Monday, 7 September 2015

They Came, They Saw, They Did Nothing Much Really

A list of the premier league’s top flopped big name signings

The English Premier League is arguably Europe’s highest spending league when it comes to transfer fees. With billionaire owners and huge payments in telecast rights, almost all of England’s top 20 clubs can afford to throw money at big name stars. Sadly, sometimes all of the money and all the fame just don’t get the results they should, as is emphasized by the departure of Mario Balotelli from Liverpool. As a last farewell to Mario, here’s a look at some of the Premier League’s biggest big name flops of recent times:

1) Mario Balotelli – AC Milan to Liverpool (£16m)

Mario Balotelli made a name for himself in England when he was at Manchester City between 2010 and 2013. The fans and press loved him for his goal-scoring abilities and madness in equal parts. His 20 goals from 33 appearances were enough to keep the doubters at bay, despite his beahvioural eccentricities. By Jan 2013 however, his feud with the club over his poor disciplinary record grew to a point where he was fined two weeks’ wages. A spat that resulted in Balo leaving in the winter transfer window for Serie A giants AC Milan. From Jan 2013 to the end of the 2014 season, Mario continued to flourish, scoring 26 goals from 37 appearances, including this 30-yard stunner.

His performance in Italy was enough to convince Brendan Rodgers that Liverpool could use his talents to replace their departing goal machine – Luis Suarez. In the summer of 2014, Liverpool signed Mario Balotelli for £16m, with the hopes that he could fill the void left by the departure of their prolific striker. Sadly, what followed was a disappointing season in which Balotelli made only 10 appearances in the league, scored just one goal, and looked far from the player he was expected to be. By Jan 2015, Balotelli was on the fringe of the Liverpool squad. His performances had become so insipid that there was zero interest from any of Europe’s top clubs to sign in. Sighting an inability to adapt to Rodgers’ tactics, Mario remained a bench warmer at Anfield until the end of the season, finally leaving for AC Milan on loan, marking the end of a disastrous spell that benefited neither player, nor club.

2) Radamel Falcao – Monaco to Manchester United (Loan)

Yes, a loan is not quite a signing, but for the £16m United spent on fees and wages to bring the Colombian striker to England, it counts as a flop. Falcao’s sensational last minute move in the summer of 2014 was celebrated by United fans all around the world and expectation were high. After all, he’d been a prolific goal scorer for AS Monaco before a knee injury saw him sidelined for a long period.

Arriving at Old Trafford, and supported by world class players, a lot was expected of the striker and with just four goals in 14 appearance, he failed to impress. He spent most of his time at United on the bench, making just two starts and often going missing on the pitch when he came on as a subsititute. His fall from grace came when Louis Van Gaal played him in the under-21 side against Tottenham Hotspur, and was substituted after 72 minutes. Many football pundits described Van Gaal’s treatment of the player as “disgraceful” and “disrespectful”. It was no surprise then that, in May 2015, Manchester United turned down the option to sign-on Falcao for £43m from AS Monaco, marking the end of his spell at United, with just this short highlight reel to show of it. Title contenders Chelsea, led by the ever so contriving Jose Mourinho were soon to snap up the lad on loan, giving Falcao another chance to prove his worth in the English top flight. Whether he will shine or fade is left to be seen.

3) Roberto Soldado – Valencia to Tottenham Hotspur (£29m)

Roberto Soldado arrived at Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 for a club record fee of £29m. Much was expected of the striker who arrived in England on the back of a wonderful season in Spain in which he scored 24 goals in 35 games for Valencia. It’s hard to question such amounts of money being spent on a striker when he has scored 109 goals in 191 games prior to his move. With such a prolific goalscoring history, manager Tim Sherwood had faith the Spaniard would succeed in England.

Soldado’s stint at Spurs started off well, scoring the winner on his debut league appearance and netting twice in a Europa League tie four days later. And that’s about all that can be spoke of the Spaniard while he was at White Hart Lane.  He ended the 2013-14 season with just six goals to his name, and ended up being one of the top picks in most football pundits’ list of worst season signings. But like most managers, Mauricio Pochettino decided to allow him another season to prove his worth. After all, it does take international players a little time to setting in the EPL. And oh how wrong he was.

Soldado ended the 2014-15 season with an disappointing ONE goal in 24 appearances. In two whole years, Roberto scored just seven times in 52 appearances, and of those seven, four were penalties. On 14th August 2015, Soldado’s horrendous time in England came to an end as he departed North London and went back to Spain. He joined Villareal for £10m, resulting in a net loss of £19m for Tottenham and probably more enraging for the White Hart Lane faithful, he did this within just 32 mins of his debut with the Yellow Submarines.

4) Andriy Shevchenko – AC Milan to Chelsea (£30m)

In May 2006, Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich broke the bank and threw £30m in the direction of AC Milan to acquire the talents of one Andriy Shevchenko. The Ukranian striker was lauded by some as the best striker on the planet, and his 127 goals from 193 appearances at the Rossoneri stood testament to that. You can’t blame the fans and the club to expect big things from such a man when he comes with such a reputation.

José Mourinho, then manager of The Blues, was not so keen on the striker though, and failed to bring out the best in him. During the 2006-07 season, Sheva scored just 4 goals in 30 appearances in the league and looked a shadow of his former self. Owner Roman Abramovich still believed in the Ukrainian’s talent though, and ended up sacking Mourinho for not being able to bring out the best in Andriy. In the following seasons, Shevchenko saw out managers Avram Grant and Luiz Felipe Scolari, before eventually himself leaving the Blues for a loan spell with AC Milan. He left England with just nine goals in 48 league appearances. After a poor season with Milan, he returned once again to Chelsea for just one league appearance before he was shipped of to Dynamo Kiev in 2009, where his career dwindle further until he retired.

5) Andy Carroll – Newcastle United to Liverpool (£35m)

Andy Carroll came onto the scene when he scored 17 goals in 39 appearances for Newcastle United, helping them get promoted to the Premier League from the Championship in 2009-10. The following season, he started in blitzing style, netting 11 in 19 games, and appeared to be the new shining star in English football.

Liverpool Manager Kenny Daglish lit the football media world ablaze on 31st January 2011 when he spent the £50m Torres sale money on Luiz Suarez and Andy Carroll. Such a ginormous deadline day was a football journalist’s wet dream. At £35m, Carroll became the most expensive British footballer of all time. The Reds fans were excited and anxious to see what their new strike force were capable of. One of them went on to do great things for the club, while the other did diddly-squat. No points for guessing which is which.

Carroll’s career at Liverpool started off slowly, thanks to injury. He made his first appearance for the club on 6th March 2011. He remained fairly innocuous for the remainder of the season, netting just 2 goals to end 2010-11 on a rather disappointing note. The 2011-12 season was meant to be the one in which Andy Carroll proved his worth and boy did he NOT do that in fantastic style. He netted a few last minute winners, like this one against Everton that took Liverpool to the FA Cup final, which Jamie Carragher claimed was “worth £35 million in itself.” We’d like to know what he was smoking. All in all, Andy Carroll ended 2011-12 with four league goals in 35 games. With a new manager (Brendan Rodgers) coming in, the writing was on the wall for Andy, and was soon loaned out to West Ham before he made it a permanent move a year later.

After one and half season at Anfield, Andy Carroll gave Liverpool six league goals in exchange for the £35 million they paid for him, despite being a proven Premier League striker with Newcastle United.

6) Fernando Torres – Liverpool to Chelsea (£50m)

Between 2007 and 2011, Fernando Torres scored 65 goals in 102 appearances for Liverpool, forming one of Europe’s most lethal partnerships with Steven Gerrard. He was arguably, the best striker on the continent at the time that Chelsea came looking for his signature. And the Blues paid the price for such a talent – a British record transfer fee of £50m.

Sadly, Torres’ time at Chelsea will be best remember for this bit of ludicrous mediocrity that epitomizes his performance with The Blues. Between 2010 and 2014, El Niño scored 20 goals in 110 league appearances for Chelsea, failing to reach double figures in any of the seasons. His apathy in front of goal comes as some contrast to the medals in his trophy cabinet however, winning the Champions League, FA Cup, and Europa League with the London club.

The striker saw four different managers come and go at Stamford Bridge and not one of them was able to bring out the £50m worth of goalscoring talent he possessed. Eventually, Torres was sent out on loan to AC Milan where he made 10 appearances and netted once before being loaned out again to Atlético Madrid until the end of this season. With the striker still technically in Chelsea’s books, the most optimistic of people can still hope that he can turn around his English career.

7) Angel Di Maria – Real Madrid to Manchester United (£59.7m)

When a club signs a world-renowned Champions League and La Liga winner, you can’t really blame the fans for getting excited. Such was the mood at Manchester United when Ángel Di María arrived from Real Madrid at the start of the 2014-15 season. Manager Louis Van Gaal wanted to make a mark in the EPL and stopped at no cost to bring in world class talent, aiming to take the Red Devils to the apex of English football once again. With the arrival of the Argentine international, the manager and club’s intentions were clear, and the hopes of the fans ran high.

The season started well enough for Di María, scoring from a free kick and setting up another in his Old Trafford debut. The tone was set for the rest of the season and in the weeks to follow, Ángel did not disappoint. He was voted Man of the Match on two occassions and continued to score and set up goals for United.

The dream soon ended though as injury, a break-in at his house, and a sending off for grabbing the ref, all resulted in the winger loosing his spot to Ashley Young. The fact that Van Gaal had played him in six different positions during the first four months didn’t help either and by the end of season, Di María was ready to leave Manchester. On 5th August 2015, PSG and Manchester United agreed a fee of £44.3m for the winger marking the departure of the Argentine star, leaving behind this wonderchip as the only memory of his time in England.

Honorable mentions:

José Antonio Reyes – Sevilla to Arsenal (£17m) – 69 appearances, 16 goals

Robinho – Real Madrid to Manchester City (£33m) – 41 appearances, 14 goals

Juan Sebastián Verón – Lazio to Manchester United (£28m) – 51 appearances, 7 goals

Konstantinos Mitroglou – Olympiakos to Fulham (£13m) – 3 appearances, 0 goals

There are no doubt, several other transfers that could make this list, but these are out picks based on the amount-spent vs returns from the player. If you’ve got names to add to this list; let us know who and why in the comments below.

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