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The Top 5 Premiership Transfer Flops

Football - Sheffield Wednesday v Norwich City Coca-Cola Football League Championship - Hillsborough - 29/11/08.Sheffield Wednesday's Francis Jeffers during the match Photo via Newscom
As the summer transfer season comes to a close Premiership teams are registering up to 25 players to compete until January. Some have spent big, some barely spent at all but the movement of players is a key in any clubs success. However, now and again transfers don’t work out at all, these so called flops become topics of debate at every club. Flops become the focus of derision from Rival fans and sources of despair for home fans as they see them on the team-sheet again. Right now, Sunderland fans are wondering  about whether Asamoah Gyan will be another Tore Andre Flo or a repeat of Darren Bent’s success. So who have been the biggest flops in The English Premier League.

First and foremost, How do you define a flop?

It’s simple enough on paper it’s a player who failed to improve the club or actively cost them, the names roll from the tongue Massimo Taibi, Eric Djemba-Djemba, Albert Luque (remember him?) and of course Ali Dia, but how to quantify the biggest flops. For me we can discount a few things, players who cost very little cannot be up there, it is those who cost a lot of money that routinely sting the memories of fans and secondly they cannot flop due to injury. It is just unfair to count Pierluigi Casiraghi and Luc Nilis who were cruelly prevented from performing due to unbelievably bad luck. For me it comes to (E+P ÷ Pe) Where :E= Expectation P= Price Pe= Performance.

It’s as subjective a list as any and it’s not based on any numbers but that is the measure I used to determine the below:

5. Francis Jeffers: The great white hype. A free agent now Francis Jeffers scores a goal on average every 6 games. Take out his time before he signed for Arsenal it becomes one in 9 and he hasn’t topped 5 goals since 2001. Signed for 8 million, which was at the time one of the largest transfers in Arsenal’s history, Jeffers was to be the ‘fox in the box’ that would tuck away the goals after great build-up play. The reality however was that Arsenal got a limited Englishman who couldn’t score goals and after one season of mainly substitute appearances he never appeared in an Arsenal shirt again. The ‘fox in the box’ moniker is used universally derisory now particularly to any incoming Arsenal strikers. Jeffers would eventually leave after a few loan spells for 2.6 million the only positive thing to come out of his tenure at Highbury.

4. Juan Sebastian Veron: Stop, before you curse me, I’m not saying he is a bad player. Quite the opposite he is and was a very good player, however his time at both Manchester United and Chelsea were the low points of his career. An excellent passer of the ball with a ridiculous long range shot Veron was a coup for United in 2001. What followed though were 3 years of mediocre to bad returns as he failed to adapt to a 4-4-2 and only improved when given time and space in 4-3-3 that United deployed in Europe. Veron had his flaws, a penchant for trying the ‘Hollywood’ ball rather than the short effective pass, in effect he played second fiddle to Paul Scholes a United legend who cost nothing. When he moved to Chelsea his performances didn’t improve eventually being loaned to Inter. On return to his homeland in mid 2006 his performances dramatically improved. Veron is undoubtedly a great player but his 3 years in England were terrible it was not entirely his fault he didn’t fit the tactics nor the pace of English football but for 45 million combined, you expect better.

3. Steve Marlet: As Fulham’s record transfer until recently, much was expected of Steve Marlet. In their second season in the Premier League Fulham were determined to improve on their 13th place finish. Jean Tigana persuaded Mohamed Al-Fayed to spend big on Marlet, at 11.5 million it was a large outlay for a relatively small club and boy did it not pay off. Marlet was poor and as Fulham were forced to battle against relegation his lack of goals was a key factor. Marlet was so bad that Al-Fayed actually sued Tigana over the transfer nothing came of it but a counter-suit. Marlet was eventually loaned to Marseille with Fulham bearing the brunt of his wages. Eventually he left on a free.

2. Robinho: Much has been written here and elsewhere about Robinho and his time in England, almost universally negatively (apart from James’ work below) about the player himself and what his story tells us about the state of English football. His controversial transfer was just the opening chapter in a very bad tale. Signed for 32 million, Robinho was the first major shot from the City transfer Juggernaut. His initial form was quite good, playing lively football with a smile on his face, he and Stephen Ireland competed in flicks and tricks to the cheers of the crowd. However, the toll of life in England and English football soon took it’s toll. Robinho stopped performing well and stopped playing with a smile on his face. A woeful and disinterested display in a rainy Carling Cup match was the beginning of the end for the Brazilian. He played 18 months at Eastlands (missing 3 months of playing time due to injury) but never recaptured his original form. He was eventually loaned ‘home’ to Santos before City took a massive loss as he moved on to AC Milan.

1. Andriy Shevchenko: Back when Chelsea spent big in almost every transfer window, Shevchenko is the record signing of Chelsea Football Club he was to be the player who would add goals to Chelsea’s stirling defensive work under Mourinho. This was before Didier Drogba was the beast in front of goal he is now and was beginning to look like he wasn’t worth the money paid for him. Strangely the year Andriy signed was Drogba’s break out year. His performance eclipsed those of Shevchenko as the Ukrainian struggled to adapt. With very little physical attributes to speak of Shevchenko had made his name as a predator striker whose exceptional instincts allowed him to finish from any angle. This never materialised at Chelsea and the season he signed was the first where Mourinho failed to win the Premier League. His transfer also exposed the cracks between the upper echelons at the London Club. Signed by the Chairman, Shevchenko spelled the beginning of the end for Jose Mourinho’s time at Chelsea. Whilst not personally his fault, Shevchenko’s transfer has to go down as the worst in Premier League history. A striker who didn’t score and spelled the end of the most popular manager in Chelsea’s modern era, he eventually left to return to the Ukraine.

So there you have it, whilst it’s hard to incorporate the entirety of the Premier League as most of the above comes from the recent past. Special mentions go Darko Kovacevic and Roman Vega who transferred in the nineties. Who’d I miss and why do they deserve to be on here instead of those above? I’d love your suggestions below.

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  1. Neil Duly

    November 4, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Just for united;

    Hargreaves, (unless he actually plays a season)
    Alan Smith
    Louis Saha
    Berbatov (unless he keeps playing well this year…and the next)

    Robinho was a fail as the guy needed to stay in the team and keep performing, not avoid training. If a guy is a good player but disrupts the team, he’s not a good signing. Thats how Mr. Beckham left for so little

  2. AdamC

    September 10, 2010 at 4:45 am

    Step forward Thomas Brolin surely , he was terrible

  3. SantaClaus

    September 2, 2010 at 11:43 am

    Near the top of the list surely has to be Alberto Aquilani. How could you miss that?

    • Chris McQuade

      September 2, 2010 at 11:55 am

      Thanks for the feedback folks. To take your points in turn:

      @Jose: Not as big as everyone else on the list but certainly a transfer that didn’t work out.
      @Casey G: Djemba Djemba is mentioned. He does feature but not as a biggest flop. His transfer fee was small and he was signed for potential not blockbuster talent like most of the above. Or did you mean for A. Villa?
      @Bruce:Owen was hampered by Injuries but i’d count him as a flop, not worse than Franny Jeffs though
      @Matt W: Morientes was bad but never thought of as a first teamer, Kieron Dyer was destroyed by Injuries so can’t count as one of the biggest in my reckonings.
      @Louis: Great shout, could he replace Robinho?
      @Oliver: It was more about Seba to United. He had a decent spell at Chelsea but only for 6 months before being shipped out by Mourinho, Nowhere near worth 15M
      @Fee: Wishful thinking
      @IanCranstonsKnees: Bogarte was a waste but hardly on the same level as Sheva or Jeffers
      @MyBoss: Yeah Roque Junior was a joke. Loan took him out of reckoning.

      You may note a few comments missing because some raise similar points.

      Aquilani: Arrived injured and never looked fit, granted we were never given a chance to see because of Mad-dog Benitez. His transfer was a disaster but my criteria exclude Injuries from counting as Massive Flops, plus he could still come back, you never know!

      Robinho: Robinho was good for a period. I don’t buy this ‘start of an era’ ‘player attraction’ stuff. Robinho was signed as a statement, but the statement was that he forced his way out of Real. Oodles of talent but not the composure to get on with the job. At 32 million, a record, he should have been a Ronaldo not a Nani. Fits and spurts, didn’t play away from home. His first season and goals maybe should’ve moved him off this list but his second season and move to AC for a loss ensured his place on it. As bad as Steve Marlet.

  4. The Gaffer

    September 2, 2010 at 10:52 am

    It wasn’t a transfer involving cash, but the worst player I’ve ever seen in the Premier League was Roque Jr. for Leeds United who played for the Yorkshire club on a loan from AC Milan.

    He was so bad it was funny.

    The Gaffer

  5. IanCransonsKnees

    September 2, 2010 at 10:34 am

    Winston Bogarde?

    • Chris

      September 2, 2010 at 10:47 am

      I agree. Non of the previous players mentioned even come into Wiston’s league of flops.

      Gianluca Vialli signed him from Barcelona on a free.

      He played just 9 games in 4 years while collecting £40,000 a week and refused point blank to leave the club.

      I don’t think there has ever been a player as stubborn as this man.

  6. Fee

    September 2, 2010 at 10:02 am

    Fee June 12th, 2011 at 10:55am

    William Gallas to Tottenham!

    • The Yankee Spur

      September 2, 2010 at 1:24 pm

      Meaning Gallas will make this list?

  7. oliver

    September 2, 2010 at 8:48 am

    I think Juan Sebastian Veron is harshly remembered for his time at Chelsea… Claudio Ranieri took a while to work out a system that included him, but when he did he was immense. The switch to a diamond midfield really suited him and Chelsea ran out some impressive results (winning 4-0 at Lazio, beating Newcastle 5-0 and Man U 1-0 amongst them)… then he injured his back. Ranieri rushed him back into the team but it never quite worked.

    I’m not saying he was a outright success but I don’t think he ranks in the top 5 prem flops… maybe not even in the top 5 Chelsea flops

  8. Louis

    September 2, 2010 at 8:23 am

    What about Stan Collymore

  9. IanCransonsKnees

    September 2, 2010 at 2:59 am

    Come off it, you’ve got Francis Jeffers all wrong, he can’t have been a flop under Arsene Wenger’s tutelage. He only went crap after Ryan Shawcross damaged his ankle ligaments surely!

  10. Lars

    September 2, 2010 at 12:12 am

    Robinho was NOT a flop (and I am a United supporter); he energize the team and, more importantly, the fans. He scored goals, but perhaps he was a bit disillusioned/deceived by the Sheik.

    Aquilani is definitely the #1 flop of recent times:
    -£17m, played 18 games and now he is gone

  11. Matt W

    September 1, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    Two more names just to discuss: Fernando Morientes, Kieron Dyer, Alberto Aquilani.

    You should do a “reverse” segment of the best buys. No1 maybe being C.Samba for 400K.

  12. Bruce in South Florida

    September 1, 2010 at 10:36 pm

    Michael Owen at Newcastle had major expectations, major cost to the club, and not much in return. Maybe not as brutal as Sheva or Robinho, but man it was painful to see him struggle in black and white

  13. Casey G.

    September 1, 2010 at 9:03 pm

    no Djemba-Djemba on the list = FAIL

  14. Evan

    September 1, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    how do you have Robinho as a flop?? He scored 14 goals in his first season with Man City and then with Injury and bad attitude ended up being squeezed out on the line up. You can hardly call that a flop.

  15. jose

    September 1, 2010 at 5:41 pm

    does forlan count has a flop for man utd.

  16. Football Banter

    September 1, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Not sure I’d agree about Robinho, while he did take a lot of abuse from the press he still averaged a goal every 3 matches which isn’t a bad return. A couple of other names for you – Milosevic, Kleberson, Rebrov, Tomasson – there are so many – the question is, who will flop this season?

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