January can bring wonderful things but it can also bring a right load of sh*te. Piano-playing, pie-scoffing, kidnap-faking, overpriced sh*te…
After looking at every Premier League club’s greatest ever January signing, let’s wade through 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.
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.
BRENTFORD: Neil Shipperley
Long before the Premier League Bees were signing the likes of Christian Eriksen, they were having bucket collections to fund the wages of veteran striker Shipperley, who turned up at Griffin Park looking like he’d been on the buckets at KFC after his contract at Sheffield United had been cancelled. In 11 League One games, Shipperley failed to net before taking the hint and retiring.
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 loaned to FC Cincinnati with the option to buy – the MLS club chose not to – before Locadia was allowed to leave for nothing last winter. He scored two goals in 10 games for Bochum but was last seen at Iranian outfit Persepolis.
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 Besiktas after bossing Barnsley and West Brom.
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 11 goals in 61 games for Everton can be offered as pretty compelling evidence. It took the Toffees four years to get shot of Tosun, who eventually came off the payroll last summer when he went back for another stint at Besiktas.
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, with Fulham somehow recouping around half their investment from Benfica. Who then flipped the striker on to Marseille. He was last seen at Aris.
LEEDS UNITED: Jean-Kevin Augustin
For their final push towards the Premier League, Leeds signed centre-forward Augustin on loan from RB Leipzig with the obligation to buy him for £18million if Marcelo Bielsa’s men achieved promotion. Which they did – no thanks to Augustin. He played three times for Bielsa, never scoring a goal. But Leeds were still obliged to pay Leipzig, with the matter rumbling through the courts for two years before an ‘amicable resolution’ was reached at the start of December.
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. He moved to Hoffenheim, where he remains, with 106 goals in 234 games, as well as second and third-placed finishes at the World Cup with Croatia.
LIVERPOOL – Andy Carroll
The weird, desperate purchase of Ben Davies from Preston runs Carroll close, but 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 goals 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, pea-hearted 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.
NOTTINGHAM FOREST: Rafik Djebbour
Steve Cooper ‘wasn’t ashamed’ to make more signings in January, having recruited a new squad last summer. But they ought to be if they repeat their Djebbour djisaster. The Alegerian, then 30, joined Forest from Olympiacos in January 2014 on a two-and-a-half-year deal and he scored on his debut against Yeovil. But that was as good as it got. He failed to net in seven other appearances amid being dropped by caretaker-manager Gary Brazil for poor effort and attitude in training. At the end of the season, both parties realised they’d f***ed up and agreed to go their separate ways.
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 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.