Ranking the 10 worst signings of Josep Maria Bartomeu’s Barca presidency
Barcelona’s president Josep Maria Bartomeu is on the brink. Since assuming control of the club in 2014, the Catalans have been on a steady decline, not least due to some disastrous transfers on his watch.
The seemingly unfathomable has happened: Lionel Messi wants to leave Barcelona. The club have been struggling for some time now, with this season’s capitulation — both domestically and in Europe — marking their nadir.
To the casual fan, Messi’s outburst seems a tad premature. They were La Liga champions in 2019, so surely this is only a minor blip, right? Well, not quite. Messi has been at loggerheads with Barcelona’s hierarchy for some time now, with club president Bartomeu held in a great deal of contempt by the Argentinian maestro.
It remains unclear whether Messi will be able to force his way out the club, but what we do know is that the signings made throughout Bartomeu’s tenure have been woefully inept. Take a look below to see the worst of the bunch.
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 inevitably 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 the current left-back, 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 in the past two years, though, that stings Barca fans. Now regarded as one of the best full-backs in the business, the Frenchman finally looks capable of replacing an ageing Alba. The only problem? He was sold to Everton in 2018 for £18million, having built that sterling reputation on Merseyside, not Catalonia.
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’s defence. Unfortunately for him, injuries would decimate his maiden campaign.
The Belgian mustered just one solitary 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
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. Eleven games, one goal and a relegation for Leganes later, it’s pretty clear the move hasn’t worked out for any of the involved parties.
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. As it transpired, not only was Valverde unaware of the signing, he didn’t even want him.
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.
4. Antoine Griezmann – €120m
Griezmann obviously still has time to prove himself, having only spent one relatively lacklustre season at Barcelona to date, but for €120million, fans expected so much more. The former Real Sociedad and Atletico Madrid star was last summer’s prize signing, alongside Frenkie de Jong, but living up to that billing has proved pretty problematic.
For starters, Griezmann doesn’t really fit into Barcelona’s free-flowing system. The Frenchman has made a name for himself playing just off his side’s main striker — most recently Alvaro Morata or Diego Costa at Atletico — but in Barcelona 4-3-3 formation, his talents tend to be wasted as he’s marooned out wide.
3. Ousmane Dembele – €105m
Costing approximately half a Neymar, Dembele makes up 50% of what Barcelona have to show for their Brazilian’s world-record departure to PSG… and it’s not a lot.
Dembele became the joint-second most expensive player in history following his move from Borussia Dortmund and was handed Neymar’s old number 11 shirt.
A hamstring injury on his league debut ruled the winger out for four months in what was an ominous sign of things to come. Dembele’s second season proved to be more fruitful, as he kicked on and started to score and assist regularly. His inconsistent form was still heavily criticised, though, and another hamstring injury this season subsequently ruled him out for six months.
He made it back onto the bench for Barcelona’s Champions League match against Bayern Munich but played little more than a spectating role as his club were dismantled 8-2.
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 earlier this summer.
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.