Football Features

Every Barcelona forward this century ranked

By Muhammad Butt

Published: 15:30, 22 June 2022

Barcelona have had some miraculous forwards play for the club this century.

There aren’t many clubs who can match the Blaugrana for startlingly skilled strikers and fabulous flair-forwards. But which of them is the best? Who comes second? We’ve had a look at all 38 forwards that have played for Barcelona this century.

For reference, pure wingers like Ousmane Dembélé and Arda Turan have been discounted, but wide players whose primary focus is scoring will be included. Disagree with any of our picks? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

38. Keirrison

2009-2013: 0 games, 0 goals

Started no games for the club. A baffling, controversial signing.

37. Alfonso

2000-2002: 38 games, 5 goals

Wore gold boots at Euro 2000, but played as though his feet were encased in gold at Barcelona.

36. Kevin-Prince Boateng

2019: 4 games, 0 goals

A half-season of barely any football but some nice social posts. Plus, he was only a loan so cost little.

35. Sergio Garcia

2002-2004: 9 games, 0 goals

Ran his heart out but all the effort in the world couldn’t make him good enough for Barcelona.

34. Ferran Jutgla

2021-2022: 9 games, 2 goals

A B-team striker who filled in reasonably until new coach Xavi could sign some actual forwards.

33. Gerard Deulofeu

2011-2012 and 2017: 23 games, 2 goals

Seriously talented but could never put it together in Blaugrana.

32. Santiago Ezquerro

2005-2008: 41 games, 8 goals

Signed to be Ronaldinho’s understudy before Barcelona realised Ronaldinho didn’t actually need an understudy.

31. Sandro

2014-2016: 32 games, 7 goals

Rough-and-tumble striker who never got a proper chance to show what he could do as a No.9.

30. Maxi Lopez

2005-2006: 19 games, 2 goals

Barça‘s original panic winter striker signing. Mostly disappointing, but that game-winning goal against Chelsea will live long in the memory.

29. Giovani Dos Santos

2007-2008: 38 games, 4 goals

The Mexican was a shining light in a dingy season, but he chased the money and thus never really came close to his potential. That last day hat-trick and hug with Frank Rijkaard sure was nice, though.

28. Martin Braithwaite

2020-present: 56 games, 10 goals

Cut adrift under Xavi, Braithwaite was nevertheless surprisingly useful while Ronald Koeman was coach. Not the fanciest, but a relentless worker who had tactical uses for the side.

27. Eidur Gudjohnsen

2006-2010: 114 games, 9 goals

Over a century of games and a treble sounds impressive, but the fact that Gudjohnsen’s best displays in Blaugrana came once Pep Guardiola converted him to midfield is pretty damning.

26. Antoine Griezmann

2019-2021: 101 games, 33 goals

Came with the expectation that he would help the club continue their dominance, but he was a colossal disappointment. Wasn’t terrible, but Barcelona wanted Thierry Henry-level production and in the end they just got a really expensive Ludovic Giuly.

25. Munir

2014-2019: 56 games, 12 goals

For four years he was Schrodinger’s Hot Prospect: simultaneously good enough and not good enough. Unfortunately when the box was finally opened, it turns out he wasn’t quite up to it.

24. Paco Alcacer

2016-2018: 50 games, 15 goals

An orthodox striker signed for an unorthodox position as Luis Suárez’s back-up, Alcacer was also habitually unlucky. He left after just two seasons, but he did help deliver La Liga in 2017/18.

23. Memphis Depay

2021-present: 38 games, 13 goals

Came with the absurd burden of leading the attack after Leo Messi had left, and for a handful of games at least he looked up for it. Injury (to himself and key team-mates) derailed his season, however, and he looks a bad fit under new boss Xavi.

22. Cristian Tello

2011-2014: 86 games, 20 goals

Had every technical and physical skill needed to become a perfect compliment to Lionel Messi’s playmaking genius, but the arrival of Neymar and Tata Martino’s natural caution basically killed his Barcelona career.

21. Luuk de Jong

2021-2022: 29 games, 7 goals

Ronald Koeman signing Luuk “more dangerous than Neymar” de Jong on loan and essentialled doomed himself because Barcelona needed pace around Memphis. However under Xavi’s leadership De Jong turned into an excellent and reliable Plan B, scoring important goals and usually late in the game. He won’t be renewed, but he will always be respected.

20. Ferran Torres

2022-present: 26 games, 7 goals

Arrived with the intention of being a key player for Xavi’s new Barcelona and you can see why they wanted him so badly. A hand-in-glove fit for the system and his game intelligence is off the scale; he nearly always makes the right decision. Now he just needs to sharpen up his finishing and he would become a genuinely elite forward.

19. Ansu Fati

2019-present: 57 games, 19 goals

Widely considered one of Europe’s most exciting football talents, Ansu is the youngest goalscorer in UEFA Champions League history. Plagued by injury, Barcelona will be praying he can stay fit for a full season to re-find his best level.

18. Luis Enrique

1996-2004: 300 games, 109 goals

Lucho did the vast majority of his great work for Barcelona in the last century, but since the turn of the millennium he still managed to play very well in a period when the Blaugrana were, for the most part, pretty bad. Played all over the pitch but was always a potent forward.

17. Ludovic Giuly

2004-2007: 124 games, 26 goals

Giuly joined Barcelona as one of the faces of Frank Rijkaard’s teams and played a fundamental role alongside the more showy Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o. In many ways, he was the proto-Pedro and none of the success would have been possible without him.

16. Alexis Sánchez

2011-2014: 141 games, 47 goals

A player whose unique skill-set helped form one of the most tactically impressive Barcelona sides of all-time. However his profligacy in front of goal was responsible for their humiliating Champions League exit to Chelsea in 2012, and he never really recovered from that blow. Could always be relied upon for big goals, however, including his last for the club which should have sealed La Liga in 2014.

15. Bojan

2007-2011: 163 games, 41 goals

With Barcelona at one of their lowest ebbs in 2007, Bojan emerged as a light in the darkness. The young Catalan looked destined to lead the Blaugrana attack alongside Messi for years to come, but he was unlucky and has since admitted to struggling with his mental health. His disallowed goal in the 2010 Champions League semi-final sums him up: a heroic moment that was ultimately all for nought.

14. Javier Saviola

2001-2004 and 2006-2007: 168 games, 70 goals

Before Messi, there was Saviola. “El Canejo” was the original Argentine superstar destined to take Barcelona to the top, but he arrived too early and played on teams that simply weren’t built to maximise his talents. Always played well but did so on bad teams.

13. Zlatan Ibrahimovic

2009-2010: 46 games, 22 goals

The agony of unfulfilled potential is the only way to describe Zlatan Ibrahimovic at Barcelona. The giant Swede should have been a game-changing striker, forming an unstoppable strike partnership with Messi atop Guardiola‘s side. But alas, Zlatan could not curb his own ego to stomach the fact that Messi was better than him, and the whole thing ended in recrimination and disappointment.

12. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

2022-present: 23 games, 13 goals

Tore up his Arsenal contract and left millions of Euros on the table in order to make the move to Barcelona and for that alone he’d be a legend, but he then played with phenomenal focus and ferocity, giving Xavi’s side a cutting edge in attack. Was top scorer in La Liga from debut to season’s end and one wonders what he can accomplish with a full pre-season under his belt.

11. Henrik Larsson

2004-2006: 59 games, 19 goals

Spent seven years being underrated because his dominance was “only in Scotland” but then he moved to Barcelona and proved his world-class status was no fluke. Larsson suffered serious injury but even that couldn’t stop him from deciding the 2006 Champions League final with two immense assists off the bench. A colossus.

10. Patrick Kluivert

1998-2004: 257 games, 122 goals

Poor Patrick Kluivert. He won La Liga in his first-ever season in Catalunya but thereafter was forced to be the No.9 for a series of bad Barcelona sides. He scored countless goals, but none of them could ever amount to anything. All his great performances would vanish into the ether of nonsense that was the Gaspart era at Barcelona. Then just as Elefant Blau and Frank Rijkaard began turning things around, Kluivert was ditched for Samuel Eto’o. Cold world.

9. Thierry Henry

2007-2010: 121 games, 49 goals

Henry joined Barcelona to win the Champions League and he did just that in his second season. The Frenchman was plagued with injuries but even that couldn’t stop him being effortlessly good. Pace, poise, precision. Henry had it all and his role in Barcelona winning their first treble cannot be understated. His brace at the Santiago Bernabeu in the 2-6 victory will live long in the memory.

8. Rivaldo

1997-2002: 235 games, 130 goals

A miracle of a player. Tall, languid and with a cannon of a left foot. Capable of perceptive playmaking and ferocious finishing. Rivaldo delivered consecutive La Liga wins in his first two seasons, but as his teammates fell away, his brilliance remained. His love-hate relationship with the club mean his legacy is complicated, but he was a thrill to watch for so many years, and that last-minute overhead kick to complete his hat-trick and secure a 3-2 win that got Barça into the Champions League ahead of Valencia was up there with any of the most impressive feats of footballing genius the Camp Nou has ever seen.

7. Neymar

2013-2017: 186 games, 105 goals

Neymar joined and left Barcelona via transfers mired in controversy, but on the field he was sensational. With electric pace and dazzling dribbling skills he owned that left flank for years. A crucial part of Barcelona’s second treble, he was also the architect of their miraculous 6-1 comeback against PSG. Looked destined to be Messi’s heir, until he suddenly left for Paris.

6. Pedro

2007-2016: 321 games, 99 goals

Pedro was never the most talented player, but his work ethic was unparalleled and his ambipedal finishing made him a deadly wing-forward running into the spaces left by Messi. An unheralded but fundamental component of Pep Guardiola’s treble- and double-winning sides, he became a back-up to M-S-N during Barelona’s second treble under Luis Enrique but never lost his big game nerve. His final goal was, fittingly, a last-minute winner to deliver a trophy.

5. David Villa

2010-2013: 119 games, 48 goals

Where Ibrahimovic failed, Villa succeeded. Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona side was never better than they were with David Villa as the leading striker, because the Spaniard was simultaneously selfish enough to be a deadly finisher beyond the last line of defence but also selfless enough to play wide, track back and make decoy runs. A wonderful footballer and his broken leg was the major factor behind Barcelona’s 2011/12 season going to hell – they’d have never lost to Chelsea with Villa around – and his return was why the Blaugrana reclaimed their title so spectacularly in 2012/13.

4. Samuel Eto’o

2004-2009: 199 games, 130 goals

Eto’o was deadly when Barça signed him but in that famous shirt he turned downright lethal. The Cameroonian forward possessed blistering pace, supernatural skill and a truly instinctive finishing ability. Eto’o’s will-to-win was almost unequalled amongst his team-mates and it’s not a coincidence that he scored in and won both Champions League finals he played for the club. Frank Rijkaard’s Barcelona fell apart primarily because Eto’o’ spent two years suffering through injury. His treble-winning campaign was a supreme high note to go out on.

3. Luis Suárez

2014-2020: 283 games, 198 goals

Luis Suárez couldn’t even play for the first few months of his Barcelona career due to a ban. He got an assist on his debut, but struggled for the rest of 2014. Once 2015 began, however, he moved into the No.9 position and absolutely took off. The Uruguayan could do it all: press, link play and score.

Both on and off the field, Suárez was the glue that held the mighty M-S-N attacking trident together. Suárez was one of those rare players is was both a scorer of great goals and a great goalscorer. Sure, in the end he left under a cloud after a middling season, but he definitely made the most of his time in the Catalan sun.

2. Ronaldinho

2003-2008: 207 games, 94 goals

Sometimes greatness isn’t about what you do, but what you leave behind. Sometimes, it’s both. For the first few years in Barcelona, Ronaldinho was a dizzying non-stop magic act. Everything he did was beautiful. And it was effective, too. In a list full of great players on bad teams, Ronaldinho was a rare phenomenon in that his greatness lifted the Blaugrana up into being great themselves. Modern Barcelona simply would not exist had the Brazilian not taught an entire club, an entire city and an entire country how to dream again.

1. Lionel Messi

2004-2021: 778 games, 672 goals

From shy teenager through wing wizard to fearsome false nine before landing on all-pitch playmaking powerhouse, Messi has been utterly magnificent, mesmeric and magical every step of his Barcelona career. Records were set, broken, shattered. Children were captivated, adults awestruck, at the quality of football on display each and every time he took the field.

The greatest player in the world and quite probably the greatest player of all time. His time in Barcelona was a 17-year festival of football.

Things ended in heartbreak as life so often does, with forces beyond football forcing this phenomenon to leave his home, but those memories will last forever. Relish that you got to witness Messi at Barcelona, because we may never see his like again.