One per club: New Leeds entry in worst signings of the Premier League era

Ian Watson
Chelsea midfielder Danny Drinkwater, Leeds striker Jean-Kevin Augustin, and Liverpool forward El-Hadji Diouf all flopped in the Premier League.

Prompted by Leeds being made to fork out £40million for a striker who played three games and scored no goals, we’ve taken a look at the worst signing for each club in the Premier League era…


ARSENAL – Shkodran Mustafi
Arsenal made the £35million defender Germany’s most expensive centre-back in 2016, despite Mustafi’s name never featuring among the scouting department’s list of recommendations. According to The Athletic, the Gunners were blinded by stats – Lucas Perez’s too – and the pair signed for a combined £52.1million on the same day in 2016, 24 hours before they sold Serge Gnabry for £5million. Mustafi then become one of the poster boys for Arsenal’s decline. According to the defender, his wife told him: “If you were that bad, you would never have been a world champion – or signed for Arsenal.” Well, Mrs Mustafi: Stephane Guivarc’h, Kleberson, Bernard Diomede, Roque Junior. And also, Arsenal have form for signing all sorts of sh*te.

ASTON VILLA – Bosko Balaban
“He’ll be a star in the Premiership,” said deadly Croatian hitman Davor Suker of Balaban, proving that it doesn’t always take one to know one. Balaban cost Villa £6million in 2001, for which they got no goals in nine appearances – seven as a sub – before he was released for nothing a couple of years later. His form at Club Brugge – 53 goals in 114 appearances – suggested there was a striker in there somewhere. Just not in the Midlands.


The Cherries celebrated staying in the Premier League in 2016 by spending a club-record £15million on the young Liverpool winger. The path between Anfield and Dean Court was well-trodden back then, with Bournemouth paying big fees also for Dominic Solanke and Brad Smith. Solanke finally came good but Ibe didn’t. He contributed five goals in four years while struggling to keep his nose clean off the pitch. Even after he left, Ibe is a problem for Bournemouth, with the winger having taken the Cherries to court over unpaid image rights.


BRENTFORD – no one
Brentford, all smug and excellently run, are a nightmare for snarky pieces like this. Have any of their Premier League signings flopped hard enough to be included here? Probably not, no. B*stards.


BRIGHTON – Jurgen Locadia
The Seagulls broke their transfer record to land Locadia from PSV in a £15million deal in January 2018. The Dutch forward had bagged nine goals in 15 games during the first half of the 2017/18 season but he managed only three in 34 Premier League games before being loaned out to Hoffenheim then FC Cincinnati. Locadia returned briefly and to no effect whatsoever, before being cut loose and allowed to join Bochum for free. He’s just joined Cangzou Might Lions in China.


CHELSEA – Danny Drinkwater
Until recently, Kepa Arrizabalaga would have been a shoo-in. But he has enjoyed a revival this season, performing well, even if he has convinced no one that he is the best long-term option. Frank Lampard certainly didn’t fancy him. But none of Drinkwater’s manager’s rated the midfielder enough to play him after he signed from Leicester for £35million in 2017. He spent five years raking in £100,000 a week either not playing at Chelsea or making loan clubs wish they’d not played him either. He was released by the Blues last summer and no club has yet picked him up.


Thomas Brolin quit football to sell vacuum cleaners after flopping at Palace but he flopped even harder at Leeds and was clearly finished by the time Steve Coppell took a chance on the Swede. Coppell had rather higher hopes for Zohar, who joined Palace for £1.2million from Royal Antwerp in 1997. He made five forgettable appearances before his defining moment against Southampton on Boxing Day. Palace had yet to win at home that season – their away record had them in 14th place – and with the scores level at 1-1 in the dying moments, the Eagles were awarded a penalty. Zohar took the ball from Bruce Dyer, who had yet to miss from the spot that season, and hit the weakest penalty possibly ever seen at Selhurst Park straight at Paul Jones. Zohar was never seen in a Palace shirt again having been given time off over New Year to recover from his ordeal. During that time back in Israel, he turned out for Maccabi Haifa in a friendly with AC Milan – and missed another penalty.


EVERTON – Cenk Tosun
Dele Alli was a turkey but Everton will have to pay nowhere near the £40million that was reported due to the structure of the deal. They probably won’t pay anything at all unless Alli suddenly and unexpectedly gets his sh*t together. Unfortunately, the Tosun deal was structured rather more traditionally. Everton paid Besiktas £27million for the Turkey striker, who cost over £40million if we include his salary. That investment reaped 11 Premier League goals before Besiktas re-signed him for nothing upon the expiry of his contract.


FULHAM – Kostas Mitroglu
The Cottagers, clearly desperate and flustered on deadline day, opted to leave Antoine Griezmann at Real Sociedad and instead break their transfer record to sign Mitroglu for £12million from Olympiacos in January 2014. The Greek striker had scored 14 goals in 12 appearances during the first half of that season but that achievement was clearly an outlier for a striker who had managed double figures in a season only once before. Mitroglu, who was given a four-and-a-half-year contract, managed only one start and two substitute appearances for Fulham. He was returned to Olympiacos on loan for a season before earning the Cottagers half their money back when he joined Benfica in 2016 after another loan spell.

Read more: Messi to Arsenal, Maradona to Leeds, Cruyff to Leicester: A transfer near-miss for every Prem club

LEEDS – Jean-Kevin Augustin
Thomas Brolin was a shambles at Leeds after the former Sweden star arrived from Parma in a £4.5million deal in November 1995. The player argues that he was used in the wrong position, with Howard Wilkinson playing him as a winger. “I was going to run up and down the right like an idiot,” he told The Guardian in 2012. “That wasn’t for me so I decided… I was going to be piss-poor against Liverpool.” When Wilkinson left, after loan spells for Brolin at FC Zurich and Parma, things got even worse under George Graham. Brolin missed a flight back to Leeds for pre-season in the summer of 1997 because a bird flew into his windscreen on the way to the airport. The subsequent events led to Brolin no longer being allowed in to Elland Road for free to watch Leeds play – despite still being a Leeds player. He had his contract terminated in October 1997 though it was reported Leeds had to pay Brolin £140,000 to go. Which is a pittance compared to what Augustin cost. The striker joined Leeds from RB Leipzig in January 2020 on loan with the obligation to buy if they were promoted. Which they were, but Leeds tried to wriggle out of their commitments. The courts, though, have told Leeds to pay up. A sum of £15.5million was agreed with Leipzig, which the Court of Arbitration for Sport has now ruled that the Yorkshireman must pay the player £24.5million compensation, a figure that seems to represent a five-year contract worth £95,000 a week. For £40million, Leeds got three games out of Augustin and no goals.


LEICESTER – Ade Akinbiyi
Peter Taylor paid a club record £5million fee for Akinbiyi in 2000 when the Foxes needed a replacement for Emile Heskey and his first season wasn’t so bad; Akinbiyi netted nine Premier League goals in 37 appearances. But the goals really dried up the following season. He netted only twice and was booed by Leicester fans following a particularly catastrophic performance against Liverpool. Two seasons after arriving at Filbert Street, Akinbiyi was sold for less than half price to Crystal Palace, where he fared no better.


LIVERPOOL – El Hadji Diouf
“He has one of the worst strike rates of any forward in Liverpool history. He’s the only No.9 ever to go through a whole season without scoring, in fact he’s probably the only No.9 of any club to do that. He was always the last one to get picked in training.” That was Jamie Carragher’s view on Diouf, who arrived at Anfield for £10million from Lens in 2002. For that, Liverpool got three Premier League goals in two years and a mega-f*ck-tonne of grief.


MANCHESTER CITY – Eliaquim Mangala
Mangala was the most expensive defender in British football when City signed the centre-back from Porto in 2014. In his second game, he gave away a penalty and scored an own goal, which served as an early taste of what was to come. In four years at the Etihad, which included loan spells at Valencia and Everton, Mangala made 79 appearances before City sought to protect his value by extending his contract in 2019. They let him go for nothing five months later anyway.

It’s actually quite the achievement to out-stink Angel Di Maria, who seemed to hate life at United almost as much as his Mrs. At least the Red Devils recouped £44million from PSG for the Argentina forward. United pumped millions into Sanchez, who signed in a swap deal involving Henrikh Mkhitaryan with both players valued at £35million. But it was his salary that really squeezed United, who paid Sanchez in excess of half-a-million quid a week. In the end, they were delighted to give him £9million to forego the last two years of a four-and-a-half-year contract and give him to Inter Milan.

Arsenal's Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Alexis Sanchez compete for the ball

NEWCASTLE – Michael Owen
Joelinton was the previous Newcastle entry before Eddie Howe turned the Brazilian into an astonishingly-good midfielder. So we revert back to the previous record signing before Mike Ashley inexplicably paid £40million for a no.9 who was never a no.9 – wee Michael Owen. The England striker joined Newcastle from Real Madrid for £16million in 2005, when he was desperate to rejoin Liverpool, but the initial euphoria around the deal on Tyneside soon waned, to the extent that, according to former physio Paul Ferris, Owen protected his own prospects of a free transfer rather than help Newcastle avoid relegation. Toon went down in 2009 while Owen went to Manchester United for free after trousering more than £20million in wages.


Maybe one of Forest’s 427 signings this season might take the crown off Silenzi’s bonce, with the first Italian to play in the Premier League proving to be a dreadful purchase in 1995. He joined from Torino for £1.8million having played for a year with Diego Maradona at Napoli. None of Diego’s magic rubbed off on Silenzi, who scored twice for Forest, neither time in the Premier League. He was dispatched back to Italy on loan, at the end of which he reportedly refused to return to forest, giving the club little option but to tear up his contract.


SOUTHAMPTON – Dani Osvaldo
Saints smashed their transfer record to sign the Italy striker from Roma in August 2013. For a £15million investment, Mauricio Pochettino reaped three goals in 15 appearances, but the former Saints boss had Osvaldo at Espanyol so he can’t say he wasn’t warned. In half a season at St Mary’s, Osvaldo was banned for violent conduct after a fracas in a game against Newcastle, before headbutting Jose Fonte in training. He was sent to Juventus on loan where he managed just a single goal. Inter took a punt on Osvaldo and he scored five goals but he couldn’t keep his nose clean there. Less than two years into a four-year contract, Saints cut their losses and terminated Osvaldo’s contract.


TOTTENHAM – Serhiy Rebrov
Spurs spent almost a quarter of their entire annual revenue to sign Rebrov for a club-record £11million in 2000. The striker was the highest-ever scorer in the Ukrainian Premier League and in the Champions League, he and Shevchenko became one of the most feared strike-forces in Europe. But like Shevchenko, Rebrov flopped hard in London. He managed 10 goals in 60 appearances and was promptly frozen out upon Glenn Hoddle’s appointment. Rebrov is hardly the only big buy to struggle at Spurs. You could argue that not one of the 10 signings for whom they have broken their transfer record in the Premier League era have justified their fees.


WEST HAM – Savio Nsereko
West Ham were under Icelandic ownership with Gianluca Nani overseeing transfers when Nsereko arrived for a club-record fee of £9million in 2009. He managed just a single start and was sold six months later for a third of the fee to Fiorentina. But that doesn’t even begin to tell the tale around Nsereko, who played for 15 clubs after leaving West Ham but managed more than two league appearances for only one of them. Grab a cuppa and strap in.


WOLVES – Roger Johnson
Mick McCarthy plundered Johnson from relegated Birmingham in 2011 and immediately gave the £7million recruit the captain’s armband. But the defender’s stay at Molineux was a disaster. In his first season, he called Wolves fans’ behaviour “a disgrace, disgusting… it stinks” after Karl Henry was booed, before Johnson was accused of being drunk at training after being left out by caretaker boss Terry O’Connor. Wolves suffered successive relegations and it took until February 2015 to get Johnson off the books when they agreed a deal to terminate their contract.