Barcelona's 10 most expensive transfers of all time

Carlo Garganese
Carlo Garganese Updated: 13 Jul 2022 13:47 BST 7 min read
Ousmane Dembele, Barcelona

Ousmane Dembele, Barcelona

Barcelona might be better known for La Masia than big spending, but the Catalans have made a number of huge splashes in the transfer market in recent years.

The latest of these are set to come in 2022. While Robert Lewandowski's €50 million move from Bayern Munich will not even make the Catalans' top 10 deals of all time - it will rank 11th - Raphinha's move from Leeds has broken into that elite band of deals.

These deals come against the backdrop of financial problems for the club that have only been eased by a portion of key assets, such as merchandising and television revenue, being sold off by the club - but it was many of the preceding transfer that got them into trouble in the first place.

Football Transfers runs down the 10 most expensive signings in Barcelona history.

=9. Miralem Pjanic - €65m (from Juventus, 2020)

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

In reality, Barca’s decision to sign 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.

Pjanic struggled horribly in his first season at Barcelona, making just six La Liga starts and scoring no goals in all competitions. He immediately sought an exit at the end of his first campaign, and eventually joined Besiktas on loan.

=9. Ferran Torres - €65m (from Man City, 2022)

Ferran Torres became the first major signing of Xavi's reign at Barcelona when the Blaugrana agreed to splash out €55m plus €10m in add-ons for the wide attacker.

Xavi specifically requested Torres from president Joan Laporta as he attempted to rebuild a Barcelona empire that was close to completely collapsing.

Torres had spent 18 decent months at Man City after arriving there from Valencia in the summer of 2020 but jumped at the chance to return to his homeland.

8. Raphinha - €66m (from Leeds, 2022)

Barcelona completed the signing of Raphinha from Leeds in the summer transfer market of 2022 for big money having been struggling weeks earlier. The Brazil international winger had lit up the Premier League with Leeds and Barca beat off competition from Chelsea to sign the former Rennes winger.

The size of the deal came as something of a surprise, particularly since the Catalans had been in financial dire straits for months leading up to the conclusion of the transfer.

7. Zlatan Ibrahimovic - €69m + 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 €69m 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.

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.

6. Frenkie de Jong - €75m (from Ajax, 2019)

After helping his side win a domestic double and march to the semi-finals of the Champions League, Frenkie de Jong was one of the most sought-after talents in world football in the summer of 2019.

After rejecting offers from Manchester United, PSG and Manchester City, the Dutch midfielder then made the move to Barcelona for a deal believed to top €75 million, with high hopes of taking his Ajax form to a new level.

However, that hasn’t exactly gone to plan as Barca’s own success has failed to match De Jong’s ambition. Despite a Copa del Rey trophy in 2021 - which the midfielder helped win with an assist in the final - it seems as though the Dutch star’s new club haven’t really made the most of him yet. The best is certainly still to come.

5. Luis Suarez - €82m (from Liverpool, 2014)

After fluttering his eyelashes at the club for a number of years, Luis 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.

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, Surez formed one third of Barca’s feared “MSN” attacking line of Lionel Messi, Neymar and the Uruguayan striker and, despite his routine bouts of stupidity off the ball, proved to become one of the best forwards in the world.

4. 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 talent certainly needed time to adapt to European football in his first season, but by the 2014/15 season Neymar was at his very best with 39 goals in 51 games as Barca claimed a treble.

In total, Neymar scored 105 goals and 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.

3. Antoine Griezmann - €120m (from Atletico Madrid, 2019)

With Neymar now a distant memory Barcelona went big in signing a long-term replacement in Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann for no less than €120 million in 2019.

The capital side seriously disputed the manner in which Barca paid off Griezmann’s minimum-fee release clause and Atleti fans defaced the player’s plaque outside the club stadium, but the France international was eventually confirmed as a Barca player in mid July.

However, two years on, he proved not worth the money.

His performances, combined with the fact Barca needed him off the wage bill, led to a return to Atletico on loan in 2021.

2. Ousmane Dembele - €145m (from Borussia Dortmund, 2018)

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 Ousmane 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.

Barca will now likely lose him for free.

1. Philippe Coutinho - €160m (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 potentially reaching €160m.

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 in the summer of 2021.

Coutinho returned to the club after he failed to earn a permanent move to Bayern after a loan deal – and once again failed to shine.

In January, he completed a surprise loan move to Aston Villa to hook up with former team-mate Steven Gerrard.