The 6 players Barcelona signed along with Dani Alves – & how they fared
In 2008, Dani Alves’ arrival at Barcelona from Spanish rivals Sevilla was met with huge excitement – he became one of the most expensive defenders at the time – and he didn’t disappoint.
The stylish Brazilian full-back made a shock return to the Catalans earlier this season under the stewardship of former team-mate Xavi Hernandez, but he’ll do well to come anywhere near the level of performances he delivered in his first trophy-packed eight-year spell at the club.
The Brazil international racked up 23 trophies – six La Liga titles and four Champions League crowns, most notably – as he cemented himself as a key part in Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering machine.
Alves was quickly identified by Guardiola as a must-have signing. 391 appearances later for the Blaugrana, the defender developed into one of the best right-backs of all time. His attacking creativity was a catalyst in redefining what is expected from the modern-day full-back.
The 38-year-old is no longer at the peak of his powers, but his telepathic relationship with Lionel Messi on the right flank was a sight to behold in its heyday.
Alves made the Nou Camp his playground, but how did Barcelona’s other signings in 2008 fare?
Keita had big boots to fill when he joined Alves by making the switch from Sevilla, brought in to replace Portuguese great Deco. The then 28-year-old was one of the first signings of Guardiola’s reign – a much-needed acquisition following two barren years for Barcelona under Frank Rijkaard.
Keita quickly became a rotation player. But failing to break into a midfield that included Andreas Iniesta and Xavi is something most would find impossible.
Nevertheless, the Mali international racked up just under 200 appearances for the club, winning two Champions League titles, two Copa Del Ray’s and three league honours.
Although, speaking in 2020, it seems Keita and Guardiola didn’t have the most harmonious of relationships.
“I’ve heard it said many times that Guardiola really liked me,” Keita said.
“People got that idea because he said good things about me, they thought everything was ok, but then I didn’t play.”
Pique’s career had yet to spark into life when he returned to his native Spain from Manchester United in a €5 million deal.
“Nobody knows how long it will take for me to get into United’s first team,” Pique said when he left Barcelona to join Sir Alex Ferguson’s side as a 17-year-old.
“I will give it everything I have got and then perhaps in two years’ time, I will be in the team.”
It didn’t quite work out like that for the Spain international, cast aside for much of his three-year Old Trafford stay. Few could have predicted his skyrocketed career trajectory when Barca offered the defender a chance for redemption.
Remaining an important centre-back in Xavi’s new-look side, Pique has enjoyed the glory years in the club’s recent history and is now integral in Barca’s renaissance as a senior player.
The 35-year-old has won all there is to win at both club and international level. He’ll be hoping in the latter stages of his career he can add a few more pieces of silverware to his extensive collection.
Jose Manuel Pinto
Pinto was the understudy to the legendary Victor Valdes at Barcelona. In his seven seasons at the Catalans, he only featured 90 times, but he’s believed to have been a hugely popular character in the changing room – he had the honour of being Lionel Messi’s ‘best mate’ at the club.
Of course – after making his name at Celta Vigo – Pinto would have hoped to have seen more action at the Nou Camp. But winning nine major trophies under Guardiola, the custodian can’t be too regretful when he reflects on his time in Catalonia.
The Spaniard’s toughest opponents often came in the form of his own team-mates in training and warm-ups.
“Zlatan Ibrahimovic doesn’t just shoot hard… He hurts people! Somebody should tell the president about this and I should get a pay rise,” Pinto jokingly said about his Swedish colleague in 2009.
The Uruguay international joined Barca from Villarreal for a reported fee of €16.5 million. Despite being a mainstay in his national team, the defender lasted just one season under Guardiola before he was loaned to Juventus.
Injuries and more favoured personnel saw Caceres accumulate just 1526 minutes of playing time. It’s hardly surprising he struggled for regular appearances; he was fighting for a starting berth with the small matter of Carles Puyol, Pique, Alves and Eric Abidal.
The versatile Belarusian midfielder earned a move to the Spanish giants from Arsenal for a rumoured £12.5million fee. Hleb was a fan-favourite for Arsene Wenger’s men so his decision to leave for passages new came as a surprise to many.
The midfielder failed to hit the heights at the Nou Camp. He appeared just 36 times in Guardiola’s side. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the best decision to leave London.
“It was not the right decision for him because he didn’t have the career after and I think it had a negative impact on his career,” Wenger said
“He was a great, great player but he played on the same side as Lionel Messi. That is nearly an impossible task for every player in the world.”
Henrique signed for Barcelona from Brazilian side Palmeiras for €8 million. At 21, the defender was viewed as a signing for the future as he immediately joined Bayer Leverkusen.
However – little did we know at the time – this was the start of the end for Henrique’s Barca career. He never registered a first-team appearance for La Masia on his return from a fruitful spell in Germany – he reached the DFB-Pokal final. Instead, he was shipped out to Racing Santander before eventually returning to his homeland.
“Playing as a central defender at Barcelona asks something different,” Guardiola said when asked about Henrique in a press conference in 2009.
“That’s why I think there’s no need to start criticising already, but to give the players time to adapt.”
For whatever reason – despite Guardiola not publicly acknowledging – Henrique simply wasn’t to the Spaniard’s fancy. A bizarre transfer by the Catalans.