Clubs in the PL are throwing around money like never before; clubs think nothing of spending a fortune on bit-part players – decisions that leave a lot of us fans scratching our heads. The bottom line is that spending and the wealth of PL clubs have increased exponentially since the PL’s inception way back in 1992. This means a lot of big names have come flocking to arguably the biggest league in the world, but it also means that there have been plenty of flop players and disappointments.
No one gets found out more in the PL than strikers. As a defender or midfielder, you can put in a few decent performances and gradually acclimate to the fast-paced environment of PL football. But as a striker, it’s easier for all to see whether you’re up to par or not – you’re rated on the goals you score. Playing upfront, you get all the glory and make the headlines, but when the goals start to dry up, the pressure starts to mount, and suddenly you’re facing a mutiny from all corners – the management, fellow players, the fans, the lot. That’s when it’s sink or swim time, and over the years, a lot have sunk to the depths of their footballing careers and have become blips on their club’s PL history books.
These are those players – the worst strikers in the PL era for every current PL team.
20 Arsenal – Nicklas Bendtner
Call yourself the best striker in the world and you’ve got a lot to prove, something Bendtner didn’t do during his time with Arsenal. He began his career with The Gunners after spending a year in the youth team. When he graduated to the reserves -- judging by his impressive record - he was one of the best strikers at the club, and he quickly made the first team. But that’s when the goals dried up. He scored his first PL goal two years after being in the senior team, and after that his appearances and goals were sporadic.
Wenger struggled to find a place for him in the team, and when he did, he only caused trouble; recall that heated exchange he had on the pitch with Emmanuel Adebayor. What with fighting on the pitch, a lack of goals and controversial moments off the pitch too, no wonder Bendtner was let go as soon as his contract expired.
19 Bournemouth - Tokelo Rantie
This guy’s only 26, but unless he does something spectacular in the next few years, his PL career seems to be all but over. Tokelo’s first foray into English football was when he joined Bournemouth in 2013. The club was in the Championship at that time, and over the next few years, quickly made the rise to the PL, although their promotion was nothing to do with Tokelo.
Bournemouth fans were left scratching their heads when Tokelo was brought to the club. They had shelled out an exorbitant sum of cash -- their club record fee of £2.5 million to acquire his services, and pretty soon it became evident that it wasn’t money well spent. He failed to make any sort of impression during his time with The Cherries, only scoring five goals in 44 appearances; as a striker with that price tag, that’s a pretty dire goal-scoring record.
18 Burnley – Ashley Barnes
Barnes made the move to Burnley in the January 2014 transfer window – his first stint in the top league of English football. He’d spent the rest of his seven-year career playing in the lower leagues of English football, and judging by his record in the PL to date, perhaps he should have stayed there. The PL proved to be a baptism of fire for Barnes. People gave him the benefit of doubt in his first season, saying that he was just acclimating to life in the top flight, but the problem is that we’re now in 2017 and that still seems to be the case. You won’t remember him for his goals – he’s only scored 11 – but you might remember him for his play-acting; he got Chelsea’s Matic sent off after he was tapped and fell to a ground – he should have won an Oscar for that performance. And that’s his Burnley career in a nutshell – he hasn’t done anything else of note and doesn’t seem likely to be doing so anytime soon.
17 Chelsea – Fernando Torres
It’s funny how things work; at Liverpool, Torres was one of the best and most feared strikers in world football, but when he made the move to Chelsea, he enjoyed one of the leanest goal-scoring spells of his career.
In 2011, Chelsea paid £50m for Torres; no one raised any eyebrows at that because Torres was in red-hot goal-scoring form at the time. But he quickly became a bit of a joke at Stamford Bridge. With that price tag, he was expected to continue and emulate his success from Liverpool, but it just didn’t happen for him. Fans gave him plenty of stick – he went without scoring for 11 hours at one point and no one let him forget it. It was clear that Torres wasn’t the right fit at Chelsea and so he was let go in 2015 – the best outcome for all parties.
16 Crystal Palace - Marouane Chamakh
Chamakh could have made this list under Arsenal. Wenger liked what he saw from Chamakh when he played for Bordeaux, and so we can thank him for bringing Chamakh to the PL. At Arsenal, he was a major flop, plain and simple. In three years, he had made just 40 league appearances, scoring only eight goals. He made most of these appearances from the bench – Wenger just couldn’t see him fitting into the starting line-up. Due to his barren spell at Arsenal, it’s unsurprising that Wenger got rid of him the first chance he got.
But why Crystal Palace thought he’d be an asset to their side is beyond me. He signed for The Eagles in 2013, but a change in the club didn’t bring about a change in fortunes for Chamakh; he scored just seven times in 60 league appearances and was shifted about yet again in 2016.
15 Everton – Lacina Traore
In 2014, Monaco signed Traore but planned to loan him out straight away. Plenty of clubs came knocking at the door in an effort to sign the Ivory Coast international; Everton was successful and Traore was on his way to Goodison Park. But in hindsight, they probably wished that they hadn’t have bothered. He actually scored in his debut for Everton in the FA Cup, but that’s about all he did during his one and only season in English football. After that first goal, the hope was that he’d kick on and help Everton climb to somewhere near the top of the PL. But an injury hampered him and he didn’t get any more game time. It was a disastrous spell and one that everyone would like to forget.
14 Hull City – Jozy Altidore
Hailing from the U.S., Altidore is a big, bullish striker. He has awesome physical presence and actually has quite a decent goal-scoring record – for the U.S. and U.S. teams, that is. He began his career with the New York Red Bulls, and his performances sparked the interest of a lot of teams in Europe. Spanish side Villareal got him on board but immediately decided to send him out on loan. After a loan spell at Xerez, Hull City was the next team to come calling. But Altidore enjoyed a miserable time out on loan. He scored once in 28 PL appearances and Hull was subsequently relegated from the top flight – that just about says it all. Altidore was also a flop player at Sunderland; he scored once in 42 appearances. It’s evident that Altidore had trouble adjusting to life in the PL, as he’s done well elsewhere and is currently scoring goals for fun for Toronto FC.
13 Leicester City – Ade Akinbiyi
British-born Ade Akinbiyi had a slow start to his career. As a striker, goals eluded him, but he eventually began to find some form with Gillingham. The three years between 1997 and 2000 marked the best spell of his career, which is why PL club Leicester showed interest in acquiring his services. He made the move to the East Midlands in 2000, but the goals just dried up. The club spent £5.5m on him, but it was money down the drain. Emile Heskey had just departed to Liverpool and so Leicester was in need of a replacement.
Ade certainly wasn’t an apt replacement and he failed to make any sort of an impact. He also squandered a ton of simple chances. Everyone was getting on his back and he was eventually let go in 2002.
12 Liverpool – Mario Balotelli
So-called Super Mario was a super flop at Liverpool. There’s no doubting that the man has talent, but it’s just a case of who can put up with his antics. Mancini thought he could do just that at Man City, but the misdemeanours just continued to pile up and things eventually became too much for him and the club to handle. His form on the pitch and goal-scoring prowess was never a problem, so there were plenty of clubs queuing up to get him on board. A.C. Milan was the lucky team – or unlucky depending on how you look at it – and Balotelli didn’t let them down, continuing his impressive form in Italy.
It was, therefore, a mystery as to why he decided to come back to England, especially since he had another three and a half years left on his contract. But Liverpool made him an offer he and Milan couldn’t refuse, so off he went to Anfield. It turned out to be the worst decision of his career and possibly one of Liverpool’s worst ever signings. At the end of the 2014-15 campaign, he had netted just four times in 28 appearances, scoring just once in the league. He subsequently returned to Milan with his tail between his legs, a shadow of his former self. Balotelli fans will be pleased to know that he’s been reborn playing in France and is starting to show the form that once made him one of the world’s best strikers.
11 Man City – Roque Santa Cruz
After becoming a prolific goal-scorer for Blackburn, Santa Cruz was always going to be on Man City’s radar when the club came into serious money in 2008. Sheikh Mansour, Khaldoon Al Mubarak and their cronies began shelling out extortionate sums of cash in an effort to turn City into one of the best teams on the planet. They began buying anyone who was half decent; Santa Cruz was more than half decent and was one of the best strikers in the PL at the time, so off he went to Man City. But this was one transfer – City had many – that certainly didn’t work out.
Santa Cruz’s career took a nose dive and he hasn’t really got back to form since. During his four years at City, he was sent out on loan three times, only made 20 PL appearances and scored a paltry three goals. He lacked form at City, always seemed to be injured, and just wasn’t in Mancini’s plans, so he completed his miserable spell at the club in 2013 and departed for good.
10 Man United – Bebe
Tiago Manuel Dias Correia, better known as Bebe, is amazingly still only 26; I say amazing because he’s been about a bit and has played for a lot of teams during his relatively short professional career. One of those teams was Man United. God knows why United wanted him that badly; he was still a baby at the time – in footballing terms – and had only made 26 league appearances in Portugal, scoring four goals. But it was the Portuguese connection that got him to Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson’s right-hand man, Carlos Queiroz, recommended him, and Sir Alex trusted his advice and it was then a done deal.
But in his four years as a contracted United player, he didn’t do anything spectacular. He spent most of his time out on loan or injured, and when he was given opportunities, he didn’t make it count. When he left after four years, he hadn’t even scored a league goal for United; I’d be surprised if Sir Alex took Carlos Queiroz’s advice as gospel ever again.
9 Middlesbrough – Afonso Alves
Sign a Brazilian international and you’re expecting great things. In fact, Middlesbrough must have thought that they’d bagged a bargain when they picked up Alves for €20 million; that’s a reasonable price to get a Brazilian striker on board for four and a half years. But Alves was a major disappointment and just couldn’t cut it at the top level in the PL. His form in front of goal that brought him to Middlesbrough’s attention eluded him, and he ended up being sold after just a season having scored 10 times in 42 appearances.
Middlesbrough was banking on Alves to help keep them up, but he couldn’t muster the magic he’d shown at his previous club, Heerenveen – he scored 45 times in 39 appearances for the Dutch side – and Middlesbrough was relegated to the Championship. Middlesbrough could no longer afford to pay Alves – not that they’d have wanted to – and so he was on his way and off to play in the Qatari League.
8 Southampton – Ali Dia
Ali Dia makes this list simply because of the ridiculousness of it all; you’ll see what I mean in a sec. He decided he wanted to be a professional footballer and play in the PL, so what does he do? In 1996, he decided Southampton would be the team for him, so he got on the blower and actively sought out a transfer. Dia called up Southampton’s manager at the time, Graeme Souness, and fed him a load of lies, making him believe that he was someone he wasn’t – a world-beater when in actual fact, he was nothing but a talentless amateur who’d do anything to make it big.
He convinced Souness that he was the cousin of George Weah – FIFA World Player of the Year and Ballon d'Or winner – and so Souness signed him on a one-month contract. But when he turned up to Southampton, it was evident that he wasn’t who he said he was. He came on a substitute to make his debut, but his performance was so embarrassing, he was taken off minutes later and subsequently released from his contract. In a way, I praise his ingenuity, but that doesn’t hide the fact that Dia was one of the worst transfers in footballing history.
7 Stoke – Kenwyne Jones
Trinidadian-born Kenwyne Jones was a kind of cult figure at Stoke. He’ll be remembered for his acrobatic celebrations – those flips and handstands he did when he scored – which didn’t happen as often as he or Stoke would have hoped.
After a decent spell at Sunderland, Jones signed for Stoke City for a figure thought to be in the region of £8 million. But his time at the Bet365 Stadium didn’t get off to the best of starts. He was injured pretty much immediately, and when he regained full fitness, he had a goal drought which lasted six games. This certainly didn’t endear him to the fans, but it didn’t stop there. He netted but then failed to score for another three months, citing personal problems as a reason for his poor performances. He used this as an excuse pretty much throughout his time at Stoke and even failed to turn up to certain games; Stoke and Tony Pulis eventually had enough and sent him packing.
6 Sunderland – Michael Chopra
Michael Chopra is a Newcastle boy through and through. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, is a product of the club’s youth system and pledged allegiance to the club from a young age. But after spending the first six years of his career with Newcastle, he was getting increasingly frustrated as he wasn’t putting in the kind of performances for which he was striving. He wasn’t making an impact so sought a move to rejuvenate his career.
Chopra went off to Cardiff City and it was a decision that was certainly vindicated. He found form right way, scoring 22 goals in 42 appearances, and was voted as the Championship Player of the month for September. His stellar season at Cardiff got newly promoted PL side Sunderland interested.
Sunderland fans didn’t take to him immediately – well, at all, since he’s from Newcastle – and many didn’t feel he warranted the £5 million price tag. Chopra scored a couple of times in his first few games, silencing some of the critics and naysayers, but he then went on a 15-game goalless run. New transfers the following season meant that he just couldn’t get enough playing time, so back he went to his old club on loan before joining Cardiff City permanently once again in 2009.
5 Swansea – Leroy Lita
Leroy Lita had a decent start to his footballing career. After enjoying a youth career with Chelsea, Lita got picked up by Bristol City and then went to Reading. It was at these two clubs that he enjoyed the best spells of his career to date. He achieved an impressive goal scoring record which served to spark the interest from some of the bigger clubs. Lita played for a few more teams before signing for Swansea City in 2011. In 2011, they’d just been promoted to the PL and the £1.75 million fee they paid for Lita seemed very reasonable. He scored a couple of goals early on, but for some reason, Swansea decided to loan him out on an emergency transfer to Birmingham.
When his loan spell had ended, Swansea had already put together a stable team, so Lita just continued to get loaned out. Had he been given an opportunity to make a mark who knows what would’ve happened, but in the end, Lita’s time at Swansea turned out to be a forgettable one.
4 Tottenham – Louis Saha
French international, Louis Saha, was a well-known figure in the PL, but not because of the time he spent with Tottenham. He made a name for himself with Fulham, where he had an impressive goal-scoring record, and then the best spell of his career at Man United made the world stand up and take notice. His time at Old Trafford was marred by injuries, but he managed 42 goals in 120 appearances for the club – not bad considering he very rarely played the full 90 minutes. His form continued at Everton, but he never really got going at Tottenham.
Sure, he was only at White Hart Lane for six months and scored a few crucial goals, but it just wasn’t enough from a man of Saha’s pedigree. He wanted to stay with Tottenham and more specifically Harry Redknapp, but was released in the summer of 2012.
3 Watford – Will Hoskins
Englishman Will Hoskins has played in the English leagues for his entire footballing career. After going through the youth ranks at Rotherham, Hoskins made the first team and enjoyed an impressive start to his career, scoring 23 times in 73 appearances – not bad for a teenager. This got some of the bigger clubs in the top leagues interested; Watford saw something in the young lad and signed him in 2007. But in his first season at the club, he struggled to make any sort of impact.
His playing time was limited and so was sent out on loan, back to sides in the lower leagues of English football, and that was that. Hoskins spent the rest of his time as a contracted Watford player out on loan until he moved away for good to Bristol Rovers. His time in the PL was short-lived and forgettable, to say the least.
2 West Brom – Hal Robson-Kanu
Anyone who watched Wales’ rise as a footballing nation during the last World Cup will know what Hal Robson-Kanu is capable of doing. It was his goal that saw Wales beat Belgium – the world’s number one ranked side at the time – in the quarter-finals; it was a goal that was nominated in the FIFA Puskás Award for best goal of the year. But aside from that moment of brilliance, Robson-Kanu’s entire career – club and international – hasn’t really been anything boast-worthy. For a man with so much talent, he hasn’t made it work for himself up front.
Robson-Kanu spent 12 years with Reading before making the move to West Brom in August 2016. He reportedly turned down a lot of money from Asian sides in order to stay in the PL, but perhaps he should have gone. He’s only scored one league goal for West Brom this season, and although he’s only 27, he’s playing the role of a 37-year-old, coming off the bench and trying to make an impact. Hopefully – for his and West Brom’s sake – he makes an impact this season, but judging by his performances so far, it seems unlikely.
1 West Ham – Marco Boogers
Boogers’ time with The Hammers was an abject failure from start to finish. He had made a name for himself in the Dutch leagues, where he played as a forward for over a decade and had a decent time of it too. The now seasoned pro sought a move away from his native country, and it was West Ham that signed him. West Ham’s manager at the time, Harry Redknapp, had never seen Boogers play but had it on good authority that he could do a job up front. Well, he did a job on Man United’s Gary Neville alright. In just his second appearance, Boogers was berated from all corners of the media for a heinous tackle on Neville. He was suspended for four matches and that essentially marked the start of the end of his time with West Ham.
Boogers then got injured – a knee injury that would take three months to heal. During this time, Redknapp bought another striker and Boogers was told that there was no longer a place for him in the squad. Boogers failed to score for West Ham and went back to The Netherlands disheartened after a failed spell in English football.
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