10 Players Barcelona Sold Too Soon
Barcelona remain one of the most successful football clubs in the world, but to stay at the top of the tree, the team needs to constantly evolve.
Just the same as every team, the Catalans have made their fair share of mistakes, be that buying players who didn't fit in or, as in this case, letting players go before their time.
There is a common theme running through some of this list that evidences a human element to the reasons why a few of the players pitched up elsewhere.
Let's take a look at 10 players Barca sold too soon...
Gary Lineker enjoyed a fine career at the Camp Nou after he was signed on the back of his Golden Boot-winning performance at the 1986 World Cup.
He quickly endeared himself to the Blaugrana faithful with 21 goals in his first season and perhaps most memorably scored a hat-trick against Real Madrid in a 3-2 victory.
A fox in the box at the top of his game, his £2.4 million transfer fee was definitely money well spent at the time as the Englishman continued to plunder goals for the club.
For some reason, as he entered his third season of playing, manager Johan Cruyff decided the team would be better served if Lineker played in midfield and out wide.
The marksmen was a great player but no midfielder and certainly not someone who worked well shuttling up and down the line.
A loss of form was obvious and it ended with a transfer to Tottenham Hotspur.
The Catalans could, and probably should, have seen much more of him at his peak.
Before Lionel Messi's arrival at Barca, there wasn't anyone who could come close to the goalscoring exploits of Ronaldo Luiz Nazario in 1996/97.
The young Brazilian was simply unplayable during the season he was at the club, scoring an astonishing 34 goals in 37 league games and, per Barcelona's official site, a then-unheard-of 47 goals in 51 games in all competitions.
There was a reason he was dubbed "O Fenomino" at just 20 years of age so it was therefore a shame that differences between the player's agents and the board of the club ultimately led to him leaving for Inter Milan.
He would, of course, then go on to play for, and become a legend at, Real Madrid: something he would have been had he stayed in Catalonia.
The second Brazilian on the list and another whose brush with authority saw him pushed out the exit door quicker than he might have liked.
Rivaldo was big business when he signed for Barcelona in 1997. His 130 goals across the five years he was at the club were never bettered than when scoring his last-minute overhead kick against Valencia in 2001 ensure Champions League football for the Blaugrana.
He was only 28 and at the peak of his powers when he joined AC Milan in 2002, and despite never really settling anywhere else thereafter, he could still have been a useful addition to Barca's squad for a few more seasons.
Unfortunately for the player, Louis Van Gaal was not a manager to be messed with, and once on the wrong side of the Dutchman, there was no opportunity for redress.
Romario's arrival at the club in 1993 pre-dates countryman Rivaldo's by a few years, and here we have yet another Brazilian who didn't appear to like toeing the line.
He scored 30 goals in 33 appearances as he helped Cruyff's "Dream Team" to a fourth successive La Liga.
Although unpredictable at times, he certainly knew where the goal was and has to be one of the most natural goal poachers that Barca have ever had.
A falling out with Cruyff led to his sudden exit, meaning yet another player at the top of his game had his best years as a professional elsewhere.
As he's shown since being transferred to Arsenal, Alexis Sanchez is far from finished as a football player.
Injuries aside, he has been the Gunners' best since they signed him almost two seasons ago.
A return of 39 goals across three seasons isn't fantastic, but considering the work rate put in by the Chilean each and every week and being played out wide, neither is it a poor return.
Alongside Pedro Rodriguez, Sanchez had to settle for a week here and a week there as the Catalans ensured that then-new signing Neymar would play every game, regardless of form.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic started his Barcelona career with a bang, scoring in each of his opening five matches.
Not the usual template for a Barca player, here was a tall powerful centre-forward quite unlike the shorter, more mobile exponents the locals had become used to.
But he put himself about a bit and scored goals and as such became an almost instant hit on the Camp Nou terraces.
It would all turn sour very quickly, however.
Used to being the main man wherever he had played, the Swede appeared uncomfortable with Pep Guardiola's insistence that team play revolved around Messi.
Upon leaving in August 2010, just 13 months after signing, Ibra would suggest that Pep hadn't even spoken to him since February of that year.
In his book, excerpts of which appeared in the Daily Mail, he said:
He was a brick wall. I didn’t see any signs of life from him, and every hour with the club I wished I could be out of there.
I didn’t belong any more, and when we had an away match with Villarreal, he let me play for five minutes. I was seething inside, not because I was on the bench.
I can deal with that, if the manager is man enough to say: ‘You’re not good enough, Zlatan. You haven’t made the grade.’ Guardiola didn’t say a word, not a peep, and now I’d had enough.
Who knows how much difference the striker would have made had his differences with the manager been settled. He continues to score goals wherever he plays.
Samuel Eto'o managed to convince Guardiola to allow him to stay for a season after the manager was prepared to sell him in the summer of 2008, a decision that would be vindicated as the Cameroonian helped Barca to their first-ever treble.
A goal in the Champions League final of 2009 was a fine way to sign off.
But here was quite possibly one of the best centre-forwards of his generation being allowed to walk out through the front door and all because of yet another falling out with authority.
Echoing Ibrahimovic's words, per Rik Sharma of the Daily Mail, Eto'o noted that
Guardiola has never had the courage to say things in front of me. He passed by the players.
Xavi told me they wanted me to stay but I had to talk to Pep. I say "Never, if you do not respect me, I do not respect you.
It seems that, like so many, Eto'o was managed out of the club via a situation that was impossible to live with on a day-to-day basis.
Deco would end up leaving Barcelona in the summer of 2008, told to go along with Ronaldinho and Eto'o by Guardiola.
For a player who still had such quality to give on the pitch, his off-field misdemeanours were a sad state of affairs.
Perhaps the manager was a little too hasty with the Portuguese who had played 113 times for the Blaugrana.
He still had much to give and was well-liked in the dressing room, but the Evening Standard recalls Pep's words at the time: "We are putting a team together and they aren't in our thoughts."
Swift and to the point. Another talent biting the dust too quickly.
There's a cogent argument to be had as to whether Ronaldinho is, in fact, Barcelona's greatest-ever player.
From 2003, he certainly influenced everything that the Catalans did on the pitch, and a great shame for football fans in general is that he didn't get the chance to play with Messi for long enough.
By 2008, this fan of the party-going lifestyle found no favours under then-new manager Guardiola.
Intent on putting his stamp on the team, Pep ordered that the Brazilian be sold.
Although no longer the player of 2003 vintage, the manager could have at least given the player the benefit of the doubt in knuckling down to his work ethic.
A real magician and crowd-pleaser, Barca were the poorer for losing "Dinho."
The case of Thiago Alcantara is still a real head-scratcher for a lot of Barca fans.
Despite the club knowing that the talented youngster could leave for a pittance if he didn't play the requisite number of games during 2012/13, the situation was allowed to continue.
So it was that in 2013 Barcelona could do absolutely nothing when Guardiola, by then Bayern Munich manager, came calling.
What sticks in the craw for many is that Alcantara was quite happy at Camp Nou.
In an interview with Pete Jenson for the Independent, he was asked:
Would he be alongside Messi tonight if Guardiola had still been in charge at the Nou Camp? "Pep has always had a lot of faith in me, and me in him, so if he was still the coach then yes, probably," the midfielder says.
"But going over the past doesn’t help you with the future and I’m just lucky enough to be here now with him at Bayern."
Yes, Guardiola had indeed left, but had the youngster been looked after appropriately at Barcelona, then there is no way he would have ended up in the Bundesliga as quickly as he did.
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