Ranking the 28 Brazilians to sign for Barcelona since 1990
Barcelona and Brazil have enjoyed a long-running and sometimes fruitful relationship, with some of the best players in the modern era representing both the club and country.
But in among the many Brazilian Barca successes, there have been a fair few flops and some downright head-scratchers.
Here’s how we’ve ranked the 28 Brazilians to have signed for the club since 1990.
28. Philippe Coutinho
Anyone that watched Coutinho tear it up at Liverpool knows that he’s not a bad player – he’s a far better footballer than many names on this list, in fact.
However, those ahead of them didn’t nearly bankrupt the club. Given how little he did for Barcelona – and the fact he scored two goals against them in an 8-2 thrashing whilst on loan at Bayern Munich – means he has to come bottom here.
Neither a replacement for his compatriot Neymar nor club icon Andres Iniesta, Coutinho was always going to be an awkward fit at Barcelona. He never quite adapted and Barcelona recouped just £17million of their £120million outlay on Coutinho when they sold him to Aston Villa in the summer.
Signed for €14million in 2009, he never made a senior appearance for Barcelona. Six years and five loans later, he left on a free. That went well.
Barcelona gazumped Ajax to sign Henrique for €8million from Palmeiras, but he was another to never actually play for the club, often loaned out before his contract was eventually cancelled. A slightly cheaper Keirrison.
25. Marlon Santos
Signed from Fluminense for €5million, three senior appearances in 2016-17, sold to Sassuolo for €6million. *Insert Alan Partridge shrug here*.
24. Emerson Royal
Emerson Royal never actually made an appearance for Barca following his convoluted transfer from Atletico Mineiro (via Real Betis). Still, the right-back made them a healthy profit when he was sold to Tottenham for approximately €30million.
Eight years on, we’re still not sure how or why Douglas ended up at the club.
22. Fabio Rochemback
A cult hero at Middlesbrough. Not a cult hero at Barcelona.
A cult hero at Hull City. Not a cult hero at Barcelona.
Going from Valencia as Jasper Cillessen moved in the other direction in the summer of 2019, Neto served as a fairly dependable back-up to Marc Andre ter Stegen for three seasons before moving to Bournemouth in 2022.
There was much fanfare as Barca swooped ahead of Roma at the last minute to sign the highly-rated Bordeaux youngster, but a year on you were left wondering whether it was worth the trouble for him to sit on the periphery and get sold to Zenit Saint-Petersburg.
Still, he scored in a Copa del Rey win over Real Madrid.
| #CopadelRey |
Happy 22nd Birthday to Malcom! 🎂🔵🔴
He found the equaliser against Real Madrid a couple of weeks ago and may play an important part for Barcelona tomorrow night… pic.twitter.com/up3b7AZXBd
— ELEVEN Football (@ElevenSportsFB) February 26, 2019
After a strong initial impression, Arthur faded badly. If the papers are to be believed, that may well be down to the fact that he was more interested in going disco dancing with Neymar and snowboarding with Neto than actually kicking a football.
He was also involved in the transfer that saw Miralem Pjanic move from Juve to Barca and Arthur in the opposite direction which was more than a bit fishy.
17. Sonny Anderson
Ligue 1 Player of the Season for Monaco as they won the title in 1997, it never quite happened for Sonny Anderson at Barcelona. Perhaps judged a little unfairly because he could never replace the irreplaceable Ronaldo.
Actually outstayed his mate Ibrahimovic – they eventually linked back up 18 months later at PSG – Maxwell wasn’t the world’s best left-back but he did a job before Jordi Alba’s eventual arrival and played a fair bit in the league and Champions League double of 2010-11.
Unlike his brother Thiago with Spain, Rafinha opted to represent the same country as his World Cup-winning father Mazinho.
Unlucky with injuries, he’s shown flashes here and there, hinting at becoming a special player without ever managing to quite deliver consistently. He eventually left the club to sign for PSG in 2020, but it was a similar story there and he’s now playing in the Qatar Stars League, which is a bit sad really.
The new Raphinha with a ‘ph’. He’ll probably be really good, but it’s too soon to say so we’re putting him solidly mid-table in this ranking for now.
Adriano won a ludicrous amount of silverware in his six years between 2010 and 2016 without ever fully establishing himself as a first-teamer. His versatility saw him regularly plug gaps, however.
12. Thiago Motta
Motta was born and raised in Brazil, representing them at youth level and even in the CONCACAF Gold Cup before making the switch to Italy, qualifying thanks to his paternal grandfather.
He left Brazil and joined Barcelona as a 17-year-old, going on to develop his skills at La Masia and Barca B before making over 100 appearances for the senior team.
A decent playmaker in his day, and a match-winner on more than one occasion against Real Madrid.
Things later turned sour, as they did for many over the years, once Louis van Gaal took over.
“Van Gaal is the Hitler of the Brazilian players; he is arrogant, proud and has a problem,” said Giovanni, looking back years later. Only Kanye West would’ve take that as a compliment.
One of the strangest transfers of recent times, many questioned the club’s decision to bring Paulinho back from China after his disastrous spell with Tottenham.
But he didn’t look lost in their midfield, offering balance for one season before an eyebrow-raising move back to Guangzhou Evergrande. He even scored nine goals in La Liga.
Paulinho scored more LaLiga goals for Barcelona than he managed kick-ups in his presentation ceremony.
What a bizarre transfer. 🙃 pic.twitter.com/gMW0xGpkCm
— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) July 8, 2018
Blocked by Roberto Carlos for the national team, Sylvinho was nevertheless a dependable presence as a squad player during the five years he spent with Barcelona. A stint that included two Champions Leagues and three La Liga titles.
One of five Brazilians in the squad for the 2006 Champions League final, Edmilson offered balance and brawn at the base of midfield, allowing Ronaldinho to offer exuberance further forward. A more than useful player to have during the Frank Rijkaard era.
7. Juliano Belletti
He himself would likely admit he didn’t have the natural ability of many of his compatriots at Barcelona over the years. But he’s the only one to have scored the winning goal in a Champions League final.
📍 París, 2006
⚽ Un gol que cambió a una generación
❤️ si recuerdas dónde estabas cuando marcó Belletti
— Diario SPORT (@sport) March 24, 2020
He finished ahead of David Beckham to win the 1999 Ballon d’Or, in spite of Manchester United’s treble, which is a testament to the heights Rivaldo reached at the Camp Nou.
He also put in one of the all-time great individual performances to clinch Champions League qualification, scoring all three goals as Barcelona beat Valencia 3-2 on the final day of the 2000-01 season. He capped it off with a superb overhead kick in the 89th minute.
Had all the potential to top this list, but his controversial departure to PSG soured things a little, a transfer that rivals his original move from Santos in terms of ill will and eyebrow-raising detail – a move that precipitated their downfall.
Still, he scored over 100 goals in just four seasons and helped deliver the club’s second treble in 2015, part of their irresistible front three with Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez.
Not the first Brazilian to play for Barcelona, but the one that started the love affair following his move from PSV in 1993, helping to bolster their famous ‘Dream Team’.
He fell out with Johan Cruyff and left after just two seasons but was a game-changer before that, scoring 34 league goals in 46 appearances, winning La Liga and being named FIFA World Player of the Year.
Pre-injury problems, the young Ronaldo of PSV and his one-season stint at Barcelona was an absolute force of nature, playing at a level that arguably none before or since have matched – take it from Sid Lowe, who has lived and breathed Spanish football for the past 25 years.
Pipped to the title by Real Madrid, his year at the Camp Nou was spent leading the line for an otherwise flawed side managed by Bobby Robson.
Still, O Fenomeno lifted the Supercopa, Copa del Rey and UEFA Cup Winners Cup, with 47 goals from 49 appearances in all competitions – in an era long before Messi and Ronaldo skewed the scale.
Ronaldo 96-97: quite possibly the best, most freakishly brilliant thing I have ever seen. https://t.co/PnBEXWjLh2
— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) June 8, 2017
One of the most beloved and popular players in history of the game thanks to the sheer joy and ingenuity with which he played, no one can match his highlights reel. Even Real Madrid fans applauded him.
A pivotal figure in the title wins of 2005 and 2006, he deservedly won the Ballon d’Or in 2005 and helped deliver the Champions League a year later. But his infamous love of partying eventually took its toll and he started to wane before his departure in 2008.
It’s 15 years since Ronaldinho scored THAT goal against Chelsea. pic.twitter.com/8NtXzJfFZL
— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) March 8, 2020
1. Dani Alves
He might never have quite hit the peaks of the dazzling forwards he’s ahead of, but he got as close as possible for a right-back, the best player in the world in that position for over a decade. He arrived from Sevilla as a fully-formed world-beater and just kept going.
It’s that longevity – as well as arriving at Barca as they became perhaps the best club side in history, plus his telepathic understanding with Messi – that puts him ahead of anyone else.
Eight seasons, six La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues, four Copas del Rey, not to mention plenty more Super Cups and Club World Cups.
So good they brought him back at the age of 38.