A reminder of the past transfers in Barça's history. Some of them were great investments, others... not so much.
Samuel Eto'o (from Mallorca, July 2004) - 27 M€
There haven't been that many African players wearing the Blaugrana shirt one day in their careers, even less with as much success as Samuel Eto'o. The Cameroonian superstar was a very interesting prospect at the time he played for Mallorca, in La Liga. Scoring an average of 10 goals per season overall, 15.5 goals per season in his last two years with the club, Eto'o was on the verge of becoming one of the most wanted strikers in the world. His move to Barça was a smart one, as he got to become the face of Barça's attack, at a time when results were more difficult to achieve for the Blaugranas. He participated in launching the Blaugranas' new era.
Very soon, he proved worthy of the 27 million euros Barça decided to invest in him. At the end of his first season (2004/05) as a Barcelona player, Samuel Eto'o was already second in the race for the Pichichi Award, with 24 goals, only beaten by Villarreal's Diego Forlan with 25 goals. The following year, the year of the double for Barça, who won the Champions League and La Liga, Eto'o scored 26 goals in the league (34 in total), earning this time the Pichichi award in front of David Villa, who had scored 25 with Valencia. The 2006/07 season was a little bit more difficult, as he "only" scored 11 goals in La Liga, 13 in total. The following season was a bit similar, with few games (only 18 that year in the league) with fewer goals (16) despite an impressive ratio (0.8 goals per game). The arrival of Guardiola was a boost for him as he wanted to prove the Catalan coach he could count on him, although Guardiola wanted to get rid of him, as well as Deco and Ronaldinho. The result of this last season with the Blaugrana shirt was spectacular: a river of trophies (Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League), 36 goals (30 in La Liga, getting him the second place in the Pichichi Trophy) and a great satisfaction. However, Guardiola didn't change his opinion and Eto'o had to find happiness somewhere else. It was Inter, where he won a second Champions League trophy in a row. Nonetheless, he left a great memory to all Barça fans.
Samuel Eto'o's stats with Barça: 198 games, 129 goals, 36 assists / 5 years
Thierry Henry (from Arsenal, July 2007) - 20.4 M€
At first, just like generally when making assomptions about the French striker, Thierry Henry's decision to join Barça in the summer of 2007 might have looked a little selfish. It was just a year after Arsenal had lost the Champions League (the only major title that Henry didn't have) against Barcelona, who beat them 2-1 in Paris in the final. Sensing that it would be difficult to reach the final again, and willing to achieve something more in his already impressive carreer full of titles - 1 World Cup, 1 European Championships, 2 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, 1 French Ligue 1 title, 3 Charity Shields - 'Titi' chose to cross the Pyrenees and to join Catalonia.
Very clever and an intelligent communicator, Henry managed to turn around the opinion of the media and the fans about him, by adapting his speech and showing up more often in the press room, always with the smile and the feeling of being very accessible. Also, he added a small intervention about important Catalonia is for Catalan people, stressing on the fact it is different from any other place. With that, he was good to go and to continue having good performances on the pitch. Not as lethal as before, and having to deal with the competition of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Samuel Eto'o and David Villa, Henry was positioned on the side of the attack, to bring depth on the left and provide the strikers with good crosses and passes, as he always had a very high vision in the game. With Barça, he finally achieved his dream and won the Champions League in 2009, in Roma, against Manchester United (2-0, an old-time rival. With the satisfaction of achieving something he had been running after all his career, Henry continued one more year before leaving for the United States and the New-York Red Bulls.
Thierry Henry's stats with Barça: 121 games, 49 goals, 26 assists / 4 years
Yaya Touré (from Monaco, July 2007) - 7.65 M€
Before he became the icon of Manchester City's new era, joining the 2-times English Champions (2012, 2014) in the 2010/11 season, Yaya Touré was already considered to be one of the most impressive midfielders in the world. In Barça, he arrived as a holding midfielder, someone to watch over the defence and to give recovered balls to the creators up front. With the Blaugranas, he substantially improved his technique and his sense of the game, adding skills and football IQ to his powerful and relentless physique.
With the Blaugranas, he has even lifted the Champions League trophy in 2009, the first year of a certain Pep Guardiola, the same Pep with whom Yaya had troubles later on, in the following season. Despite the undeniable quality of the Ivory Coast midfielder, as well as he profound and sincere love for the club, Guardiola preferred to play with Sergio Busquets in front of the back four rather than Touré, which deeply affected the latter, who was disappointed not to play more, and enjoy fully his adventure with one of his favourite clubs of all-time. From Guardiola's point of view, everything that was possible was made to keep a hold of Touré, but the player's version is very different, as he claims Guardiola never listened to what he had to say. After two successful seasons, and a constant improvement that led Touré to putting his name among the very best midfielders on the planet, the third year was way more difficult and this misunderstanding brought the African superstar to leave the Camp Nou, to start a new challenge in Manchester City. A shame for many Barça fans, who still don't understand to this day how the Blaugranas could let go of such a gem.
Yaya Touré's stats with Barça: 118 games, 6 goals, 8 assists / 3 years
Dani (from Mallorca, July 1999) - 14 M€
Another example of a player who played for both Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, even though his best time wasn't in any of those teams. Also, Daniel García Lara, known as Dani, was the kind of player that could shine in a modest team but struggled in bigger clubs. Born in Catalonia, in Cerdyanola del Vallès, but formed in Real Madrid, the striker didn't really have the confidence of the Merengues to start his professional career at the Santiago Bernabéu, so he was loaned out to Zaragoza, for two years. Not the greatest years of his career as despite playing 33 games in La Liga the second season, he only could score 5 goals, not making any impact on the club's 14th position.
Despite the average performance he had just had, Real Madrid did use him - partially - the following season, 1997/98, during which the Merengues won the Champion's League agaisnt Juventus. Even if he didn't score any goal that season, and didn't play very much at all, Dani still won the trophy just like his teammates. However, the club decided to sell him for free to Mallorca in the summer. In a joker position, but freed from the pressure of representing Real Madrid, Dani had a much better performance in 1998/99, scoring 7 goals in only 17 games with Mallorca. He participated in Mallorca's success, third at the end of the 1998/99 season in La Liga. This interested Barça, who decided to sign him just the summer after, for 14 million euros.
Once again, the pressure of playing for a big club and the attention he had to face because of his price and his status of international, Dani didn't really live up to the expectation, despite scoring 16 goals, his best total in a club in his career. For a striker at Barça, it wasn't enough and the club, despite a good first season from his part - 11 goals in 27 La Liga games - decided to get more reinforcement - Alfonso Pérez, Javier Saviola - making Dani each time a little less important for the squad. In 2004, they decided to loan him out to Zaragoza, for 6 months (from January to June). Not convinced still by the Catalan striker, neither Zaragoza nor Barça wanted to continue with him, and the Blaugranas finally let him go for free to the local rival, Espanyol. He then went to Greece, came back to lower divisions in Spain, before he retired.
Dani's stats with Barça: 70 games, 16 goals, 1 assist / 5 years (1 year on loan at Mallorca)
Javier Saviola (from River Plate, July 2001) - 35.9 M€
He is not the first South-American player to be mentioned in this list. Javier Saviola was a pure ace, promised to become the big next thing for Argentina. To grow up, he decided to join Europe and Barça, who had seen the potential of this small forward (1m68), quick and lethal in front of the goal. Barça are so sure of his future blowout that they spent 35.9 million euros on this 19 year-old. Fairly, it wasn't a massive failure for the Blaugranas. But his young age as well as his price made for bigger expectations, that he never really matched, although he showed some class at the Camp Nou in several occasions.
His stats are not atrocious for a striker, and there were many many worse ones than him. With Barça, Saviola scored 72 goals in 172 games, his best season being his first one with the club, as he scored 21 goals in 48 games. But what followed was not as brillant and he never really could obtain an undisputed starting position along the years, He was still playing a lot under Frank Rijkaard, but his performance was not good enough for the Dutch coach, who decided in the summer of 2004 to let him go on loan to Monaco, and Sevilla, with moderate success (1 Europa League with Sevilla in 2005/06).
His come-back, in a team where Samuel Eto'o was the number one star in the front line, with Deco and Ronaldinho supplying him with assists, was not very spectacular and he soon headed to the eternal rival, Real Madrid, where he had even less game time and scored 5 goals in two seasons and 30 games. Benfica gave him a chance to score more goals and get more game time, giving Saviola a more appropriate status. Then there was Malaga, Olympiakos, Hellas Verona and finally River Plate, where he came back last summer, and played the clubs' World Cup against Barça (3-0 loss). He is also to this day the only South American player to have played El Clásico in both Real Madrid and Barcelona.
Javier Saviola's stats with Barça: 161 games, 67 goals, 8 assists / 6 years (2 years on loan, 1 at Monaco, 1 at Sevilla)
Aleksandr Hleb (from Arsenal, July 2008) - 17 M€
In Belarus, Aleksandr Hleb is a living legend. He has been the captain of the national team for a long time and the technical leader of a squad that struggles to get a more important role in the Qualifiers. On the European stage though, Hleb is more often seen as an eternal promise that could never really blow like everyone expected them to (Andriy Arshavin, Bojan Krkic, Theo Walcott, Ricardo Quaresma...). Obviously, when you play in two of the biggest clubs in Europe, Arsenal and Barcelona, football fans expect you to shine. There is no doubt about Hleb's quality, unfortunately for him he never managed to assert his status in any of the two clubs.
His competition in the Blaugranas' squad was probably even bigger, even though he had the likes of Fábregas and Nasri alongside him in Arsenal. A highly skilled player, capable of finding the right pass at the right time, or eliminate an opponent thanks to a classy feint, but someone whose work rate has may be too little sometimes to hope for some bigger role. Guardiola was the one asking to get him to Barça, and his first few games were rather impressive, but he got injured soon in the season, just before Pep found his ideal XI and started an historic run. Talented, aware of his capacities, Hleb didn't quite adopt the work regime Guardiola imposed on his players, and his hype soon faded, letting space between him and his coach, unimpressed with his lazy behaviour and his lack of activity. The rest is a series of loans that tired him out enough to leave Barça definitively for Russia, then Turkey, and finally Belarus' BATE Borisov, where he is still playing now.
Aleksandr Hleb's stats with Barça: 41 games, 2 goals / 4 years (3 years and a half on loan, 1 at Stuttgart, 1 at Birmingham, 4 months at Wolfsburg)
Henrique (from Desportivo Brasil, July 2008) - 8 M€
Whatever the era, whatever the situation, Brazil is and will always be a renowned land of football, and good football moreover. This explains a lot of doubtful transfers coming from Brazil with players supposedly on the verge of becoming the best in the world, who finally end up in complete disasters. Barça had success before with Brazilian players, we can quote Ronaldo Nazario, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, Romario, Dani Alves or Neymar, more recently.
But there was a time, not so long ago (and no, it is not about Douglas), when Barça got it completely wrong with a player that was supposed to become big. Henrique, solid and intelligent defender, arrived in Catalonia from Desportivo Brasil for 8 million euros and yet, he never played for the Blaugranas. This is how unappropriate this transfer was. Champion of loans, Henrique was loaned out to Bayer Leverkusen in 2008/09, in Racing Santander from 2009 to 2011, and in Palmeiras in 2011/12, where he was finally transferred in the summer of 2012, after his contract was terminated by the Blaugrana club. No offical games and therefore no stats to value from his stay at Barcelona. Useful in Leverkusen, his two years in Napoli were not as successful. He has now gone back to Brazil, where he plays for Fluminense.
Henrique's stats with Barça: 0 games, 0 goals, 0 assists / 4 years (all on loan: Leverkusen, Racing Santander [2 years], Palmeiras)
Keirrison (from Desportivo Brasil, July 2009) - 14 M€
If Henrique was a mistake for Barça, Keirrison was a joke. And a bad one. Bought from the same club as his brother-in-law Henrique (he married the defender's sister), Keirrison arrived at Barça in the summer of 2009, under Guardiola's spell, even though the Catalan coach had not asked for any of them. This young striker aged 20 at the time was not really famous in his own country, and there were very few people that could assure you of what he was worth. It didn't prevent Barça from paying 14 million euros to get the player and one again never make him feature in any official game.
Just like Henrique, Keirrison made a collection out of loans, in larger quantity than his Brazilian friend. Benfica for 6 months, Fiorentina for 6 more, Santos for a year, 8 months in Cruzeiro, and two years in Coritiba that he joined definitively in the summer of 2014, for free. To this day, nobody knows what was the real reason behind his signing, as it was clearly not about his potential nor his performances. A huge failure for the Blaugranas, especially economically.
Keirrison's stats with Barça: 0 games, 0 goals, 0 assists / 6 years (all on loan: Benfica [1 year 4 months], Fiorentina [6 months], Santos [1 year], Cruzeiro [8 months], Coritiba [2 years])