The soccer world has seen transfer fees rise astronomically since 2010. The highest transfer before 2010 was Cristiano Ronaldo's £80 million move from Manchester United to Real Madrid in 2009. Now there have been seven transfers since then that have surpassed that fee with Neymar's transfer for €222 million to PSG being the world record, which seems like it would have been impossible in 2010. So many big-name players have switched clubs that fans have questioned if loyalty is still in today's game, and clubs have sold players so quickly that fans and players have wondered the same about the clubs. It is a business, and clubs and players are trying to do what is best for them. Some work, some do not.
If a club gets a transfer right, say Mohammed Salah for Liverpool for example, it can change a club's fortune for the foreseeable future, but bring the wrong players in, and the entire front office may be looking for new jobs. This is a list of the 20 worst transfers flops since 2010. Most of the players are high profile names, mainly because the fees are some of the highest ever, which creates massive expectations.
20 James Rodriguez from AS Monaco to Real Madrid
During the 2014 FIFA World Cup, one thing was for sure, James Rodriguez was officially a breakthrough star. The most obvious team to snatch up a young star of his caliber was Real Madrid. Madrid received Rodriguez’s services for €79.8 Million from Ligue 1 club Monaco, but Rodriguez has never seemed to find his feet the same way he did during the World Cup. With such a massive club like Real Madrid, there isn’t a lot of time to develop; it’s the best of the best. The Colombian international found it hard to receive quality playing time under manager Zinedine Zidane and requested a loan to Bayern Munich. His time so far at Bayern has proved successful, helping the German club win the Bundesliga championship.
19 Memphis Depay from PSV to Manchester United
PSV have been known to develop talent very well for quite some time, and one of the highest prospects in recent memory was Memphis Depay. Speculations ran wild on what top club would shell out the money to receive Depay’s services. The likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, and PSG attempted to sign the Dutch star, however, after a reported £25 million transfer fee, Depay signed with Manchester United. Depay, who was often compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, decided to follow in the footsteps of the Portuguese legend and sign with Manchester United, even receiving the number seven shirt in the process. Louis Van Gaal's tactics did not match with Depay’s playing skill, however, and Depay only scored 2 goals in 33 appearances at the English club. After just two seasons with United, Depay went to Lyon where he has found much better form.
18 Christian Benteke from Aston Villa to Liverpool
In 2015, Liverpool FC was still on a search to find the next striker to replace Luis Suarez, and Liverpool hoped that they finally found him in the form of the big Belgian international, Christian Benteke. Benteke moved from Aston Villa to Liverpool for £30 Million. Liverpool fans saw a familiar struggle with Benteke as they had seen from Andy Carroll. Benteke’s 9 goals in 29 appearances showed his struggles to elevate his game to become a top-class goalscorer. Benteke was known for his strength and power, but a lack of pace and inconsistent led him to be unsuccessful for Liverpool and leave after one season. Once manager Jurgen Klopp came into the club, it was evident that Benteke was not going to be a good fit in Klopp’s “Gegangen pressing” style and “Big Ben” went on his way to Crystal Palace.
17 Asier Illarramendi from Real Sociedad to Real Madrid
Not too many fans know the name Asier Illarramendi outside of Real Sociedad. Illarramendi came from the ranks in Real Sociedad’s youth system to the senior team, to be able to get a transfer to one of the biggest clubs in the world in 2013, Real Madrid for a fee of £32 million, breaking the club’s transfer record at the time. Real Madrid gave Illarramendi a six-year contract, but Illarramendi found it difficult to get real playing time with Madrid. Although it seemed like Madrid were investing a lot in the defensive midfielder, he was only able to receive 59 appearances with the club and could not live up to the hype that was put on him. In 2015, Illarramendi was sold back to Real Sociedad for around £16 million.
16 Juan Cuadrado from Fiorentina to Chelsea
Chelsea is known to struggle with developing talent, with the amount of talent they have. Most of their players are elite and are brought in from another team while loaning out their young talent. Juan Cuadrado was an example of someone brought into the club just to be loaned out. In 2015, Cuadrado was brought into the London club for £24 million from Fiorentina, while also loaning Mohamed Salah, the future Liverpool star and holder of most goals in a Premier League season, to Fiorentina. The summer after Cuadrado was signed, he was loaned to Juventus for a season and after a few friendlies, was loaned back to Juventus where he eventually reached a permanent deal with for around £20 million. Cuadrado never scored for Chelsea.
15 Mario Balotelli from AC Milan to Liverpool
Mario Balotelli is and has always been one of the most interesting personalities in world football. It dates back from his days at Inter Milan where Jose Mourinho called him “unmanageable,” to winning the league with his assist for Manchester City on the last day of the season. Balotelli has a cult-like following as well as media and haters alike criticizing his every move and his efforts in training. However, fans have always seen the potential for Balotelli to be world class, and Liverpool saw that potential in 2014 when they spent £16 million on the Italian striker. That potential didn’t come to light under Brendan Rodgers, as Balotelli struggled to get starts and only played in 16 games with one goal to show for it. After being loaned back to AC Milan, he moved to OGC Nice in 2016, where he has found success.
14 Ricky Van Wolfswinkel from Sporting CP to Norwich
Ricky Van Wolfswinkel looked promising coming from Portuguese club Sporting CP in 2013, with legendary Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson admiring the young Dutchman. Norwich got Van Wolfswinkel and all of the potential for a transfer fee of £10 million. With a club like Norwich, who are fighting in relegation battles, this signing was seen as an exciting move for the future. Unfortunately, Van Wolfswinkel could not help Norwich out of their relegation battle in his first season with the club and only managed to bag 1 goal for the season. After the 2013 campaign, Van Wolfswinkel was subjected to multiple loans to the likes of Saint-Etienne and Real Betis, where he struggled to find consistent playing time before moving back to his former club, Vitesse in 2016, only scoring one time with Norwich. Van Wolfswinkel now plays for FC Basel in Sweden.
13 Mario Götze from Borussia Dortmund to FC Bayern Munich
When Mario Götze left Borussia Dortmund for Bayern Munich, the move was seen as an improvement for Bayern’s depth and he was seen as a star for the future. Much like many of his former teammates and Dortmund players before him, the move to Bayern seemed inevitable. The move looked even better for Munich when Götze scored the game-winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final, but Götze’s chemistry with Pep Guardiola wasn’t the same as counterpart manager Jurgen Klopp. Götze struggled to start with the quality the club has, even though when he performed, he was impressive, for how big the move was, and for the money (£37 million), the transfer was a flop. Götze returned to Dortmund in 2016 and even stated that he regretted his move to Bayern.
12 Angel Di Maria from Real Madrid to Manchester United
When Angel Di Maria arrived at Old Trafford in 2014, he was looked at as being the focal point of bringing Manchester United back to dominance. The club was attempting to transition from the legendary manager Sir Alex Ferguson to then manager Louis Van Gaal. Di Maria was coming off four seasons of brilliance at Real Madrid, and most people believed Di Maria would do the same in the Premier League. That didn’t exactly happen, as Di Maria struggled to find his fit in the United lineup and it was never a good match the way Di Maria was with Real Madrid. The Argentine international only found the net 3 times in 27 appearances and left for Paris after just a season with Manchester United.
11 Paul Konchesky from Fulham to Liverpool
Although Paul Konchesky's transfer fee from Fulham to Liverpool isn’t as extreme as some of these players on the list, he is still one of the worst transfers since 2010. Konchesky had an impressive three years at left back with Fulham, which led to a transfer to Liverpool FC for just under £4 million. The defender would only make 15 appearances with the English giants and was prone to numerous defensive errors and extremely underwhelming performances. Notably, Konchesky's mistake against Tottenham Hotspur in 2010 to win them the game still leaves the Reds regretting the transfer to this day. Konchesky is still known as one of the biggest transfer flops in club history and is seen as one of the reasons that Roy Hodgson failed at Liverpool.
10 Bebé from Vitoria de Guimaraes to Manchester United
Bebe was seen as one of the brightest young stars in world football. The Portuguese international applied his trade with Estrela da Amadora before signing with Vitória de Guimarães, but after just five weeks with the club, Bebe signed with Manchester United. Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in the world, and it seemed like just the right destination for such a promising prospect. After a £7.5 million transfer, many fans at Old Trafford were excited to see what Sir Alex Ferguson could do with the young prospect. However, Bebe only made 2 appearances for United, and after being loaned out to three different clubs, Bebe would never see himself suit back up for United, and is regarded as one of Sir Alex Ferguson's worst transfers.
9 Leonardo Bonucci from Juventus to AC Milan
Leonardo Bonucci is one of the best Juventus and Italian defenders in recent memories. That’s why it came as a surprise when Bonucci moved from Juventus to rivals AC Milan in 2017 for £35 million. Bonucci's age was a common question when it came to critics believing that he would not be able to give AC Milan the kind of performances they were looking for with the amount of money they spent on the center back. Milan even gave Bonucci a five-year deal, with the hopes that he could bring his leadership, defensive skills, and experience of six straight Serie A championships to bring Milan back to prominence. However, after just one season, and a disappointing year for both the club and the defender, AC Milan sold Bonucci back to Juventus in a deal that involved Argentine striker Gonzalo Higuain.
8 Stewart Downing from Aston Villa To Liverpool
Stewart Downing was apart of the transfers bought in by Liverpool and Kenny Dalglish after selling Fernando Torres to Chelsea. Liverpool brought in Luis Suarez and Andy Carroll in January and then brought in Jordan Henderson, Charlie Adams, and Downing himself in the summer, creating what they believed to be a strong young group of players. Only two succeeded out of the group, and Downing was not one of them. Downing went for around £20 million from Aston Villa to Liverpool in 2011 and struggled to bring his game up to the next level with the Reds. He was also forced to work under manager Brendan Rodgers' system, even being forced to play at left back at times. All of this proved unsuccessful, and Downing was out after 65 appearances, heading to West Ham United before going back to his youth club Middlesbrough.
7 Roberto Soldado from Valencia to Tottenham
Tottenham Hotspur has attempted to break that glass ceiling and enter in the stratosphere with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal for quite some time now. In 2013, the London club saw the potential for Roberto Soldado to be that guy to take them there. After a successful stint at Valencia, Tottenham broke their club fee record twice in the summer, with Paulinho being brought in for £17 million and Soldado with a fee of £26 million. Soldado looked good at first, scoring the game-winning penalty against Crystal Palace in his debut with Tottenham. However, through the next two years, Soldado would only score six more goals (five being from his debut season) and was sold back to Spain to Villareal for just £10 million.
6 Konstantinos Mitroglou from Olympiakos to Fulham
Konstantinos Mitroglou is known as a quality striker for Greece and local club Olympiakos. In 2014, Fulham attempted to bring the striker to England, in hopes that his international and club success would translate to the Premier League, but this was not the case. Though Mitroglou broke the club fee record with a transfer worth £12 million, he still couldn’t help Fulham from relegation, and Mitroglou found it challenging to stay fit for most of the season. Mitroglou only played in three games for the club for the entire season, then being loaned back to Olympiakos and Benfica before being sold to Benfica permanently in 2016. Mitroglou never scored a goal for Fulham and is seen as one of their worst transfers in club history.
5 Jozy Altidore from AZ to Sunderland
There is always that American footballer that has a ton of hype behind them and touted to be the savior of “American soccer.” That hype died down a bit after Altidore’s stint with Hull City but picked back up after finding success with Dutch club AZ, so much so that Sunderland took a chance on Altidore for £13 million in 2013. Altidore again struggled in the Premier League, not looking any more impressive from his Hull City days and only scored one goal in 44 appearances for Sunderland before going back to the MLS. The Daily Mail ranked him as the “Worst Strikers in Premier League History.” Altidore has found success in the MLS with Toronto FC, helping them win their first ever MLS Cup in 2017.
4 Paulinho from Corinthians to Tottenham
The Brazilian Paulinho broke Tottenham Hotspur's club record fee with a £17 million transfer from Corinthians. The transfer held the club record until later that summer, when Tottenham brought in Erik Lamela from Roma for just under £26 million, and then again with Roberto Soldado from Valencia for £26 million. Paulinho could not seem to click with Tottenham in his 45 appearances, scoring 6 goals in the process before quickly moving on to Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande for just £10 million. Paulinho then came back to being a household name when he signed with Barcelona for €40 million, before going back out on loan to Guangzhou Evergrande, and playing for Brazil in the 2018 World Cup. It'll be interesting to see where his career will go from here.
3 Radamel Falcao from Monaco to Manchester United for loan
Radamel Falcao became a star at Spanish giants, Atletico Madrid, scoring 52 goals in 68 appearances and caught the eye of French club Monaco, who spent £60 million on the Colombian striker. With such a high price, of course, Falcao was going to have an extremely high weekly salary, and after Falcao tore his ACL right before the 2014 World Cup, Monaco was willing to loan his £265,000 a week salary to Manchester United with a possible permanent deal in place. Falcao was determined to make the loan permanent and become a United legend, but Falcao struggled mightily in the Premier League, only scoring 4 goals in the season and battled through injury. His performance was bad enough for United to reject the permanent deal.
2 Andy Carroll from Newcastle to Liverpool
Andy Carroll is known as one of the biggest transfer flops in history, and that is partly because of the time he came in. Arriving at Liverpool from Newcastle for a British record £35 million, expectations were extremely high for the big striker. Carroll was seen as the replacement for Fernando Torres, who just left the club at the same time as Luis Suarez came into the club. Luis Suarez found tremendous success at Liverpool and was the replacement Reds fans were looking for, while the big man Carroll couldn't keep up with the quality Liverpool were looking for. Carroll struggled to live up to the hype and couldn’t maintain to stay fit. After only 44 appearances for the mighty Reds and only netting 6 goals, Carroll was sent to West Ham and will be regarded as one of the biggest transfer flops in world football history.
1 Fernando Torres from Liverpool to Chelsea
The Liverpool striker was at his peak at Anfield and forced a move to the London giants, Chelsea FC in 2011. The move was extremely controversial at the time, as Fernando Torres was leaving his club to obtain Champions League and Premier League trophies, and Chelsea had the money to do so, breaking the British transfer record fee with a staggering £50 million transfer to the Blues. However, the remarkable goal return that Torres saw at Liverpool was just a shade of what Chelsea fans saw. Torres notched only 20 goals in 110 appearances, and after a loan spell at AC Milan, Torres returned to the original club that saw him gain success, Atletico Madrid. Torres' time with Chelsea is seen as one of the worst transfer flops of all-time in world football.