is a converted midfielder, and then, well, there was Nelson Semedo.

Semedo never got to grips with Barcelona’s playing style and was never a particularly good defender, making him ineffectual in both aspects of the game.

The final nail in his Barcelona coffin came in the latter stages of the Champions League in 2019-20 in which he was torn apart by Bayern left-back Alphonso Davies in a 8-2 loss.

Barcelona somehow, somehow, recouped their money from the purchase when Wolves signed him in the summer of 2020.

Antoine Griezmann – €120m from Atletico Madrid, 2019

Tactically this was a transfer that always seemed doomed to fail from the outset - and it proved to be so.

If you are a short, skilful, left-footed support striker, you have no chance of prospering in the same team as Lionel Messi. Just ask Paulo Dybala when it comes to the Argentina national team.

Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona

Antoine Griezmann, Barcelona

Antoine Griezmann and Messi often occupied the same spaces, while the Frenchman was at times shifted out of position in order to co-exist in the same team as the Argentine superstar.

In two years, he scored a very meagre 21 league goals and just four Champions League strikes. A very disappointing return given how much Barca spent for him.

He failed to win either La Liga or the Champions League.

Barcelona eventually agreed to offload him at a big loss back to Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2021