Barcelona's 10 most expensive transfers of all time

Carlo Garganese
Ousmane Dembele, Barcelona

Ousmane Dembele, Barcelona

There are few teams in football who have splashed the cash as freely as Barcelona over the years.

Indeed, as of 2021, three of the six most expensive players of all time were signed by the Blaugrana.

However, Barca’s big-money buys have been very hit and miss over the years.

For every Neymar there has been a Coutinho.

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

10. 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.

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.

9. Malcom - €42m (from Bordeaux, 2018)

Barcelona caused a furore with the signing of the Brazilian winger from Bordeaux in the summer of 2018.

Italian side Roma had already completed a deal for Malcom and booked him a flight to the capital. Roma fans had even congregated at the airport to greet their new signing.

Barca then hijacked the deal at the last minute and Malcom signed for the Blaugrana instead.

They would have been wise to let Roma have their man as Malcom failed to make his mark. He made just 15 league appearances, scoring one goal, and was sold to Zenit St Petersburg after just one season.

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

Miralem Pjanic

Miralem Pjanic

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.

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 over the last two seasons. Despite a Copa del Rey trophy - 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)

Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez

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 domestic double and the Champions League.

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)

Antoine Griezmann

Antoine Griezmann

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, it doesn’t seem as though all that money and bother was really worth it for Griezmann in the end. In 99 games the forward has only managed to score 35 goals and bag 16 assists and while that’s certainly not a bad return, it isn’t super either. And in many ways the French forward has failed to live up to the record fee paid for him by Barca.

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 the young French winger, 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.

1. Philippe Coutinho - €160m (from Liverpool, 2018)

Coutinho

Coutinho

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 has failed to make an impact on the team, regularly taking up the same positions as Lionel Messi which is a no-go.

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