Barcelona’s incredible transfer window set up Euro domination and made Lionel Messi’s name
You might find it hard to believe, but Barcelona, one of the grandest sports institutions in the world, somehow went trophyless at the start of the millennium.
Vice president Joan Gaspart had taken over from long-time Josep Lluis Nunez and remains the only full-time post-war leader of the club to have never won a trophy.
A five-year stint without winning anything from 1999 to 2005 coincided with his time and charge and he even later admitted: “I was a good vice president and a very bad president.”
Then along came Joan Laporta, and everything changed.
The man responsible for much of their recent success, Laporta returned in March 2021 with Barca in financial turmoil, and despite helping them back to the LaLiga title last season, that doesn’t compare to his first stint that put the team on course for European domination.
Between 2003 and 2010, the Catalans won 12 trophies, including the Champions League, and a squad that emerged under his guidance went on to win two trebles after him.
All of that was made possible by the sensational summer of 2004 which set the team up for a return to winning ways.
The previous year Laporta secured Ronaldinho, Ricardo Quaresma and Rafa Marquez in a window that saw €43million spent, but no trophy in return, he then stepped it up the following year.
Quaresma and €15m was traded to Porto for Deco, fresh off of winning the Champions League, and the Portuguese international soon became unplayable.
Helping him do that was Ludovic Giuly from Monaco, Edmilson from Lyon, Juliano Belletti from Villarreal and Sylvinho from Celta Vigo, taking Barca’s spend to €78m.
All of those players cost under €10m, but even more genius than that was Henrik Larsson and Giovanni van Bronckhorst joining for free from Celtic and Arsenal respectively.
Belletti may be the MVP of the lot, though, scoring the winning goal against Arsenal in the 2006 Champions League final to lift Barca back to the pinnacle with their second European Cup.
The other scorer in that match was the final name from 2004 and the only one we haven’t mentioned yet, Samuel Eto’o.
He’s been left until last because he was the biggest show of Laporta’s skills, and the only time he overruled Guardiola.
When the Manchester City manager arrived in 2008 he cut Ronaldinho, Deco and Eto’o as a show of power and standard setting.
However, Laporta overruled his coach, and was rewarded with yet another Champions League final goal in 2009 against Manchester United from the striker signed from Mallorca for €24m.
The other scorer in that match? Lionel Messi. Who, would you believe it, also joined the first team squad in ‘04 when he was promoted from the academy.
Not a transfer but a sign of the amazing work at the club’s academy, La Masia. It shows just how incredible the summer of 2004 was that it took arguably the greatest player of all-time to outshine Laporta and Barca’s signings.
Barcelona’s 2004 summer transfer window
Samuel Eto’o, €24m from Mallorca
Deco, €15m + Ricardo Quaresma from Porto
Edmilson, €10m from Lyon
Luodvic Giuly, €7m from Monaco
Maxi Lopez, €6.2m from River Plate
Juliano Belletti, €4m from Villarreal
Sylvinho, €2m from Celta Vigo
Demetrio Albertini, free transfer from Atalanta
Henrik Larsson, free transfer from Celtic
Giovanni van Bronckhorst, free transfer from Arsenal
Lionel Messi, promoted from Barcelona B