Some good, but plenty bad...

Where are they now? Ernesto Valverde’s first 11 signings as Barcelona manager

Ernesto Valverde has carved out a brilliant career as both a player and a manager, but his three-year stint in charge of Barcelona is often easily brushed over.

And perhaps somewhat unfairly, considering he led La Blaugrana to back-to-back La Liga titles in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Despite being tasked with following on from Luis Enrique’s treble-winning side and having to rebuild an ageing squad, the bar never moves at a club like Barcelona.

No matter the circumstances, the objective is always European dominance, especially given that their rivals Real Madrid were wiping the floor with them in the Champions League.

Valverde did his best, but failure in Europe which culminated with Barcelona’s complete implosion against Bayern Munich in 2020 resulted in him losing his job and the club essentially completely falling apart, including Lionel Messi leaving.

They’re still trying to pick up the pieces from that implosion four years on, while Valverde is back on the touchline for Athletic Club. But what became of the first 11 signings he made for the club?

Gerard Deulofeu

The first signing of the Valverde era back in the summer of 2017, Barcelona activated a buyback clause inserted into Deulofeu’s Everton contract and he returned to the Catalan giants for just over £10million.

By January 2018, however, he’d made just 10 La Liga appearances before being shipped back to England, joining Watford on loan and eventually permanently. The budget Neymar replacement was barely given a chance.

The Spaniard swapped Watford for Udinese – both sides owned by the Pozzo family – and has remained in Italy ever since, but hasn’t kicked a ball since the beginning of 2023 due to a nightmare knee injury. At just 30, his career as a player is in serious doubt.

Former Barcelona players Gerard Deulofeu, Philippe Coutinho, Andres Iniesta

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The Brazilian defender actually signed a season earlier on loan, but impressed enough at Barcelona B to earn a permanent move from Fluminense for €5million.

However, as soon as he was signed permanently, he was shipped out on loan to Nice for the season and then sold the following summer to Sassuolo for just €6million, albeit with a buyback clause.

You don’t need to be a genius to figure out that the club never activated it. Now 28, Marlon is back with Fluminense on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk.

Nelson Semedo

Barcelona paid Benfica an initial £29million for Semedo in 2017, but pretty much broke even when selling him to Wolves three years later, in what proved a rare piece of good business in an otherwise chaotic period.

Semedo has remained at Wolves ever since and found his level as a solid, mid-table Premier League right-back, even with Wolves’ Portuguese XI gimmick now over. What a weird time that was.


Seven years on, we still can’t quite shake just how weird this entire saga was. Tottenham outcast Paulinho spends two years in China with Guangzhou Evergrande, before being surprisingly purchased by Barcelona for a sizeable €40million.

In an even weirder twist, he actually does well despite struggling at Spurs, enjoying a strong debut season, only to return to Guangzhou Evergrande the following summer, initially on loan before being re-signed for €42million – more than Barcelona paid for him.

The midfielder is now 35 and back in Brazil with Corinthians – and was definitely never used to balance the books. Never.

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Ousmane Dembele

Following Neymar’s shock, world record move to Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona reacted by spending an initial £96.8million on Dembele after one season at Borussia Dortmund, in a deal that could’ve risen to £135.5million.

Injuries plagued the Frenchman’s time in Barcelona, however, and despite looking unstoppable at his best, there was a lot of blowing hot and cold, certainly in his early years.

He extended his contract in 2022, but rather surprisingly left to sign for PSG the following summer, where he appears to have found his stride after a slow start.

Philippe Coutinho

You can’t really blame Barcelona for thinking Coutinho was worth the £146million they paid Liverpool for Coutinho in January 2018; at that point, he was comfortably one of the best players in the world.

The issue? He always felt like a square peg in a round hole, never really found his groove and then had to deal with injury setbacks, making it near-impossible to live up to an astronomical price tag. They also absolutely couldn’t afford such a massive signing, it turned out.

After flopping at Barca, Coutinho spent time on loan at Bayern Munich – scoring against his parent club in that thrashing – and was briefly Steven Gerrard’s shiny toy at Aston Villa. He now finds himself on loan from Villa in Qatar at Al Duhail, aged 31.

Yerry Mina

Barcelona snapped up the towering defender in January 2018 from Palmeiras in the Brazilian off-season, Mina becoming the first Colombian to play for the club.

He only spent half a season with Barca, though, joining Everton that summer for £27.2million, earning La Blaugrana a handy profit. Mina now plies his trade for Cagliari, who have been fighting to avoid Serie A relegation.

Arthur Melo

If we speak our thoughts on Arthur Melo’s transfer activity, we’ll be in big trouble. Bizarre is all we’ll say.

The Brazilian midfielder is alive and well, he does exist, and he’s currently on loan at Fiorentina from Juventus, following that spell at Liverpool which we’d forgive you for forgetting about.

Barcelona 6-1 PSG 2017 Champions League Round of 16 famous remontada comeback starting XI revisited where are they now?

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Clement Lenglet

The French defender was becoming a hot name in Europe when Barcelona activated his release clause and signed him from Sevilla in 2018, but he never quite looked comfortable and blew hot and cold alongside an ageing Gerard Pique.

Now 28, Lenglet has shaken off inconsistencies and appears to be hitting some of his best form on loan at Aston Villa.


Malcom was on the verge of joining Roma – to the point where fans waited in the airport to greet him upon his arrival from Bordeaux – before Barcelona swooped in and hijacked the deal in 2018.

He didn’t prove worth it and was sold to Zenit a season later, with Barcelona recouping most of the €41million they paid. Last summer, he cost Al Hilal a staggering €60million.

For a player who failed to live up to the hype, he’s commanded some pretty hefty transfer fees.

Arturo Vidal

Signing in 2018 from Bayern Munich, Vidal’s last game in Barcelona colours was – rather ironically – their 8-2 drubbing against the Germans in the Champions League.

Vidal spent a season with Inter after leaving Barcelona before heading back to South America. Earlier this year, he returned to Colo Colo for the first time in 17 years.