Completing a £2m move to link-up with Terry Venables and Gary Lineker at the Camp Nou while Rush headed to Italy with Juventus, the exodus of British stars coincided with English clubs being banned from European competition following the Heysel Stadium disaster the year before. However, while Rush returned to Liverpool after one unproductive season, Hughes' continental experiment took on a further twist.
While Rush struggled in Serie A, it was Lineker and not Hughes who was making headlines for all the right reasons for Barcelona in La Liga. Despite making 28 league appearances during the 1986/87 season, Hughes delivered a miserly four goals. Ironically, the Spanish public had seen first hand of what Hughes was capable of following his memorable volley in the 3-0 win over Spain at the Racecourse the year before his move to Catalonia.
“Gary was a bit older and he was there with his wife but I was on my own,” Hughes told FourFourTwo magazine as he reflected on his time at Barcelona. “I’d just met the girl that turned out to be my wife, so it was difficult being separated from her. Barcelona signed you, paid you decent money, but that seemed to be their obligation finished with. It’s not like now where you’ve got people to organise your house, the kids’ schools, cars, everything. I didn’t speak the language. I didn’t have a car so I ended up hiring one for three months because I didn’t know where to buy one. It was shambolic.”
As Rush struggled to integrate off the field, Hughes suffered in a similar way. But while Rush returned to Liverpool in the summer of 1987, Hughes would not start his second spell at Old Trafford until the following year. A few months into his second season at Barcelona, Hughes was no longer part of the senior squad. Frozen out through a lack of form and confidence, November 1987 would prove to be a pivotal month in his continental experience as German giants Bayern Munich moved in to sign him on-loan for the remainder of the campaign.
With a hierarchy of former professionals, there was a natural understanding of what Hughes needed in order to produce his best on the field, and the issues that had clouded his time at the Camp Nou were addressed as he touched down in Bavaria. While his goal return remained unspectacular, he did win over the fans with a 17-minute hat-trick in a 5-0 victory against VfL Bochum, and scored six goals in his 18 Bundesliga appearances following his arrival midway through the campaign. The side would finished second in the table behind Werder Bremen, and Hughes' time on the continent would come to an end.
However, before returning to Manchester United in the summer of 1988 for £1.8m, Hughes would complete a unique achievement in playing two games in the same day. Having represented Cymru in the defeat against Czechoslovakia in Prague on 11 November 1987, he returned to Germany and made an appearance from bench for Bayern Munich in their cup replay over Borussia Mönchengladbach that evening. Physically drained, his commitment was appreciate by the fans, and set the tone for what was a relatively positive time in his successful playing career.