Lukaku, Soldado, Mustafi: The worst Premier League buy in each of the last 20 transfer windows

Jason Soutar
Premier League flops Kepa, Kostas Mitroglou and Skhodran Mustafi

The transfer window is open again, so why not revisit the worst Premier League buys of the last 20 transfer windows? Romelu Lukaku, Roberto Soldado and Skhordan Mustafi are just a few of the names to be included here.

If you want to see the best Premier League buys of the last 20 windows, feel free…


Winter, 2013 – Danny Graham (Swansea to Sunderland, £5.2m)
As tempting as it was to pick Christopher Samba’s move to QPR, we have opted Graham’s £5m move to the Stadium of Light. The striker won two of his 13 Premier League matches for Sunderland in 12/13, failing to score a single goal. Sunderland narrowly avoided relegation and Graham was loaned out to Hull in the summer and Middlesbrough in January. Over two stints in the north east, Graham bagged twice in 59 matches.


Summer, 2013 – Roberto Soldado (Valencia to Tottenham, £25m)
Cardiff had an interesting window, signing Gary Medel, Steven Caulker, Andreas Cornelius and Peter Odemwingie, but Tottenham had an even more entertaining time. They spent the Gareth Bale money on some absolute corkers. Christian Eriksen was superb, Erik Lamela was OK, the rest… were sh*t.

Soldado scored 16 times for Spurs – including five penalties – and was pretty hopeless in England. Brazil midfielder Paulinho was also poor, but the Spanish striker has the edge due to his transfer fee and the fact he never really recovered from his Premier League stint.


Winter, 2014 – Kostas Mitroglou (Olympiacos to Fulham, £13m)
Mitroglou became the Cottagers’ record signing in January 2014, spending six horrendous months at Craven Cottage before being loaned back to his former employers in Greece. He was bad when he played for Fulham (three times) and was otherwise injured. He actually joined having scored 14 in 12 in the Greek top flight and three in five in the Champions League. Nobody would have been able to tell whenever he wore the white of Fulham.


Summer, 2014 – Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid to Manchester United, £67m)
This window had some really great options. Eliaquim Mangala’s £40m move to Manchester City, Lazar Markovic, Alberto Moreno, Rickie Lambert and Mario Balotelli joining Liverpool and smaller deals like Jack Rodwell to Sunderland, Brown Ideye to West Brom and Siem de Jong to Newcastle came close to beating Di Maria’s move to Old Trafford.

The Argentina superstar joined Manchester United off the back of a man-of-the-match performance in the Champions League final, but was absolutely hopeless for the Red Devils, scoring four times. At least they only lost around £14m on the player when PSG signed him in 2015.

Winter, 2015 – Wilfried Bony (Swansea to Manchester City, £28m)
Bony joined Man City after becoming a fans favourite in Wales, but it simply did not happen for him at one of the title-chasing Premier League clubs. £28m was probably a fair deal for Swansea, who based a lot of their game around the Ivorian striker. He was far from as influential for the Citizens, however. Bony scored 11 in 46 for City before Swansea bought him back for around £11m two-and-a-half years after leaving.


Summer, 2015 – Memphis Depay (PSV to Manchester United, £30m)
Man Utd spent around £30m each on both Depay and Morgan Schneiderlin, with the Holland forward edging his former teammate due to the fact the Red Devils recouped £20m for the Frenchman, as opposed to £14m for Depay. The current Barcelona star blossoming into a fine player also gives him the edge here. Perhaps his move to the Premier League came too soon, or maybe he just is not suited to English football. Either way, Depay flopped badly at Old Trafford. He arrived with high hopes after a terrific time at PSV, but could only manage seven goals for United before joining Lyon and becoming one of the best players in France.


Winter, 2016 – Oumar Niasse (Lokomotiv Moscow to Everton, £16m)
Currently a free agent at the age of 31, Niasse joined Everton for a pretty hefty fee at the time, netting nine times for the Toffees. His scoring record (nine in 42) was not as bad I thought it would be, but for those of you who remember Niasse, you’ll know he was really bad.

It is worth mentioning Gianneli Imbula, who flopped in the Premier League for Stoke following a £22m transfer from Porto in the same window.


Summer, 2016 – Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia to Arsenal, £35m)
Mustafi joined Arsenal for a whopping £35m and started pretty well in north London, losing his first match at the 20th attempt, despite probably doing his best to make it happen sooner. The World Cup-winning defender was error-prone, weak and overall a liability under Arsene Wenger and Unai Emery and was a very easy choice in a summer that involved deals like Yannick Bolasie to Everton (£26m) and Islam Slimani to Leicester (£28m).


Winter, 2017 – Saido Berahino (West Brom to Stoke, £13m)
Berahino looked a very good prospect during his time at The Hawthorns, even netting ten times in 11 matches for England Under-21s, earning (I use the word loosely) a move to Stoke. He scored five goals for the Potters across two-and-a-half seasons before moving to Belgium to play for RSC Charleroi. Berahino is back in England at the age of 28, playing for Sheffield Wednesday in League One where he has unfortunately not rediscovered his scoring touch.


Summer, 2017 – Danny Drinkwater (Leicester to Chelsea, £34m)
What a window this was. Chelsea signed Drinkwater, Alvaro Morata and Tiemoue Bakayoko, and Everton spent £27m on Davy Klaassen. But Drinkwater’s move from Leicester to Stamford Bridge was an easy choice. The midfielder opened up on his career post-Leicester, labeling it a “shambles” in a fair piece of analysis. The 31-year-old is currently on loan at Championship side Reading and previously had loan spells with Burnley, Aston Villa and Turkish side Kasimpasa.


Winter, 2018 – Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal to Manchester United, swap deal)
Alexis’ best performance in a Man Utd shirt came sat on a chair, playing the piano. That says all you need to know. Henrikh Mkhitaryan – who joined Arsenal in this deal – didn’t have the best of times in London, if that makes Alexis feel any better, which it shouldn’t.


Summer, 2018 – Kepa (Athletic Bilbao to Chelsea, £72m)
You can spin this one however you like, but Chelsea splashing out over £70m on Kepa – breaking the transfer record for a goalkeeper in the process – has turned out to be a horrendous piece of business. Frank Lampard brought in Edouard Mendy after a number of costly errors from the Spaniard, who has become a pretty handy second-choice under Thomas Tuchel and now Graham Potter. But you don’t spend £72m on a back-up keeper.

The 28-year-old betters some questionable Premier League deals in this window, such as Fred’s £53m transfer from Shakhtar Donetsk to Manchester United and Jean Michael Seri’s £27m move to Fulham.


Winter, 2019 – Denis Suarez (Barcelona to Arsenal, loan)
After the Gunners brought in Kim Kallstrom on loan in 13/14, paying over £600k for the midfielder who played 135 minutes in total, they thought to themselves ‘Let’s do that again’ in January 2019. Arsenal paid over £2m to loan Denis Suarez, who played more than 20 minutes of a match in just one of his six appearances for the Londoners. What a colossal waste of time for the club and player.


Summer, 2019 – Tanguy Ndombele (Lyon to Tottenham, £52m)
I previously had Alex Iwobi’s £30m move from Arsenal to Everton are my choice here, but he has come good under Lampard, so it would be harsh to keep him as the worst transfer of the 2019 summer transfer window.

It was a summer full of terrible deals, but the worst, in my opinion, was Ndombele’s record-breaking move to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The French midfielder actually hit the ground running in England but ended up becoming a liability before being shipped on loan back to Lyon in January 2022 and then to Napoli the following summer.

Elsewhere this window, United spent a combined £130m on Aaron Wan-Bissaka and Harry Maguire. Arsenal and West Ham also obliterated their transfer records on Nicolas Pepe and Sebastian Haller, respectively. Spurs also signed Giovani Lo Celso.


Winter, 2020 – Ally Samatta (Genk to Aston Villa, £10m)
This window has a few lacklustre deals, but none were absolutely woeful. Samatta falls into this category as he was pretty rubbish in the Premier League, but he didn’t put a huge dent into Villa’s transfer kitty.

The striker netted twice for the Villans, including a superb header against Man City in the Carabao Cup final defeat in 2020. Samatta spent half a season at Villa Park, scoring six in 30 for Fenerbahce during a loan spell, which was enough for them to want the Tanzania captain on a permanent basis. It’s a funny old game…


Summer, 2020 – Rhian Brewster (Liverpool to Sheff Utd, £23m)
The summer windows are always stacked with rubbish buys. In 2020 Chelsea bought Timo Werner, Everton signed James Rodriguez on a free transfer and Donny van de Beek signed for Man United to rot away on the bench.

Brewster’s £23m move from Liverpool to Sheffield United was an easy choice, however. The young striker has scored three times in 42 matches for the Blades; all three goals have come this season after his zero last campaign contributed ever so slightly to their relegation.


Winter, 2021 – Morgan Sanson (Marseille to Aston Villa, £13.9m)
This was previously a difficult decision. I initially chose Josh King’s £2m move from Bournemouth to Everton, but after some time to reflect, it is easily Sanson’s move to Villa Park for close to £14m.

The 28-year-old started three league games in the second half of 20-21 and only has one appearance so far this term, as of January 6


Summer, 2021 – Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan to Chelsea, £97.5m)
The 2021 summer window had some rotten deals, and I chose Jadon Sancho when initially writing this article in January 2022, and thankfully I have not been left with egg on my face, but Lukaku has definitely surpassed him as the worst of the lot.

Jack Grealish’s £100m move to City has not gone to plan, and neither has Aston Villa’s club-record signing of Emi Buendia. But Lukaku joined the Blues for close to £100m, scored a few goals, decided to make it clear he wanted to leave, played rubbish, then re-joined Inter Milan on loan for this season. What a disaster.


Winter, 2022 – Philippe Coutinho (Barcelona to Aston Villa, £17.6m)
There were a couple of stinkers last January, and quite a lot of good signings, believe it or not. It was a tough choice between Coutinho, Dele Alli (Spurs to Everton), Chris Wood (Burnley to Newcastle), and Anwar El Ghazi (Aston Villa to Everton). I opted for Coutinho, who joined with football fans in England expecting big things, but it has not happened for the Brazilian just yet.

The Villans paid just short of £20m for Coutinho, who has scored five goals in 35 matches for the Midlands club. He has zero goal contributions in 15 Premier League matches this term, at the time of writing.


Summer, 2022 – Marc Cucurella (Brighton to Chelsea, £57.6m)
Even though the 22-23 season is only at the halfway stage, there were plenty of candidates here; some of which are now teammates of Cucurella. Goncalo Guedes was bought by Wolves for close to £30m and only has one goal this term, Morgan Gibbs-White and plenty of his teammates have struggled for Nottingham Forest, as has West Ham’s Lucas Paqueta, Spurs’ Yves Bissouma, who was initially tipped to be the signing of the summer, Antony has not yet displayed why Man United splashed out £80m on him, and Man City midfielder Kalvin Phillips has barely kicked a ball and is apparently overweight.

But Cucurella has been pretty shocking for Chelsea in 22-23. The Spaniard joined after taking home a number of individual accolades with Brighton last year, however, he has struggled under Thomas Tuchel and now his ex-Seagulls boss Graham Potter. Is he a left-centre-back or a left-wing-back? Who knows. The signing of Benoit Badiashile may see him move further wide, where he should improve his form.