We’ve all had those moments as football fans. The glare of camera bulbs diminish to reveal your newest signing. Suddenly months of average results, poor finishing and shocking defending melt into oblivion because this is the one… this is THE signing, the one to make a difference, the one to lead your team to glory.
When the penny finally drops varies. It can be as quick as a month, six months, or after a season of rare glimpses of genius – but at some point optimism is replaced by horror as you realise your team has signed a dud.
So who are The Prem’s biggest flops? I am sure we all have our favourites and interpreting what actually constitutes a “flop” is an interesting debate in itself. Here though I (along with the 20 or so kind folks on Facebook who weren’t slow in coming forward with their opinions) have made a decision based on three key factors.
Firstly in the way that many of us would say Michu was a better value signing than Van Persie given he was 10 times cheaper, then a player signed for £2m and not performing is a lesser flop than a £20m misfit. Of course we must also acknowledge that a £3m signing 15 years ago was big news! Secondly, how big and heralded was the signature… the bigger the reputation, the bigger the flop!
Finally I think the flop-factor must be influenced by the need of the club making the signature. As much as it pains me, Man United are allowed the odd flop as no flop has really affected their trophy haul long term.
So, in no particular order pop pickers here’s your list…
15. Bosco Balaban – After scoring a sack full of goals in the Croatian League – Aston Villa parted with £5.8m of Doug Ellis’s carefully cared for cash in 2001. Two and a half years later, nine appearances and with no goals in that time ( yes nine games only), his contract was cancelled. Clearly Dougie had a rush of blood to the head or signed him on a whim because that does not represent a sound investment.
14/13.Eric Djemba Djemba / Kleberson – Hard to decide which was the worse purchase – so let’s whack ‘em together. 2003, the summer of, and Sir Alex was in need of a replacement for Roy Keane – so both Kleberson and Djemba Djemba were signed. The former was a World Cup winner 12 months previously remember. Sadly for Fergie, but much to the delight of many, both turned out to be utter turkeys. Indeed, both are still happily ploughing their trade today too!
12. Massimo Taibi – Do I need to say anything…. Just the embodiment of a flop!
11. Massimo Maccarone – Remember him? The first player to score an official goal at Wembley which he managed while playing for Italy U 21s? Well after an impressive start to his career at Sampdoria, Middlesboro spent big ( £8m to £11m reported) on the Italian who many thought was “made” for the Premier League. I am certain many Boro fans will hold him in high regard for his heroics in getting them to the Uefa Cup final in 2006 ( and rightly so), but to the rest of us Massimo, you are one big Italian flop !
10. Alberto Aquilani – Here is the tale of a Spanish manager selling one of THE best midfielders in the Premiership and then spending a sizeable chunk on an injury prone Italian midfielder, who actually signed carrying an injury. Rafa Benitez really pushed his devotion with Liverpool fans with this signing. Sure it could have easily come off had Aquilani been fit as there was the odd glimpse of his ability. However given that he has as yet to light up the Italian league we can officially name Alberto Aquilani a massive flop.
9. Seba Veron – A class player, seemingly just not suited to the Premier League – sounds familiar? Well it is possibly never more relevant than in the case of Juan Sebastien Veron who at both Man U and Chelsea rarely showed his talent, and at a combined transfer fee of £50m for the two transfers a colossal waste of money. The sad fact is that despite the immense nature of the flop, it never did any real long term damage to either club in terms of the team and trophy haul – to be fair to Fergie, he knows when to offload.
8. Xisco – Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, we present to you the Tyneside legend that was Xisco. He was Dennis Wise’s (teh director of football) gift to the area – costing £5.6m (potentially rising to £7m subject to conditions(!?!)). After a memorable five year spell the adopted Geordie left having amassed the grand total of 1 goal in 9 games.
7. Andrea iIlenzi – Here’s one for the teenagers…. With the “honour” of being the first Italian to play in the Premier League, blazing a trail for the likes of Vialli, Zola and, err Daniele Daino, Andreas Silenzi signed in 1995 for Nottingham Forest for a then substantial fee of £1.8m. So why mention him… well at the time Forest had just finished 3rd in the Premier League – and that same summer sold Stanley Victor Collymore (now known as Call) to Liverpool for £8.5 million. So this was a high profile signing….. and a high profile flop… 20 games in 2 years and 2 goals……. And Forest soon disappeared.
6. Sergei Rebrov – Together he and Andriy Shevchenko formed one of the most destructive goal-scoring partnerships in Europe in the late 90s. Once Dynamo Kiev decided to cash in, Shevchenko arrived in Milan, while Rebrov landed in North London, armed with a record of near 1 goal every 2 games. Well, he was given plenty of opportunities to shine, but the reality was he just could not settle into the Premier League and a meagre return of 10 goals in 60 games saw him leave to West Ham after a loan spell in Turkey…. Hhhmmm Turkey, most apt….
5. Winston Bogarde – No relation to Humphrey or Dirk, but whose footballing career in a Chelsea shirt was about as good as these would have been. Bogarde is one of the finer examples of the modern day football conundrum. A product of the famed Ajax youth system, Bogarde was a tough strong defender who joined Chelsea in 2000. And that was that really. He honoured his four year contract, turned up for training, never causing a problem. Well that is aside from collecting a substantially inflated wage. The management at Chelsea would have liked to offloaded him, and he said he’d go if someone matched his wages, but no one could, and he stayed. So in four years he played nine games. That’s a quality flop!
4.Afonso Alves – There is a long list of strikers who have plundered an extraordinary amount of goals in the Dutch League, who then move to the Premier League and find that this is a very different league to score goals in, while there former club counts the £ms!! Dirk Kuyt came to Anfield as a regular goalscorer and never repeated that frequency – but his work rate and knack of scoring important goals keeps him well away from this list and in the hearts of Kopites. However the same cannot be said for Middlesboro fans and Afonso Alves from Brazil. He was reported to have cost Boro a cool £15m from Heerenveen, and came with a record of over a goal a game,. Alves’ job was to shoot Boro into the top half of the Premier League… And in his first full season, Boro were relegated and he disappeared to Qatar for £7m where he since has pottered around a few clubs. For such a high fee and reputation, and for so little impact, Alves can only be described as a flop.
3. Albert Luque – Yes, the North East does feature heavily in the list because those clibs do have the knack of spending big and buying poor. And there is not many finer than Albert Luque from Spain. A so so record of 1 goal in 5 games at Deportivo la Coruna persuaded Newcastle part with a reported £16.5 million – a lot of money to spend on a striker, especially to then play him out wide. Truth is he never really had a chance playing under a different Newcastle management team each week; and 1 goal in 21 games over 2 seasons shows the true waste of money that Luque was…
2. Steve Marlet – If you need a sign of what a gross waste of money Mnsr Marlet was, you may be interested to know that on sacking the manager who paid said over blown fee, one Jean Tigana, Fulham owner Mohammed Al-Fayed actually took Jean Tigana to court for overpayment of a transfer fee ( I’d have Damien Comoli there all week!). Rumoured to have cost around £11m from Lyon in 2001, Steve Marlet was Fulham’s “big money signing” and he failed miserably. 11 goals in 54 games is not as bad as some, but spread over four seasons that is a poor return.
1. Andriy Shevchencko – From more than a goal every two games with Milan to a goal every 5.5 games with Chelsea and back to a goal every 2.5 games with Dynamo Kiev. Oh and the small matter of £30m fee. One of the best strikers of the modern era (3rd highest Champions League goalscorer) – some of his play in Euro 2012 highlighted the calibre of player he was. And with all that as ammo, I believe that Shevchenko has to go down as one of the biggest flops of the Premier League era – for the sheer size of fee and reputation he had, we sadly never truly saw the player at his best.
So there’s our list – we could have added loads more and I am sure you can, and you may disagree with the above. Anyhow, who is odds on for the 2015 list - Torres, Carroll, Gyan, Tosic, Nasri, Gervinho…. Watch this space!