Pep Guardiola's rise to success at Barcelona has been nothing short of meteoric. His first season was incredible and his second season was also a massive success but there has been one part of his management that has left a lot to be desired and that is his transfer dealings.
At the start of his reign in charge of Barcelona Pep put Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto'o on the transfer list, amongst others, as he wanted to get rid of the dead wood and trouble makers at the club. He knew that this would shake up the rest of the players at the club and cut out any further complacency.
Ronaldinho had become overweight and was no longer the exciting dynamic driving force he had been and Deco had also become complacent. However Eto'o had always given 100% and was still lethal in front of goal. The kind of player Barcelona needed to finish off their nice passing moves. Eto'o, however, was a trouble maker so Pep decided to make an example of him aswell. Luckily for Barca fans no one came in with a serious bid for Eto'o, so while Ronaldinho and Deco did leave, he stayed.
In came Hleb for €15Million which at the time seemed like a good signing from Arsenal but unfortunately Hleb was not able to fit in at Barca and went on to feature in 36 games, mostly as a sub, before been loaned out to Stuttgart.
Martin Cáceres was also signed for €16.5 Million from Villareal. This seemed like a lot of money for a 5ft 11 defender who had only played one successful season on loan in the Spanish second division. He went on to make only 13 league appearances for Barca before been shipped out on loan to Juventus the following season.
Henrique was signed for €8 Million + bonuses of 2 Million but hasn't made a single appearance for the club.
With Ronaldinho gone, this left a front trio of Henry, Eto'o and Messi and gave a great balance to the side. Eto'o as usual gave 100% for the team and added pace, directness and power up front. With Eto'o in the side Barca defended from the front and he linked up brilliantly with the rest of his team mates as usual. The side went on to be arguably Barcas greatest ever team alongside Cruyffs 1992 European Cup winning Dream team.
Everything was going perfectly for Pep but there were still reports of problems with himself and Eto'o. At the start of the 09/10 season the most over priced transfer in history became a reality.
Most football fans probably thought it was a joke when they read it first. Barcelona were going to sign Ibrahimovic for €46 Million + Samuel Eto'o (who only had one year left on his contract) + Hleb on loan for a season. (Hleb refused to join Inter on loan so the fee increased to €49.5 Million)
Ibrahimovic, a player who's reputation as a trouble maker was worse than Eto'os, was widely thought of as a bottler on the big occasions. Most right minded football fans were amazed. Inter Milan were probably amazed, they must of thought it was christmas. What a deal. Ibrahimovic was not worth €49.5 Million alone.
How could anyone value a player who had constantly failed to perform on the European stage at such a huge price and to swap Eto'o aswell was just madness. Eto'o was a world class centre forward who suited Barcas style of play. Most fans thought he was a better striker than Zlatan and was proven in Europe.
It was a crazy deal and everyone could see it. The only way Pep could be justified in making this deal was if Ibrahimovic went on to be a massive success and although he did start well it became apparent by the end of the season that his style of play and personality did not fit in at all.
Ibrahimovic was too slow and played too deep for Barca. Every move broke down when it got to him and he constantly seemed to be in a bad mood. He missed lots of chances and simply wasn't good enough. By the end of the season Bojan was the first choice striker ahead of the frustrating Ibrahimovic and Eto'o had won his second treble in a row and was celebrating another Champions League trophy. Barca could've kept Eto'o and their €49.5 Million. It was a waste of money.
A second signing for the 09/10 season was Dmytro Chygrynskiy from Shakhar Donestk for €25 Million..... That's right, €25 Million for a defender that no one had really heard of when Barca already had Marques, Puyol, Milito and the fantastic Pique. It was a crazy amount of money to spend on a central defender and the kind of money you'd expect to pay for a proven world class centre back. Chygrynskiy was a flop and made 14 appearances in total, during which, he looked totally out of his depth. He was voted the worst player in La Liga on a poll on Goal.com for the 09/10 season.
Barcelonas third signing for the 09/10 season was Keirrison from Santos for 14 Million + up to 2 Million in bonuses. He was immediately loaned out to Benfica and then Fiorentina for the 09/10 season where he failed to make an impression and has now been loaned back to Santos
The three of these signings were regarded by many fans as totally over priced from the start and they were proven to be correct by the end of the season.
The really worrying fact was that on July 27th 2010 Barcelona announced debts of €77 Million for the season. Ibrahimovic + Chygrynskiy + Keirrison cost a total €88.5 Million without bonuses and none of these signings were necessary. The club had totally mis managed their finances and all this after winning the Champions League the season before with 7 home grown players in the starting 11. Barcelona had failed to take financial advantage of their youth system. The best youth system in the world.
Now in season 10/11 Pep has shown his weakness in the transfer market yet again. His first massive mistake was letting Yaya Toure go. Pep totally mis managed Yaya. He was the perfect defensive midfielder for Barca. Yaya is tall, clever, elegant and fitted perfectly into the Barca style and he could double up as a centre back as he did at the end of the 08/09 season with great effect. Furthermore his passing style was similar to Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets and he clearly was a very effective part of any trio in central midfield.
Peps second mistake was replacing Yaya with the weaker Mascherano. He isn't a patch on Yaya. He isn't a great footballer, his passing is limited and his style will not suit Barca. He is also very small which ads to Barcas height inferiority. Replacing Yaya with Mascherano just makes Barca weaker and leaves them with the same problem Pep had with Yaya as Mascherano will also be on the bench more times than not. Busquets is better suited to Barcas style and will start ahead of Mascherano more often than not as the season goes on. Mascheranos €20 Million transfer was unnecessary and baffling.
Pep has had some inspired transfers as well as the flops. Daniel Alves was a fantastic signing and has gone on to justify his €41.5 Million transfer fee and David Villa should go on to justify his €40 Million fee as he clearly suits the Barcelona style of play. Seydou Keita, Maxwell and especially Pique have all gone on to be massive successes.
Peps decision to offload a lot of the deadwood in his first season with the likes of Zambrotta, Oleguer, Crosas, Thuram, Ezquerro, Dos Santos and Edmilson and to put his faith in the youth system with the likes of Pedro, Busquets, Thiago and Jeffren was also a very brave and inspired decision by such a young manager.
However the worrying thing is the continued waste of money on players that the average Joe Public can see are not good enough or necessary for the Barcelona squad. This team should be making money in their most successful period as a club and not throwing it away on over priced and unnecessary signings that end up as second choice by the end of the season.
Hleb, Cáceres, Henrique, Ibrahimovic, Chygrynskiy, Keirrison and Mascherano cost a total of €148 Million + bonuses. That's enough to sign Fabregas and Villa with plenty of change left over.