In the world of soccer, so much of the attention by the media is focused on the enormous transfers and all of the stars who are playing at the top level. But very little, if any, focus is placed on the worst transfers — the ones that make you wonder what the manager and chairman was thinking when they signed a new player.
1. Tomas Brolin
Parma to Leeds United (£4.5 million)
Having excelled at both domestic and international level, Brolin was signed by Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson for £4.5 million. Any flashes of promise shown by the former Parma striker quickly deteriorated along with his form and fitness. Brolin became embarrassingly overweight and wasn’t helped by an April Fool’s prank in which he told Swedish television he would be leaving the Yorkshire club. A disastrous move was eventually ended and a once glittering career faded into obscurity.
2. Roger Johnson
Birmingham to Wolverhampton Wanderers (£7 million)
Touted as a potential England international during a successful spell at Birmingham City (during which he led the club to a League Cup triumph over Arsenal) it was incredible to see Johnson’s career unravel so quickly at Wolverhampton. The defender suffered back-to-back relegation with Wolves, struggling for form and making headlines for turning up to training under the influence of alcohol. The club, only this season returned to the Championship.
3. Ali Dia
Blyth Spartans to Southampton
A transfer from an era of football where such mistakes were possible given less complex and detailed scouting networks, Dia managed to convince Southampton manager Graeme Souness that he was a Senegal international carrying a recommendation from the legendary George Weah. An inauspicious debut in which he came off the bench to replace Matt Le Tissier goes down as one of the most bizarre moments in Premier League history. The amateur player was promptly substituted in that same match against Leeds United, with Le Tissier commenting: “His performance was almost comical. He kind of took my place, but he didn’t really have a position. He was just wondering everywhere.”
4. Albert Luque
Deportivo La Coruna to Newcastle United (£9 million)
Arriving in England with a stellar reputation, Luque’s disastrous stint at Newcastle epitomized a period of ill-advised, over-priced transfer dealings that destabilized the club during a difficult period. A solitary Premier League goal in a 4-1 derby win over Sunderland was hardly justification for a hefty price tag, as Luque spent a sizeable chunk of his time on Tyneside being treated by physios. The transfer was part of Lord Stevens’ inquiry into corruption in football back in 2006.
5. Afonso Alves
Heerenveen to Middlesbrough (€20 million)
The Brazilian was a goal-machine at Heerenveen but despite moments of inspiration upon moving to Middlesbrough in January, in his first full season with the club he managed just four goals as they were relegated to the Championship. The latter part of his career was spent in the Middle East as he failed to recover from a chastening introduction to English football.
Vitória de Guimarães to Manchester United (£9 million)
Perhaps most famous for being the one player Sir Alex Ferguson signed without having watched play, the Scottish manager sanctioning the move for Bebe on the recommendation of Carlos Queiroz. Making just three starts in four bizarre years at Manchester United, Portuguese police subsequently launched an investigation into a deal shrouded in mystery. The player now resides at Benfica.
7. Bosko Balaban
Dinamo Zagreb to Aston Villa (£5.8 million)
The Croatia international started just two games in two-and-a-half years for the club, failing to score a single goal. “It has been a nightmare two years,” Balaban said of the move. “I signed for five years when I arrived and I have spent two years in the stand.” Released from his contract in 2003, Villa took a huge financial hit on a player for virtually no return.
8. Steve Marlet
Lyon to Fulham (£11.5 million)
Marlet’s move to Fulham was so disastrous that the man who signed him, Jean Tigana, was not only sacked during his time at the club but subsequently taken to court by Fulham owner Mohammed Al Fayed. Though the charges were dropped, the episode epitomized the scale of the move and the disappointment that followed. Marlet managed just a handful of goals in four years in London.
9. Savio Nsereko
Brescia to West Ham United (£9 million)
A damning indictment of Gianfranco Zola’s unsuccessful spell at West Ham, Nsereko’s transfer was supposed to be the antithesis to previously farcical deals for Argentina internationals Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano. As it transpired, this was an arguably worse deal, with German youth international Nsereko turning in abject performances and costing the club dearly. West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady said of the move: ‘Just before this board took over, the club paid a huge amount to Brescia for the German Under 21 who took part in a handful of matches and then departed for Fiorentina at a fraction of the price. The deal is something I’m investigating.”
10. Christopher Samba
Anzhi Makhachkala to QPR (£12.5 million)
Brought in by QPR boss Harry Redknapp in January as the London club desperately battled to avoid relegation, Samba was supposed to bring leadership and solidity to an ailing defence. However, the former Blackburn man failed to live up to his price tag or considerable wage bill as Rangers suffered the drop. The situation wasn’t helped by Samba becoming embroiled in a Twitter row with the club’s supporters, before he eventually returned to Russia.