10 players Barcelona missed out on – and who they signed instead

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Georginio Wijnaldum celebrates scoring for PSG, Bollaert-Delelis Stadium in Lens, France, on December 4 2021.

Barcelona have produced such talent through their academy that they’ve been able to cope better than most without big-money signings – but there have still been some disappointments in the transfer market.

Things have changed of late, with the pursuit of Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele resulting in expensive outlays, but there have been plenty of players on the club’s shopping list who didn’t end up moving to Camp Nou.

And in recent years, Barcelona fans have become used to not getting what they want, with their financial meltdown forcing them to be restricted in who they can target in the transfer market.

We’ve looked at a few of those missed targets, and given a reminder of who Barca did end up signing instead.

Georginio Wijnaldum

Barcelona’s financial situation was so severe in the summer of 2021 that they were unable to hold onto the greatest player in their history, Lionel Messi.

In such circumstances, any squad additions would have to be cheap or better yet, free. Sergio Aguero joined from Manchester City and Memphis Depay arrived from Lyon to bolster the attack, signing on Bosmans after their deals with their respective clubs expired.

As the final months of his Liverpool deal ticked away, it was reported that Wijnaldum would be joining his fellow Dutchmen Ronald Koeman and Depay at the Camp Nou, but they were ultimately gazumped by PSG.

“It’s funny because I must admit that it was a very difficult choice. I have supported Barca since I was young, I am a fan of this club,” Wijnaldum explained after the deal went through.

“We were in negotiations with them and I had a good feeling but I PSG were also negotiating with other clubs. PSG even arrived before Barca.”

Barcelona ended up failing to sign a replacement midfielder, which hasn’t worked out too badly, as the vacancy has allowed La Masia graduates Gavi and Nico to thrive.

READ: A brilliant Xl of Barcelona players aged 23 or under: Fati, Pedri, Gavi…

Marco Asensio

Real Madrid got a real bargain when Marco Asensio joined from Real Mallorca for less than €5million, but it would be wrong to think they had no competition for the Spain international.

Agent Horacio Gaggioli, who helped bring Lionel Messi to Barcelona, revealed Barca were also keen on Asensio but were unwilling to pay the €4.5million asking price up-front, instead insisting on a €2.5million initial fee with a further €2million if he played for the club in La Liga.

We all know what happened next. Asensio completed his move to Madrid, while Barcelona decided to go bigger the following summer, forking out more than €30million to bring in Arda Turan from Atletico Madrid.

David Beckham

Asensio isn’t the only player this century to opt for Madrid over Barcelona.

Beckham was very close to moving to Catalunya when his time was up at Old Trafford, with The New York Times reporting that Manchester United had agreed a fee with Barça.

The only problem, though, was Beckham’s apparent reluctance to become a political pawn in the election of club president Joan Laporta. The lack of Champions League football with such a move might have played a part, too.

“It was between Beckham, Ronaldinho or [Thierry] Henry. United told us that they would sell him to us if we won the [presidential] election as we didn’t have the power at that time,” Laporta later reminisced.

“But they used us and in the end he signed for Madrid. We met at Heathrow Airport and signed a document which said that they would sell him to us if we struck an agreement with the agent.

“However, we didn’t manage to do that. We went to Nice and stayed with him and he said he would think about it. We got fed up of waiting on an answer, so we signed Ronaldinho instead.”

Worked out alright for them in the end, didn’t it?

READ: A forensic analysis of the night Real fans stood to applaud Ronaldinho

Gianluigi Buffon

Back in 2001, Buffon was the most in-demand goalkeeper in the world, and he only relinquished that honour by virtue of being unattainable for much of his time at Juventus.

However, while it was Juve who completed a record-breaking move for the keeper when they signed him from Parma, Buffon would later recall it was only the input of his father which convinced him to stay in Italy rather than accepting Barcelona’s offer.

The Catalan club still needed a new keeper, though, with a teenage Pepe Reina not considered ready to be the undisputed number one. They opted for Argentina’s Roberto Bonano, who would be allowed to leave two years into his four-year contract.

Juan Mata

Barca have recruited from La Liga’s ‘best of the rest’ for a while, and they were close to adding Juan Mata to a list which is hardly short.

There had been talk of the Spaniard favouring a move to Camp Nou in 2011, where he would have linked up with former Valencia team-mate David Villa, but Chelsea swooped to get a move over the line.

With Mata seen more as an attacking threat then, rather than the deeper-lying and more central player he became at Manchester United, we can probably see Alexis Sanchez as the man Pep Guardiola ultimately opted for instead of Mata.

Mesut Ozil

After Ozil’s international breakthrough at the 2010 World Cup, the German was in high demand, with Barcelona one of the clubs interested, but the Arsenal midfielder would later recall he opted instead for Real Madrid due to the contrasting behaviour of the two clubs’ managers at the time,

“Because of Guardiola’s behaviour, I did not want to go to Barcelona. Especially because Mourinho fought so much at the same time,” Özil wrote in his autobiography.

Barcelona moved on to their back-up target, Ibrahim Afellay, who played just 35 times for the club before leaving five years later.

Paul Pogba

After watching Pogba help Juventus reach the 2015 Champions League final, Barcelona were ready to pay a huge €80million to secure the Frenchman’s signature.

Unfortunately for them, Juve weren’t ready to sell. They kept Pogba for another year, at which point an even bigger offer arrived from Manchester United.

By the time Pogba was on his way back to Manchester, Barca had moved for another central midfielder in Andre Gomes – a man who since left for Everton.

Aaron Ramsey

The Gomes deal also came amid interest in Aaron Ramsey, with Barcelona reportedly close to a £60million deal in the summer of 2016.

The Welshman would end up sticking around, though, seeing out his contract before ultimately choosing to sign a pre-contract agreement with Juventus.

In addition to signing Portugal midfielder Gomes in 2016, Barca exercised their buy-back option on Denis Suarez…who briefly became Ramsey’s team-mate at Juventus.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Barcelona might not have been battling it out with Real Madrid for Ronaldo when he made his record move to the Bernabeu, but they were in the mix to sign the Portugal superstar when he swapped Sporting Lisbon for Manchester United in 2003.

“[Ronaldo] was at Sporting at the time, before Manchester United, and we were speaking with his agent who wanted to sell us Deco,” former club president Juan Laporta would later recall.

Fortunately for Barcelona, they already had another young Portuguese winger. Unfortunately, it was Ricardo Quaresma, who left for Porto after just one season.

Zinedine Zidane

How different things could have been if Zizou had gone to Catalunya in 1996. It’s certainly unlikely he’d have ended up managing Real Madrid later in his career if he’d ended up on the other side of the Clasico divide.

The late, great Johan Cruyff revealed he had a verbal agreement to sign the Frenchman from Bordeaux in 1996, but that went up in smoke when the former Barca player was relieved of his managerial duties.

Ironically, one of the club’s midfield signings that summer did end up managing in a Clasico – Luis Enrique made the shift from Real Madrid to Barcelona on a free transfer.


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