Everybody loves a new signing at their club, but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. A lot can make or break a player’s reputation. It doesn’t matter how good they are, there are other things beyond your control that can influence how well a move to a new club turns out. If the manager plays you out of position or you just can’t adapt to the culture, well then things might not be so great.
This list details the 40 worst signings in Premier League history. It’s important to remember that we’re not talking about the 40 worst players. While some of the footballers here would definitely land on that list too, others like Fernando Torres carved out phenomenal careers elsewhere. It’s just one move that stained their careers. Check out the 40 worst signings in the history of the Premier League below.
Who do you think we missed out on?
40. Fernando Torres
Torres is the epitome of a brilliant player being a bad signing. He was absolutely magnificent for Liverpool but his move to Chelsea is generally seen as a failure. After 3-and-a-half seasons at Anfield, he moved on to Stamford Bridge for a then-massive £50 million. One goal in his first half-season was a poor start for the Spaniard.
It wouldn’t get much better. Injuries would strip him of his searing pace and he struggled to establish himself in the side. Sure he had some highlight-reel moments like that last-minute Champion’s League semi-final goal against Barcelona, but they were few and far between. It’s safe to say they didn’t get the value they expected from him.
Newcastle United fans whisper his name and shudder. The club has signed a whole bunch of terrible players in recent years but if one name could sum them all up its Xisco. A Spanish forward with a wonderful head of hair, there were some faint hopes that they might be getting something special. And they really did. Xisco made awful an artform.
He managed nine appearances across five years at the club, scoring a solitary goal. That has to be some sort of record right? When he signed, and we don’t know why he was, Xisco became Newcastle’s seventh choice striker. Strength in depth is important, but that’s simply ridiculous.
A double league winner with Ajax, Andy Van Der Meyde would go on to star for Inter Milan. So when Everton fans found out that their club was signing him, there was a lot of excitement. Sadly, it just didn’t work out for him at Goodison Park, which seems to happen to a lot of players.
He would only make 20 appearances for the team and had to deal with rumors of alcoholism. Meanwhile, he suffered weight issues and also had to deal with an ill daughter at the same time. It was all just a mess and ended with him moving back to the Netherlands with PSV.
Another totally random signing, left-back Gilberto arrived at Spurs from Hertha Berlin in January 2008. He’d sit out injured until March. On his debut against PSV Eindhoven, he made an error that caused the Dutch side to score. Replaced at half-time, he’d only make eight appearances for the club.
Remarkably, he’d earn 35 caps for Brazil and was their first-choice left-back in the 2007 Copa America. He also featured in the World Cup the year before in Germany, so he definitely had some pedigree. it just wasn’t meant to be at Spurs.
Younger fans might not remember this but there was a time when Blackburn Rovers were good. In fact, they were so good that they won a Premier League title. Corrado Grabbi was signed in 2001 for a record fee of £6.75 million. He had had a decent season in Serie B with Teranna, but Blackburn moved in to swoop him up.
Now he’s regarded as one of the worst Premier League signings of all time. His time at Ewood Park was a disaster. He couldn’t acclimatize to the culture or weather in the UK and the forward scored just two goals in 30 appearances.
Sometimes you’re just the wrong player at the wrong time. Kostas Mitroglou arrived at struggling Fulham in 2014 for £12 million. The Cottagers were in dire straits and basically pinned all their hopes of survival on the Greek international who had been prolific for Olympiakos. It really didn’t work out for him.
He only played three times for the club as injuries prevented him from making an impact in their relegation battle. Fulham would go down and Mitroglou would be shipped off their wage bill. The striker is by no means a bad player though. He’s since played for Marseille, Benfica, and Galatasaray.
The most distinctive thing about Margas was his crazy colored hair. He’d dye it a different color every now and then but there isn’t much else good to say about him. He was a Harry Redknapp signing after the 1998 World Cup. The Chilean defender arrived at West Ham with a solid reputation.
However, his first day at the club went very badly: he got lost on his way to training and ended up stranded after suffering a puncture. Then his wife got homesick so he literally escaped through a window and went back to Chile, never to play for West Ham again.
Another Chelsea striker, Romania’s Adrian Mutu has one of the most entertaining stories on this list. He looked like a bargain buy when he signed for a then-hefty £15 million in 2003 but oh, how badly this turned out for both club and player. Four goals in his first three games were good, but he’d only score two more in his next 22.
The fans were already turning against him and then things escalated when he failed a drug test in 2004 after testing positive for cocaine. Then he was hit with a seven-month ban. Subsequently, he was sacked by Chelsea and had to go through a lengthy legal battle as the club sought compensation from him.
It looked like Leeds had landed themselves a real coup of signing when they got their hands on Brazil international Roque Junior in 2003. He’d just played for AC Milan in the Champion’s League as part of a very solid back four and looked like the real deal when he arrived on Elland Road.
The Brazilian only lasted for a season and his record for Leeds is as shambolic as they come. Leeds conceded 25 goals across his 7 appearances for the club. One of those 7-1 battering at the hands of newly-promoted Portsmouth. He was even sent off on his debut Jonathan Woodgate style. It really didn’t work out.
One of the final pre-Abu Dhabi takeover signings by Manchester City, Jo made approximately zero impact for the nouveau rich half of the city. £19 million was a hefty sum at the time and was also a club record for a few weeks before the arrival of Robinho.
He was sent on loan to Everton where he scored five goals in 12 appearances, but he proved absolutely useless for Manchester City. Remarkably he’d be one of Brazil’s two main strikers at the 2014 World Cup. Now he’s playing for Nagoya Grampus in Japan.
You might think that Fulham chucking money at undeserving players is a recent trend but the case of Steve Marlet shows that it is really not. £11.5 million was a hefty fee in 2001 when the Frenchman arrived at Craven Cottage. That’s more than Emile Heskey cost Liverpool the season before.
The strangest thing is that he wasn’t particularly great for Lyon or Auxerre before coming to London. Scoring just 11 goals across 3 seasons, he was a waste of space and money for the Cottagers. It just goes to show that spending big doesn’t guarantee you’re buying quality.
Arsenal fans will look back at Andre Santos and shudder. A former first-choice left-back for Brazil, which is one of the great mysteries of our time. The Gunners were in dire need of defensive reinforcement when they panicked and bought Santos after getting hammered 6-2 by Manchester United in 2011.
He’d just come off the back of two tough seasons in Turkey so why he was Arsenal’s go-to choice we have no idea. He’d famously annoy everybody by swapping shirts at half-time with former Arsenal idol Robin Van Persie at half-time during a game against Manchester United. Just not good enough for that level and he only made 23 appearances.
Gareth Bale left Tottenham Hotspurs for a world record fee and Spurs decided to chuck the money out the door. Roberto Soldado arrived from Valencia for £26 million, which made him the second most expensive player in their history after Eric Lamela. He’d been prolific in La Liga so a lot was expected from the Spanish international.
He didn’t deliver. Sometimes players just aren’t suited to the style of play in another team or another league. Soldado is a shining example of that. He only scored 7 goals in 2 seasons for Spurs after scoring 59 in 3 for Valencia. He’d be shipped out to Villareal in 2015, but his form never really recovered.
One of Leeds’s most shambolic signings was the Swedish forward Tomas Brolin. He arrived with an exciting reputation having starred for their golden generation that reached the semi-finals of both Euro ’92 and the 1994 World Cup. He also starred for that brilliant Parma side too.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t the same player by the time he arrived at Leeds. He was carrying a bit of timber around his waist that definitely didn’t help him. A shocking relationship with manager Howard Wilkinson and injuries prevented him from justifying his £4.5 million price tag.
One of the most promising and disappointing signings of all time, Juan Sebastian Veron had the reputation of a superstar and looked like one when he arrived at Manchester United in 2001. Signed for a club-record fee of £28 million, he had been magnificent for Parma and Lazio when Serie A was at its peak in the noughties.
While he showed flashes of brilliance he was never able to be consistent. Injuries didn’t help him and he was also played out of position which prevented him from showing his best form. He left for Chelsea with United taking a 50% loss on his transfer fee. He only played 15 times for the Blues before returning to Italy. A Premier League failure.
Diouf is on this list because he just disappointed Liverpool fans so much. Sure, he actually did score a few goals for the club but he was a terrible fit for them and left on the worst terms imaginable. He spat more times at fans than an angry camel, which gave both him and Liverpool a bad name.
Worse was the fact that Gerard Houllier decided to sign him and his Senegal teammate Salif Diao instead of Nicholas Anelka after the two impressed at the 2002 World Cup. It was a shocking error and a defining moment in the Frenchman’s reign at Anfield.
Xabi Alonso turned out to be one of the best midfielders in the world when he was at Liverpool. He moved back to Spain to Real Madrid for £35 million and Liverpool was left with a gaping hole in their midfield. Italian maestro Alberto Aquilani was the man identified to fill the gap.
The warning signs were there when he actually arrived injured. He arrived in the summer of 2009 but didn’t play until November because of injuries. That would be a trend of his short time at Anfield and he’d only make 18 appearances with a single goal. The former Roma star cost Liverpool £1 million per game.
You’d almost feel sorry for Angel Di Maria. He’s another player who was brilliant before arriving at Old Trafford. The flying Argentinian winger was man-of-the-match for Real Madrid in the Champion’s League before signing for Manchester United in 2014/15. They thought they were getting a superstar when he signed for a massive £60 million.
After a strong start, he faded rapidly. The Argentinian winger never looked interested in playing for the Red Devils and was arguably too lightweight for the physicality of the Premier League. His house being robbed didn’t help him settle at the club either and he was shifted onto PSG.
The definition of a panic buy, Andy Carroll was signed at the same time as Luis Suarez by Liverpool in 2011, but only one of them would be a success. After selling Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50 million, Carroll arrived at Anfield for a massive £35 million. The pressure was on him but it really didn’t work out for the Geordie.
He had a few great moments but scored just four goals in his only full season in Liverpool and was then shipped off to West Ham for a £20 million loss. You could argue that he was a bad signing for the Hammers too as injuries have prevented him from ever being consistent. Now he’s a free agent.
The Dutchman had a phenomenal name but not much else. A typical example of a striker who had torn up the Eredivise but then turned out to be useless in the Premier League. To be fair he had also looked good for Sporting Lisbon before arriving at Norwich where he’d totally fail to fire.
He just wasn’t physical enough for the side. Sure, he was tidy on the ball but it was goals they signed him for and they didn’t even get one from the Wolf. A dismal signing for sure.
Despite arriving on Tyneside with a glowing reputation, Jean-Alain Boumsong was very poor for Newcastle United when he arrived in 2005. He had been a top player with his previous clubs and was excellent for Auxerre who had been impressive in the Champion’s League.
His first season at St. James’s Park wasn’t as appalling as some fans might think. But his second was absolutely dire with multiple calamities leading to opponents scoring goals. Remarkably after 47 games for the club, he’d move on to Serie B Juventus, who had just been relegated.
Another gem of a signing by Harry Redknapp, Marco Boogers turned out to be exactly like his surname. West Ham fans wish they could have flushed him down the toilet because that’s what the club basically did with the money they used to sign and pay him with.
4 appearances for the club included a highlight reel moment where he smashed Gary Neville with a thigh-high tackle on his debut. Even better is the fact that Redknapp had never seen him play before spending a cool million on the Dutchman.
The only thing worse than Benjani playing for Manchester City was that he turned out to have been an illegal signing. The Sky Blues were actually fined because they had breached transfer rules when they brought the Zimbabwean in from Portsmouth where he’d become a cult hero.
4 goals in 23 games sum up Benjani’s record for the Citizens. Always injured and reliably inconsistent, his signing was totally pointless. He’s definitely one of the worst signings in their history and a reason why Mark Hughes wasn’t trusted by the new Abu Dhabi board when they took over.
A member of arguably the worst team to grace the Premier League, Claude Davis just was not at the level required to carve out a career in the Premier League. Derby County was in dire straits after getting promoted to the Premier League and Davis was brought in to shore up their defense.
He earned the nickname ‘Calamity Claude’ because he was so useless for the club and played just 19 times for the Rams. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Derby would finish the season with a record low of 11 points. Shocking.
What makes Eric Djemba-Djemba’s record for Manchester United worse is that he was earmarked as a replacement for one of their most iconic ever players and captains in Roy Keane. The Cameroon international arrived in 2003 and did absolutely nothing to justify signing for the club.
He still managed to last 18 months there – somehow – but he’s recognized as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s worse buys for the club. Djemba-Djemba – so good they named him twice – was also called atrocious by Arsene Wenger. Well, at least he can say that.
Ukraine’s greatest ever player arrived at Stamford Bridge two years too late. Roman Abramovich desperately wanted the 2004 Ballon D’or winner and finally got him in 2006. But he was a shadow of the player he was in his prime for AC Milan and it was definitely £30 million that went down the drain.
While he scored on his debut he just wasn’t the same footballer he was at the San Siro. The man who had scored 170 goals in seven years at Milan scored just four in two seasons for Chelsea. It’s one of the saddest stories in football because the man was a genius when he was at his best.
Italian footballers are renowned for languid elegance and that’s what Andrea Silenzi was supposed to bring to Nottingham Forest. Instead, they got one of the worst strikers that the Premier League has ever seen. He had the touch of Midas. He signed from Torino in 1995 and turned out to be a shambles.
He scored two goals in just a handful of appearances for Forest and then got shipped out on loan to Venezia back in his home country. When they tried to bring him back he just point blank refused.
One of the strangest transfers in football history. Bebe had starred at the Homeless World Cup – yes that is a thing – and was signed for about £7 million in 2008. While it sounds like an amazing story, it turned out to be anything but a fairytale at Old Trafford for the Portuguese. Sir. Alex Ferguson had never even seen him play.
He made just seven appearances for the Red Devils in his first season. He had no finesse or power and would be shipped out on loan for the coming seasons before going back permanently to Portugal. Why they signed him, nobody knows.
One of the most hated players in Chelsea’s history, there is a very justifiable reason why. Bogarde spent four-and-a-half years at Stamford Bridge but most of those were behind closed doors. He had previously won the Champion’s League with Ajax and played for Barcelona. Claudio Ranieri didn’t want him at Chelsea and tried to get rid of him.
Bogarde refused to budge. He had signed a contract of €15 million over four years and didn’t think he’d get the same salary anywhere else. So he was quite happy to just train and never play as the clock ticked down. He stuck around and took every penny he was owed. The definition of a football mercenary. But can you blame him?
A former Croatian international, Balaban was a high profile signing for Aston Villa when he arrived for a then-substantial fee of about £6 million back in 2001. While it may seem like pocket change now, it was actually a solid fee back then.
He was absolutely awful. Earning £20,000 a week, the striker never started a game for the Villains and never scored either. After spending the next season on loan back in his native Croatia, he was eventually released. An absolute shambles of a signing. Now he’s a cult figure because he was so terrible.
Just because somebody is an international player doesn’t mean they’re good. Especially if that country is somewhere like Latvia. Beautiful country but they’re hardly footballing giants. Igor Stepanovs arrived from Skonto Riga – nope us neither – as a replacement for the injured Tony Adams at Arsenal in 2000.
Yes, Tony Adams, one of the greatest defenders in Premier League history. Stepanovs was just not the man to replace him. An atrocious performance in a 6-1 loss to Manchester United sums up how inept he really was. It’s not his fault he was brought in though, so we can’t be too harsh on the player. But what was the Arsenal board thinking?
There was a time when Radamel Falcao was the best striker in the world. He was devastating for Atletico Madrid and Colombia. However, a terrible injury ruled him out of the World Cup in Brazil and he’s never properly recovered from it. So it was a massive gamble when Manchester United brought him in just seven months after that knee ligament injury.
He just couldn’t deal with it. A compromised South American footballer who’d never played in the league before, it was a terrible bit of business by United. 4 goals in 26 appearances says it all. Then Chelsea would repeat the same mistake, bringing him in on loan the following season where he’d score a single goal in ten games for the Blues.
Can you believe he’s still just 29? It feels like Jozy Altidore has been around forever. One of the MSL’s best-known players, he’s also led the line for the United States for a number of years now. However, his career in England is defined by an ill-fated spell with Sunderland.
First of all, we’re not sure who we should blame more here: Altidore or Sunderland. The American just wasn’t the right fit for the club and managed to turn being ponderous into an art form. Three goals in 52 appearances, with just one in the league, shows why he’s rated one of the worst strikers in the history of the league. Oh, and he came from the Eredivisie…
There are some wonderful theories around Milton Nunez and why he signed for Sunderland. The Honduran international played for a crazy 19 clubs across a long career and managed over 80 caps for his country. But he definitely wasn’t Premier League quality. He signed for Sunderland for £1.6 million and managed a single appearance in 1999.
The popular rumor is that Sunderland’s manager Peter Reid had meant to sign Nunez’s PAOK teammate Adolfo Valencia but brought in Nunez by mistake. Anyway, he turned out to be absolute trash. Just because he has an exotic name doesn’t mean that he’s a good player.
One of Roy Hodgson’s first signings for Liverpool was Paul Konchesky. Liverpool had had issues for years with the left-back position. Fabio Aurelio was very talented but also incredibly injury prone. Konchesky was one of the mainstays of Hodgson’s Fulham and signed for £4 million.
Not a lot of money really, which is the only good thing about his transfer because it was a total failure. He played 15 times for the club and would be sarcastically applauded when he was subbed off on his final appearance against Wolves. Not good enough for the Reds. His mother also feuded with the fanbase making him even more hated.
Who? That is a fair question to ask. He arrived at West Ham in 2009 for a club-record fee of £9 million. That’s a lot of money for a practically unknown Ugandan striker. The 20-year-old arrived from Brescia and we really don’t know why. They probably wish they could forget about him because he was an unmitigated disaster.
10 appearances with no goals sum up his lack of influence at Upton Park. He failed to settle and would leave a few months later. He’d move to Fiorentina and never play for La Viola but would be farmed out on loan to six clubs. Now 29, he’s a youth coach at Armin Munchen in Germany.
It’s a footballing fact that very few forwards signed from the Dutch league turn out to be a success. Afonso Alves is a shining example of that. The Brazilian tore up the Eredivisie for Heerenveen. When Middlesbrough signed him for a club-record fee of £12.5 million they thought they were getting the second coming of Ronaldo. They really didn’t.
He was a disaster for them and played only one full season before moving on to Al-Sadd in Qatar. It was almost made worse by the 25-yard goal he scored on his debut. Four league goals were an atrocious return for the money spent to bring him to the Riverside.
One of Manchester United’s most notorious signings, Taibi is infamous for epic blunders during a shot spell at Old Trafford. Nicknamed ‘The Blind Venetian’ for a reason, his form for the club was truly awful and he remains a source of embarrassment for Man U Fans. He arrived for a substantial fee of £4.5 million but would be shipped back to Italy after having just made four appearances for the Red Devils.
Taibi did overcome a mistake against Liverpool on his debut to put in a man-of-the-match performance. Mistakes were in his nature though as he blundered against Southampton in a damaging draw and then was hapless in a 5-0 defeat to Chelsea.
When you’re signed as cover for a man nicknamed ‘God’ you’d expect to be under a lot of pressure when you play. One thing that we can say about Sean Dundee is that he definitely didn’t feel that pressure. He just didn’t care at all and that was the story of his brief Liverpool career.
He arrived in 1998 for £2 million and Roy Evans instantly regretted it. The South Africa striker was solid in the Bundesliga but had the pace of a tortoise with arthritis. He only played five times for the Scouser and would fail to score a single goal.
Possibly the worst ‘player’ to ever grace a Premier League football pitch, the story of Ali Dia is a beautiful one. Graeme Souness was the manager of Southampton in 1996 when he was basically tricked into thinking that Ali Dia was the cousin of George Weah, the first African Ballon d’Or winner. A person pretending to be Weah recommended Dia to the club and they duly signed him.
Souness then put him in the squad against Leeds without ever having seen him play. What happened next is carved into Premier League infamy. He made a five-minute cameo for the Saints and was released soon after. The only thing we can say is that at least he didn’t cost them a lot of money.