Man Utd are desperate to sign Frenkie de Jong but this ranking of the 30 permanent Premier League purchases from Barcelona could scare them.
The Red Devils should probably check this out before making their ‘final bid’.
30) Winston Bogarde (Chelsea, 2000, free)
That ‘free’ should be in quote marks, really. As has been written elsewhere: ‘”I may be one of the worst buys in the history of the Premiership but I don’t care,” Bogarde said even before retirement, pre-empting his immortality in evergreen lists and features. He did not feature much for Chelsea, but he damn well played the game.’
29) Claudio Bravo (Manchester City, 2016, £15.4m)
New Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola staked his reputation on Claudio Bravo after the rather public deposing of Joe Hart. The Chilean repaid such unshakeable faith by getting sent off for handball in a 4-0 hammering at the hands of Barcelona, before losing his place to Willy Caballero by February. Ederson was soon in to sort the goalkeeping mess out and Bravo’s final three years were spent largely mulling about on the bench, save for a handful of cameo appearances to win the League Cup and such.
28) Giovani dos Santos (Tottenham, 2008, £8.6m)
Despite interest from Chelsea and Manchester City, it was Tottenham who secured the signature of highly rated Barcelona teenager Giovani dos Santos in 2008. John Bostock, Heurelho Gomes, Roman Pavlyuchenko, Vedran Corluka, David Bentley and Luka Modric also moved to north London that summer in what can only generously be described as a mixed transfer window. Dos Santos scored as many goals as he had loan spells, with none of those strikes coming in his 17 Premier League appearances.
27) Sylvinho (Manchester City, 2009, free)
Considering Sylvinho played the entire 2009 Champions League final victory for Barcelona over Manchester United 89 days before joining Manchester City on a free, more might have been expected of the former Arsenal left-back. But at 35 and signed as back-up to Wayne Bridge on a 12-month contract, the Brazilian fulfilled his role across 15 appearances.
26) Emerson Royal (Tottenham, 2021, £25.8m)
The fee reportedly gasted the notoriously financially sensible flabber of Barcelona. Emerson Royal soon found himself locked in a losing battle for minutes against Matt Doherty before his rival’s untimely injury. The summer arrival of Djed Spence and repurposing of Lucas Moura further obstructs that path and Tottenham are said to be looking for buyers.
25) Michael Reiziger (Middlesbrough, 2004, free)
After six years with Ajax, 12 months at AC Milan and seven seasons as a pretty regular fixture in the Barcelona first team, Michael Reiziger swapped European champion pedigree for parmos. The full-back even claimed to have rejected the opportunity to join La Liga winners Valencia because he wanted to fulfil his Premier League dream. He probably envisioned making more than 22 appearances in England’s top flight but there we go.
24) Junior Firpo (Leeds, 2021, £12.8m)
It speaks volumes that the player himself feels his second season with Leeds “can’t be worse” than his first. That might be an overly critical self-assessment considering many of Junior Firpo’s struggles were related to injury and illness, restricting him to 19 Premier League starts. The Whites only won four of those games – against Watford, Crystal Palace, Burnley and Brentford. But their heavy summer investment has thus far not involved the purchase of a new left-back so the 25-year-old might get his chance.
23) Gerard Deulofeu (Everton, 2015, £4.2m)
Part of Everton’s greatest Premier League team in terms of points, Gerard Deulofeu impressed on loan at Goodison Park in 2013/14. He was back for good in July 2015 but the light had dimmed somewhat and by January 2017 he was sent to Milan, then returned to Barcelona six months later.
22) Jordi Cruyff (Manchester United, 1996, £1.4m)
There were worse four-year periods to be contracted to Manchester United than between 1996 and 2000, yet Jordi Cruyff contrived to miss most of the trophy-based fun at Old Trafford. He collected one of a possible three Premier League winner’s medals on account of injuries, a Treble-interrupting loan with Celta Vigo and the fact he had a fraction of the talent of the rest of the squad. Then he left on a free, having scored one less goal than Darron Gibson in as many club appearances.
21) Fabio Rochemback (Middlesbrough, 2005, £1.35m)
The term most commonly used to describe Fabio Rochemback on Teesside is ‘enigma’, which is hardly a glowing reference after a three-year stay. He had his moments, mainly from set-pieces, with his final Middlesbrough appearance culminating in a stunning 30-yard free-kick and two assists in that 8-1 thrashing of Manchester City. There was also the UEFA Cup run, to which he contributed heavily. But a player once deemed as Pep Guardiola’s potential Nou Camp replacement could barely resist the midfield competition of Gary O’Neil by the end.
20) Ibrahim Afellay (Stoke, 2015, free)
He came. He saw. He slapped Craig Gardner. He suffered two long-term knee injuries. He fell out with Paul Lambert. He never really conquered a great deal over two forgettable years in England.
19) Philippe Coutinho (Aston Villa, 2022, £17m)
A goal on his debut against Manchester United perhaps set the bar a little too high for Philippe Coutinho, who performed in those fits and bursts familiar to anyone who followed him at Liverpool. He almost gifted his former club a Premier League title lifeline with his composed effort against Manchester City on the final day, which probably convinced Steven Gerrard to make the move permanent there and then. He has as much chance of moving up this list as he does down.
18) Andre Gomes (Everton, 2019, £22m)
“I’m really happy to sign the contract with Everton. It wasn’t hard to decide, it was an easy decision and I’m very happy to have made it,” said Andre Gomes in 2019, with reported wages of £120,000 likely to have been part of the ultimate temptation. Those earnings are providing the biggest stumbling block to Everton’s hopes of moving the midfielder on as Gomes, whose Goodison Park contract has two years left to run, contemplates life on the sidelines; Frank Lampard has already ostracised the Portuguese, presumably after struggling to recall a single second of his century of Everton games thus far.
17) Boudewijn Zenden (Chelsea, 2001, £7.5m)
It could be argued that the first of Boudewijn Zenden’s four Premier League clubs got the least out of him. The midfielder won the League Cup with Middlesbrough, reached a Champions League final at Barcelona and helped Sunderland to a pair of mid-table finishes but never really found his footing at Chelsea, where only 24 of his 43 Premier League games were starts.
16) Bojan Krkic (Stoke, 2014, £3m)
Once thought to be a ludicrous signing for Stoke because of his residual Barcelona youth reputation, Bojan actually found something close to his level in the Potteries. He even heralded a weird influx of Champions League winners at the Britannia Stadium and currently sits level with Franco Di Santo, DJ Campbell, David Nugent and Jon Stead on the all-time list of Premier League goalscorers.
15) Jari Litmanen (Liverpool, 2001, free)
Described by Gerard Houllier as “one of the most exciting signings we have made,” Jari Litmanen was unfortunately far from the most durable. His struggles with injury ruled him out of each of the League, FA and UEFA Cup finals in 2001 – although he contributed plenty to those runs – and made it difficult to even train. A European champion with Ajax in 1995, Litmanen’s brittle nature half a decade later restricted him to such an extent that he completed 90 minutes for Liverpool just five times in 43 appearances.
14) Gerard Deulofeu (Watford, 2018, £11.5m)
After six months on loan at Watford, both player and club were content enough to make the move from Barcelona permanent at no small expense. Gerard Deulofeu held up his end of an eight-figure bargain with a Premier League hat-trick and some Wembley heroics in the 2019 FA Cup semi-final. Then he buggered his knee and moved to Udinese. Yep, that checks out.
13) Nelson Semedo (Wolves, 2000, £27.6m)
The third most expensive signing in Wolves history has not quite lived up to that billing. He has been considerably better than Fabio Silva in that regard, mind. Nelson Semedo has been a regular when available under both the conservative Nuno Espirito Santo and the slightly more expansive Bruno Lage, with a potential formational switch doing nothing to diminish his prospects.
12) Patrick Kluivert (Newcastle, 2004, free)
Never far from a Premier League rumour, the only surprise was that Patrick Kluivert was eventually coaxed to England not by Manchester United or Chelsea but Newcastle. Sir Bobby Robson suggested it was “like the feeling when Alan Shearer came home” upon the Dutchman’s capture as a free agent. Kluivert never reached those heights but his solitary season in black and white was no failure; he finished as their second top scorer on 13 goals, including winning efforts in the FA Cup against both Tottenham and Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, before returning to La Liga with Valencia.
11) Yerry Mina (Everton, 2018, £27.1m)
Some players are unpleasant and others are nasty but Yerry Mina. The centre-half is far from perfect yet Everton look considerably more vulnerable in his absence and a series of Toffees managers have sought to build their defences around him. Mina played more than 60 minutes of just eight Premier League games last season and Everton won three, drew three and lost two. Frank Lampard will hope that further injury issues in pre-season are not long-lasting.
10) Emmanuel Petit (Chelsea, 2001, £7.5m)
Manchester United and Tottenham were both pitching to bring Emmanuel Petit back to the Premier League after a single fairly miserable season at Barcelona, but it was Chelsea who won the race in 2001. The Frenchman was a regular for two seasons, reaching the FA Cup final and forming a solid midfield partnership alongside Frank Lampard. But injuries and the Roman Abramovich money curtailed realistic hopes of anything more.
9) Juliano Belletti (Chelsea, 2007, £4m)
A slightly underwhelming alternative to the unattainable Sevilla full-back Dani Alves, Juliano Belletti nevertheless made his mark at Chelsea. With that said, nothing he achieved in his three years at Stamford Bridge endeared himself more to the fans than the winner he scored for Barcelona against Arsenal in the 2006 Champions League final.
8) Lucas Digne (Everton, 2018, £18m)
Voted Players’ Player and Fans’ Player of the Season at the end of his first Everton campaign, Lucas Digne quickly established himself as one of the Premier League’s more effective full-backs. Better than Andy Robertson, even. He improved further under Carlo Ancelotti but that compatibility vanished upon Rafael Benitez’s appointment and Digne was shipped out to Aston Villa for a decent profit.
7) Albert Ferrer (Chelsea, 1998, £2.2m)
The first Spaniard to play for Chelsea was one of the better ones, more Marcos Alonso than Enrique de Lucas or Asier del Horno. For a few years he operated largely in the shadows as a reliable right-back for a Champions League club but as Chelsea progressed and evolved, they did so without a player who was already in his late 20s when he joined. He did reach two FA Cup finals and a European Cup quarter-final so those five years in London were far from wasted.
6) Luis Garcia (Liverpool, 2004, £6m)
A cult hero whose mercurial brilliance, purportedly fuelled by sangria and which Liverpool fans were eager never to be deprived of, provided some of the club’s most memorable moments of the mid-2000s. Luis Garcia scored in the last 16, quarter and semi-finals of their 2005 Champions League run, also netting in that year’s UEFA Super Cup final and dumping Chelsea out of the 2006 FA Cup with a spectacular goal. His influence and impact waned as Rafael Benitez built a more reliable team, but Garcia’s brand of unique excellence will never be forgotten at Anfield.
5) Pedro (Chelsea, 2015, £21m)
Not the greatest player at any point of his Chelsea career but that suited Pedro perfectly after six years as a Barcelona regular. The Spaniard slotted into the trophy-winning systems of Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri without a hint of anything other than absolute professionalism.
4) Deco (Chelsea, 2008, £8m)
Luiz Felipe Scolari did not achieve a great deal in England but the Brazilian did stay just long enough to bring Deco with him. The midfielder started slowly and his manager’s demise triggered a desire to leave but Carlo Ancelotti coaxed a standout campaign from the European champion, who left for Fluminense in 2010 with a Double in tow.
3) Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea, 2014, £30m)
Having almost completed his set of international and club honours at Barcelona, with only the Champions League missing, Cesc Fabregas made his return to London after three years at his hometown club. Arsenal rejected the option to re-sign the midfielder but Jose Mourinho leapt at the opportunity and sculpted his title-winning side around him. Fabregas recorded 19 Premier League assists in his first season at Chelsea, was christened as one of the three Stamford Bridge ‘rats’ in his second and claimed the crown again in his third. The subsequent 18 months until his departure were positively nondescript by comparison.
2) Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal, 2014, £35m)
Remember not the piano-playing Manchester United misfit but the Arsenal streetfighter capable of the spectacular, who often dragged the Gunners through difficulties by his sheer will of spirit and ability. The Chilean scored in two victorious FA Cup finals and maintained a record of almost a goal every other game all the way up to his ignominious exit. He really was something else.
1) Yaya Toure (Manchester City, 2010, £24m)
‘The Ivorian is an average player who’s rumoured to be on £200,000 a week! Does he score goals? No. Does he create them? No. Is he an OK holding midfield player? Yeah – but De Jong, Vieira and Barry do that job already!’ Paul Merson was not the only sceptic but everyone who doubted Yaya Toure was treated to more than a few slices of humble birthday cake. Does he score goals? Twenty in a title-winning season once. Does he create them? More than Muzzy Izzet and Wilfried Zaha. And he might not be the best holding midfielder but De Jong, Vieira and Barry combined couldn’t have come close to Toure’s 2014 peak.