Dembele, Ibrahimovic and Barcelona’s 10 worst signings of all time
Barcelona are one of the biggest clubs on earth, and as such have had some of the best players in the world ply their trade at the Camp Nou over the years.
They have brought in terrific signings like Luis Suarez, Gerard Pique, David Villa and Neymar, but in recent years in particular their spending has gone out of control.
There are various other names who could have made the list of Barcelona’s worst transfers of the past quarter-century, like Paulinho, Alex Song, Javier Saviola, Yerry Mina, Paco Alcacer, Keirrison, Thomas Vermaelen and, probably, Antoine Griezmann.
But, here is a selection of 10 of the worst.
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 €10m 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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
While both Pjanic and Arthur have struggled at their clubs so far, there’s no doubt that Juventus got the better end of this deal.
The Brazilian is six years younger than the Bosnian and at least has the potential to become a first-team player at his club. Pjanic, meanwhile, has been way down the Barca pecking order all season and is already a contender to be sold on this summer – at a huge loss.
Nelson Semedo – €30.5m from Benfica, 2017
Dani Alves left Barcelona five years ago 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 last season 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.
Arda Turan – €34m from Atletico Madrid, 2015
Arda Turan had been the scourge of Barcelona previously when he starred for a period at Atletico Madrid, helping Los Colchoneros win La Liga in 2014.
Things were messy for Arda right from the get-go at Barcelona, however, as he was not allowed to play for his first six months at the club due to a registration ban the Blaugrana had received.
With six months of no playing, he naturally looked off the pace when he made his debut in January.
There were some good moments such as the hat-trick against Borussia Monchengladbach in the Champions League, but they were few and far between.
It would be five years later when Arda would eventually leave.