I awoke on the morning of January 31st to see the news that Liverpool were offering upwards of £30 million for Andy Carroll and instantly thought I was still dreaming. By the end of the day it was all for real and just another sum in the huge amounts of money changing hands for prize assets on what was an incredible January transfer deadline day.
The British transfer record was smashed twice in one day but will the big prices be worth it? One would hope it’s going to be successful but with huge price tags comes pressure and anticipation – with differing results. Sometimes they are great signings but other times they aren’t, leaving many wishing that multi-million pound cheque had bounced.
This week we’re looking at ten of the most expensive transfer flops from English football. Players of whom much was expected but little actually delivered – sometimes having money burning a hole in your pocket isn’t a good thing.
10: Owen Hargreaves, Bayern Munich to Manchester United 2007 (£17 million)
It’s a shame to put Owen Hargreaves in this list as he is an excellent player who’s been blighted by injury in recent years. Having spent all his career with Bayern Munich it was great to see the England midfielder arrive in the Premier League at Manchester United.
Apart from a few great moments, like his free-kick against Arsenal in 2008, his time with United has been injury-ravaged and that’s why he’s in the list. He’s made 39 appearances, scoring twice but for a £17 million investment, it’s not a good return. Having been on the sidelines for two years he made his comeback against Wolves in November – lasting just five minutes – says it all really.
9: Chris Sutton, Blackburn Rovers to Chelsea 1999 (£10 million)
The smallest transfer fee paid in this list but 12 years ago it was a lot of money, and it seemed even greater for the return Sutton gave to Chelsea. At Blackburn (and at Norwich before) he’d established himself as a regular scorer in the Premier League. After Rovers’ relegation in 1999 he moved to an up-and-coming Chelsea side who’s ambitions were for Champions League football. Sadly for Sutton and the club, his time there was not a good one – in 28 league outings he mustered a solitary goal – albeit a good one in a 5-0 rout of Manchester United. After that poor season he was farmed out to Celtic in 2000 where he rediscovered his goalscoring touch in a trophy-laden spell under Martin O’Neill.
8: Jose Antonio Reyes, Sevilla to Arsenal 2004 (£17 million)
Reyes played over 100 games for Arsenal and upon joining the club in 2004 showed signs of Spanish quality, but those fizzled out to sporadic levels. Inconsistent and moody were two words to describe the winger but he could score great goals, like the one against Chelsea in the FA Cup in 2004. However in 2005 he was caught out by a Spanish radio station in a prank phone call claiming his wish to play for Real Madrid and a year later was pictured wearing a white Galactico shirt. He got his wish and was sent on loan there before being transferred to city rivals Atletico in 2007.
7: Alberto Aquilani, Roma to Liverpool 2009 (£20 million)
Rafa Benitez had some shockers in the transfer market whilst Liverpool boss, but few have come close to the capture of Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani from Roma. He was brought in to replace the departing Xabi Alonso but didn’t live up to the standards of the Spaniard. £20 million spent on a player who was injured for the first four months of his Liverpool career and whose performances when fit haven’t been the best. Currently on loan to Juventus.
6: Roque Santa Cruz, Blackburn Rovers to Manchester City 2009 (£17 million)
Roque Santa Cruz has been a victim more than most of the managerial changes at Manchester City. Brought to the club by Mark Hughes in 2009, a spate of injuries and the change in the hotseat meant opportunities have been limited for the Paraguayan – he’s made just 24 appearances for the club. Roberto Mancini brought in Mario Balotelli and Edin Dzeko up front so Santa Cruz moved further down the pecking order and in January he went back to former club Rovers on loan.
5: Adrian Mutu, Parma to Chelsea 2003 (£15.8 million)
The Romanian striker arrived in England in 2003 at the time when Chelsea were flexing their new-found financial muscle and made an impact, on the pitch aswell as off. In 2004, after a year with the club, Mutu was sacked for testing positive for cocaine. Following a ban from the game he went back to Italy with Juventus and Fiorentina, finding the sort of form which made Chelsea splash out £15 million for his signature.
4: David Bentley, Blackburn Rovers to Tottenham Hotspur 2008 (£17 million)
Touted as the next David Beckham (probably by himself more than likely) David Bentley arrived at Tottenham Hotspur in 2008 having impressed for a few years at Blackburn Rovers. The former Arsenal wideman was a big signing for Spurs but didn’t live up to the price tag. Apart from his spectacular 40-yard volley against the Gunners in the epic 4-4 draw not long after signing he’s not made much of an impact. Harry Redknapp sent him on loan to Birmingham City in January.
3. Juan Sebastian Veron, Lazio to Manchester United 2001 (28.1 million)
In 2001 Argentine midfielder Veron arrived at Old Trafford for a British record transfer fee with a big reputation in tow. United fans expected much but Veron struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League and in 2003 he was sold to Chelsea for £15 million. After a bright start there his form soon dropped off and he moved to Inter Milan on loan for two seasons.
2. Robinho, Real Madrid to Manchester City 2008 (£32 million)
Robinho joined Manchester City ahead of Chelsea on deadline day in August 2008 as the first signing which showed off City’s bottomless money pit. The Brazilian was supposed to bring flair to a team aspiring for Champions League football but he only performed in fits and spurts and was unable to handle the pace of Premier League. Clearly unhappy with life in Manchester he was loaned out to Santos in his homeland before joining AC Milan.
1: Andriy Shevchenko, AC Milan to Chelsea 2006 (£30 million)
For years it looked as if Roman Abramovich would have his way and bring Shevchenko to the Bridge and it finally happened in the summer of 2006. It didn’t seem manager Jose Mourinho wanted the Ukranian striker and his time with Chelsea wasn’t great. Despite scoring on his debut against Liverpool in the Community Shield his form was indifferent and he looked a shadow of the player who banged in the goals for AC Milan. He left Chelsea in 2009 and is now back with first club Dynamo Kiev.