October 25, 2016 marks the two-year anniversary of Luis Suarez’s Barcelona debut. The forward arrived from Liverpool for one of the highest transfer fees ever (£65 million) and during these two years his efficiency has been incredible- 94 goals in 109 appearances is simply crazy.
But is ‘El Gordo’ one of the club’s best ever signings? There are certainly a number of candidates who could claim to be among Barca’s greatest buys. Football Whispers took a look at the history books and ranks the Blaugrana’s top 10 purchases..
A constantly shining light during the darker days, Rivaldo’s time at the Camp Nou is possibly still underappreciated.
His goalscoring exploits in his first two seasons saw the team win a league and cup double in 1998 and retain their La Liga crown in 1999 with the Ballon D’or being awarded to the Brazilian in ‘99.
But, Rivaldo’s best known for scoring one of the greatest hat-tricks ever in 2001- just when Barca desperately needed it. They had to beat Valencia on the last day of the season in order to secure Champions League football for the following campaign. WIth the score at 2-2 heading into stoppage time- and having already scored two beauties- Rivaldo took a Frank De Boer pass on his chest and from outside the box sent a stunning bicycle-kick into the bottom corner.
Imagine Cules celebrating fourth place now?
9. Luis Suarez
Before Luis Suarez the Uruguayan came Luis Suarez the Spaniard from Deportivo La Coruna in 1955.
In the club’s museum, he’s celebrated as Barca’s first ever recipient of the Ballon d’Or- in 1960- and he remains the only Spanish player to ever win it.
Playing in the team of the 1950s coached by Helenio Herrera, Suarez was crucial to the six trophies won during his time with the club as he became known as El Arquitecto (‘The Architect’) because of his elegant style of play.
He’d also go on to become the most expensive player in the world when he transferred to Inter Milan in 1961.
The ‘N’ of the ‘MSN’ trident can’t be overlooked, even if we still don’t know the exact details of his transfer from Santos. This young Brazilian has been hugely important in the front three’s quest to elevate football to even greater heights.
Neymar’s already sitting on 91 goals for the club in little over three years and with goals in the finals of the Champions League and Copa del Rey, his reputation as a big-game player has certainly been proven.
Having signed a juicy new contract until 2021 last week, the best is yet to come from the 24-year-old.
7. Luis Suarez
The Uruguayan talisman does make the cut and given how much he’s achieved in just over two years, it’s hard to argue against his inclusion.
His aggressive and tenacious character has given this team the dimension they lacked for some time and it’s led to a treble and domestic double in consecutive seasons.
The ‘MSN’ trio are widely considered to be the greatest front three that have ever lived. Suarez is the least fashionable of the three but he’s probably the most ruthless and to boot, his 59 strikes last term meant he became the first player to beat Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to the Pichichi and Golden Boot awards since compatriot Diego Forlan in 2009.
6. Ronald Koeman
To put a spin on Barcelona’s club motto, Ronald Koeman was ‘more than a defender’. Pep Guardiola said last week that Koeman was “one of the first central defenders with the quality not just to defend. I think Johan Cruyff bought him to teach us why we needed a central defender like Ronald. He's one of the best central defenders I've met in my entire life.”
The Dutchman remarkably scored 88 goals in a Barca jersey including, perhaps, the most important in the club’s history in 1992. Barca had never won the European Cup/ Champions League before then and had watched Real Madrid claim six titles.
In the ‘92 final against Sampdoria at Wembley, Koeman’s powerful free-kick finally gave Barca the taste of European glory.
5. Johan Cruyff
It’s worth pointing out that we’re judging Cruyff the player- who signed from Ajax in 1973- and not the manager. If we were to look at his impact as both, it’s fair to say he’s the most important figure in Barca history.
Cruyff arrived from Holland for a world record transfer fee and immediately endeared himself to the fans, choosing the Catalans over Real Madrid despite Los Blancos agreeing a deal with Ajax.
On the pitch he dazzled with his speed and skill and although he only won one league title in five years, it was still a significant achievement. The Dutch maestro was the inspiration behind the 1973/74 league championship triumph- Barca’s first since 1960- which included a 5-0 win at the Bernabeu on route to the title.
It was also the season in which Cruyff scored the famous ‘phantom goal’ against Atletico Madrid.
4. Dani Alves
A one-in-a-million player who revolutionised the role of a full-back; Dani Alves’s influence on Barca was monumental.
When he signed from Sevilla in 2008 for €32.5 million, he became the third most expensive defender of all time but what a bargain it turned out to be. 23 titles- including three Champions Leagues- in eight seasons while maintaining a high level of consistency throughout that time is the sign of a serial competitor and winner.
It may be something that’s overlooked but Alves’s role off the pitch was important too, his unique personality brought much joy to the Barca dressing room, building a family atmosphere that’s been integral to their domination.
3. Gerard Pique
For years he was the apprentice but now Gerard Pique is well and truly the master of Barcelona’s defence. He’s emerged from Carles Puyol’s shadow to become the new leader of this golden crop of players over the last couple of seasons.
He may talk a good game but unlike so many, Pique has the courage of his convictions to follow up whatever he says with a purposeful response on the pitch. He’s the perfect concoction of elegance, timing, intelligence and spirit and perhaps it will be appreciated more when he decides to call it a day at the Camp Nou.
Since he was brought back to the club in 2008, the centre-back has lifted an astonishing 24 trophies- which includes two trebles- and remains hungry for even more.
The Brazilian magician signed for Barca during one of the club’s bleakest eras- not a single trophy had been won in five consecutive seasons. But, he would be the heart of the club’s new cycle that saw them rediscover their mojo. He made the Camp Nou smile again.
‘Ronny’s’ crowning glory was the league and Champions League double in 2005/06 and in the very same season, he was even applauded by the Bernabeu for his virtuoso display in a 3-0 win.
His big brother-like influence on a young Messi was vital too,. It was Ronaldinho who aptly assisted the Argentine’s first Barca goal and in general made him feel apart of the group.
“From the first moment I entered the locker room, it was very easy for me because Ronaldinho and the rest of the Brazilians in the team at the time- Deco, Sylvinho and Motta- welcomed me. I learned many things by his side and I am grateful for how he treated me from the first moment,” Messi told Barca TV in 2013.
From refugee to king of the Camp Nou, Ladislao Kubala’s story is incredibly fascinating and one marked by fine margins.
Kubala was born in Hungary to Slovak parents who fled the communist country in 1949. The family were smuggled into Austria but Kubala travelled on to Italy where he was offered a trial with Torino.
He was set to play his trial match against Benfica in Lisbon but missed the game for familial reasons. On the return flight to Turin, the plane carrying all the Torino players crashed and all of his would-be new team-mates were killed.
Instead of returning to Hungary, Kubala moved to Spain where he thought he was going to trial for Real Madrid. He signed for Barca, however, and the rest is history.
In a decade, Kubala scored 194 goals- which puts him among the top three goalscorers in the club’s history- and won four league titles, five domestic cups as well as other cup competitions.
He was so good, Barca had to move from their Les Corts stadium to the Camp Nou just so more people could get a glimpse of his genius.