Barcelona Transfers: Lessons That Must Be Learnt From Our Past

Players' Transfers has been part of the game since 1885. Before that, players were able to play for several teams during one season. The rules and regulations of the transfer process have evolved ever since. Nowadays, aside from the hectic month of May where leagues reach their peak, and the finals of several local as well as continental tournaments are played, July and August are the most tense of months throughout the year.

And that's mainly because of the transfer rumors and activities that take place. Players declaring their wish to leave for new challenges, others quashing rumors linking them to rival teams, conflicts between managers and stars are some of what we usually read during the transfer season.

Each and every team has had its fair share of transfer activity. Some signings turned out to be a bargain, while others were complete flops. FC Barcelona isn't an exception. When a team reaches a high level of local as well as international dominance, it usually has a structural way of managing the whereabouts of the club.

Among other tasks, marketing strategies are implemented, new market exploitations are targeted and financial control is applied. All this to ensure the proper functionality, and maintain the growing stance of the club. But this does not stand in the way of some failures when it comes to striking transfer deals. So what has it been like in our beloved club?

Barcelona, like all teams, has a scouting staff : Individuals with an eye for talent, deployed in areas of interest such as Africa, South America, and to a lesser extent Asia. But what are the criteria used in determining whether or not to sign certain players? A transfer strategy taking into consideration the financial capabilities as well as the tactical needs of the team should be employed. Has this been the case in Barcelona?

Throughout the 113 years, we have certainly made several magnificent deals. Players who fulfilled their potential and justified their price tag such as, Rivaldo, Patrick Kluivert, Ronaldinho, Deco, Eto'o, Yaya Toure, and most recently Mascherano. Others were bought for small sums of money and they turned out to be a bargain such as Johan Cruyff, Zubizaretta, Gary Lineker, Hristo Stoichkov, Miguel Angel Nadal, Luis Enrique, Frank De Boer, Lilian Thuram, Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, and Henrik Larsson. But between these two sets of players there was a list of "what in hell were you thinking" signings.

Before delving in names, it should be stated that we are not a selling club such as Arsenal, Ajax, and Udinese. Teams that nurture young players and then sell them for a s**t load of money. Teams whose sole target is making profit, even if on the account of winning titles. But on the other hand, by looking a bit at our numbers we can see that in the past six seasons we incurred a loss of €205.576.800 from transfer deals. And since the 1990/1991 season, we managed to make profit (although insignificant) in only five seasons: €2.640.000 in 2005/2006 - €44.000 in 2002/2003 - €5.016.000 in 1999/2000 - €2.252.800 in 1995/1996 - €6.644.000 in 1994/1995. While this is an indication that we are indeed one of the top spenders in Europe, not all signings turn out to be good value for their money.

The seasons of 2000/2001 and 2001/2002 are two of the most horrific periods in FC Barcelona's history. Everything done in these two seasons was a complete and utter failure. From the appointment of Joan Gaspart, to Van Gaal's second reign, to our dreadful playing style, and finally to the failure in clinching any title. And our activity in the transfer market was not an exception.

Alfonso Perez was bought for €16.500.000; He scored two goals in two seasons before first being loaned to Marseille and then returning to Betis for free. Emmanuel Petit was one of the invincibles in Arsenal along with Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, and Dennis Bergkamp. He achieved great success in England, but failed to live up to expectations after arriving at Barcelona for €15.000.000, spending one season and then returning to England to play for Chelsea.

Marc Overmars' €40.000.000 arrival broke many transfer records, being the most expensive Dutch player of all time, most expensive player to be sold by a british club, and the most expensive player to be signed by a spanish club. But those were the only records he broke. Plagued by injuries, he failed to win any trophies, and was forced to an early retirement (he made a comeback with Go Ahead Eagles four years later).

After having a breakout season with Alaves, Gerard Lopez was signed by Barcelona for €24.000.000, becoming only an expensive fringe player. Philipe Christanval was also signed for €9.000.000 without impressing. Javier Saviola arrived at Barcelona with a great reputation, and a hefty price tag of €35.900.000. He managed to score from time to time but failed to live up to his status upon arrival.

Fabio Rochemback is another player bought in these two plagued seasons, for a sum of €9.000.000 while never excelling when given the chance. Patrick andersson appeared to be an experienced, and tested solution for our back problems, signed for €8.000.000 and remaining on the sidelines due to recurring injuries. Geovanni was signed for €21.000.000 as a wizard winger, he fell out with Charly Rexach in his second season after being an under-achiever in his first season. He later left to Benfica for free.

So as a swift conclusion to the above mentioned two seasons, we managed to spend €99.500.000 in 2000/2001, and €93.100.000 in 2001/2002. 10 out of the 21 incoming players were either promoted from the B team or returning from loan. Which leaves us with 11 disastrous pieces of business in the transfer market. Had we been able to lift any kind of trophy - regardless of its significance - we might have found it a bit easier to swallow.

After that, came the transfer of Riquelme for €11.000.000 who should have been a star at Barcelona had it not been for the narrow-minded Louis Van Gaal, and later the signing of Ronaldinho. Ricardo Quaresma also arrived for €6.350.000 (no need to explain why he ended up being a failure, just look at his career after leaving Barca).
Maxi Lopez was then signed for €6.500.000 in the January window, something that we dont usually do. Needless to say he also failed to leave a good impression before being shipped to Mallorca on loan. Eidur Gudjohnsen was a utility player at Chelsea, managing to achieve mediocre success. He was signed for €12.000.000 and then sold for €3.000.000 after only three seasons.

In 2003 Gabriel Milito was to be signed by Real Madrid only for the deal to collapse due to his "not-fully recovered" knee injury. He ended up at Barcelona four years later with a price tag of €20.000.000. Also, needless to say his injury haunted him during his four years at Catalonia.

Barcelona payed €15.000.000 for Alexander Hleb only to lend him after he acted like a 12 year old unprofessional player. Martin Caceres's reputation was one of a very promising versatile defender, who was capable of filling any gap at the back. But for a player who ended up playing only 13 league games, €16.500.000 is a bit too much.

The signing of Henrique and Keirrison for €8.000.000 and €14.000.000, respectively, and then letting them leave for free, WITHOUT EVEN PLAYING A SINGLE GAME in a blaugrana shirt, should be the dumbest business deals any club has ever made. Dmytro Chygrynskiy was bought for €25.000.000 and then sold the following year for €15.000.000 (due to financial difficulties - it has been said).

Zlatan Ibrahimovic was not a bad deal when speaking of his numbers. 16 league goals in 29 games is not an easy task to achieve, but in financial terms, it is a deal that still haunts Laporta as well as Rosell to this day.

Now that the transfer window is fast approaching, and rumors linking us with several players are starting to surface, all Cules hope that we can benefit from our mistakes in past years and build on them to rectify our financial situation while reinforcing our squad at the same time.

The answer might be under our noses:

La Masia.
Posted by: Hassan Chakroun, Columnist at 'Blaugrana Insight''