Football clubs, especially those in the PL, have tons of people who work behind the scenes – those who remain out of the limelight and do rather unglamorous jobs which are still essential for keeping their club running. You see the players, the management staff patrolling their technical areas, but what about the others – those who are responsible for getting the player to the club and on the pitch? The owners have the cash, the coach has a say in the matter, and then it’s up to the scouts, but mainly the agents who use their business acumen to try and negotiate a deal that keeps everyone happy.
Sometimes the transfer works out for all parties. The player arrives, settles in quickly and begins putting in valuable performance, proving his worth in the PL. But there’ve been other instances where it’s just gone all wrong. Perhaps a player’s been lumped with a hefty price tag on his head but hasn’t lived up to expectations. It may be due to disciplinary issues, or the fact that the fast-paced environment of the PL is just too much of a challenge for some people. Whatever the reasons may be, there’ve been plenty of instances where a player has arrived at a club and has gone on to be nothing more than a major flop. Flop players – every PL team’s had them; these are the worst in every current PL team’s history.
20. Arsenal – Mikael Silvestre
After being a Man United stalwart in defense for just under a decade, Arsene Wenger wanted to sure-up his defense, and so calling upon the services of Silvestre was a logical decision – or so he and everyone thought at the time. Silvestre moved to The Emirates Stadium in 2008, but enjoyed a less than decent time of it. It’s difficult to ascertain why Silvestre was a major flop in North London. It wasn’t like the PL was new to him; he’d made 249 appearances for United, and you would’ve thought he’d be at home joining the large French contingent at Arsenal. Perhaps that’s why he flopped – he felt too comfortable and got too complacent. After just 26 appearances for The Gunners in two years, Arsenal unsurprisingly released him from his contract.
19. Bournemouth – Lorenzo Davids
One name comes to mind when you hear the name Davids in footballing circles – Edgar Davids. The Dutchman was one of the best and most recognizable players of his generation, due to his footballing ability but also because of those iconic dreadlocks and goggles he wore on the pitch. Yes, Lorenzo Davids is related to him – they’re cousins – but he is no Edgar. He started his senior career in 2006 and has since scored five goals. He’s a midfielder so he should have netted more times than that – that’s a pretty dire goalscoring tally even for a defender. Lorenzo’s tried his luck at numerous different clubs, but so far has failed to impress.
In 2012 he fulfilled his dream of coming to play in England, even if it was with Bournemouth who was in League One at the time. He signed a two-year contract with The Cherries, but his time at Dean Court was marred by injuries. Lorenzo made his debut a month after signing and subsequently only made a couple more appearances before being ousted from the club in the next transfer window. His time in English football was short but certainly not sweet.
18. Burnley – Eric Djemba-Djemba
Eric Djemba-Djemba made a name for himself with Nantes. After a string of impressive performances, Sir Alex Ferguson came calling and signed him up for £3.5 million, with the goal of molding him into a Roy Keane type of player, whose time at Old Trafford was slowly drawing to a close. Eric was a fiery character in midfield – he possessed the raw attributes that could have made him into Keane’s successor; he was a hard tackler, had that hardcore attitude and an all-round aggressive style of playing the game – exactly what Sir Alex wanted. He was given chances at Old Trafford but was extremely inconsistent. Incidentally the same year Keane left the club, Eric was also booted out; Sir Alex had made his mind up and decided Eric wasn’t the right fit for the club. From United he moved to Aston Villa.
His time at Villa Park was equally as miserable, so they sent him out on loan to Burnley – you can guess what I’m going to say next. In all, Eric’s time in England was forgettable. He spent four years in England, made 46 appearances and scored no goals, making no sort of impression. His name was the only thing about him that made any sort of an impression; fans used to take the piss, joking that Eric Djemba-Djemba was so good he was named twice.
When Eric left Burnley, English newspaper, The Daily Mail, listed Eric as one of the biggest flop players in the history of the PL. It’s hard not to agree.
17. Chelsea – Fernando Torres
It may puzzle some of you that Torres is on this list – some of you Liverpool fans that is. That’s because after doing decently in Spain with Atletico Madrid, he set the PL and the world alight when he moved to England. During his four years at Anfield he netted 65 times in 102 appearances and established himself as one of the most feared strikers in world football.
In 2011 Liverpool did everything they possibly could to keep him at the club. They rejected numerous offers from some of the biggest clubs in Europe and rejected Torres’ own transfer request. But they just couldn’t say no to the £50 million Chelsea offered. At the time the move was a British transfer record and it made Torres one of the most expensive players on the planet. But in the end, he and all parties involved in the transfer probably wished he’d stayed at Anfield. His time with Chelsea was an utter flop. He took 903 minutes to score his first goal, and that was his only goal for the rest of the season.
The next season he had a goal drought of 24 games; it’s remarkable how different his time was in South West London in comparison to his stint in North West England. Due to the hefty price tag and his lack of goals, Torres has to be considered Chelsea’s most disappointing player ever.
16. Crystal Palace – Marouane Chamakh
Marouane Chamakh’s a contender for the worst player in the PL, period. After spending eight years with Bordeaux, Arsene Wenger saw something in him – God knows what – and bought him to the PL to The Emirates. Chamakh could have also been on this list as Arsenal’s worst ever player, because his three year stint with The Gunners was dire. He became known as the striker who doesn’t score – not a good tag to have – and was mainly used by Wenger as a substitute. After seeing what Chamakh failed to do at Arsenal, why Ian Holloway – Crystal Palace manager at the time – chose to acquire his services was a mystery. He spent three years at Selhurst Park and netted seven times – hardly setting the world alight as a forward.
15. Everton – Marco Materazzi
The lanky and heavily-tattooed Marco Materazzi is perhaps best known in the world of football for being on the receiving end of that Zinedine Zidane head-butt which took place in the final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup. He’s known for being controversial and provocative; he has a temper and a hardcore playing style as a defender – this has led to him being sent off 25 times throughout his career.
After starting off his career in Italy, he spent the 1998-99 season with Everton. He was five years into his senior career at this stage but was already earning himself a reputation as a bit of a hothead. During his solitary season in the PL, he was sent off three times in just 27 games – not what you want from your centre-back – and was sent packing.
14. Hull City – Jimmy Bullard
When Bullard was playing he was described as being the heart and soul of the dressing room – renowned more for his dressing room pranks and funny antics. It’s no surprise that when his knee injuries began to worsen and he had to hang up his boots, he entered the jungle as a contestant on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here, where he became one of the show’s most memorable contestants.
Bullard played in England throughout his career. After spells at Fulham and Wigan, he joined Hull in 2009 for £5 million, which at the time, was a record fee for Hull City. Having spent so much money on Bullard, Hull must have been expecting something a little more than 23 appearances in two years. Again, his spell at the KCOM Stadium was hampered by injuries, meaning he spent more of this period on the sidelines and rehabilitating. In the end, due to the club’s heavy debts, they had to sell Bullard in order to acquire more funds, but they probably weren’t too sad to see him go.
Bullard’s time at Hull ended in bitter circumstances. He was suspended for breaching the club’s alcohol policy, which was a contributing factor leading to the – what was later deemed by the courts to be – unlawful termination of his contract. They really wanted him out of there.
13. Leicester City – Dennis Wise
Former Chelsea cult legend Dennis Wise left Stamford Bridge to join Leicester in 2001. He was captain in South West London, and was a reliable presence in the center of the park. Perhaps he found it difficult to adjust to life with a new club after spending 11 years with Chelsea, because his time at Leicester was a period I’m sure he and The Foxes would want to forget and banish from their history books. He made just 17 appearances during his time in the Midlands, and his spell couldn’t have started off any worse.
During a pre-season tour, he broke his teammate’s nose and jaw; unsurprisingly he was sent home and suspended. A short while later, his contract was terminated due to serious misconduct. Wise took the matter further, unhappy with the manner of his dismissal, and Leicester was actually found to be in the wrong. However, the club appealed the verdict and they won; the tribunal’s order was overturned and Wise left Leicester with his tail between his legs.
12. Liverpool – Mario Balotelli
So-called Super Mario was a super flop at Anfield. We can all thank Roberto Mancini for bringing Balotelli to the PL. He brought Balotelli into the first team when he was managing Inter Milan, and Balotelli excelled for a guy of his age, scoring 20 goals in 59 appearances. When Mancini left, Balotelli began getting into plenty of trouble, so Mancini – who was now managing Man City, decided to help the young star out and give him a chance to start afresh with a new club in a new country. Again, Balotelli’s record was impressive, as it was for A.C. Milan following his departure from The Etihad Stadium. But his antics off the pitch and numerous disciplinary problems meant that clubs found it difficult to have him around for too long.
After a solitary season with Milan, Liverpool bought him for £16m as a replacement for Luis Suárez who was on his way to Barcelona. He ended up being one of the club’s biggest flops ever. He and Liverpool boss, Brendan Rodgers butted heads frequently.
The fact that he swapped shirts with Real Madrid’s Pepe at half time during a Champions League match really irked Rodgers. Then Balotelli was suspended and fined for posting an image that appeared to have anti-Semitic and racist connotations. These are just a couple of his misdemeanors.
In terms of his on-pitch performances, there was pretty much zilch to write home about. He only scored four times in 28 appearances in all competitions for Liverpool during the two seasons he was contracted at the club; without a doubt one of – if not the – worst ever players for Liverpool.
11. Manchester City -Roque Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz is one of many who benefited from Sheikh Mansour’s Abu Dhabi takeover. After an impressive two-year spell with Blackburn Rovers, Cruz followed in his manager’s footsteps and joined Mark Hughes at Manchester City. Sheikh Mansour had just purchased the club in 2008 and was keen to turn it into one of the giants of world football.
In order to make that happen he was allowing the club to spend crazy amounts of cash, splurging on whoever they wanted in order to make City reach the top. Due to Cruz’s stellar season at Blackburn, they thought he’d be one of the players who’d make it happen. But the £17.5 million they spent on him was wasted – money down the drain. He was injured a lot and when fit, he wasn’t showing the same form he’d shown before in the PL. When Roberto Mancini took over, Cruz just fell by the wayside. For four seasons Cruz was left kicking his heels on the bench or out on loan. He ended up scoring just three goals for City, which for a striker who was once one of the best players in the PL, is pretty dismal.
10. Manchester United – Anderson
Manchester United thought that Anderson had a tremendous amount of talent and so jumped through hoops to try and secure his transfer to Old Trafford in 2007. Anderson was still a teenager at the time; not many people had heard about the Brazilian and many raised their eyebrows at the £20 million transfer fee. But who was anyone to argue with Sir Alex’s logic? He’d spotted and nurtured talented players before and turned them into world-beaters, but with this transfer decision things didn’t quite go according to plan.
Anderson’s first couple of seasons at United started off slowly. He then suffered a major injury which ruled him out for six months. The remainder of his time at Old Trafford was blighted by injuries, and when David Moyes took over, he fell way down the pecking order. Sir Alex kept his faith in Anderson, but Moyes just didn’t have any sort of belief in him and made it clear. The remainder of his time as a contracted United player was spent either out on loan or on the bench, until he was finally able to negotiate his release in 2015, ending his seven-and-a-half-year stint in Manchester. Anderson, being so young at the time, would probably deem his time at United to have been a learning experience, but for United, bringing him to the club was one of Sir Alex’s few mistakes at the helm of United.
9. Middlesbrough – Afonso Alves
Alves was bought by Middlesbrough in the January transfer window in 2008 in order to help them stay afloat in the PL. The Brazilian international was brought to the Riverside Stadium for €20 million on a four and a half year contract – therefore plenty was expected from Alves. Rightly so considering his goalscoring prowess and the form he’d shown with his previous club – Heerenveen – with whom he netted 45 times in 39 appearances. This form eluded him when he played for Middlesbrough, just when the club needed him to hit his straps the most and be their main man. He ended up scoring a paltry four league goals in the season and couldn’t keep Middlesbrough in the PL; they were relegated, and unsurprisingly they couldn’t keep Alves at the club, as they couldn’t afford to pay his salary. Not that they’d have wanted to, considering he’d shown nothing since his arrival.
8. Southampton – Ali Dia
The fact that Dia managed to get a gig with a major club like Southampton is an embarrassment to the club. Dia swindled his way into the mix, and actually managed to get in a game; because of this we’re able to call him a former pro footballer.
What happened in 1996 was one of the greatest footballing deceptions of all time. Dia, who was in university at the time, decided he wanted to try his hand at being a pro footballer. So he got one of his university mates to call Southampton manager Graeme Souness, and pretend to be FIFA World Player of the Year, George Weah. Souness was told by the fake Weah that Dia was his cousin and persuaded the manager to sign him up. He was signed up a short while later, but was quickly figured out after playing a single game for the club which was an embarrassment. He came on off the bench to replace Matthew Le Tissier, who later famously said that watching Dia on the pitch was like “watching Bambi on ice – very embarrassing to watch.” And that was that. One league appearance, and 14 days later he was shown the door.
Look at any list of the worst players/ transfers in history – yes, of all time, not just the PL – and Dia’s name will be somewhere at the top of the list. Therefore including him in this article was a no-brainer.
7. Stoke – Vincent Pericard
Cameroonian and former French international, Vincent Pericard, became Tony Pulis’ first signing as Stoke City manager. Pericard must have impressed playing for his previous club; God knows how because as a striker, his goalscoring record was pretty dire. Nevertheless, he came to the Bet365 Stadium. He had a relatively decent start to his career, but his form quickly fell away and he found himself out of favor at the club. Add his off-field misdemeanors into the mix, and Stoke couldn’t wait to get rid of him. After he was sentenced to four months in prison for speeding, and later after he was arrested due to problems with his electronic tag, he was sent out on loan to Southampton and Millwall.
We now know that Pericard’s depression had a part to play in his poor performances with Stoke. He even had suicidal tendencies – no wonder his football suffered at the time.
6. Sunderland – Jozy Altidore
Jozy Altidore is still young at 27; perhaps that’s what he’ll keep telling himself as he goes about trying to rejuvenate his career after a lackluster spell at Sunderland.
U.S. international, Jozy Altidore’s time at the Stadium of Light was disastrous, simply because he didn’t score goals. As a striker, that’s essentially his job, but he failed to deliver and was rightly shown the door; it took Sunderland long enough to decide to send him packing.
Initially, he was given chances, but failed to make the most of his opportunities and was demoted to the under 21’s. The $13 million transfer fee was a waste – Sunderland bought a striker who doesn’t score goals. When Altidore eventually left to play in Major League Soccer, he had netted just three times in 52 appearances, making him one of Sunderland’s biggest flop signings.
5. Swansea – Jordi Lopez
Jordi Lopez began his senior career by playing for Barcelona and then Real Madrid – not a bad start in professional football. But when he left Madrid in 2004, his career began to plummet drastically. He stayed in Spain for another five years, but then hit an all-time low when QPR acquired his services and he was brought to the UK to play in the second league of English football. He did enough to impress former QPR boss, Paulo Sousa, who bought him to Welsh side, Swansea. He stayed with the club for two years but only made 15 appearances.
No one knows why Sousa brought him to the club, because he was barely ever on the first-team. He was very injury-prone too which didn’t help matters. In the end he left by mutual consent – probably the best decision for all parties.
4. Tottenham – Heurelho Gomes
Heurelho Gomes has had a topsy-turvy career. He’s currently between the sticks at Watford and is actually doing quite well – he seems to have found his place at Vicarage Road. But it was Tottenham who gave him his first experience in the PL. Manager Juande Ramos was eager to sign him after an impressive four-year spell at PSV. During his first few games, he enhanced his reputation with some impressive saves. But then the errors started coming, costing Spurs – who weren’t doing so well at that point – vital points. He was letting in some soft goals and making costly errors. Something had to be done, so Spurs signed Brad Friedel – 40 years old at the time – on a free transfer, and Gomes quickly descended down the pecking order and became the fourth choice keeper at White Hart Lane. Unsurprisingly he left as soon as his contract expired.
3. Watford – Nathan Ellington
Striker, Nathan Ellington, had a decent goalscoring record at Bristol Rovers and Wigan Athletic, but then his form began to elude him. He failed to settle in at West Brom, and a couple of years into his contract, he wanted out. Watford was the team to acquire his services, and he signed a deal that would keep him at Vicarage Road for the next four years. Watford actually saw something in Ellington and was willing to shell out £3.25 million – a club record and a fee that could rise based on appearances and performances. But it didn’t because Ellington couldn’t nail down a place in the starting lineup. His goalscoring record was therefore appalling – five goals in 51 appearances isn’t a goalscoring ratio to brag about – and so he left Watford as soon as his contract was up.
2. West Brom – Pelé
Pedro Miguel Cardoso Monteiro, known as Pelé, certainly isn’t anything like his Brazilian namesake. The Cape Verde international began his life in the UK with a season-long spell at Southampton. Due to his performances in Portugal with Belenenses, many English clubs were interested in adding Pelé to their defensive lines, but it was The Saints who prevailed and managed to sign the centre-back. He was moved all over the place at Southampton, having to play in unnatural positions in order to get a place in the starting lineup. He therefore, couldn’t settle and decided to opt for West Bromwich Albion for a fee said to be in the region of £1 million.
He only made 13 starts in his first season at the club – The Baggies had a solid side which helped them gain promotion. But their top-flight status didn’t last long, and they were relegated at the end of the 2008-09 season. Pelé had only made three league appearance playing against the big boys of English football, and so when they were relegated, he was shown the door. A total of 24 league appearances in two seasons at The Hawthorns; it’s no surprise he was let go.
1. West Ham – Javier Mascherano
Today Javier Mascherano is a massive name in world football. He’s a solid player as a defensive midfielder or centre-back, and is pretty much a permanent fixture in the Barcelona side, where he’s able to sure things up at the back – act as a solid presence whilst the attacking might of Barcelona do what they do best and mesmerize teams going forward. He’s grown into a reliable and versatile player; he’s also got a footballing brain which enables him to read the game and anticipate.
Mascherano took a long time to settle into life as a professional football player and his career only really took off when he joined Liverpool. But before his spell at Anfield, he made his foray into English football with West Ham, who were in pretty bad shape at the time. Mascherano’s arrival didn’t help matters; in fact, their form got worse when he arrived, and no sooner he had arrived in London, he was looking for a way out.
He made five league appearance for West Ham before he joined Liverpool. There were also all kinds of ownership issues involved in Mascherano’s transfer, and in the end, West Ham who were already struggling financially at the time were hit with a world-record fine of £5.5 million. The entire transfer and his spell at West Ham were a mess.
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