10) Chris Samba (QPR – £12.5m, 2013)
Samba would be a lot higher on this list had QPR not somehow managed to persuade Anzhi Makhachkala to pay £12m to re-sign the central defender six months after they had somehow persuaded QPR to pay £12.5m for him. Funny how both of those clubs ended up in financial clusterf*ck, isn’t it?
Harry Redknapp signed Samba, called him “a monster” and talked up his ability to keep QPR solid defensively and thus move the club away from relegation trouble. He played ten matches in which QPR conceded 19 times, failed to keep a clean sheet after his debut and apologised to supporters for his performance in a 3-2 defeat to Fulham. QPR were relegated and Samba was off. Sterling work.
9) Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham – £13m, 2014)
I remain convinced that Mitroglou is decent striker, but there is no doubt that the Premier League did not see his best. A player known as ‘Mitrogoals’ for his scoring record would have been better renamed as ‘MitroOhYeahThatStrikerTheySignedWhatHappenedToHim’ in England.
Having scored 41 times in 92 league games for an Olympiakos team that walked the Greek league, Fulham spent £13m – a club record fee – to bring Mitroglou to England and save them from relegation. He would start one league game between his arrival and Fulham’s relegation in May, playing 151 minutes in total.
By August, Mitroglou had gone back on loan to Olympiakos and the next month scored the winner against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League. The following night, Fulham lost 5-3 away at Nottingham Forest. Supporters must have wondered what on earth had happened.
8) Oumar Niasse (Everton – £13.5m, 2016)
Some players become Football365 favourites because they are wonderful footballers, some because they are handsome kings amongst men and others because we just feel a bit sorry for them. Sorry Oumar, but you’re in the third team.
It was the interview that did it. In October 2016, Niasse told the Guardian about being frozen out of the first-team picture at Everton. “I’m in the dressing-room with the under-23s but I don’t have a locker,” Niasse said. “The other players have where they put their stuff but I don’t. I come with my bag and I just have a place I know. I put my bag down, I train and after, I put everything in my car and go home.”
Breaks your bloody heart. Niasse has had a resurgence since then, but Everton did spend £13.5m on a striker who has still not played 800 minutes for the club in the Premier League.
7) Jean Makoun (Aston Villa – £6m, 2011)
Just as you can’t write a list of shonky transfers without including QPR and West Ham, Aston Villa also have to feature. Makoun arrived from Lyon as a highly-rated midfielder. He was aged 27 and had played 36 times in the Champions League in the previous six seasons. He had started victories over Real Madrid, Liverpool, Manchester United and Milan in that competition, for goodness sake.
“He is an experienced player. He is a proper link between the midfield and the strikers,” manager Gerard Houllier said. “He has played in the Champions League. He’ll be a good asset for the future.”
Makoun looked sloppy on his debut, got a straight card for a dreadful tackle a fortnight later and played only five times in the league before the end of the season. He never played for Villa again, and yet only left on a permanent deal in July 2013.
6) Vegard Forren (Southampton – £4.2m, 2013)
Those Forrens, coming over here. Technically true in the case of Vegard Forren, but he did not take anybody’s job. In fact, this is probably the most amusing of the lot.
Forren was signed by Southampton when Nigel Adkins was manager, but only just. Adkins was actually sacked by Southampton on the same day, and incoming Mauricio Pochettino wasn’t impressed by his new signing. The Norwegian failed to play a single first-team game despite signing for £4.2m, returning to former club Molde that same year.
Forren then did exactly the same trick again. He signed for Brighton in March 2017, failed to make a single appearance for the club and then returned to Molde (again) in the same year (again). Amazingly, Aston Villa apparently wanted him.
5) Afonso Alves (Middlesbrough – £12.7m, 2008)
Ah Afonso, the striker held up as an example of why you should beware when buying strikers from the Eredivisie. The Brazilian would have made the top three had Middlesbrough not somehow persuaded Qatar’s Al-Sadd to part with £7m for him.
Quiz question: Has any player scored as few Premier League goals as Alves (10) and still got a hat-trick? I’m going for no, having checked out both Kevin Lisbie and Jermaine Pennant. Alves managed his in that baffling 8-1 final-day victory over Manchester City, but he also scored two of his 13 goals for Boro against non-league Barrow in the FA Cup. Again, what on earth were Al-Sadd playing at?
4) Fernando Torres (Chelsea – £50m, 2011)
Ah yes, cheeky Nando. The biggest crime of Chelsea’s ludicrous £50m purchase was that Torres was already on his way down when signed. Having scored 18 goals in 22 games during an injury-affected 2009/10, Torres had managed only nine in 23 games before the end of the January transfer window and looked generally disillusioned.
Forty-five goals in 172 matches for Chelsea was not an appalling record, although clearly far below the expectation of a British record transfer purchase. In fact, the only saving grace is that Torres scored important goals and contributed important assists to Chelsea’s triumphs in the Champions League and Europa League. Still, we remember the misses most.
3) Jean-Alain Boumsong (Newcastle – £8m, 2005)
It’s a pretty spectacular example of Newcastle-style long-term planning. In the summer of 2004, Boumsong was available on a free transfer and eventually joined Rangers. Four months later, Newcastle paid £8m to sign a central defender that nobody else was in for and who Newcastle had shown no interest in signing on a free. Even if Boumsong had been useful as a defender, it would have been a cock-up. He wasn’t.
In fact, the transfer was one of the deals raised by the Stevens Inquiry as being potentially suspect, with inconsistencies between the evidence given by manager Graeme Souness and Freddy Shepherd. The inquiry eventually decided that neither party, nor football agent Willie McKay, had a case to answer, I’m being told in my ear to say.
2) Andy Carroll (Liverpool – £35m, 2011)
If you didn’t want Andy Carroll to sign for Chelsea for £20m in this transfer window, then you are either a) a Chelsea supporter or b) someone who doesn’t believe in fun. Unfortunately, any hopes of a deal based purely on banter has been scuppered by yet another injury. Ashley Barnes will have to do.
Still, we will always have the Liverpool deal. In 40 years, men will gather their grandchildren around a roaring fire (probably lit by robots or something) and tell them the old story of the inexperienced giant who became the record transfer of one of the grandest clubs in the land.
Luis Suarez, signed earlier the same day, thought he had arrived in England to play with Torres. Instead he was forced to lead Liverpool’s attack himself while Carroll stumbled and bumbled his way to six goals in 44 league games before being sold for less than half the initial fee.
1) Savio Nzereko (West Ham – £9m, 2009)
Just a very sad story. Having sold Craig Bellamy to Manchester City for £14m, West Ham reinvested most of the proceeds in Savio, a German striker from Serie B Brescia. Nzereko had scored three career league goals, all in the second tier.
Savio played ten league games for West Ham but only ever started one match and never scored. Not only was his shooting awry, but his physical presence was that of a dormouse. West Ham sold him to Fiorentina for just £3m less than seven months after signing him, taking a £1m loss per month on the initial outlay.
From then on, Savio declined rapidly. He moved through lower-league clubs in Germany and Italy before moving through Kazakhstan, Bulgaria and Lithuania. There was also an arrest for faking his own kidnapping in Thailand, and reports of mental health issues along the way.
“I made a lot of mistakes. In fact, I did everything wrong that I could,” he told Bild in 2013, but five years later at the age of 28, his career is still not back on track. After all the promise of his youth career at 1860 Munich, only sadness and regret remain.