A reminder of the past transfers in Barça's history. Some of them were great investments, others... not so much.
Ronaldinho (from PSG, July 2003) - 32.25 M€
No matter the adaptation, the diferences between teams, leagues, teammates or fans and stadiums, when you've got something more than others, you bring it everywhere. Ronaldinho is a magician, and he was at his prime at Barça. In 2003, he had been taking France and its Ligue 1 by storm, offering performances rarely seen before in the French League, humiliating defenders week in and week out. That was when Europe got to know him a little better, because Brazilian fans will tell you he had already that magic touch when he was playing home, in the club of Grêmio Porto Alegre, in the region where he was born. It took more than French coach Luis Fernandez putting him on the bench to discourage him. Comforted by all those who knew he had something special, he waited patiently for his time to shine. And shine he did, marvellously.
So much that Barça got interested, and didn't hesitate in giving the French side over 30 million Euros to get him to come to Camp Nou. The Blaugranas never regretted it, even when Ronnie eventually started to decline and let parties too much space in his daily life. Besides that, he made Culés over the world enjoy football like few times before. He was capable of making the Santiago Bernabéu stand up and applause the rival. He didn't play football, he danced, he flew, he smiled and everyone felt lighter. Great teammate, he was never rude, never looked upset or enraged. His communicative joy made his surrounding better, and his memory unforgettable. Twice Ballon d'Or while at Barça, he probably reached his zenith at Camp Nou.
Ronaldinho's stats with Barça: 198 games, 91 goals, 53 assists / 5 years
Deco (from FC Porto, July 2004) - 21 M€
If Ronaldinho is mentioned about Barça somewhere, Deco has to be very near. The two Brazilian born players - Deco then became Portuguese - are virtually inseperable. Of course, individually, they are both tremendous players, magicians capable of making a game change in the flick of an eye. Imagine the two of them together... A true récital that Camp Nou could enjoy for four years before Pep Guardiola's arrival. Not that the Catalan coach was unaware of the greatness Deco showed, alongside his Brazilian friend.
Although he was advised to stay one more year by coach and mentor at FC Porto José Mourinho, to then follow him at Chelsea and explode once and for all, the Portuguese sensation chose to join Catalonia and Barça during the summer of 2004, after Porto's title in the Champion's League. A choice Mou felt was the wrong one, unlike Barça's Board and Blaugrana fans in general. On an upward trajectory, the little magician's career definitively took off in Camp Nou, with a second Champion's League title, 2 La Liga trophies, 2 Copa del Rey and 2 Spanish Supercups. More than the trophies, it was the quality of the midfielder and his tendency to see the game before everyone else that made him stand out on the pitch. Before he left to Chelsea, he had a blast with the Blaugrana shirt on. And contributed to make of Messi the lethal free-kick taker he is now. For all that, he made Barça's history.
Deco's stats with Barça: 160 games, 21 goals, 37 assists / 4 years
Jari Litmanen (from Ajax, July 1999) - 4 M€
For many football fans, Jari Litmanen is among the 10 ultimate midfielders in football's history. The Finnish player had not the chance to play in a great national team, nor had he loads of individual trophies. But in Amsterdam, he is a legend. Unfortunately, his talent couldn't be used at its fullest in Catalonia. In just one season, he played 29 games (8 in the Champions League) and scored 3 goals. Maybe Barça was too big for him, maybe he got there at a bad time, despite the Catalan club winning the two previous La Liga trophies (1997/98 and 1998/99).
He then went on to join the Premier League and Liverpool, where he didn't exactly find back what made him a legend in Finland, but still managed to display class and talent before the eyes of impressed Reds' fans. At least, Barça didn't have to pay an enormous amount of money to sign him, as he was already 28 when he joined the club for 4 million Euros. Unfortunately, this light investment didn't have the effect the Board expected.
Jari Litmanen's stats with Barça: 29 games, 3 goals / 1 year
Fabio Rochemback (from Internacional, January 2001) - 9 M€
South America is a continent of football, with passion all around, from Bolivia to Chile, passing by Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina or Paraguay. It is also a very different football, that is sometimes more spectacular, sometimes less rigid tactically, especially in defence, like in Brazil. Nowadays, presidents and Board members tend to take a signing of a Brazilian player very seriously, trying to gather as much information as possible and taking into account that an adaptation period is more often than not necessary.
But back in the days, in the early 21st century, some other methods were used and many transfers were signed based on video tapes of highlights of a player (it has sometimes been replaced by evolution charts in the game Football Manager now) showing skills and abilities in determined situations. But the truth of a video isn't always the truth of the pitch, particularly when coming from Brazil to play in Europe. That's what happened to Barça when they signed Fabio Rochemback, arguably a central midfielder that could do wonders in the Camp Nou. In two years though, he had a lot of trouble giving back that trust president Gaspart gave him when he signed him for 9 million Euros, a big figure at the time for a 19 year-old. An authentic flop that cost him a lot in his career, as he never really fulfilled the promise he seemed to offer when playing in Brazil. He left Barça on a paying loan to Sporting Lisbon before being transferred from the Catalan club to Middlesbrough. He came back in Sporting three years and finally travelled to Brazil, before ending his career in the Chinese second division.
Fabio Rochemback's stats with Barça: 65 games, 3 goals, 2 assists / 2 years
Geovanni (from Cruzeiro, January 2002) - 21 M€
Despite waiting one more year to sign him, Barça - and Joan Gaspart - made the same mistake they had made with Rochemback when they signed Geovanni. This one is probably even bigger, just like the price of the transfer, 21 million Euros from Cruzeiro in the winter of 2002. The 22-year old was compared to Figo (not for his will to play at both Real Madrid and Barça, but for his talent) and the fans expected a lot from this young winger that cost a fortune to the Blaugranas.
His stats on the one hand, his overall performance on the other, made him go through a very hard time at Barça, where he never really proved worth of all that money. Once again recruited on video, Geovanni was not the magician Gaspart was wanting. And his transfer record shows that Barça were the only one to ever pay a fee to sign the player. His good time at Benfica convinced the Portuguese club to sign him fo good, but he eventually left after a performance drop.
He is certainly one of the worst transfers in Barça's recent history, even though he isn't the only one to blame. The dubious methods of the recruitment cell at Barça is partly responsible for this huge failure.
Geovanni's stats with Barça: 41 games, 2 goals / 2 years
Ricardo Quaresma (from Sporting CP, January 2001) - 6.35 M€
Often compared to his friend Cristiano Ronaldo, Ricardo Quaresma could certainly have had a similar destiny as Real Madrid's winger. He had the talent necessary to put his name alongside Messi's, Cristiano's or Ronaldinho's. If he just won the European Championships in France alongside his long-time friend, his journey doesn't hold the same prestige. When he joined Barça, aged only 19, he probably expected his career to take off for good. But looking back at it, he may have joined Barça too fast, too soon.
6.35 million Euros was a amount of money significant enough to expect a return on investment quickly, despite Quaresma only being 19. Barça only left him a year before deciding it was time to let him go. Some might argue it was too short of a period to really reach his best level. Some others will say that in any case, given Quaresma's personality, it couldn't have ever worked for him while wearing the Blaugrana shirt. When looking at his overall career, this latter opinion might just be true. Unlike Cristiano, Quaresma is not fond of hard-work. And Barça saw it quickly. After just one season, 1 goal and 1 assist, Quaresma left for Porto, and then Chelsea, Inter or Besiktas, a lot of very good clubs that give a good idea of who is Ricardo Quaresma: a hugely talented player who has trouble to get working, which got him away from a very successful career.
Ricardo Quaresma's stats with Barça: 26 games, 1 goal, 1 assist / 1 year
Maxi López (from River Plate, January 2005) - 6.5 M€
Don't get us wrong, Maxi López is not a bad player, still today. But when he joined Barça, he was only a young talent - aged 20 - full of promises. Just like many of his counterparts that have joined Barça and haven't delivered, he probably just joined way too soon. This is the main problem with players you think are authentic gems: the executives of very big clubs just like Barça take interest really quickly and, as they fear competition, they want to bring in the player as soon as possible.
In the winter of 2004/05, Maxi López signed with Barça for 6.5 million Euros. Which makes a total of 360,000 euros per game, as he only played 18 for Barça, giving three assist - including one against Chelsea in the Champions League - as well as scoring one goal - still in that Chelsea game, for a 2-1 win for Barça. It just wasn't good enough, and that night alone was not enough to hide his mistakes and flaws. It took time, but he finally bounced back in Italy, where he is still playing now (Torino). Not at the level everyone expected from him, but still a good level.
Maxi López's stats with Barça: 18 games, 1 goal, 3 assists / 5 years