Recalling the nine players to play for both Liverpool and Barcelona

Quick Reads
Liverpool's Thiago Alcantara during the Premier League match at Molineux Stadium, Wolverhampton. Picture date: Saturday December 4, 2021.

Liverpool and Barcelona are two of the most famous football clubs in the world – and only a select number of players have played for both. 

The two share plenty in common, such as a trophy-laden history and a certain idealism that captures the imagination of fans across the globe. There’s also been some high-profile encounters between the two, none less than the 2019 Champions League semi-final.

We’ve identified the nine players to have played for both clubs and have listed them in reverse chronological order.

Thiago Alcantara

At his best, Thiago can dictate football matches with his intelligent passing and movement. At his worst, he can look like a luxury that modern teams can ill afford.

And that’s the paradox. Making his Barcelona debut in 2009, Thiago played over 100 times without ever nailing down a starting spot before leaving for Bayern Munich.

Seven years in Germany cemented his reputation before moving to Liverpool in 2020 where he endured an injury-hit debut season in a floundering side.

But, after a brilliant 2021-22 season, nobody is questioning Thiago anymore.

Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho became a hero figure at Anfield following an £8.5million move from Inter Milan in 2013.

Shining under both Brendan Rodgers and Jurgen Klopp, the Brazil international was a source of inspiration during some lean times at Anfield and contributed some immense performances. 

But Liverpool were unable to resist Barcelona’s £142million offer in January 2018 – and came off far better from the deal.

While Coutinho floundered at Barca, Klopp reinvested the money in Virgil van Dijk and Alisson and watched as Liverpool won both the Premier League and the Champions League.

It’s easy to forget how good Coutinho was at Liverpool but he’s not been missed since leaving.

Luis Suarez

You know this one already.

Javier Mascherano

After dipping his toe into European waters at West Ham (record: eight appearances, eight defeats), Mascherano moved to Liverpool in January 2007.

Anfield proved to be a stage more befitting of his talents. Establishing a partnership with Xabi Alonso, the Argentina international endeared himself to the Liverpool fans with some full-bloodied displays.

After finishing second in 2009, Liverpool sold Alonso and saw their other stars become agitated as the team slipped to seventh place. Mascherano expressed a desire to leave and was sold to Barcelona in 2010.

Playing in one of the greatest sides of all time didn’t phase the midfielder and Mascherano ended up making 334 appearances for the Catalan giants, including plenty as a converted centre-back.

He was a player who performed magnificently for both clubs and is rightly remembered as one of the greatest players of his era.

Pepe Reina

It’s hard to remember Reina playing for Barca, but he made 49 appearances for the club between 2000 and 2002 – including two against Liverpool in the 2001 UEFA Cup semi-finals.

The goalkeeper was sold to Villarreal where he spent three seasons building his reputation before Liverpool signed him in 2005.

He quickly became a hero at Anfield, saving three penalties in the 2006 FA Cup final shoot-out and spending eight years as Liverpool’s first choice under a succession of managers.

Reina left for Bayern Munich in 2014 after playing 396 games for the club.

READ: Remembering when Pepe Reina played as a midfielder for Liverpool

Bolo Zenden

An often-forgotten part of the great Netherlands team around the new millennium, Zenden played for a host of big clubs during an enigmatic career.

Signed by Louis van Gaal in 1998, Zenden became part of a huge Dutch contingent at Barcelona and spent three years at the Camp Nou before joining pre-Abramovich Chelsea.

An impressive spell at Middlesbrough followed before two years at Liverpool where Zenden won the FA Cup and played a central role in the side that reached the 2007 Champions League final.

Middlesbrough's Boudewijn Zenden celebrates Carling Cup Final victory

READ: Bolo Zenden recalls his varied career: Barca, Boro, Liverpool, Sunderland…

Mauricio Pellegrino

Hands up if remembered this one?

Pellegrino didn’t make waves at Liverpool or Barcelona but had brief spells with both clubs during his 16-year career.

In fairness, the future Southampton manager did win the league at Barca after being bought in by Van Gaal in 1998 and evidently did enough to earn a move to Valencia afterwards.

The defender spent five successful years at the Mestalla before joining old manager Rafa Benitez at Anfield in January 2005.

He was the first Argentinan player to represent Liverpool but was released after only six months.

Luis Garcia

Garcia came through the ranks at Barca but found a home in Liverpool, becoming a fan’s favourite at Anfield – and it’s not hard to see why…

READ: A tribute to Luis Garcia at Liverpool – and a connection you can’t fake

Jari Litmanen

An excellent footballer who was persistently injured, Litmanen was unable to replicate his Ajax form at either the Camp Nou or Anfield.

In an interview with in 2008, Louis van Gaal, his manager at Barcelona, said: “There are some incredibly talented players who haven’t got the character or the personality to suit my methods.

“Litmanen, for example, was a different player at Barca than he was at Ajax. You have to adapt to a new culture when you move to a different club, and not every player is able to do that.”

He would experience similar frustrations at Liverpool. Gerrard Houiller was delighted to sign Litmanen but seemed reluctant to use him, often preferring Emile Heskey.

After his release in 2002, following two years in England, Litmanen said: “It’s strange that he was so pleased when he signed me and then decided to not use me. I cannot explain it myself.”

Despite this, his skill and ability to produce match-winning moments endeared him to the Liverpool crowd, who were left thinking about what might have been.

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