It’s silly season in the Premier League again, so the PlayON Pundit and Daily Fantasy Focus brings you a shortlist of some of the worst January signings in recent memory.
Transfer: Heerenveen to Middlesbrough, 2008
The terms “Afonso Alves” and “Middlesbrough” should serve as cautionary tales for any club tempted into signing an exotic striker who suddenly finds himself tearing up the Eredivisies and Primeira Ligas of this world.
For every Ronaldo (the original, of course) – 42 goals in 44 games for PSV before storied moves to Barca, Inter, Real Madrid and Milan – there’s an Alves waiting in the wings.
The Brazilian followed in the footsteps of his illustrious countryman by banging in all manner of goals – 45 in 39 appearances – for Heerenveen between 2006 to 2008. Instead of a transfer to a European superpower however, Alves upped sticks and moved to Middlesbrough to the tune of £12.5 million and £50k per week.
To say Alves struggled to hit a barndoor in England is unfair; he did manage five goals in two games against both Manchester United and Manchester City. It’s the mere three goals across his forty other games that’s the problem.
Afonso eventually jumped ship to Al Sadd after his goal deficiency and general lack of on-pitch contribution contrived to sink ‘Boro to the Championship – where they’ve been ever since.
Transfer: Spartak Moscow to Arsenal, 2014
An idol and cult figure for Celtic and Barcelona respectively, in Premier League terms, Henrik Larsson is fondly remembered for a brief but memorable loan stint at Manchester United back in 2007 – winning praise for a series of classy but effective appearances.
Whether Arsene Wenger was trying to follow suit by his bizarre signing of Kim Kallstrom remains unclear. Short term loan signing? Check. Sweden international? Check. Best days probably behind him? Check!
If it was 2002 and the first signing of a Championship/Football Manager campaign, then this would have been a sound investment. But it was 2014, reality and the the then 31 year old midfielder came saddled with ageing legs and a bad back.
The Arsenal staff were aware of this during his medical, but they took a gamble to plug a midfield shortage and it was decided that he’d undergo rehabilitation at the Emirates.
It never really took off for the Sweden international, as he made just four appearances in all competitions for the Gunners. Crucially however, he did score a penalty in a shootout against Wigan the 2014 FA Cup semi-final, a tournament that Arsenal went on to claim as their first bit of silverware in ten years.
Maybe this couldn’t have happened without him? Maybe without him, Arsene Wenger would have been sacked under board and fan pressure and Arsenal’s dry spell would carry on to this very day.
Then again, maybe not.
Transfer: Newcastle United to Liverpool, 2011
The list of criteria to determine a player’s transfer fee are as follows. Is the player in question a striker? Is he currently enjoying good form? Does he “know the Premier League”? Is he an England international and/or youth prospect? Add this criteria together and you’ll land somewhere in the region of a £35-£50m price tag in English football.
Fulfilling all of the above, is of course, Andy Carroll circa 2011.
Carroll wasn’t and isn’t a bad player, but the £35m transfer fee – then a record for an English player – smacked of panic from the Liverpool board and Newcastle took full advantage.
By the 31st of January 2011, Fernando Torres had taken off in a helicopter to sign for Chelsea and the £23m signing of Luis Suarez from Ajax would be overshadowed – bizarre as it may sound now – by the arrival of the big man from the north.
Arriving with an injury sustained from falling off a barstool in a Newcastle casino, Carroll’s Liverpool career – one that would see him succumb to persistent injuries and struggle to gel with his teammates – wasn’t off to the best start.
Inheriting the revered number nine shirt, the divine ponytail of Gateshead would go on to score just six goals in 44 appearances for the club.
Transfer: Liverpool to Chelsea, 2011
The other, pricier half of this transfer debacle, Fernando Torres smashed the Premier League transfer record with a move from Liverpool to hated Premier League rivals Chelsea in January 2011.
Generally speaking, Roman Abramovich’s history with big name, big money strikers has not been fruitful. First there was Adrian Mutu, then Hernan Crespo and in 2005 came the biggest mistake of all – Andriy Shevchenko.
Torres effectively inherited the mantle of the faded Ukrainian superstar. We didn’t know it at the time, but as a player he was prematurely past his prime and he subsequently struggled to adapt to the style and culture of his new club.
The Spaniard had memorable moments in a Chelsea shirt – he won the the FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League in the space of two seasons – unfortunately for him and Blues fans, he would punctuate his “Torres is back!” moments with madcap red cards and introverted on-field displays.
Currently enjoying life again with boyhood club, Atletico Madrid, Torres stint with Chelsea will go down as one of the worst value for money deals in Premier League history.
Transfer: Fulham to Hull, 2009
Before he was a celebrity cheeky chappy for hire, Jimmy Bullard was quite a decent footballer.
The late-peaking, one time painter-decorator turned professional footballer was the Jamie Vardy of the mid to late 2000s and forged enough of a reputation from his exciting displays at both Wigan and Fulham to receive an England call-up – dashing the hopes of the German national team, who once courted him.
When the voice of Phil Brown came calling however, Bullard couldn’t resist the lure of Hull – at the time, frequently topping charts in “Worst City in England” polls. It soon turned out to be a nightmarish stint for the midfielder, who arrived for £5m and was immediately set back by a bad injury on his debut for the club.
His knees would cause him persistent trouble throughout his time there, turning in excellent performances when available before succumbing to injury once again.
Hull never got the best out Bullard, and he’s most fondly remembered there for a Phil Brown impression that may well have buried the credibility of his gaffer for good – if the headset, goatee and perma-tan hadn’t done so already.
Transfer: Rangers to Newcastle, 2006
This writer’s theory that there must have been some sort of witch’s curse over Newcastle United signings in mid-2000s – Michael Owen and Damien Duff were just two players who were never quite the same after spells on Tyneside – doesn’t carry water when it comes to Jean-Alain Boumsong’s ill-fated stint.
By circumstance or through his own personal ineptitude, this one-time France international has become a byword for shocking defending. Then again, he never had much of a chance with Titus Bramble as his defensive partner.
In a move from Rangers to Newcastle amid shady circumstances – certainly not the last such dealing between the two clubs – Boumsong landed in the North-East with a sizable £8m transfer fee and a weight of expectation. It was never going to end well.
His lowest ebb in England came in a 3-1 defeat to Liverpool, where he conceded and penalty, got sent off and generally showed the defensive capabilities of a bleary eyed Sunday league player. A low-quality compilation of his worst moments as a Magpie is attached for your viewing pleasure.
A later career with big names such as Juventus and Lyon suggested he wasn’t completely incompetent, but it seemed that the defender and his equally unimpressive cousin David N’Gog just weren’t cut out for life in Premier League.