A list of players who’ve either failed to live up to their name or price-tag, failed to adapt to the English game, and then the ones that were just plain rubbish is endless. But here are ten of my “favorite” flops:
1. Eric Djemba-Djemba – So bad they named him twice. The Cameroonian made only twenty appearances in two years at Old Trafford and scored no goals. Any hopes that he might be a successor to the ageing Roy Keane were quickly extinguished and he was packed off to Aston Villa, where he was equally rubbish.
2. Afonso Alves – Came to the Riverside with a decent reputation having scored more than a goal a game in his time at Heerenveen, but he never lived up to his club record £12.7m transfer fee whilst on Teeside. Apart from two goals against Man United and a hat-trick against Man City in an 8-1 win, Alves struggled badly for form and couldn’t save Boro from relegation in 2009. He was swiftly sent off to Qatar and declared a very expensive mistake.
3. Steve Marlet – Anyone remember this French flop? Al-Fayed paid out £11.5m for him on Jean Tigana’s advice, but Marlet did not justify his hefty price tag, performing erratically during his time in West London, and only managing a paltry 11 goals in 54 matches. Not many at Fulham were sad to see him go.
4. Bosko Balaban – Was there ever a more useless signing than Aston Villa’s Croatian striker? Two and a half years, nine appearances, 0 goals. Easily the worst £5.8 million Doug Ellis ever spent. In his defence, Balaban has scored plenty at all of his other clubs and complained that he wasn’t given enough of a chance at Villa. Then again, the stats speak for themselves.
5. Helder Postiga – Impressed for Porto in Jose Mourinho’s first season in charge, winning the league, UEFA cup, and Portuguese Cup whilst scoring goals for fun. It persuaded Spurs to shell out over £6m for him, rising to over £8m, but Postiga managed only one league goal at White Hart Lane and was soon back on the plane to Portugal, his reputation tarnished. Inevitably, he got his own back on all the critics by helping to knock England out of Euro 2004, scoring a late equaliser to take the game into extra time, then scoring a cheeky penalty in a victorious Portuguese shootout.
6. Massimo Taibi – What was Sir Alex thinking? His howler against Southampton is replayed endlessly on football DVDs and mentioned every time a goalkeeper makes a big mistake. He only played four times for Man Utd but he will go down in history as one of the worst goalkeepers they’ve ever had. He will also always be a laughing stock in England, which unfairly disguises a fairly respectable league career in Italy.
7. Jean-Alain Boumsong – A freebie to Rangers just six months before Newcastle, managed by Graeme Souness at the time, paid out £8m for his services. He formed an error-prone partnership with Titus Bramble, in what will probably go down as one of the Toon army’s worst defensive pairings. Boumsong didn’t last long, moving to newly-relegated Juventus after only 47 matches in a black and white shirt. The miserable sum of £3m was recouped as compensation for his mediocrity.
8. Djimi ‘Bambi on Ice’ Traore – As the slightly cruel chant goes ‘Don’t blame it on the Biscan, don’t blame it on the Finnan, don’t blame it on the Hamann, blame it on Traore. He just can’t, he just can’t, he just can’t control his feet’. Unfortunately, it rang true. Traore was hopeless and scored one of the most comical own goals ever against Burnley in the FA Cup. Of the so-bad-he’s-funny variety of player, how he got to play for Liverpool in the first place is a mystery, and he’ll probably go down as the worst ever player to win a Champions League winners medal.
9. Andriy Shevchenko – A top striker for many years, and AC Milan’s second highest goalscorer, ‘Sheva’ has scored more goals than anyone else for the Ukrainian national team and only Raul and Filippo Inzaghi can better his goalscoring record in European club competitions. As well as this, he’s won countless trophies and awards and hit the net hundreds of times. How, then, did he become such a slow, clumsy, guileless shadow of his former self at Chelsea? The whopping transfer fee didn’t help; neither did his close relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich, who seemed to be forcing Jose Mourinho to select his friend. Undoubtedly a brilliant player, but he’d lost a yard of pace by the time he came to England, and couldn’t cope with the hustle and bustle of the Premier League.
10. Alberto Aquilani – Liverpool paid £20 million for the Italian to soften the blow of Xabi Alonso’s departure, but he turned out to either be injured or highly ineffective. Loaned out to AC Milan for this season and doesn’t look like he’ll be justifying his price tag at Anfield anytime soon. Arguably Rafa Benitez’s worst signing, and this from a man who purchased Josemi, Andrea Dossena and Charles Itandje, not to mention Antonio Nunez, Jan Kromkamp and Philipp Degen.