Football Features

Nine players who publicly rejected Barcelona

By Squawka News

Published: 16:30, 28 September 2020 | Updated: 18:21, 1 October 2020

Barcelona don’t always get their own way in the transfer market…

For a select few clubs in world football, landing top transfer targets isn’t too difficult an objective to achieve.

While some clubs may have to sell themselves and their ‘project’ to convince a player to join them, the tradition, history and spending power of major clubs is usually a much easier sell.

Few players, for instance, would reject an offer from Real Madrid or Manchester United or even Bayern Munich, for that matter. These are heavyweight titans of world football, after all, whose reputations in the game go before them.

Barcelona are another footballing institution that well and truly belong in the ‘super-club’ category. During the club’s 120-year history, the Blaugrana have lifted 26 La Liga titles, 30 Copa del Reys and five Champions League titles, amongst numerous other honours.

Aside from the success and glory associated with playing for Barcelona, prospective signings will also be attracted by the challenge of trying to emulate the club’s best-ever players, ranging from Johan Cruyff to Lionel Messi.

The allure of pulling on the famous blue and red stripes and striding out to play in the Camp Nou has proven to be too much for most players to resist, although there have been rare exceptions to that general rule of thumb.

Whether it has been due to concerns over playing time, the offer of more money elsewhere, or personal reasons, some players have rejected Barcelona’s advances, even in their recent golden era of success.

Here are nine such instances.

1. Kevin Gameiro

After a prolific season with Europa League winners Sevilla, Kevin Gameiro was a man in demand in the summer of 2016, with Barcelona earmarked as a potential destination.

He snubbed their interest (in part due to his loyalty to former teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic) telling Le10 Sport: “This summer, I had the choice between going to Barça or coming to Atlético. But what do you want me to do at Barça? There’s Neymar, Messi and Suarez.

“There are players like that who want to play all matches, who refuse to go out even ten minutes from the end. With Ibra, that’s what happened.”

Instead, Gameiro signed for Atletico Madrid in a £28m deal with the Blaugrana switching their attention to Valencia’s Paco Alcacer, who, through his lack of minutes, showed why the France international had reservations about making the move.

Gameiro himself moved to Valencia in the summer of 2018 where he has struggled, scoring just 20 goals in 95 games in all competitions.

2. Koke

Fresh from winning the La Liga title and reaching the Champions League final in 2014, Atletico Madrid suddenly found themselves desperately fending off interest in their stars from other clubs.

Filipe Luis, Diego Costa and the on-loan Thibaut Courtois all left for Chelsea while Miranda joined Inter Milan. Homegrown midfielder Koke was also touted with a move elsewhere as Barcelona lined him up to replace Xavi, but his love of Atletico Madrid scuppered the move.

“The truth is that part of me said it was difficult to say no to Barca but I wanted to continue at home for many years at Atletico,” he told reporters.

“It wasn’t time to leave. This is my home, where I feel wanted and the club didn’t need to sell. How was I going to leave at the best time for Atletico?

“It’s not easy to say no to Barca and their interest was appreciated. It means the work I’ve done has paid off. But I’m at home here.”

Koke has since lifted the Europa League and European Super Cup.

3. Marco Asensio

Currently one of Zinedine Zidane’s favourites at Real Madrid, things could have turned out very differently for Marco Asensio as he had the option to join Barcelona as well.

Before he had fully established himself as part of Zidane’s first-team, Asensio was saying all the right things in pre-season.

He said: “I had chances to go to Barcelona and other teams, but I came to Madrid. I couldn’t wear the Barcelona shirt now. My aspiration is to be a starter, but there are important players who have spent many years at the club.”

4. Raphael Guerreiro

Having played his part in Portugal’s historic European Championships success in 2016, Raphael Guerreiro had a healthy selection of clubs to choose from as he sought a departure from Ligue 1 side FC Lorient.

“It was a very difficult decision to say no to Barcelona,” he explained to reporters.

“But there came a moment where I had to make a decision and Borussia Dortmund’s offer convinced me the most.”

Similarly to Gameiro, Guerreiro’s decision to snub Barcelona’s advances in order to play regularly instead paid off as he has become an integral member of the Borussia Dortmund team.

5. Mauricio Lemos

There is a theme developing here. Mauricio Lemos was being talked up over a potential move to Barcelona a few summers ago but he decided to stay at Las Palmas in order to develop his game through playing regular football.

“While we’re talking about one of the best teams in the world [Barcelona], at 20 [years old] I was not going to get minutes,” he said, as reported by La Provincial.

“I think the best option was to stay with Las Palmas. Anything can happen in football, you never know how much time you’re going to get to improve.”

It was a big call for the Uruguayan youngster to make.

After making 54 appearances for Las Palmas, Lemos was sent on loan to Serie A side Sassuolo, playing 12 times before returning to his parent club. He has since signed for Fenerbahce on a permanent deal.

6. Thiago Silva

Thiago Silva became synonymous with PSG’s success in recent times but he might have played a key role in Barcelona’s trophy-winning teams instead, had the club’s former president made him a more enticing offer.

He said, as reported by ESPNFC: “I asked for some important things, but they were not forthcoming. I saw quickly that it was not a good situation for me. With respect to Sandro [Rosell], that option did not come through.”

How the current Chelsea defender must have wished he made the move during PSG’s historic defeat at the Camp Nou in the Champions League in 2017.

7. Darijo Srna

If a young player rejects the move to Barcelona, they presumably would be doing so in the expectation that should they continue to develop, a future transfer to the club might arise again.

That isn’t the case for veteran footballers, though. If Barcelona were to offer an ageing star a chance to play for them, you’d presume they’d take it without a second’s hesitation.

Not so in the case of the legendary Croatian full-back, Darijo Srna, who supposedly passed up the opportunity of moving to Barcelona in January 2017 in order to stay with his beloved Shakhtar Donetsk, whom he had played for since 2003.

“I want to finish my career at Shakhtar. And when the president told me that he offered me a new contract, I only thanked him in response,” he said, as reported by Goal.

“I agreed to any terms. You probably know about the story with Barcelona, however, as I said, my heart is here. I’m happy at Shakhtar.”

Who said loyalty in football is dead?

8. David Luiz

Remember when everyone laughed at the fact that PSG spent £50m to sign David Luiz? Well, according to the man himself, the Parisians were not the only major club in the running to sign him.

Speaking to reporters, Luiz said: “It’s true they (Barca) tried to tempt me a couple of times and everything looked good. But eventually, I realised the team that really wanted me was PSG.”

As everyone knows, Luiz eventually returned to Stamford Bridge for a second spell with Chelsea, winning the Premier League, FA Cup and Europa League before joining London rivals Arsenal in 2019.

9. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Arsenal fans endured a nervous few months over the summer as star striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang entered the final 12 months of his contract.

A collective sigh of relief permeated the red half of north London earlier this month as Aubameyang ended speculation and put pen-to-paper on a new three-year deal with the Gunners.

However, those protracted negotiations can now be understood more clearly as Aubameyang has since revealed that a number of high-profile clubs were trying to lure hime away from the Emirates, and one of those was Barcelona.

It was a summer of turmoil in Catalonia, with Lionel Messi lobbying for a move, Quique Setien enduring an acrimonious sacking and a wellspring of elite talent walking out of the door, including Luis Suarez, Arthur and Nelson Semedo.

But, unpopular president Josep Maria Bartomeu could have gained some much-needed brownie points had he pulled off the signing of Aubameyang. Though, the Arsenal skipper was encouraged to extend his stay in the English capital, with Mikel Arteta playing a crucial role in his decision.

“There were several offers, notably from Barca, but also other clubs,” he told told Canal+.

“My priority was to stay for two reasons: the first is the coach, Mikel Arteta, because we spoke a fair amount during the ‘lockdown’, as they say here, we were at home and spoke several times and he convinced me, notably in terms of the project.

“Of course, secondly, is the love that I receive from the fans and people at the club. Since I have been here I have been treated like one of their own, and as I am one of their own, I am going to stay here, it is as simple as that.”