10 Barcelona signings who only lasted one season: Auba, Riquelme…

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Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang celebrates scoring during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Celta Vigo at Camp Nou, Barcelona, May 2022.

Barcelona have been notoriously bad in the transfer market in recent years. The club are in such a sticky financial situation that Lionel Messi left for PSG and players have had to cut their wages.

The Blaugrana have had a lot of expensive signings who didn’t perform on the pitch, so despite receiving a world record fee for Neymar in 2017, they find themselves in massive debt whilst also suffering on the pitch.

Some of these players have been such disasters that they were moved on after just a year: either sold to cut their losses or loaned out with a view to a permanent sale.

The last 10 players who didn’t last more than a season in a Barcelona shirt date back to 2002, with the ones in the last decade highlighting how the quality of direction at the club declined. Here’s how they got on.

Juan Roman Riquelme

The Argentine legend arrived from Boca Juniors in 2002 for around £10million and a lot of hype.

One of the most talented playmakers of his generation, Riquelme only spent one year in the Barcelona first team, with manager Louis van Gaal calling him a ‘political signing’ and eventually discarding him to make room for Ronaldinho.

Riquelme joined Villarreal, where he became a legend, but only scored six times in 42 games for Barcelona despite his world-class ability.

READ: A forensic analysis of Juan Roman Riquelme’s magnum opus v Real

Mark Van Bommel

The midfielder was signed by fellow Dutchman Frank Rijkaard on a free transfer from PSV Eindhoven in 2005, and performed fairly well in his 36 games for the club.

A year after his arrival Bayern Munich offered £6million for Van Bommel, and with Xavi, Deco, Iniesta, Thiago Motta and more in his position already, Barcelona sanctioned the sale.

Van Bommel won La Liga, and Barcelona made a profit. A successful endeavour for everyone.

Alexander Hleb

The Belarusian midfielder was a star at Arsenal, such that Barcelona parted with £12million in 2008 to bring him to the Camp Nou.

Hleb played 36 times in all competitions in his one season at the club, failing to score, and would never play for Barcelona again.

Loan spells to Stuttgart, Birmingham and Wolfsburg followed, before terminating his contract in January 2012 to join Krylia Sovetov in the Russian Premier League.

One season, no goals, and a lot of money down the drain, everyone regrets this deal, including Hleb himself.

READ: Alexander Hleb: I cried over Arsenal exit; most players regret leaving

Dmytro Chygrynskyi

The Ukrainian centre-back had just won the UEFA Cup with Shakhtar Donetsk in 2009 when Barcelona signed him for £25million.

Chygrynskyi never really settled or found a regular spot in the team under Pep Guardiola, and was sold back to Shakhtar after just one season for £15million.

A £10million loss and nothing to show for it, this was a sign of things to come.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The ‘lion’ infamously spent just one season at Barcelona after being swapped for Samuel Eto’o, Alexander Hleb and around £42million in 2009.

It was a huge transfer and one that turned into a nightmare.

Ibrahimovic and Guardiola never saw eye to eye, and after 22 goals in 46 appearances, went on loan to AC Milan, which was eventually made permanent for around £22million.

Barcelona suffered a massive financial loss, and watched Samuel Eto’o win the treble at Inter Milan. This was a painful one.

Paulinho

A fishy deal from start to finish, everyone was shocked when Barcelona paid £36million to bring Paulinho to the Camp Nou from Guangzhou Evergrande in China in 2017.

Once a flop at Tottenham Hotspur, Paulinho was not a player one would associate with Barcelona’s style, but nevertheless did score nine La Liga goals as Barcelona won La Liga under Ernesto Valverde with just one defeat.

Paulinho then moved back to Guangzhou Evergrande on an initial loan which turned permanent six months later, for the same fee Barcelona paid for him. An odd deal, but Paulinho played well and the club didn’t make a loss, so overall his one year at the club was fairly productive.

There’s no forgetting the disaster that was his presentation ceremony though…

Malcom

One of the more recent failed buys, Malcom was a highly sought-after young winger at Bordeaux when Barcelona paid £36million for his services in 2018.

Barcelona bought him in the most chaotic way, stealing him from the clutches of AS Roma at the last second, much to their anger.

The Brazilian only played 24 times in all competitions, scoring four goals, before moving to Zenit Saint Petersburg for around the same price Barcelona paid for him.

Whilst the club recuperated their money, it was a bizarre transfer which saw Malcom complete just one year of his five-year contract.

Yerry Mina

Ernesto Valverde wanted a centre-back, so Barcelona paid around £12million in January 2018 for Yerry Mina of Palmeiras.

Mina played just six games for the club, which included their only league defeat of the season, a 5-4 loss against Levante where the defender was run ragged.

Luckily for Barcelona though, Mina played well for Colombia at the 2018 World Cup, and after scoring against England, Everton paid £30million for the then 23-year-old.

Six months, six games and nearly a £20million profit. Barcelona couldn’t believe their luck.

Miralem Pjanic

Yet another deal which raised many questions, Barcelona decided to swap a 23-year-old Arthur Melo, who was a very promising midfielder for them, for a 30-year-old Pjanic from Juventus, whilst both clubs ‘paid’ each other £60million to balance the books in 2020.

Pjanic played 30 times in his one season at the club, although most of these appearances were from the bench, and did not make an impact at all.

He has since been loaned to Besiktas in Turkey, and it is expected that he will move permanently once his loan spell expires.

Barcelona lost Arthur and forked out high wages for Pjanic, for one season, zero goals and zero memorable performances from an ageing player.

Not a mistake they’ll want to repeat again.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Aubameyang scored 13 goals after his January move from Arsenal but that didn’t stop Barca from cashing in on the forward when Chelsea came calling this summer.

Still, a £10.3million profit represents good business by the La Liga giants. And we haven’t said that often over the past few years…


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