How Barcelona spent almost €1bn in five years without winning the Champions League
“How much has Barcelona spent in the last five years?”
Those were the words of Cristiano Ronaldo as he collected his umpteenth award on Monday, reminding fans of Real Madrid’s unprecedented dominance in the Champions League in recent seasons.
In fact, the outlay lies at an enormous €966 million (£885m/$1078m) since the Blaugrana last lifted the trophy in 2015, a staggering amount of money when you consider the manner in which they were dumped out by Roma and Liverpool in consecutive years despite holding significant first-leg advantages.
So who are the brains behind the business?
At the top of the tree is president Josep Maria Bartomeu, who at first had Andoni Zubizarreta (technical secretary) alongside him, then Robert Fernandez (technical secretary) and Albert Soler (sporting director), Jordi Mestre (vice president) and Pep Segura (general manager for sport) followed, and now Eric Abidal (director of football) and Ramon Planes (assistant technical secretary) head up the technical staff – a transfer merry-go-round in itself.
The work of those individuals has helped Barca dominate La Liga in recent times, winning three of five titles since their 2015 treble success. It is striking, however, that of the 21 players signed in the past five years, very few have cemented a spot in the starting XI.
In defence, Samuel Umtiti showed great promise at first but then lost his spot to countryman Clement Lenglet. And while Nelson Semedo is seen as a quality player, Sergi Roberto starts at right-back when the crunch matches come to pass.
Further up, Arthur Melo has played 90 minutes on just a handful of occasions in midfield and is unlikely to start ahead of summer signing Frenkie de Jong.
In attack, big things are expected of Antoine Griezmann, but Philippe Coutinho and Ousmane Dembele’s struggles to fully integrate serve as something of a warning, with neither having yet fully justified becoming two of the most expensive signings in Barcelona’s history.
Raising €467m (£428m/$520m) has softened the financial blow somewhat during this period, with the average spend each summer settling at around €100m (£92m/$111m) – an entirely acceptable amount for a team of Barca’s stature.
What is not acceptable, however, is the lack of continental success. Four seasons is too long given the club continue to enjoy the presence of Lionel Messi – arguably the greatest to ever play the game – at a side obsessed with European titles.
Will this summer’s business mark an upturn in fortune regarding new arrivals? Who knows. But until we get to the business end of the 2019-20 Champions League, Ronaldo is well within his rights to continue running his mouth.