Ranking Barcelona’s 16 weirdest signings so far this millennium
When you have an academy as productive as Barcelona’s La Masia, you can generally get away with not needing to make as many weird signings as other clubs.
Barcelona has always struck us as a club that likes a challenge, though, and you can’t fault their ambition when it comes to adding players who make you think “wait, what?”.
This list is shorter than some of the other entries in our weird signings series – there’s no place for the high-profile youngsters who it didn’t work out for (Keirrison, Halilović, etc), while the many like Alex Song who simply couldn’t step up to Barça’s level miss out on the basis that their signings made sense at the time.
15. Mark van Bommel
As Barcelona began to present themselves as on the side of good versus evil, other teams and players didn’t stop in their pursuit of the other side.
Mark van Bommel is perhaps the archetype of winning ugly and vindictively, and if you were asked to come up with the anti-Barça footballer it would be him.
And yet he spent a year at Camp Nou, joining under Frank Rijkaard and even starting for the club in their victorious 2006 Champions League final. They soon realised the error of their ways, though, and binned him off as part of their ‘foulees not foulers’ approach.
Spending €4million on a 24-year-old uncapped right-back with no European experience feels like a pretty loud way of saying “we don’t have a big enough transfer budget”.
It’s like going to a takeaway, putting a load of coppers down on the counter and looking longingly at the server in the hopes they’ll take pity on you and give you a full meal.
Barcelona are unbeaten across the Brazilian’s five appearances for the club so far. That’s right, he’s still on their books. Currently on loan at Sivasspor, the former home of ‘The Original Douglas’, Cicinho.
13. Francesco Coco
Barcelona might not have been the superpowers they are now in the pre-Messi era, but the Coco deal still feels odd. This was a player deemed surplus to requirements in a Milan squad which contained the likes of Cosmin Contra, Ümit Davala and Roque Júnior, so… yeah.
12. Jérémy Mathieu
If you look at any photo of Jérémy Mathieu in a Barcelona shirt, you’ll see a note of fear behind the eyes which you can’t quite place.
A few minutes later, though, and you’ll have figured out where you recognise it from. It’s the same look of utter dread you last saw on the face of Guy Goma when he was mistakenly called in by as an expert on a live BBC broadcast.
What’s that? He was already nearly 31 when he signed a four-year deal with the club? Oh dear.
11. Juan Pablo Sorín
A pretty good footballer, but one worthy of being loaned by Barça as a 27-year-old while on the books of Cruzeiro? Perhaps not.
Barcelona loaned Edgar Davids the following year, so perhaps they were just in that phase everyone has where they have a weird obsession with long-haired guys.
10. Emmanuel Petit
When Petit signed for the club, he was a successful player at club and international, having won the double with Arsenal in 1998 and been part of the Fench squad which won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championships.
“What’s he doing on this list, then?” I hear you ask.
Well, as Petit himself explained much later: “Richard [Dutruel] was translating and he was translating normally when he suddenly stopped and after five minutes he turned to me and I saw ‘Mayday, Mayday’ flashing in his eyes.
“He told me, ‘The coach wants to know in which position you play.’ We’d just finished the Euro. I looked at the coach, looked at Richard, and said, ‘Is he joking?’ Richard replied, ‘He’s not joking.’”
We wonder whether Serra Ferrer would have asked the same question of Dutruel himself, had the goalkeeper not been wearing gloves at the time.
9 & 8. Arda Turan & Aleix Vidal
There might be a good reason for signing a player in the summer and keeping him effectively locked up until January due to a transfer embargo instead of just, y’know, signing them in January.
Surprisingly enough, neither Arda nor Vidal hit the ground running right away, or indeed ever in a Barcelona shirt.
7. Gerard Deulofeu
If Gerard Deulofeu hadn’t come through at Barcelona, it seems unlikely they’d have signed someone who had spent the past few months being loaned out by Everton, even if it was just meant as a stopgap until they completed the January signing of Philippe Coutinho.
You wouldn’t expect them to bring back the similarly just-quite-good-in-England Adama Traoré purely on the basis of his La Masia connection. It would be fun to see him there again, mind you.
6. Martín Cáceres
Cáceres joined Villarreal straight from Uruguayan club Defensor Sporting, spent his first season out on loan, and then went to Barcelona for €16.5million. And people claim Pep Guardiola isn’t able to find defensive value.
5. Demetrio Albertini
Barcelona didn’t sign Albertini after Milan, or even after the team after Milan. They signed him after the team after the team after the team after Milan, when he was 33, presumably because Rijkaard wanted someone with whom he could reminisce about the glory days.
It’s the equivalent of Mauricio Pochettino signing his former PSG team-mate Ronaldinho in his first Spurs season: fun for fans of nostalgia, but not a Sensible Footballing Decision.
4. Thomas Vermaelen
They basically bought a used car with no wheels, in the hope it would regrow them like fingernails.
Between Vermaelen signing for Barcelona and making his debut for the club, we got a Scottish Independence referendum, a UK general election and three Meghan Trainor singles. And somehow it feels like it was even longer than nine months.
When Paulinho moved to Guangzhou Evergrande in 2015, that was meant to be that for his hopes of playing at the highest level.
We’re not sure if it’s weirder that he then joined Barcelona for €40million two years later, or that his nine goals in La Liga represented his highest ever return in a league season – including stints in Poland and Lithuania.
Ah, who are we kidding, it’s still absolutely the first thing.
2. Dmytro Chygrynskiy
Did any of you actually see Dmytro Chygrynskiy in Barcelona? I mean really see him, not just see a photo or a short video clip. Can we be completely certain the move ever happened, or that he even exists?
Sure, you might point to so-called ‘evidence’ or ‘interviews’, but we’re not buying it. Certainly not the €25million fee part.
1= Martin Braithwaite
That sound you can hear is Garry Monk saying, ‘I told you so.’
Barcelona are about to sign Martin Braithwaite, which is sensational for three reasons:
1. Got 8 goals for Middlesbrough in 2 seasons
2. Dubbed the Leganes Chris Brown
3. Sounds like a Downton Abbey character pic.twitter.com/mu63Ij1ReD
— Elliot Hackney (@ElliotHackney) February 17, 2020
1= Kevin-Prince Boateng