Both Manchester United and Barcelona are certified footballing royalties. Having dominated the sport for a prolonged duration, the two giants are trying to claw their way back to the top. Nevertheless, their rich history comprehensively overshadows their present state. Back in their glory days, Manchester United and Barcelona were capable of attracting even the most lucrative names in club football. As a result, the two sides have shared several great players over the course of history. Today, let’s take a look at six of the most prominent players to have played for Manchester United and Barcelona.
6. Mark Hughes
Having coached teams like Manchester City and Southampton in the past few years, football fans now know Mark Hughes more as a manager than a player. However, the Englishman had a much better influence on the pitch than off of it, racking up a respectable 151 career goals as a centre-forward. A product of United’s esteemed academy, Hughes departed Old Trafford in 1986 for Barcelona, only to stage a return just five goals and 35 appearances later. He faired much better for the Red Devils, netting 98 goals in 272 games.
5. Henrik Larsson
Currently employed as an assistant coach in Ronald Koeman’s backroom staff at Barcelona, Henrik Larsson was once a highly-rated striker at the club. Even though his time at Camp Nou was riddled with injuries, the Swedish starman was essential to Barcelona’s fabled 2006 Champions League win, assisting both the goals in the final. Larsson followed his two-year stint at Barcelona with a return to his native Sweden. However, during the winter break at Helsingborg, he did end up playing for a paltry 13 games. Nevertheless, his impactful three goals were enough to earn him cult status at Old Trafford.
4. Victor Valdes
Barcelona’s first-choice goalkeeper for around 12 seasons, Victor Valdes, was a rock between the sticks for the Blaugrana. The La Masia graduate was an instrumental cog in a rampant Barca side, keeping 239 clean sheets on his way to three Champions League titles and six La Liga wins, among other accolades. After a supremely successful career with Barcelona, Valdes inexplicably joined Manchester United to play second fiddle to David de Gea. Snubbed by Jose Mourinho and spat out on loan to Standard Liege after a year, the Catalan could only muster two appearances with the senior squad.
3. Alexis Sanchez
A feared attacker during his time at Barcelona, Alexis Sanchez transformed into an absolute beast after his transfer to Arsenal in 2014. The Chilean superstar followed his 46 goals and 37 assists for the Blaugrana with an impressive 80 goals and 45 assists for the Gunners. His electric form compelled Manchester United to sign him on a potential £560k weekly salary. However, Sanchez tanked hard with the Red Devils, mustering an embarrassing 14 goal involvement with the club. The once-superstar is now a bench warmer at Inter.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
The quintessential journeyman, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, was bound to end up on such a list, involving the two biggest names in the history of club football. The big Swede infamously had a horrid time with Barcelona, falling out with Pep Guardiola due to his unconventional tactics. Refusing to adjust, Ibrahimovic left for AC Milan after a solitary season with the Blaugrana. He went on to establish himself as one of the most prolific goalscorers of his generation with Milan and PSG. Just when people thought they had seen all of Ibrahimovic’s tricks, the enigmatic striker cut his vacation at LA Galaxy short of making a stunning return to European football with Manchester United. He was immensely successful in his maiden Premier League outing, scoring 29 goals in 53 games for United.
1. Gerard Pique
One of the best pieces of business ever conducted by Barcelona, their decision to bring back academy prodigy Gerard Pique from a four long hiatus at Manchester United ended up rewriting the club’s history. Pique impressed in his brief spell with United after being sold by the Blaugrana in 2004. With a Champions League title and a Premier League win under his belt, Pique was re-signed by Barcelona in 2008. The Catalan has never looked back ever since, guiding his boyhood club to domestic and continental success. With 574 and counting appearances to his name, Pique is a bona fide Barcelona legend.