The football transfer window is always a strange but exciting time in the world of the beautiful game. There are players unsure of their place in the team, managers irritated by the persistent questions of journalists at press conferences and Harry Redknapp handing interviews out of his car window like they’re going out of fashion. We all know it’s an exciting feeling when our chosen club signs a new player. But sometimes, the harsh reality is that the new signing who we all hope is going to prove to be an absolute worldie just ends up being, well, rubbish.
So if your club has recently signed an absolute donkey of a player, feast your eyes on our list of the greatest ever transfer flops. If your club’s transfers are as bad as any of the players on this list then we really do feel for you, better luck next year!
1. Kleberson (Atletico Paranaense to Man United, £6.5m – 2003)
Kleberson seemed destined for great things, seeing as he started regularly for the Brazil side that stormed their way to the FIFA World Cup in 2002. Never one to miss an opportunity to sign a top player, Alex Ferguson quickly snapped Kleberson up. However two years and only 20 appearances later he was sold to Turkish club Besiktas. Ouch.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Internazionale to Barcelona, £57m – 2009)
In 2009, Pep Guardiola dared to Zlatan with a bit of a crazy deal involving Ibrahimovic coming to Barca and Samuel Eto’o going the other way with Alexander Hleb in tow. After one season, Zlatan was trading clubs again after a campaign where he often looked less than impressive.
3. Robinho (Real Madrid to Manchester City, £33m – 2008)
Another expensive mistake, the then-brilliant Brazilian came as a surprise signing from City after he’d been linked with Chelsea all summer. After two seasons it was apparent that the boys at Stamford Bridge had dodged a bullet, as in two seasons Robinho made only 36 appearances scoring a diminutive 15 goals.
4. Afonso Alves (Heerenveen to Middlesbrough, £13m – 2007)
He’s not the most expensive mistake on this list, but for ‘Brough fans, he’s certainly one of the most disappointing. Alves actually started well at the Riverside Stadium, putting 5 away in his first 11 league matches. But in his second season things didn’t go so well, scoring a positively anaemic four goals in 21 games as the club were relegated into the championship.
5. Angel di Maria (Real Madrid to Man United, £59.7m – 2014)
One of the more recent additions to this hall of shame, Di Maria arrived at Old Trafford as part of what fans hoped would be a new era for the club after a disastrous season under David Moyes. But after starting exceptionally brightly, Di Maria dropped off the pitch and onto the bench after a period of injury that took the wind completely out of his sales. His disappearance during United’s US tour in 2015 was confirmation of what many fans already knew, Angel was to be a devil no more.
6. Juan Sebastian Veron (Lazio to Man United, £28.1m – 2001)
Another dud signing for Ferguson, Veron was heralded as one of the brightest attacking midfielders in Europe during his time at Lazio. However, after two seasons at Old Trafford he was sold to Chelsea for nearly half of what United paid for him as he totally failed to adapt to the pace of the English game.
7. Robbie Keane (Tottenham Hotspur to Liverpool, £19m – 2008)
Back in the year of 2008 Robbie Keane was very much on Liverpool’s radar as a real fox in the box kind of striker, so much so that they even went as far as to publicly announce their interest in the player. He didn’t even have that bad a time in Merseyside, scoring a few important goals in league and European competition. However in the January transfer window of the same season he rejoined Spurs, leaving many fans in London and Liverpool wondering what all the fuss was about.
8. Rickie Lambert (Southampton to Liverpool, £4m – 2014)
Fan favourite Rickie Lambert performed the miraculous feat of playing his way from Bristol Rovers to Liverpool in the space of seven years as a player deep into his twenties. His ecstasy was short lived though, as he only scored 3 times during his one season at Merseyside before leaving for West Bromwich Albion in the search for first team action.
9. Andriy Shevchenko (AC Milan to Chelsea, £30.8m – 2006)
Shevchenko was, by all rights, considered a truly deadly striker during his time at AC Milan. However, at Stamford Bridge he often looked less than impressive, and after two seasons he found himself returning to the Italian side on loan. Turns out that being mates with Roman Abramovic doesn’t always keep you in Chelsea’s good books!
10. Emmanuel Adebayor (Manchester City to Tottenham Hotspur, £5m – 2012)
Adebayor was already a hit with the Spurs faithful having spent the previous season on a successful loan with the north London club. However as soon as the deal became permanent, problems began to arise. His scoring was less prolific, and his attitude became worse. He hardly featured at all in 14/15 due to the rise of Harry Kane.
11. Steve Marlet (Olympique Lyonnais to Fulham, £11.5m – 2001)
Fulham’s fans were full of hope when Marlet left French side Olympique Lyonnais to grace the pitch of Craven Cottage. However, they quickly realised that all Marlet promised was yet more transfer disappointment, as the Frenchman managed just 11 goals in two seasons with the London club. Au revoire Steve!
12. Radamel Falcao (AS Monaco to Manchester United, loan – 2014)
Most Manchester United fans assumed that their club’s transfer dealings were done on deadline day in 2014, but Ed Woodward and Louis van Gaal had other ideas. Falcao signed for Man United on loan and English fans everywhere imploded with the prospect of seeing this prolific goal scorer playing his trade in the premier league. However, 4 goals and a season later, United decided not to exercise their buying clause, allowing Falcao to return to England in 2015 as a Chelsea player. There’s still hope El’ tigre!
13. Andy Carroll (Newcastle United to Liverpool, £35m – 2011)
In a stunning deadline day swoop, Liverpool captured the then-prolific Andy Carroll for a whopping £35m, making him the most expensive British footballer of all time. However it became quickly apparent that through injuries and dips in form, Carroll wasn’t paying back the board’s faith. He scored a paltry 11 goals in 58 appearances for the club before being shipped on.
14. Francis Jeffers (Everton to Arsenal, £8m – 2001)
The original ‘fox in the box’, Jeffers was tipped to be the next big thing by Arsene Wenger himself. However, as if by magic, by the time he arrived at Arsenal any kind of form had disappeared and his career went into an absolute nosedive. He still holds an 100 percent scoring record for England though!
15. Jeal-Alain Boumsong (Rangers to Newcastle United, £8m – 2005)
Boumsong was considered a great signing by the Magpies in 2005, but it quickly became apparent that although class is permanent, form is definitely, definitely temporary. Boumsong was hurried from Newcastle’s ranks in two seasons as he joined the then relegated Juventus.
16. El-Hadji Diouf (Lens to Liverpool, £10m – 2003)
Another star showing from the 2002 world cup, Senegal forward Diouf seemed like a bargain buy when Liverpool snapped him up in 2003. But any dreams of a repeat performance were quickly washed away as El-Hadji became the first No. 9 in Liverpool’s history to fail to score a single goal in a season.
17. Per Kroldrup (Udinese to Everton, £5m – 2005)
In a year of spectacularly poor premier league signings (aside from United doing the business to sign a young Wayne Rooney). David Moyes signed Kroldrup on a four year deal before selling him after one game and a rather nasty groin injury. Harsh?
18. Adrian Mutu (Parma to Chelsea, £15.8m – 2003)
Romanian forward Adrian Mutu got his career with the Stamford Bridge blues off to a fantastic start, scoring 4 goals in 3 games for Chelsea. His problems began in 2004, when he started falling out with Jose Mourinho (never a good idea) before he failed a drugs test for cocaine. He was released in October of that year and he received a seven-month ban and a £20,000 fine from the FA. Drugs are bad, kids.
19. Ali Dia (Blyth Spartans to Southampton, free – 1996)
Ali Dia is something of a legend when it comes to footballing folklore. The story has it that manager Graeme Souness received a phone call from Liberian international and former Ballon d’Or winner George Weah. ‘Weah’ told Souness that Dia was his cousin and he’d played for PSG with 13 international caps to his name, and he wanted to play for the Saints. Souness saw this as a spectacular opportunity, so he signed Dia on a one month contract.
There was one small issue though; none of it was actually true. One of Dia’s mates impersonated Weah and Ali Dia disappeared before Souness could get his hands on him. How embarrassing…
20. Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea, £50m – 2011)
Saving the best until last, Torres was considered to be one of the hottest strikers in the world in 2011 having scored a prolific 81 goals in 142 appearances for the club. As soon as he moved to Chelsea however, he suffered a massive dip in form, scoring only 12 goals in two seasons before a brief respite, scoring 22 in 12-13. Ultimately Torres left Chelsea having only scored 45 goals in 172 games. It just goes to show how a shooting star can very quickly burn out.
Have your say…
Nothing gets fans more fired up than the subject of how much money their club has wasted on promised messiahs. If you’re still overflowing with righteous indignation about how your season ticket spending was wasted, get it off your chest and have your say about the worst buys at your club…