FC Barcelona Transfer Blunders: Five of the Biggest All-Time Flops


philippe coutinho

Anyone who buys into the myth that FC Barcelona are in any way perfect is deluding themselves, and whether by stupidity or bad luck, the elite club is just as vulnerable as any other when it comes to transfer market gaffes. With no further ado, these are the worst signings made by Barcelona in modern times. 

Philippe Coutinho (2018) 

When a top team like Barcelona sees fit to loan out one of their most expensive players to a fellow Champions League heavyweight, something is desperately wrong. The loanee in question was Philippe Coutinho, who had joined Barcelona for an mouth-watering €145m after setting the Premier League alight in 2013/14 with Liverpool’s near-miss for the title. 

If his first half-season at Barcelona was a slight disappointment, it was prime Messi compared to his first full season in the famous blue stripes. A dismal 2018/19 yielded just five goals and two assists from 34 La Liga appearances, as he crumbled under the pressure that a huge price tag brings. 

Much of this was down to Coutinho’s inability to play in his preferred central-left berth, as part of a 4-3-3 setup. He was utterly deadly in such a role for Brazil in the 2018 World Cup, but as another entry on this hallowed list would attest, no accommodation could be made that might disrupt Barcelona hero Lionel Messi’s flow. 

Ultimately, this made 2018/19 a fruitless exercise for Coutinho. As can be seen by those that?check here? for the latest player-themed La Liga betting markets, Messi is still king of the Catalans, meaning that the Brazilian midfielder simply has no future at Barcelona. 

Alexander Hleb (2008) 

Alexander Hleb’s establishment as a top-level midfielder came in the post-Invincibles era at Arsenal, which perhaps explains why he looked better than he actually was. There is no denying that he formed a good axis with Cesc Fabregas in North London, but the sight of Hleb – and not Fabregas – joining Barcelona in 2008 raised many an eyebrow. 

Simply put, Hleb’s time at Barcelona was a disaster, with just 19 appearances over the space of four years disrupted by loan spells in Germany and England – the latter of which saw him relegated with a yet-to-return Birmingham City in 2011. Much of this was down to his dreadful relationship with Pep Guardiola, with ‘creative differences’ further exacerbated by Hleb’s refusal to learn Spanish. 

Hleb himself admits some blame for the way his spell at Barcelona failed miserably, citing problems with his private life and an inability to put them to one side on the training pitch. 

zlatan ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (2009) 

Another man who simply never clicked with Guardiola was the cult icon known globally as ‘Ibra’, though unlike Hleb, Ibra admits no blame at all for flopping at Barcelona. The towering Swede departed the San Siro for an estimated €45m, switching places with Samuel Eto’o and giving himself big proverbial shoes to fill. 

Though he assisted Messi on his Barcelona debut and scored in his first four league appearances for the Catalan giants, Ibra’s early purple patch was cut short by a thigh injury. In true Ibra fashion, he marked his comeback with a Hollywood-calibre volley against Real Madrid in his first ‘Clasico’, and ultimately gained the respect of fans after hitting double figures in his first Barcelona campaign. 

However, all was not well behind the scenes.


Ibra’s purely target-based playing style – and lack of Eto’o style-movement up front – chipped away at the potency of Europe’s greatest midfield in a generation: Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. In turn, even Messi was far from his best as the 2010s approached. 

It was never going to work out, and after just two years, he was off to AC Milan, returning immediately to his free-scoring best. 

Emmanuel Amunike (1996) 

Former African footballer of the year Amunike was a key component of the Nigerian side that much of the wider world adopted as their ‘second’ international team, with the Super Eagles gaining many fans after the World Cup of 1994 and its even-greater successor. He was a tricky winger in the truest sense, and picked some very opportune moments to find the net at international level. 

His story of failure at the Nou Camp is greatly mitigated by a devastating knee injury, and with the Barcelona XI being just as competitive then as it is now, Amunike had nothing left but time in Catalonia. Spells across three continents – Albacete, Busan and Jordanian club Al-Wahdat – came and went, and he retired at 33, having never amounted to anything at the highest stage of continental football. 

Dmytro Chygrynskiy (2009) 

This towering Ukrainian defender was an absolute colossus at youth level, and a man many years before his time. Sadly though, he will be remembered as a spectacular failure at Barcelona – to such an extent that the names above him here looked (or have looked) comparatively world class during their respective stints. 

Equally capable of stopping a roaming forward in his tracks as much as carrying a ball out of defence Beckenbauer style, Chygrynskiy joined Barcelona for €25 million in 2009, just months after winning the last-ever UEFA Cup final. It was a fee seen as extortionate by many critics, and they were proven right, with Barcelona coughing up just over €2.08 per appearance. 

fc barcelona

Chygrynskiy made just fourteen appearances in the famous stripes, and though his debut (a 2-0 victory over Getafe) was assured enough, he made too many basic errors at the back. As proven by anybody on this list, a failure to make an immediate impact for Barcelona is invariably repaid with being immediately ostracised from all first-team plans. 

Just a year after joining the reigning European champions, Chygrynskiy returned to Shakhtar with his tail firmly between his legs. Today, he plies his trade with AEK Athens, but will always ruminate over his missed opportunity over a decade ago. 


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  1. Anonymous says

    Zlatan was at Barca for 1 year, now two. He’s also the only Barcelona player in history to score on his first five games

  2. Anonymous says

    “Not” two

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