Barcelona are one of the most successful European clubs in the history of the sport, having won a reported 97 titles in their 121-year-old history. Due to their glittering heritage, they have been able to harbor numerous superstars over the years. Even so, the Blaugrana have lost out on certain aces in the past, despite their willingness to retain the player in question.
Notable players that Barcelona failed to hold on to
The Spanish giants were at the center of the transfer that completely changed the dynamic of the transfer market. Barcelona failed miserably to thwart PSG's advancements for Neymar in 2017 and were forced to sell their star player for a record-shattering fee of €222 million in 2017.
A similar incident occurred in 2000 when Real Madrid inexplicably snatched their talisman of the time, Luis Figo from right under their noses. However, Barcelona's inability to hold on to Lionel Messi is easily one of the most embarrassing moments in the club's history. Their financial limitations compelled the 26-time La Liga champions to let go of the most important player the club has, and probably ever will employ.
While Barcelona had little control over the aforementioned transfers, they have also authorized the ousting of numerous club legends. Expectedly, their short-sighted decision to sell valuable players has come back to haunt them on multiple occasions. With that notion on our minds, let's take a look at five players that Barcelona should have never sold:
#5 Arthur Melo to Juventus
In March of 2018, it was announced that Barcelona had reached an agreement with Gremio over the transfer of an unknown prospect known as Arthur Melo. By the looks of it, the transfer looked like a serious gamble taken by the Blaugrana since the total fee involved was in excess of €31 million.
However, all such doubts were answered as soon as Arthur stepped on the pitch wearing a Barcelona shirt. The Brazilian youngster turned out to be really impressive in the middle of the park, exuding the work rate of a seasoned professional. Aged just 21 at the time of his arrival, Arthur was quickly termed the future of Barcelona's midfield.
However, just two seasons and 72 games later, the sturdy playmaker was sold to Juventus for €72 million as part of a swap deal involving Miralem Pjanic. Barcelona's absurd decision to replace a promising 23-year-old with an aging midfielder in his 30s has proven to be disastrous for them. At the time of writing, Pjanic has been exiled to Besiktas on loan, while Barcelona continue to search for established players to add some quality to the team.
#4 Samuel Eto'o to Inter
Speaking of poor swap deals, Barcelona's decision to purchase Zlatan Ibrahimovic in exchange for Samuel Eto'o and €45 million is easily one of the worst deals in the club's history. Eto'o had already established himself as a world-beater at the time of his sale, making his ousting all the more baffling.
Impressed by Ibrahimovic's goalscoring prowess, then manager Pep Guardiola decided to axe the Cameroonian No.9 in order to lure his desired target. Subsequently, Eto'o was sold to Inter in 2009, despite recently winning the treble with Barcelona.
However, the African forward went on to have the last laugh as he became an integral cog in Jose Mourinho's Inter side that dominated Europe. While Eto'o was busy adding a second straight treble to his trophy cabinet, Barcelona struggled with the uncompromising Ibrahimovic. The big Swede was loaned out after a solitary season with the Blaugrana, inflicting a huge loss on the club.
Also read: 5 most underpaid Barcelona players right now
#3 Thiago Alcantara to Bayern Munich
A product of the esteemed La Masia, Thiago was one of the brightest prospects at Barcelona's academy. Having joined their youth setup at the age of 14, the Spaniard spent another two years officially contracted to the senior squad, making a total of 100 appearances.
Thiago was a highly regarded player in his youth days, with Pep Guardiola being one of his biggest fans. The Catalan manager even brought the talented midfielder alongside him to Bayern Munich when he swapped the dugout at Camp Nou for the Allianz Stadium in 2013.
Thiago had certain clauses in his contract with Barcelona, that if not fulfilled, would've resulted in his buyout clause to fall to a meager €18 million. The Spanish giants failed to take notice of this technicality and subsequently sold a future superstar for a nominal fee of €25 million. Barcelona struggled for multiple seasons after Thiago's sale, trying to find an adequate heir to Xavi's throne.
Although he has struggled with injuries recently, Thiago could have fit perfectly at Barcelona.
#2 Ronaldo to Inter
The Brazilian Ronaldo was once one of the hottest properties across all of Europe. Having attained worldwide attention due to his heroics at PSV, almost every major club wanted to land him in 1996. Barcelona won the race for his signature, forking out a then-world-record fee of €15 million for his services.
Ronaldo turned out to be absolutely sensational in his debut season with the Blaugrana, contributing to a mind-boggling 47 goals and 12 assists in just 49 games. Josep Nunez, Barcelona's president at the time, even said that "He's ours for life", owing to the Brazilian's magisterial talent.
However, Ronaldo's love affair with Barcelona abruptly ended after a solitary season due to contractual disputes. The club's officials failed to consummate a mutual agreement with the player's agent, resulting in his departure after just one year. Taking advantage of the debacle, Inter swooped in to snap up Ronaldo for €26.5 million while Barcelona were left licking their wounds.
#1 Luis Suarez to Atletico Madrid
Luis Suarez closely pips the Brazilian Ronaldo to first place, having contributed almost five times more than him in statistical terms. Regardless, Suarez's acquisition for a sizeable fee of €81.72 million is undoubtedly one of the best pieces of business ever conducted by Barcelona.
The Uruguayan forward went on to spend six prolific seasons with the Blaugrana, winning everything under the sun during that period. Suarez hit peak form during the 2015-16 season, racking up a freakish tally of 59 goals and 24 assists in that campaign. An integral part of the fabled trident consisting of Lionel Messi and Neymar beside himself, Suarez was an absolute beast at Barcelona.
Despite his invaluable contribution to the club, the legendary striker was unceremoniously thrown out of the club in 2020. If reports are to be believed, newly-appointed coach Ronald Koeman contacted Suarez through a phone call to notify him that his services were no longer needed at the club.
Having been ousted from the club in such a disrespectful manner, the 33-year-old veteran returned to haunt his former club. His 21 goals propelled Atletico Madrid to an unlikely title win last season, handing Barcelona a humiliating defeat along the way.
Also read: 5 most overpaid Barcelona players right now