Barcelona, along with Real Madrid, are the most successful clubs in Europe's top five football leagues. The Catalan giants' rich haul of 91 trophies include 30 Spanish Cups, 26 La Liga titles, 13 Spanish Super Cups, five Champions League crowns and as many UEFA Super Cup titles, along with a few more domestic and international honours.
The Blaugrana are one of the oldest football clubs in Europe, with an illustrious history of over 120 years. They have also been one of the most consistent clubs in domestic and continental competitions during the last decade, winning seven La Liga and three Champions League titles en route to completing their second treble of La Liga, Copa Del Rey and Champions League in 2014-15.
Five players whom Barcelona regret selling
Despite enduring their first trophyless season in more than a decade last season, some of the finest players to have graced the game have worn the famous Blaugrana jersey. While the likes of Lionel Messi, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique have had hugely successful careers at Barcelona, a few others were not so fortunate.
Due to a myriad of reasons, some of these talented players had to cut their Barcelona stints short and went on to excel at pastures anew. On that note, let us have a look at five such players whom the Blaugrana potentially regret jettisoning.
#5: Ronaldo Nazario (Moved from Barcelona to Inter Milan in 1997)
Signed by Barcelona from PSV Eindhoven for a then-world record transfer fee of £13.2 million (€15 million) in the summer of 1996, Ronaldo Nazario produced one of the most memorable debut seasons at a top five club.
The teenager topped the La Liga scoring charts that season with 34 goals en route to scoring 47 goals in 49 games, which included the winner in the Cup Winners Cup final. That tally remained the best conjured by a Barcelona player in a season till Lionel Messi scored 51 times in all competitions in 2008-09 in the Blaugrana's treble-winning season.
Ronaldo was at his mesmerising best with Barcelona. With his blistering pace and brilliant trickery, he evaded tackles, nutmegged opposition defenders and often rounded up the goalkeeper to slot the ball into an empty net.
Quinton Fortune, who played thrice against the Brazilian that season, had this to say about Ronaldo's performances for Barcelona:
"He was physical perfection, and he seemed like a mythical figure. I love [Lionel] Messi, I played many times with Cristiano (Ronaldo) and I adore him, Neymar is outstanding, Ronaldinho was exceptional—but if you put all of them together, you might get what Ronaldo was that season."
However, Ronaldo's stint proved incredibly short-lived. He had apparently agreed to a contract extension at the end of the season before flying to Brazil on international duty. Five days later, the Brazilian found out that the promise was reneged upon.
In a later interview with DAZN Italy, Ronaldo said that he wanted to continue at Barcelona, but revealed that things were not in his hands.
“I had signed a contract extension at the end of the season and went away on international duty with Brazil. Five days later, they called me to tell me that I couldn’t continue with the renewal. It was never in my hands. I wanted to stay. If the club didn’t value me as I thought they should, then the decision wasn’t in my hands. I would have liked to have stayed, but it wasn’t up to me.”
Miguel Angel Nadal, who played with Ronaldo at Barcelona, also lamented the premature departure of the Brazilian:
“I think that he would have defined an era at Barcelona because of his style, because of how that city is. It was a pity.”
Barcelona's loss turned out to be Inter Milan's gain as the Serie A giants snapped up Ronaldo for a then world-record transfer fee of €28 million. That made Ronaldo the first player since Diego Maradona to break the world record transfer fee twice.
A few months later, the 21-year-old Ronaldo became the youngest Ballon d'Or winner, a mark that remains till this day.
In 2002, Ronaldo returned to Spain to join Barcelona's fierce rivals Real Madrid, with whom he spent a fruitful five seasons. In the process, the Brazilian joined a select group of players to have played for both Real Madrid and Barcelona.
#4: Luis Figo (Moved from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000)
Luis Figo was one of the most gifted players of his generation. After making his professional debut with boyhood club Sporting Lisbon, Figo moved to Spain in the summer of 1995 to join Barcelona.
In five successful seasons at the club, the winger made 172 appearances in all competitions and scored 30 goals before making a shock move to Barcelona's arch-rivals Real Madrid, that enraged the Blaugrana faithful.
Apparently, Real Madrid triggered the player's release clause and acquired Figo for a then-world record transfer of £37.2 million (€60 million) to start the 'Galacticos' era. Barcelona had acquired the Portugal international for a meagre £2.5 million.
In a later interaction with Marca, Figo opened up about his decision to leave Catalonia to join Madrid, a move considered unthinkable at that time as direct transfers between the two clubs were extremely rare.
“It was an important but difficult decision. I left a city that gave me a lot and where I felt good. But when you don’t feel like you’re recognised for what you’re doing and you have an offer from another club then you think about it.”
The player faced a lot of 'vitriol' and abuse on his first return to the Camp Nou after joining Real Madrid but months later won the Ballon d'Or.
Figo was a quick, elegant and skillful player who was renowned for curling crosses and feints as well as stepovers to get past unsuspecting opposition defenders. Initially starting out as a winger, the Portuguese in his later years, also excelled in a playmaking role, something Barcelona could have benefitted from if the player was made to feel more 'wanted' at the club.