After looking at every Premier League club’s greatest ever January signing, let’s check out their worst.
ARSENAL – Kaba Diawara
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer might see Dennis Bergkamp’s FA Cup semi-final penalty miss as the point Arsenal’s Double became Manchester United’s Treble in 1999, but the sliding doors moment arguably came even later.
The two sides were separated by goal difference heading into the final two games of the Premier League season, and both faced difficult fixtures. United had to travel to Blackburn and host Tottenham, while Arsenal visited Leeds and took on Aston Villa at Highbury.
Arsenal blinked first. They were beaten 1-0 by Leeds 24 hours before United drew 0-0 at Ewood Park, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink netting the goal that effectively crowned United champions.
But the game will always be remembered for the inexplicable profligacy of crossbar challenge champion Kaba Diawara, who was thwarted by woodwork and Nigel Marytn about four times in a 19-minute substitute cameo.
The striker had joined that January for £2.5m, and was billed by Arsene Wenger as the next Nicolas Anelka. Fifteen games, no goals and 123 days after moving to north London, he was loaned back out to France and never played for the Gunners again.
On this day 1999 #Arsenal signed Kaba Diawara from Bordeaux. Goalposts and crossbars up & down the country were in for a hell of a hammering
— Andy Kelly (@Gooner_AK) January 29, 2016
ASTON VILLA – Jean Makoun
“He has played in the Champions League. He’ll be a good asset for the future,” said Gerard Houllier when he paid a not-inconsiderable £6.2m for his old Lyon man Jean Makoun in 2011. He was not a good asset for the future. A month later he was sent off for a lunge on Blackpool’s DJ Campbell and things never really got any better, with the Cameroonian eventually playing just eight league games for Villa before leaving for Olympiakos on loan and then Rennes on a permanent deal after new Villa manager Paul Lambert said he “had not got a clue what he (Makoun) looks like”.
BOURNEMOUTH – Lewis Grabban
Eddie Howe reacted to his first January transfer window as a Premier League manager with all the restraint of Neil Custis in an argument with Jim White. That Josh King ended their first top-flight season as top scorer with seven goals suggests they needed a striker, but Juan Iturbe, Benik Afobe and Lewis Grabban for a combined £18m is rarely ever the answer.
Iturbe was a loan, and Afobe was vaguely understandable, the Premier League virgin having impressed with Championship Wolves. But the deal for Grabban was just bizarre. Bournemouth signed the forward for £300,000 in 2012, sold him for £3m in 2014, then watched him score one goal in six top-flight games for Norwich before deciding to part with £8m to bring him back. He scored one goal in 22 appearances for the Cherries before finally leaving again in 2018.
BRIGHTON – Jonny Dixon
“The joke was always that I was the least footballery footballer they knew,” said Spanish-born, gospel choir-managing, clothes-selling, screenwriting, music management company-owning, Holly Valance-dating Jonny Dixon to Football365. Brighton signed the forward for £55,000 in January 2008, but Dean Wilkins never gave him enough of a chance. Dixon made just five league appearances for the Seagulls before retiring 18 months later at the age of 25 to concentrate on his numerous business ventures. The TV and film producer and director counts Come Dine With Me among his numerous credits; you could hardly say he made a mistake in hanging up his boots.
BURNLEY – Leon Cort
Pipping fellow January 2010 arrival Frederic Nimani to the post by virtue of signing for actual, real-life currency, Leon Cort was not quite the £1.5m saviour Burnley needed him to be. Brian Laws had been thrust into the managerial hotseat following Owen Coyle’s departure for Barclays Premier League rivals Bolton, and decided that a defence of Andre Bikey, Clarke Carlisle, Tyrone Mears and Stephan Jordan was not sufficient to prolong their first season in the top flight since 1976. So Cort was slotted straight into the starting line-up, with the Clarets winning just two of his 15 games, conceding 36 goals and not keeping a single clean sheet.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s half-brother signed a three-and-a-half-year deal at Turf Moor, but was gone within two after a couple of loan spells. He remains popular as ever in Lancashire.
In 2017, FourFourTwo asked fans of every league club in England to vote for their worst ever player. Cort’s entry, for Burnley, is worth a re-airing: “Lacking mobility to the extent of looking like Bambi’s slow cousin on ice.” pic.twitter.com/ZNpIGcUspk
— FourFourTwo (@FourFourTwo) February 15, 2018
CHELSEA – Juan Cuadrado
Fernando Torres is the obvious answer, and while his transfer fee was more than twice that of Juan Cuadrado, his impact was three or four times more telling than the Colombian’s. Torres can at least claim to have played a huge part in the club’s Champions and Europa League wins; Cuadrado started four Premier League games and assisted one goal in their run to the title after arriving in January 2015. He was loaned out to Juventus that summer, then again in August 2016, and left Stamford Bridge to make his Turin move permanent in May 2017.
CRYSTAL PALACE – Valerien Ismael
It took until the 2013 arrival of Dwight Gayle for Crystal Palace to finally and completely exorcise the lingering ghost of Valerien Ismael. The defender was the club’s record signing for 15 years after joining from Strasbourg for £2.75m in an ill-fated attempt from Steve Coppell to maintain their Premier League status. The Frenchman played 13 games, left for less than £2.75m after nine months and was playing for Bayern Munich within seven years.
EVERTON – Cenk Tosun
Then-manager Sam Allardyce (still seems odd) described him as “the best in Europe” at the price of £27m. We don’t think that’s true and it’s fair to see that he would be top of any list of players Carlo Ancelotti would like to expunge from Merseyside. The Turk has scored just nine goals from 41 Premier League games, which is a pretty rotten return for that kind of money. At least Shani Tarashaj (signed four years ago and yet to actually play for Everton) only cost relative pennies.
LEICESTER – Andrej Kramaric
After being mistakenly invited before turning up late and to the wrong address with no gift, Andrej Kramaric still let it be known that he was “glad to be part of” the Leicester title party. Riyad Mahrez claimed the individual awards, Jamie Vardy scored the goals, N’Golo Kante ran the miles, Marc Albrighton won the hearts and Wes Morgan lifted the trophy, but Kramaric’s no goals or assists in 22 Premier League minutes before being loaned back to the Bundesliga will be fondly remembered at the King Power Stadium for generations.
The forward was a club-record signing in January 2015 with Leicester battling against relegation. He scored two goals in 13 games, one in a defeat and another on the final day when safety was already secured. And now he is actually tearing it up at Hoffenheim.
LIVERPOOL – Andy Carroll
There can only be one. No laptop guru worth his charger would possibly have sanctioned a £35m move for a 22-year-old striker with 14 top-flight career goals, yet Liverpool were panicked into such a move in January 2011. With Fernando Torres headed to Chelsea, a replacement had to be sourced. Newcastle were so stunned that Carroll was the chosen one that they rejected an initial £30m bid. Liverpool somehow came back with an extra £5m to get their man.
Carroll became the eighth most expensive footballer – and most expensive British player – ever. He did not make his debut until March, did not score his first goal until April, netted just 11 times in 58 games overall, and was sold for just £15m in 2013. At least Steven Caulker was a loan.
MANCHESTER CITY – Wilfried Bony
Before Harry Kane officially made it A Thing, Wilfried Bony was busy scribbling ‘top Premier League scorer in a single calendar year with 20 goals in 2014’ under the achievements section of his CV. And it bloody well worked, as Manchester City were so impressed with the Swansea forward’s productivity that they parted with £25m to sign him and ostracise Edin Dzeko. Ten games in 46 games hardly convinced the newly appointed Pep Guardiola that he could lead the line.
MANCHESTER UNITED – Alexis Sanchez
Remember when Manchester United fans were giddy about this one? Remember when swapping lazy Henrikh Mkhitaryan for street-fighter Alexis Sanchez was seen as a phenomenal deal? Remember the piano and the glee? Two years later, United are still paying the price – literally and figuratively – for offering the Chilean £400,000 a week to choose them over Manchester City. It has been a disaster and the tremors will be felt at Old Trafford for years to come.
NEWCASTLE – Jean-Alain Boumsong
A transfer so inexplicable that it formed a key part of the Stevens inquiry into football corruption, Newcastle exceeded even themselves in January 2005. Jean-Alain Boumsong had been available as a free agent just six months before Graeme Souness signed him from Rangers for £8m on a five-and-a-half-year contract.
“The supporters will enjoy watching him play,” said the Scot. “He is potentially a top man in our football team. I think he expects to be up there with the likes of Terry and Ferdinand.”
Wogan and Anton, presumably.
Struggling to care about Gary Lineker getting £150k a year when Newcastle once paid £8.5m for Jean-Alain Boumsong.
— Jonny Sharples (@JonnyGabriel) July 19, 2017
NORWICH CITY – Steven Naismith
It looked like an incredibly canny £8m signing when the struggling Canaries gave Everton £8m for professional Scot Naismith. It looked even better when he scored on his debut against Liverpool. Happy days. “He’s a proven performer at Premier League level and an established international with Scotland so arrives with excellent pedigree,” said fellow Scot Alex Neil. He would not score another goal for Norwich as they were relegated, and fared little better in the Championship. Five goals in 31 second-flight games later, he was on his way to Hearts on loan. The problem? Norwich were still paying the lion’s share of his £50,000-per-week wages until the summer of 2019. Ouch.
SHEFFIELD UNITED – Geoff Horsfield
Strictly speaking, Horsfield was a February signing but he was so terrible that the story bears repetition. He was signed on loan by Neil Warnock from West Brom in 2006 and it went so catastrophically that both parties wanted to terminate the loan. ”Warnock wants to get rid of me,” said Horsfield. ”He told me that he cannot see me getting into the team now or next season. Then he told me he didn’t want me near his club and to train at home.” But the Baggies saw an opportunity to rid themselves of the agricultural striker and insisted that the Blades had an obligation to buy at the end of the season for £1.2m. He would never play for the Blades again and would score a massive four goals over three loan spells with Leeds, Leicester and Scunthorpe before finally being released in 2009. Ouch.
SOUTHAMPTON – Guido Carrillo
Like a firefighter arriving at the scene armed with a water pistol, Guido Carrillo was the absolute last thing Southampton’s doctor ordered. The striker started more games (5) than he had shots on target (4) in the Premier League, offering about as much to the club’s successful battle against relegation as Mark Hughes. He is currently scoring no goals at all for Leganes on loan. A reminder: He cost £20m.
TOTTENHAM – Ricardo Rocha
The story of Tottenham’s 2006/07 season should be part of the national curriculum. From finishing fifth in the Premier League to reaching two quarter-finals and one semi-final, there was also a Paul Robinson goal, only the fifth ever shared Player of the Month award, and Edgar Davids playing alongside Andy Barcham and Dorian Dervite in a League Cup round-of-16 tie.
Just to cement its legacy, Ricardo Rocha joined for £3.2m plus two friendlies between Tottenham and Benfica, with the Portuguese club keeping all the gate receipts. John’s brother would start just 16 games across three seasons.
WATFORD – Will Hoskins
It takes a pretty solid effort for a striker to score his first goal for his new club 19 months after joining. Will Hoskins was one of numerous last-ditch attempts made by Aidy Boothroyd to inspire the Hornets to Premier League safety in January 2007, with Moses Ashikodi, Lee Williamson, Steve Kabba, Gareth Williams, Johan Cavalli, Cedric Avinel and Douglas Rinaldi all failing to rescue a sinking ship. But it was Hoskins who arrived with perhaps the biggest reputation from Rotherham. The forward was loaned out twice in his first 12 months after signing, scoring seven goals in 60 league games for Watford before leaving in 2010. Kings Langley, to save you the Google.
WEST HAM – Savio Nsereko
The worst January Premier League transfer of all. Savio has faked more of his own kidnappings than he has scored goals in England, despite reigning as West Ham’s club-record signing for four and a half years. The Hammers thought they had stolen a march on the rest of Europe when they brought the forward in for £9m, Savio having been named in the 2008 Under-19 Euros Team of the Tournament. Yet there was barely a hint of shock when a player who had scored three career goals in 22 games for Serie B side Brescia was lost in the crowd. After making just one Premier League start, he was sold to Fiorentina for £3m after six months.
WOLVES – Eggert Jonsson
Signed by Mick McCarthy and forgotten by Terry Connor in the Premier League, Eggert Jonsson actually managed to outlast not only his first two Wolves managers, but also Stale Solbakken and Dean ‘The Scout’ Saunders in the Championship. The midfielder played just seven times before being released from a contract that had two years remaining in 2013.
Matt Stead and Sarah Winterburn