Every club’s worst ever January transfer window signing

Date published: Thursday 31st December 2020 8:04 - Sarah Winterburn

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 Martyn 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. He was not the next Nicolas Anelka.


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”.


BRIGHTON – Jurgen Locadia
Brighton broke their club transfer record in 2018 to sign the Dutchman from PSV for over £14m after a glorious half-season in which he had scored nine goals in 15 Eredivisie games. “He is a strong, powerful and quick centre-forward with a real eye for goal, and will increase our attacking options in the second half of the season,” said Chris Hughton, who must have felt pretty pleased with himself when Locadia scored on his debut from the bench. It would be the first of only three goals in 34 Premier League appearances; he was last seen scoring basically no goals for Cincinnati in the MLS. They will do well to recoup 10% of their outlay.


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.


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. Currently managing Barnsley for reasons unknown.


EVERTON – Cenk Tosun
Then-manager Sam Allardyce (still seems odd) described him as “the best in Europe” at the price of £27m in 2018. We don’t think that’s true and ten goals in 56 games for Everton can be offered as pretty compelling evidence. Bizarrely, the Turk remains at the club and is the Toffees’ current second-choice striker, climbing off the bench four times this season for a couple of half-sprints.


FULHAM – Kostas Mitroglou
Let Steve Sidwell tell the story: “In January, relegation battle, we needed a striker. So they went and got Kostas Mitroglou, I think his name was. This f***er, he did not stop eating. Honesty, he did, I’m telling you now, he did not stop eating. He was a big boy. And you know the protein bars, every time you’d see him, he’d be walking around the training ground with a f***ing protein bar.”

What Sidwell did not say: The Greek striker was signed for £12m in January 2014 and he played three games without scoring a goal before Fulham were relegated. He eventually left the club in 2016 for about £6m and now Marseille boss Andre Villas-Boas is desperate to chase the big boy out of France and back to Greece.


Leeds have been gone for so long from the Premier League that they have never spent a penny in the January transfer window as a top-flight club. The very first January transfer window – in 2003 – was marked in Leeds by the sales of both Robbie Fowler and Jonathan Woodgate and the arrivals of Raul Bravo and Teddy Lucic on loan and Paul Keegan on a free transfer. It could have gone better.


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. Now at Hoffenheim, he has scored a barely believable 83 goals in 164 games.


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.


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.


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? Less than three years later, they allowed him to leave for a free transfer (and had to pay him a wedge themselves), having realised that simply offering the Chilean higher wages than Manchester City did not count as a trophy.


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.


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 finally left on a free transfer in October (for Elche) without scoring a single goal for Southampton. 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. He would start just 16 games across three seasons.


WEST BROM – Callum McManaman
He was Tony Pulis’ first signing as Baggies boss in 2015 and it was a stinker. Bought for almost £5m from Wigan, McManaman started seven Premier League games in two years – never scoring a goal – before being loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday and then released the following summer. Still only 29, he was last seen playing for Melbourne Victory alongside a few other familiar faces.


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.

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