Barcelona sit proudly amongst the world’s biggest and most illustrious football clubs and the Spanish giants have used their status to sign some leading talent in recent years, spending significantly as they bid to reestablish themselves as Europe’s best.
The heavy spending of the Catalan club has been a distinct change from a history that has largely centred around producing home-grown heroes, their famed La Masia academy system – producing the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi – the envy of clubs across the planet.
Barcelona’s youth development produced the key figures in arguably club football’s greatest ever side, winning three Champions League titles between 2009 and 2015, but their reckless recent approach in the transfer market has failed to deliver the same success.
Miralem Pjanic has become the latest star signing to head to the Camp Nou and Barcelona will be hoping the Bosnian can have a greater impact than many of their recent additions, the club having wasted a fortune since selling Neymar to Paris Saint-Germain for a world-record fee three years ago.
We’ve decided to profile Barcelona’s biggest buys of recent years, rating their six most expensive signings since selling Neymar in 2017:
Paulinho – €40m
Eyebrows were raised across European football following Barcelona’s signing of Paulinho in 2017, the Brazilian having struggled to make an impact at Tottenham before heading to the Chinese Super League on a lucrative contract.
Paulinho had impressed with Guangzhou Evergrande but his move the Camp Nou still came as a major shock, Barcelona activating his €40m release clause after seeing a series of bids rejected.
The 29-year-old began brightly in Spanish football and played his part in a domestic double during the 2017/18 season, scoring nine goals and playing an influential role in Ernesto Valverde’s tactical plan.
The Brazil international struck up an impressive understanding with Lionel Messi but his effectiveness dwindled during the second half of the campaign and after just a single season at Barca, he returned to China on a season-long loan deal before sealing a permanent return to Guangzhou.
Malcom – €41m
Barcelona memorably hijacked Roma’s deal to sign Malcom from Bordeaux in 2018, the winger persuaded his future was in Spain following a late approach from the Catalan giants.
The Brazilian had attracted attention from Europe’s elite after sparkling during his time in French football, but he struggled to make any kind of impact at Barcelona and swiftly fell out-of-favour.
Malcom made just six league starts following his €40m arrival and failed to gain the trust of Ernesto Valverde, scoring just one league goal and providing a further two assists.
After just a single season he was pushed towards the Camp Nou exit door, moving to Russian Premier League side Zenit St Petersburg following a campaign of frustration and disappointment in La Liga.
Frenkie de Jong – €75m
Amongst the marquee arrivals at the club last season, Frenkie de Jong looked the perfect fit for Barcelona having risen through the ranks to star as the midfield metronome in a talented Ajax side.
The seamless transition many anticipated has failed to become a reality, however, with injury and managerial upheaval having seen De Jong fail to show his best form since his hugely anticipated move to Spain.
The Netherlands international has played multiple positions, his youthful legs often tasked with running forward in an ageing Barcelona team – a situation which has nullified the deep-lying playmaker style which saw him become so sought after whilst in Amsterdam.
Sergio Busquets continued presence in the side means De Jong is unable to play as the deepest midfield pivot, whilst his brief run alongside Busquets in a deeper role was ended by manager Ernersto Valverdes’ mid-season sacking.
Replacement Quique Setién is yet to deploy De Jong in a system which extracts the most from his talents, and it remains to be seen whether one of world football’s most talented young players can avoid being the latest exciting arrival to struggle at the Camp Nou.
Antoine Griezmann – €120m
Having scored 94 La Liga goals in just 180 appearances during a five year spell at Atletico Madrid, Spanish champions Barcelona decided to raid their divisional rivals to secure the signing of Antoine Griezmann last summer.
The World Cup-winning forward was expected to line up alongside Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi in a mouthwatering forward line, but he has failed to make the desire impact in a difficult debut season.
Griezmann’s campaign has been hugely underwhelming since his big-money arrival from the capital, scoring just nine league goals and failing to find the form that made him a star at Atletico.
The 29-year-old has often been deployed out-of-position on the left-flank and has perhaps struggled to adapt to the Messi-orientated style of play in Catalonia, the Frenchman having undoubtedly been the main man in attack for Atleti.
Griezmann’s move has failed to take his career to the next level as yet and it is difficult to see him featuring alongside both Suarez and Messi without his talents being somewhat restricted.
Ousmane Dembele – €122.5m
Neymar’s world-record departure to Paris Saint-Germain saw Barcelona spend big in a bid to bolster their attacking options, making Borussia Dortmund star Ousmane Dembele the then second-most expensive player in football history in 2017.
The France international had spent just one season at the German side after joining from Rennes, impressing Barcelona sufficiently to persuade the club to sanction a club-record deal which could rise as high as €122.5m with add-ons.
Ousmane Dembélé’s goals & assists across all club competitions:
Left foot: Right foot:
• 20 goals • 20 goals
• 20 assists • 18 assists
We have to wait *another* six months for him to restore balance. ? pic.twitter.com/vf8GVfM5wj
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 11, 2020
Dembele has, however, struggled for both form and fitness despite winning back-to-back league titles in his first two seasons, making just 35 league starts across three seasons including just three in 2019/20 following another injury-hit campaign.
Once amongst the most promising young talents in world football, Demebele’s career has been derailed by fitness issues and there are widespread reports that Barca will consider his sale this summer in a bid to raise funds.
The club’s asking price will be significantly lower than the fee paid to Dortmund for his services three years ago, and it remains to be seen whether any leading side will gamble on a player whose career has stalled of late despite his obvious talent.
Philippe Coutinho – €150m
The dream move which turned into a nightmare, Philippe Coutinho became the most expensive player in Spanish football history when signing for Barcelona from Liverpool in January 2018.
Coutinho had established himself as one of the Premier League’s most exciting talent during five seasons on Merseyside, his touch and technique seemingly perfectly suited to Barca’s famed philosophy and style.
The Brazilian initially adapted impressively to life in La Liga, helping the club to a league and cup double following his record-breaking winter window move, but his performance levels dropped drastically during his first full season in Catalonia.
Coutinho often looked like a Barcelona player whilst wearing the red shirt of Liverpool, but rarely when in the Catalan’s colours as he struggled to exert his influence and find his role in the side.
After just 18 months in Spain he was deemed surplus to requirements and joined Bayern Munich on a season-long loan, failing to reignite his fortunes in Germany and now seemingly at a career crossroads after being found unwanted in either Barcelona of Bavaria.