The 8 players to play for both Man Utd and Barcelona

Quick Reads
Gerard Pique in action for Manchester United reserves at Old Trafford, Manchester, England. 4 May 2006.

Manchester United and Barcelona are two of the biggest clubs in world football and only eight players have ever had the honour of playing for both. 

They might not be what they once were – as their meeting in the first knockout round of the Europa League suggests – but that doesn’t negate the fact that it (usually) takes something seriously special to represent both of the historic giants.

The eight to have already pulled on both shirts include heroes at one or the other as well as names both sides would rather forget ever played for them.

Mark Hughes

Younger readers might only really recognise Hughes from his time as Man City manager. What a shame that is, because in his heyday he was one of the finest attackers of his generation.

He came through United’s academy and impressed in his early years, so much so that Terry Venebles’ Barcelona came calling in 1986 with an offer both Hughes and the club couldn’t refuse.

It didn’t work out for him and he was carted off to Bayern Munich the following year before he headed back to Manchester United, by then managed by a promising young manager called Alex Ferguson.

From that point on ‘Sparky’ became a club icon, his status solidified when he scored a brace in the 1991 Cup Winners Cup final against Barcelona.

Oh, and what a goal the second was too.

Jordi Cruyff

As the son of Johan Cruyff, it’s no surprise Jordi came through Ajax’s academy first before moving to Barcelona.

There he would go on to make a number of senior appearances but in 1996 he attempted to break free of his father’s shadow and headed to Old Trafford.

“When you take a step like going to Manchester United you need to be mature enough, and I was probably one year short of that,” Cruyff later admitted to the BBC, after reflecting on his injury-ridden time in Manchester.

“I was probably the youngest person in the village where I lived and that was tough. Now it’s a different city, a different vibe – the city is alive.

“With the injuries, I could never catch that train [a run in the side] and have a stable season.

“When I look back at that team – [Ryan] Giggs, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Roy Keane, Eric Cantona, and then the likes of Dwight Yorke, Teddy Sheringham, and Andrew Cole – not to have played much is nothing to be ashamed of.”

Laurent Blanc

Blanc’s time at Barcelona probably came too late, having only one season in Catalonia in 1996-97 when he was 31.

Yet anyone who scores in El Clasico for the Blaugrana will always have a special place in Barca folklore, as will anyone who scores a vital goal in a comeback win for Manchester United just as Blanc did in 2001 against Spurs.

They were his only goals for both clubs, and the United one his last in a long, World Cup-winning career.

Henrik Larsson

Larsson was more than worthy of gracing both Camp Nou and Old Trafford and, for a brief moment on his debut, it looked like he would become a United legend.

We’re not bothered that his time at United wasn’t the dream Fergie had planned. Larsson was some player.

READ: Remembering Henrik Larsson’s brief loan spell at Manchester United

Gerard Pique

We don’t need to tell you anything about Pique at Barcelona, for he is a veritable club legend in the Catalan city.

But do you know about the time a young Pique was faced with the full force of Roy Keane’s anger?

“One of my very first matches at Old Trafford, we were in the dressing room getting ready, and I was nervous as hell,” he explained in The Player’s Tribune.

“It’s dead quiet. All of a sudden, you could hear this little vibration. I realise it’s me. It’s my cell phone. I left it on vibrate, and it’s in the pocket of my pants, stuffed in the clothes bag that’s hanging right behind Roy’s head.

“He screams out to everybody, ‘Whose phone is that?!’ Silence. He asks again. Silence. He asks a third time. ‘Whose. Bloody. Fucking. Phone. Is. That?!’

“Finally, I spoke up, like a little boy. Very softly, I said, ‘I’m so sorry. It’s mine.’ Roy lost his mind! He went nuts in front of everybody! It was incredible. I almost shit myself. But it was a good lesson.”

We just checked to see if our phone is on silent, just in case Keane is about.

Victor Valdes

Yes, we’d forgotten Valdes played for Manchester United as well.

It was one of the many, many weird transfers the club has done in the post-Fergie era, and one of the absolute worst. The legendary ‘keeper made just two appearances for United before he left… for Middlesborough.

Yet after all that, he still has some nice things to say about the club.

“I don’t have any bad words for [Louis] van Gaal or Manchester United,” he said.

“They helped me through my injury and the manager gave me my chance as a footballer at Barcelona and then again at United.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibra’s arrival in Barca was as part of the most high-profile player swap deal in history, and Inter Milan certainly ‘won’ that transfer. Though the big Swede had some magnificent moments in Barca’s colours, he famously fell out with Pep Guardiola and left after a single season.

He joined United in 2016, winning the Europa League and League Cup in his first season in what was seen as the swan song of his career… until he went back to AC Milan to prove age doesn’t affect him, of course.

Alexis Sanchez

Sanchez might have won La Liga with Barcelona, but his brilliant ‘king of dribbling’ best came with Arsenal who he joined after leaving the Camp Nou in 2014.

Two FA Cups as their talismanic attacker later he joined Manchester United to follow in Robin van Persie’s footsteps and win the league at Old Trafford. Or not.


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