Ranking the 10 worst signings of Bartomeu’s Barcelona presidency
Josep Maria Bartomeu confirmed the inevitable in October 2020, announcing that he had resigned from his position alongside the entire board of directors at the club.
Bartomeu’s position became untenable during the previous summer when Lionel Messi tried – and failed – to leave the club in an extraordinary turn of events.
At the time, Barcelona fans rejoiced at the news of Bartomeu’s departure – looking at a list of the club’s worst signings under his watch, it’s easy to see why.
10. Jeremy Mathieu – €20m
In the same summer Barcelona secured the signatures of Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Luis Suarez, the transfer of Mathieu took place with minimal fuss.
The centre-back-cum-left-back was handed the unenviable task of filling the boots of both the departed Carles Puyol and Eric Abidal — a nigh-on impossible job.
A spectacular free-kick in the Copa del Rey against Elche and a goal in El Clasico proved to be the highlights from his time at the Camp Nou, but, in the end, Mathieu failed to live up to his predecessors. After three seasons with Barca he was let go on a free transfer, signing for Sporting Lisbon.
9. Lucas Digne – €16.5m
An inoffensive signing by most fan measurements. Digne was brought into the club with the hope he could provide some competition for Jordi Alba. He made 46 appearances across two seasons in all competitions but ultimately failed to really threaten Alba’s starting spot.
It’s what Digne has gone on to achieve that stings Barca fans, though.
In his first three seasons at Everton, he turned into a full-back of the highest quality and, after his falling out with Rafa Benitez early in this campaign, has shown further evidence of his excellence in an Aston Villa shirt.
8. Thomas Vermaelen – €18m
A real injury-plagued nightmare. Vermaelen was brought to Barcelona after five successful seasons with Arsenal and was expected to compete for a starting spot at the heart of the Blaugrana defence. Unfortunately for him, injuries would decimate his maiden campaign.
The Belgian mustered just one appearance in his debut season — a 63-minute outing in a 2-2 draw with Deportivo in May — almost an entire year after he originally signed.
Vermaelen went on to become a bit-part player for Barca, and after an underwhelming loan spell at Roma and a handful of mediocre performances back at the Camp Nou, he moved to Japanese side Vissel Kobe.
7. Andre Gomes – €35m
Signed in the same summer as Digne, Gomes’ transfer brought with it plenty of excitement. The midfielder had been immense for Valencia the previous campaign, so it appeared to be a shrewd bit of business by Bartomeu. As we now know, however, things didn’t really work out that way.
Gomes made a promising start, helping to set up two goals in Barcelona’s Spanish Super Cup victory over Sevilla, but his performances went rapidly downhill thereafter.
By the season’s end, Gomes was voted La Liga’s worst signing that year by Marca. The next season brought with it 31 appearances and no goals before he was eventually loaned, then later sold, to Everton.
6. Martin Braithwaite – €18m
Definitely not the worst, but perhaps the most damning signing of Bartomeu’s reign.
After winger Ousmane Dembele (more on him later) sustained a long-term injury, the club were granted an exemption by La Liga to sign an attacker outside of the regular transfer window. That led them to the controversial capture of Braithwaite.
His reluctant sellers, Leganes, were left seething as Bartomeu activated the player’s release clause, meaning they were left powerless to prevent the move from happening, and further, were denied the opportunity to sign a replacement.
He’s done OK in Blaugrana, but Barca just shouldn’t really sign forwards who scored nine goals in 40 games for Middlesbrough…
5. Malcom – €41m
Another of Batomeu’s underhand transfers which left a club in the lurch. Bordeaux’s Malcolm had initially agreed to join Roma, with fans waiting at the airport in Rome to greet their new Brazilian signing.
Alas, Barcelona swooped in at the ninth hour to hijack the deal and steal Malcom away from under the Italian’s noses.
Roma were incensed, with sporting director Monchi even considering legal action against the Catalans.
The next problem Batomeu faced was that his manager, Ernesto Valverde, didn’t really fancy Malcom.
That much was reflected in Malcom’s playing time, with the winger appearing on just 15 occasions for Barca before being shipped off to Zenit Saint Petersburg the following summer. At least Barca got their money back, eh?
4. Ousmane Dembele – €105m
Costing approximately half a Neymar, Dembele makes up 50% of what Barcelona had to show for their Brazilian’s world-record departure to PSG.
For a long time, that felt like very little.
A hamstring injury on his league debut ruled the winger out for four months in what was an ominous sign of things to come.
Even when he returned, his inconsistent form was heavily criticised and more injuries and reports of poor timekeeping followed.
Under Xavi, however, Dembele has been transformed from pantomime villain to full-blown Barca hero. There’s even talk of him signing a new contract now…
3. Antoine Griezmann – €120m
For €120million, fans expected so much more. The former Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid star was 2020’s prize signing, alongside Frenkie de Jong, but living up to that billing proved extremely problematic.
For starters, Griezmann didn’t fit into Barcelona’s free-flowing system. The Frenchman made a name for himself playing just off his side’s main striker — Alvaro Morata or Diego Costa at Atletico — but in a 4-3-3 formation, his talents tend to be wasted as he’s marooned out wide.
It’s little wonder he’s ended up back where he played so well prior to joining Barca.
2. Arda Turan – €34m
Barcelona’s 2015 transfer ban meant that despite Turan signing for the club in the summer he wasn’t eligible to play until the following January. And after a much-anticipated wait, the midfielder seriously failed to inspire.
In fact, the conspiracy among certain fans is that Turan wasn’t signed for his on-pitch prowess at all… it had far more to do with the club’s strong ties to Turkish sponsors.
When Valverde took to the dugout in 2017, it quickly became apparent that, much like Malcom, Turan wasn’t in the manager’s plans.
From being booed by his own fans, to being accused of being overweight, to voicing his controversial support of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turan’s three years in Catalonia were nothing short of a disaster.
He moved back to his native Turkey in 2018, signing for Istanbul Basaksehir before later rejoining his boyhood club Galatasaray.
1. Philippe Coutinho – €120m
Representing the other half of Neymar’s transfer fee, Coutinho was seen by many as his compatriot’s direct replacement. The attacking midfielder had been a revelation for Liverpool, but with Reds boss Jurgen Klopp favouring a more high-tempo style of play, the transfer made sense for both parties.
While Coutinho struggled to justify Bartomeu’s vast outlay, Liverpool went on to sign Virgil van Dijk and Alisson with the money, which in turn propelled them to domestic and European glory.
With Coutinho floundering, he was farmed out to Bayern Munich on loan, only for the Brazilain to feature against Barcelona in the Champions League quarter-finals — sticking two goals past his parent club and duly knocking them out in that deeply humiliating 8-2 defeat.
He is now at Aston Villa and is rediscovering a little of that old magic under his former Liverpool colleague Steven Gerrard.