Barcelona, La Liga

Barcelona’s Mixed Record In Transfer Market

In tonight’s Champions League match against Shakhtar former Barcelona player Dmytro Chygrynskiy will be tasked with marking Lionel Messi. Chygrynskiy also happens to be one of a long line of poor transfer decisions that Barcelona have made in past couple of years.

Barcelona loves to note that its battle with Real Madrid is more than just soccer; it is almost a clash of identities. It has been described often as cantera versus cartera, youth system against wallet. Madrid buys its success (and still isn’t successful), Barcelona grows and nurture its success.

It is an argument you often hear repeated. All three finalists in the Balón d’Or this year came through Barcelona’s youth system. Real Madrid’s winners of the trophy for world player of the year; Ronaldo, Kaká, Zidane, original Ronaldo, Figo, even Michael Owen, all earned the award for what they did at others clubs and were then signed.

When the two sides met in November, Barcelona’s starting XI cost €92M, Real Madrid’s €285M. Messi, Iniesta, Xavi, Puyol, Piqué, Valdés, Pedro, Busquets, all of them came through Barcelona’s youth system.

And yet, it is not quite so clear cut. Since the turn of the century, Real Madrid has spent more than €1,000M on players. But Barcelona has not exactly been frugal, spending more than €700M. And although Madrid has outspent Barcelona consistently, since Guardiola became coach of Barcelona in 2008, Barca have spent in excess of €275M. And it hasn’t always been money well spent. The success of the youth teamers makes the failure of the signings even more jarring.

Getting back to Dmytro Chygrynskiy who cost Barcelona €25 million after impressing against them in the European Super Cup. He was said to be the center-half of the future. Less than 12 months later he was sold back to Shakhtar for €15 million. A €10M loss plus wages.

Chygrynskiy is not the only bad deal that Barca have made. Henrique cost €8M and hasn’t played for Barça (he is on loan at Racing Santander as it awaits a buyer). Alexander Hleb, currently on loan at Birmingham City cost €16M and did virtually nothing. Keirrison cost €14M in 2009 and is already on his third different loan spell from the club; none of those who have loaned him have been impressed. Martin Cáceres signed for €16.5M has shown that he is simply not good enough for Barcelona.

And then there is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His arrival was largely due to then-president Joan Laporta’s dislike for Samuel Eto’o. Who cared that Eto’o was more suited to Barca’s free-flowing style of football than Ibrahimovic was. Laporta wanted Eto’o gone.

Inter was the only club that would take Eto’o and could offer Barcelona something in return. Barca basically swapped Eto’o, valued at €20M plus €4.5M (the “value” of Hleb, who ultimately didn’t go) for Ibrahimovic. That is not a terrible deal. What made it a terrible deal was that Barcelona also threw in €49.5M in cash. That valuation had Ibrahimovic as the second best player in the world.

Ibrahimovic was not a total flop in his first year in Barcelona. He scored 21 goals, but it was clear that his playing style did not mesh with that of Messi’s and as the season progressed Ibra found himself on the sidelines watching games.

So it was no surprise that Ibra joined AC Milan on loan this summer, while signing David Villa, a player whose style of play fits into the Barcelona system. When Ibrahimovic’s transfer to Milan is formalized this summer, Barcelona will receive about €24M. Two years ago he cost Barca €69.5M.

If you are keeping score that is about €110M in bad deals over the past couple of seasons. That has to be by far the worst transfer spending by any of the big European clubs in recent years.