The Premier League has continuously boasted a wealth of talent and it’s growing every season. Touted as the best, most difficult, most attractive and most entertaining league in the world, England’s top flight has been home to some of the greatest players to ever grace the sport of football.
But it has also seen some of the very worst. All of its current clubs can be praised for one or two shrewd signings, but they are all guilty of making regrettable transfers as well. Some of them are really quite expensive, especially given the year the signing was made, but some clubs can simply brush off their mistakes and leave it be.
As with any other facet in this life, Premier League clubs and their players have left us quite disappointed when we expect big things.
Some players incur injuries, while others simply fail to adapt, or just aren’t trusted by the manager. For whatever reason it may be, it has happened quite a lot and won’t stop anytime soon.
In this list, we take a look at the most disappointing signing every Premier League club has made over the years. No need to be disappointed all over again, though.
20 Everton – Oumar Niasse
Perhaps Roberto Martinez’ parting gift to Everton, Oumar Niasse is disappointing as it gets. The Spaniard signed the striker for £13.5 million back in January, and may have sealed his exit in the very same stroke.
Niasse scored 13 goals in 23 matches for Russian Premier League side Lokomotiv Moscow before moving to Everton, but it wasn’t long after that people began to realize he was nowhere worth even half of his price-tag.
It only took new boss Ronald Koeman 45 minutes of a pre-season match to determine that the player wasn’t up to standard. Niasse was then stripped of his number and ordered to train with the club’s Under-23’s.
The 26-year-old is the club’s fourth most expensive signing, with only Romelu Lukaku, Marouane Fellaini and Yanick Bolasie commanding higher fees. But when it comes to disappointment and wastage, no one even comes close.
19 Southampton – Neil McCann
Now a football pundit for Sky Sports, Neil McCann turned out to be a huge disappointment after signing for Southampton.
The Scott began his career as a winger at Dundee FC in his homeland, later moving to Heart of Midlothian. He then joined Rangers in 1998 and would spend the next five years there, before completing a £1.5 million switch to English football in 2003.
McCann’s career was blighted by several injuries and he could not establish himself as a regular in the side as a result. Three years and just one goal later, his contract was terminated by mutual consent.
He made a return to Hearts after leaving Southampton, but injuries would follow him there as well. In 2007, McCann broke his leg in two places after going in for a tackle on an opposing player – who walked away unharmed.
18 West Brom – Nicolas Anelka
French journeyman Nicolas Anelka can look back on a decent career when he hangs up the boots, but he was quite a disappointment at West Brom.
Anelka began his senior career at Paris Saint-Germain, before moving on to Arsenal and then Real Madrid. He would play for Liverpool, Manchester City, Fenerbahce, Bolton, Chelsea and Shanghai Shenua thereafter, also moving on to Juventus before joining the Baggies in 2013.
His time at West Brom was rather troubled. Firstly, he walked out of a training session and said that he wanted to retire just one month after joining. The club were forced to deny, instead announcing that he had been given a day off to mourn the death of his agent.
Then, after breaking his duck with a brace against West Ham, the striker celebrated with an anti-semitic gesture that earned him a five-match ban and £80,000 fine. He later announced he was leaving West Brom on social media, unbeknownst to anyone within the club’s hierarchy. West Brom then handed him a 14-day termination notice for gross misconduct.
Anelka is now player-manager of Indian Super League club Mumbai FC.
17 Watford – Nathan Ellington
The Hornets are becoming quite a force in the Premier League and really look set to remain in England’s top tier for some time to come. Yet they have had their fair share of disappointments regarding transfers.
The signing of Nathan Ellington sticks out as a particular sore point for the club, and those who remember the player probably still can’t understand just what happened.
Watford paid a club record fee (at the time) of £3.5 million to seal Ellington’s move from West Bromwich Albion in 2007. While he didn’t particularly impress at West Brom, his time at Wigan, prior to the Baggies spell, was enough to convince the Watford board.
Signing in August, the striker scored his very first goal for the club in January of the following year. The form of Darius Henderson and Marlon King wasn’t of much help either and his opportunities were quite scarce.
Ellington was loaned out to Greek club Xanthi FC two years after joining Watford, having achieved nothing of note. He went on to play for Derby, Preston and Crewe Alexandra, fading away from memories and football itself.
16 Chelsea – Fernando Torres
The Spaniard was one of the most feared strikers in Europe at one point, having terrorized defences as an Atletico Madrid and Liverpool striker. However, he went dormant after sealing a £50 million switch to Chelsea on transfer deadline day in January of 2011.
He wasn’t absolutely useless, however. Far from that. His goal against Barcelona helped Chelsea secure passage into the 2012 Champions League final, which they won. But Torres never looked like living up to his hefty price tag.
After Torres registered 81 goals in 142 matches for Liverpool, the Blues thought they were paying for a goal machine, instead what they got was merely residual. It took Torres nearly three months to score his first goal in a Chelsea shirt and three years hence, he was off to AC Milan on loan.
The forward somehow engineered a return to his boyhood club Atletico Madrid shortly after. And while he hasn’t exactly lit up again, he isn’t that bad either.
15 Liverpool – Andy Carroll
With Fernando Torres leaving for Chelsea, Liverpool had little time to secure a replacement. Newcastle striker Andy Carroll was the name on everyone’s lips at the time, as the Englishman was in red-hot form for the Magpies.
The Reds quickly brought him in, making him the most expensive British player at the time by paying £35 million to secure his services. His price tag was only eclipsed by that of Torres and, sadly, his form was no better than the Spaniard’s.
He joined the Anfield side nursing an injury and would have to wait until March to make his debut for the club. His Reds career was nothing short of disappointing, as he failed to replicate his Newcastle form.
Carroll was loaned to West Ham just a year later, making the move permanent in 2013. His form in front of goal is still sporadic, but that’s mostly down to him always being a few paces away from a serious injury.
14 Manchester City – Roque Santa Cruz
Roque Santa Cruz played under Mark Hughes at Blackburn, scoring 19 goals in his first Premier League season. His second season wasn’t as bright, but Hughes signed him for Manchester City anyway after moving to the Etihad.
Santa Cruz was one of City’s first big buys, coming at a cost of £18 million following the club’s mega takeover. The Paraguayan scored three league goals in 20 appearances that season and would find opportunities limited in the next, with Roberto Mancini taking over as manager.
He was sold to Malaga after a series of loan spells, never getting another chance to prove that he was worth the money that the club had spent to bring him in. The forward, now 35, plies his trade in his homeland with his boyhood club Olimpia Asuncion.
13 Arsenal – Marouane Chamakh
When Marouane Chamakh moved to Arsenal from Bordeaux in 2010, he was tipped to become the club’s next Thierry Henry. Well that certainly seems laughable now, with the forward being released by Championship side Cardiff City, in December, less than three months into his contract.
Chamakh joined the Gunners during the same summer that Laurent Koscielny did and a certain pundit predicted that he would be a perfect fit who could deal with the pressure of the Premier League, while Koscielny would struggle.
Well the exact opposite happened. Koscielny is one of the best centre-backs in Europe at the moment and is a very important player for France. Chamakh, meanwhile, does not even have a club to call his own.
What was Arsene thinking?
12 Tottenham – Roberto Soldado
The Spanish striker came to the Premier League with a great reputation, but it didn’t take long before he was found out.
Roberto Soldado joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 from Valencia, costing the Londoners £25.5 million, their highest-ever sum spent on a player at that time. Things started brightly, as he scored the winner in his debut match against Crystal Palace, yet he would only find the back of the net five more times in the league the rest of the season.
His second season was hardly any better; in fact, it was much worse, as he only scored twice. Spurs decided to cut their losses and sold the player to Villarreal for £12m less than they had paid for him. He is certainly one of their worst ever signings, but when it comes to disappointments, he’s the biggest by far.
11 Manchester United – Radamel Falcao
Radamel Falcao was miles ahead of all other strikers during his days at Atletico Madrid, and even Porto, some would think. The Colombian hitman scored goals at an alarming rate, continuing his prolific streak after moving to Monaco, until he got hit with a wicked knee injury.
The forward moved to Manchester United on a loan deal in 2013, with the Red Devils agreeing to cover his massive wages of around £265,000-a-week. The excitement level at Old Trafford was as high as it had been in years, with the striker expected to come in as the savior who took the club back to the top.
However, Falcao could only manage four goals the entire season and was eventually kept on the bench, as it was realized that he just wasn’t the striker he was before.
Chelsea offered him a lifeline the following season, but he proved to be no better, scoring just once before returning to Monaco.
10 West Ham – Simone Zaza
Seems like West Ham boss Slaven Bilic was one of the only persons who didn't see Simone Zaza’s botched penalty kick for Italy during their Euro 16 quarter-final clash against Germany. The striker went through one of the most comical run-ups you’ll ever see, before blasting his shot high and wide to seal a victory for the World Cup winners.
Zaza, who showed great form at Sassuolo, urged Juventus to come fetch him with his performances. The Hammers took him up on an expensive loan deal during the summer, but are now ready to offload him given the disappointing turn of events.
The loan deal stipulated that the club would have to make the transfer permanent and fork out £20 million if the striker made 14 appearances, but West Ham are nowhere near keen on doing such and he should return to Italy sometime in January.
9 Bournemouth – Lorenzo Davids
Cousin to former Ajax and Juventus midfielder, as well as Holland Legend, Edgar Davids, the folks at Bournemouth probably thought that they’d signed a potential top class player when they brought in Lorenzo Davids.
Perhaps he was a bit unfortunate, as his debut was pushed back by a knee injury which offset his entire Cherries career. But he has to go down as their most disappointing signing. Davids joined the club in 2012 on a free transfer, having been released by German side Augsburg with a year still left on his contract.
As if that wasn’t huge enough of a sign, the Cherries signed him anyway. The midfielder ended up with just three appearances that season and was released by the club before the beginning of the next.
8 Stoke City – Wilson Palacios
The Honduran built up a reputation as a real midfield enforcer during his time at Birmingham, Wigan and Tottenham Hotspur, but could not replicate his form at the Britannia after joining Stoke City in 2011.
The Potters spent £8 million to bring him in from Spurs, along with teammate Peter Crouch. His start as a Stoke man was hampered by a knee injury and tonsillitis and he failed to earn a spot in the starting line-up under Tony Pulis.
Pulis assured fans that Palacios would play more regularly the following season because he needed a full pre-season of training to really get in shape, yet despite that happening, he only made four starts the following term.
The midfielder would find more joy playing under Mark Hughes after Pulis left, but was eventually released by the club after it was decided that he just wasn’t good enough. He is now a free agent, having been released by NASL club Miami FC as well.
7 Burnley - Remco van der Schaaf
Sounds like a name plenty of women would go for, doesn’t it? And they probably do even now. With a name like Van der Schaaf, one can imagine the owner championing several causes.
Burnley didn’t buy him because of his name, although no one would blame them if that were the case. The midfielder, who could also be used in a centre-back role, was considered a neat talent, coming up in Holland’s Under-21 side.
He also played for Vitesse Arnhem and PSV Eindhoven before making the switch to Burnley; so much so, he rejected a move to Cardiff City to join the Clarets in 2008. He failed to inspire confidence, despite his puissant name and was loaned to Brondby just months after moving to Burnley.
The club let him go in 2011 and he would join Danish outfit Randers FC as a free agent on a two-year deal following his exit.
6 Middlesbrough – Afonso Alves
The Brazilian striker was capped eight times for his country during his career and scored goals at a prolific rate – unfortunately, before moving to Middlesbrough.
Alves was an absolute star back at Malmo FC and Heerenveen, and his fine form prompted the Teesiders to spend a then record amount of £14.45 million to lure him to their neck of the woods in 2008. The forward signed a four-and-a-half-year deal with the club, but left in 2009 after scoring just 10 goals.
He did have his moments of brilliance, but it was nothing like what he showed before moving to the club. Alves would leave after failing to help them survive a relegation battle, later joining Al Sadd for £10.2 million.
5 Leicester City - Ade Akinbiyi
Former striker Ade Akinbiyi made a huge impression on Leicester City during his time at Gillingham and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The British-born Nigerian scored goals for fun at his previous clubs, prompting the Foxes to sign him for £5.5 million – a staggering amount at the time - in 2000.
He came in as Emile Heskey’s replacement, with Heskey having moved to Liverpool, but his Leicester career is certainly something to forget.
He would score 13 goals in 68 matches for the current Premier League champions and an awful game in a 4-1 loss against the Reds would be his most memorable achievement at the club.
Akinbiyi missed four easy opportunities during the match, including a real sitter from just six yards out. He was booed by the fans after the match and was later sold to Crystal Palace for £2.2 million.
4 Crystal Palace - Valerien Ismael
The Frenchman is now manager at German Bundesliga side VFL Wolfsburg and was a respected defender back in his playing days. However, he just couldn’t find his feet after signing for Crystal Palace.
The London outfit made Ismael their most expensive buy when they signed him for £2.75 million in January of 1998 and much was expected from him. He failed to deliver and just 10 months later, he was already on his way out, having made a dissapointing 13 appearances.
Ismael returned to France and joined Lens. He was then loaned out to Strasbourg, the club where he began his professional career, before moving to Werder Bremen.
Bayern Munich would be his next stop and he would win his Bundesliga title there, as he had already won it with Bremen. He could have been a real Palace legend, but fate would not have it that way, sadly.
3 Sunderland – Nicolas Medina
The Black Cats are really struggling this season, having narrowly escaped relegation under Sam Allardyce in the last campaign. One would think that a player from their current crop would have featured on this list. But surely no one in the present team has been as disappointing as Nicolas Medina.
The Argentinian moved to Sunderland from Argentinos Juniors for £3.5 million in 2001 and was hailed as 'the complete midfielder'. He made the move along with teammate Julio Arca, who immediately became a hit with the fans while he languished in the reserve team.
The supporters were quite perplexed over the situation and could not understand why such a promising signing – who cost that amount – wasn’t thrust into the first team. He managed to anger them by announcing his intention to live in Newcastle instead of Sunderland because he preferred the night life over there.
Medina left in 2004 after making just one appearance for the Black Cats in the FA Cup. To this day, no one knows the cause of his failure.
2 Swansea City – Jordi Lopez
Jordi Lopez started out at Barcelona, playing for their youth sides before joining rivals Real Madrid. He made 70 appearances for the B team there and was promoted to the first team, appearing twice as a senior player.
Swansea City took him on board in 2009, after impressive spells at Sevilla and Real Mallorca. Playing as a defensive midfielder, he might as well as not have been there, as the back-line were probably worse off with him in the side.
He also suffered with various injuries throughout his two seasons in Wales and was let go six months early, with his contract being terminated by mutual consent. He didn’t stay very long without a club, though, and signed for Vitesse Arnhem the following day.
1 Hull City – Jimmy Bullard
Jimmy Bullard proved quite the flop after signing for Hull City for £5 million in 2009. The midfielder – now retired and coaching Ithsmian League club Leatherhead FC – left Fulham after disagreements over the length of a new contract, as well as wages.
After leaving Hull, he admitted that when he signed his contract with the Tigers, he was aware that there was an error with the figures, having agreed to sign on for £40,000-a-week, but being presented £55,000-a-week instead.
Bullard only made 28 appearances, scoring seven goals and was mostly injured for the duration of his Hull career, which was cut short two years earlier than agreed. He was rewarded for the breach of contract in an out-of-court settlement, however.
Poor Hull. Robbed in so many ways.
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