As the transfer kitties of Premier League clubs have grown since the division’s 1992 rebrand, teams have become more prone to splashing their cash on a dud. Here, theScore runs through the 10 worst transfers over the past 25 years.
10. Roque Santa Cruz to Manchester City
Mark Hughes didn’t have much chance to spend the Abu Dhabi United Group’s cash the previous summer, so made an early splash in the next close season by bringing in Santa Cruz for £17.5 million.
The only explanation was that Hughes was exerting his authority by buying his former Blackburn Rovers frontman in 2009, because it was obvious he was a poor fit at Manchester City. Emmanuel Adebayor was purchased later in the window and could do everything Santa Cruz could do, but much better.
It continued City’s poor luck with South American imports. Jo and Robinho were already falling out of favour with the locals, and the tough transition was evident seven years later, when Pep Guardiola signed Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo.
9. Kostas Mitroglou to Fulham
Nowadays, Mitroglou is the rock-hard focal point in Benfica‘s attack, tallying 16 goals en route to the club’s triumphant 2016-17 Primeira Liga campaign and notably giving Borussia Dortmund‘s defence a torrid time in Champions League play.
He’s won eight major league titles in his career. Fulham has none.
But Mitroglou is one of the worst signings in the Cottagers’ history, and is arguably worse than the nabs of Steve Marlet and Eddie Johnson in the Premier League era. The Greek striker joined for £12 million in January 2014, and played 151 league minutes – scoring no goals – before eventually leaving Fulham for good in the summer of 2016.
8. Tomas Brolin to Leeds United
(Photo courtesy: @bet_clever)
Leeds United was fun to watch with its youthful contingent and spirited foray into the Champions League semi-finals in 2001, but wasn’t known for conducting the best business. Even the chairman’s goldfish had £20 spent on them each month.
Leeds’ worst splurge, however, was much earlier, when Brolin, a chunky Swede previously of Parma, joined for £4.5 million in 1995.
“Constant battles with his weight during his time at Leeds led to his nickname Tubby,” remembered BBC Sport, dubbing the forward – who claimed four goals in 32 Premier League appearances – a “big fat disappointment.”
7. Massimo Taibi to Manchester United
How do you follow a goalkeeper like Peter Schmeichel? Well, you don’t.
Few players’ struggles in Premier League football can be reduced to just a few seconds. The Italian shot-stopper cost the treble-winners £4.5 million in 1999, and couldn’t sufficiently compete with Mark Bosnich for a spot between the sticks.
Taibi’s horror moment came against Southampton, when he let an innocuous 25-yard dribbler from Matt Le Tissier roll through his legs. He was loaned out three months later and never played for United again after just four outings.
6. Roberto Soldado to Tottenham
Moussa Sissoko and Vincent Janssen are in contention for joining this list in the future, but, for now, Soldado is the worst signing Tottenham Hotspur‘s conducted in the Premier League era. Even worse than Serhiy Rebrov.
Daniel Levy ignored his usually shrewd practices when backed with funds acquired from Gareth Bale‘s record sale to Real Madrid. The summer of 2013 saw Erik Lamela, Paulinho, Christian Eriksen, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches, and Nacer Chadli arrive at White Hart Lane, but none of those players was more expensive than the £26-million Soldado.
His overall record in the Premier League was a measly seven goals in 52 appearances.
5. Francis Jeffers to Arsenal
Everton was stacked with over-hyped youngsters around the turn of the century. Phil Jevons, Danny Cadamarteri, and Nick Chadwick excited the locals, but not as much as the big-eared Jeffers.
Six goals in 12 appearances over the 2000-01 campaign encouraged Arsene Wenger to table an offer worth around £10 million to take him to Arsenal. Displacing the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp, Sylvain Wiltord, and Nwankwo Kanu was a tough ask, but Jeffers’ boss must’ve been shocked at how much he foundered.
He never lived up to his apparent high ceiling, and was instead held back by injury and disciplinary issues as he went on to lead a nomadic existence. He was last sighted playing unsuccessful trials for Brunei DPMM, Chester City, and Bury in 2013.
4. Fernando Torres to Chelsea
So much business has been overseen since Roman Abramovich emptied his piggy bank into the Chelsea coffers that it’s difficult to not fill this list with ex-Blues. Adrian Mutu, Mateja Kezman, and Andriy Shevchenko all slumped at Stamford Bridge, but it was perhaps Torres who fell furthest behind what was expected of him.
The Spaniard’s goal against Barcelona in April 2012 booked the club’s route into the Champions League final (which the Blues would win) and ensured Torres left the fans with happy memories, but his strike rate in the league was more Andreas Cornelius than Andy Cole.
The £50-million striker scored 65 times in 113 appearances for Liverpool, but after leaving for Chelsea in January 2011, his ruthlessness dipped to a record of 29 strikes in 110 showings.
3. Bebe to Manchester United
Sir Alex Ferguson was around long enough to make plenty of dodgy signings. In addition to his repeated failed attempts to replace Schmeichel in goal, players such as David Bellion, Eric Djemba-Djemba, and Juan Sebastian Veron dropped well short of the club’s lofty expectations.
However, few were more confusing acquisitions than the £7.4-million signing of Bebe in 2010.
His cameo from the bench against Wolverhampton Wanderers in November 2010 was his lowest ebb. He played several wayward crosses and looked out of shape against the struggling West Midlands club, returning to the bench on 75 minutes when he was substituted.
The Portuguese winger was eventually sold to Benfica in 2014.
2. Robbie Keane to Liverpool
“He’s quick, he’s red, he sounds like Father Ted. Robbie Keane, Robbie Keane …”
Unfortunately, this chant could only be aired by Liverpool fans for seven months – the time it took him to return to Tottenham after a disappointing stint on Merseyside.
Following years of prolifically firing in the Premier League, Keane was a surprising bust. It took him 688 minutes to score his first goal for the Reds – against PSV Eindhoven in a 3-1 Champions League win – and the £19-million Irishman was benched when Steven Gerrard was thrust higher up the pitch to support Torres in attack.
Keane was a Tottenham player again by the start of February for a cut-price £12-million fee.
1. Ali Dia to Southampton
(Photo courtesy: @theipaper)
One of the most notorious yet still unbelievable tales in Premier League history features Ali Dia, a false cousin of Liberian great George Weah and an alleged former striker for Paris Saint-Germain.
It was a hoax phone call from a university friend of Dia’s that earned the phoney a trial at Southampton, and it was clear for some Saints players that he was useless. Still, in the midst of an injury crisis, manager Graeme Souness named the Senegalese on the bench against Leeds in November 1996.
“He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice,” Saints legend Le Tissier recalled to the Guardian’s Alan Smith. “It was very, very embarrassing to watch. We were like: ‘What’s this geezer doing? He’s hopeless.’ Graeme named him as a sub and we couldn’t believe it. I got injured after 20 minutes and when I saw him warming up, I’m going: ‘Surely not?’ Graeme put him on and he was f—ing hopeless, so he took him off again. It was crazy.”
For 35 minutes, the prankster was a Premier League footballer and apparently earned around £2,000 in his two weeks on the south coast. After a short spell with non-league Gateshead, he reportedly graduated from Northumbria University in 2001 with a degree in business studies. His whereabouts since are unknown.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images, unless stated otherwise)