Five rubbish transfer alternatives: Owen, Balotelli, Zaza

Date published: Tuesday 14th November 2017 12:41

Liverpool signing Mario Balotelli after missing out on Alexis Sanchez
“We felt like Luis Suarez was going to move on and we needed to get a world-class operator to go like-for-like,” said Brendan Rodgers when discussing his Liverpool regrets. “And we deemed Sanchez to be that one.”

The then-Barca attacker would have made a decent fist of filling Suarez’s boots but he chose Arsenal instead. So the brains trust at Liverpool identified Balotelli as a suitable alternative.

“I think we have done a really smart piece of business here. This transfer represents outstanding value for the club,” said Rodgers at the time, because he had to. After one Premier League goal, Balotelli was shipped out at the earliest possible opportunity, yet Rodgers tried to remain diplomatic: “It didn’t quite work for us and it cost us.”

We don’t have to sugarcoat it, though. Signing Balotelli was a sodding disaster.

 

West Ham chasing a marquee striker before borrowing Calleri and Zaza
The West Ham owners were full of it upon their move into the Olympic Stadium last year. Davids Gold and Sullivan wanted a marquee striker to join them at their new home and they spent most of the summer trawling through Europe trying to find one willing to make the move.

“We have a list of strikers all over Europe and most of our money will go into signing a striker,” Sullivan broadcasted to everyone, immediately weakening their bargaining position. “I’d love Zlatan Ibrahimovic from PSG,” he admitted in spring before Ibra agreed to join Man Utd, while subsequent offers for Michy Batshuayi and Alexandre Lacazette were rebuffed.

Carlos Bacca didn’t fancy it and when summer recruit Andre Ayew sustained a long-term injury at the start of the season, the Hammers grew desperate towards the end of the window. Jonathan Calleri was brought in on loan from Deportivo Maldonado before they paid £5million to borrow Simone Zaza from Juventus. Between them, they managed a grand total of one goal in nine Premier League starts.

 

Man Utd courting top-class midfielders before overpaying for Fellaini
The Hammers obviously didn’t learn anything from Manchester United’s disastrous spell under David Moyes. They could’ve looked at United’s summer of 2013 and learned that when it comes to transfer business, it’s best to keep shtum until recruits are signed, sealed and delivered.

Moyes and Ed Woodward spent the summer chasing Toni Kroos, Thiago Alcantara and Cesc Fabregas but the manager and vice chairman were eventually and inevitably custard-pied by all three.

With time running out on deadline day, Everton rinsed United of £27million for Fellaini and Moyes has subsequently admitted the club were desperate.

“The last thing I wanted to do was sign Fellaini. I knew, coming from my old club, the look of him was never going to be right for United,” he told 5Live.

“I’ve got to say, we looked at Nemanja Matic as well… But we didn’t get a lot of the things we hoped for, and in the end we only got Marouane on deadline day otherwise we would have had no signings at all that summer.”

 

Ferguson signing Owen after being snubbed by Benzema
The summer of 2009 is another not remembered fondly by United fans. The Red Devils sold Cristiano Ronaldo to Real Madrid for £80million, recruiting Antonio Valencia, Michael Owen, Gabriel Obertan and Mame Biram Diouf with the windfall.

Valencia, as it turned out, was an astute move, but more by luck than good judgement. No-one at the time foresaw that the former Wigan winger would develop into one of the game’s best right-backs. The other recruits were, to put it mildly, disappointing.

Owen was particularly underwhelming for United fans given his history with Liverpool and injuries. The centre-forward, who isn’t remembered particularly fondly anywhere, revealed he was only signed because Karim Benzema chose to follow Ronaldo to Real, rather than move to Old Trafford and be fed by Obertan.

Owen at least managed a last-minute winner against Manchester City as part of the five Premier League goals he scored in three seasons, during which he made a total of six league starts.

 

When the Bale money was spluffed on the Spurs seven
Similarly to United’s re-investment of their Ronaldo money, Spurs went on a spree after selling Gareth Bale to Real Madrid and only their final signing of seven saved the recruitment splurge from being an absolute disaster.

Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Nacer Chadli have all been and gone with only Chadli being anything close to useful. Erik Lamela, who was seen as the most natural replacement for Bale, also arrived for a club-record fee but endured a catastrophic debut season in the Premier League before eventually settling into some form. The Argentine, however, has sat out for the past year with a hip injury.

So, thank the Lord for Christian Eriksen. The playmaker has scored 46 goals and created 60 in four-and-a-bit seasons, with Mauricio Pochettino now having built his team around the Dane.

 

Ian Watson

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