We’ve all made purchases which have disappointed us. Perhaps you’ve bought something you saw one of your friends with, only to get home and find out it isn’t as great or useful as you thought. So you cut your losses and sell it on the internet to someone else who thinks it might be a good buy. Cars, phones, computers and appliances: we all eventually run into a lemon or two in our lifetime. In the process, we might lose out on a few hundred or a few thousand dollars, depending on the purchase. It could be worse, you could dish out millions on something only to find it does not do what you wanted or performs poorly. You have? Then it is possible you own a Premier League team and have suffered what most fans call a ‘flop.’
The popularity and coverage of the Premier League has expanded rapidly over the past several years. Huge television deals, large prize amounts and an increase in wealthy foreign ownership have meant that players are being bought and sold for ever increasing amounts. It seems like every year, some sort of transfer record is being broken as teams maneuver to get the upper hand on each other. Of course, with hundreds of millions being spent on player transfers every season, the odds of there being a high-priced flop, lemon or dud are excellent.
Every team in the EPL has had its share of overpriced and underachieving players. These figures attract so much attention because they command such astronomical transfer fees. When they fail to live up to expectations, they become the focal point of criticism by fans and the media. In many cases, the player’s career flatlines or stagnates and they are usually shipped off to another league in an attempt to recoup some of the financial loss. The following top 10 is based largely on transfer fee when compared with the hype, expectations and overall production of the player in question.
10 Adrian Mutu: Parma to Chelsea, $25.93 Million
Mr. Mackey, the guidance counselor of South Park, often warned people of the dangers of drugs – mmmmm kay? One player who failed to heed this advice was Adrian Mutu. Mutu made his move from Serie A side Parma to Chelsea in August 2003. The Romanian striker was coming off an exceptional season with Parma, having scored 18 times in 31 league matches. His first season at Chelsea saw him hit the back of the net 6 times in 25 league games. In September 2004, however, Mutu failed a drug test for cocaine. In October, he was released from his contract and effectively banned for the remainder of the season. A legal battle ensued between Chelsea and the player, with FIFA ordering the former striker to pay the London club $23 million. Legal proceeds remain ongoing.
9 José Antonio Reyes: Sevilla to Arsenal, $27.29 Million
The Spanish striker signed for Arsenal in January 2004 for a fee of $27.29 million. In that season, he scored 5 total goals and his 13 league appearances meant he received a winners medal, as Arsenal completed their unbeaten season. Not a bad start. However, over the next two seasons, Reyes never settled into life in England or the EPL. The Spaniard scored 16 league goals in 69 appearances which was never enough to make him the main striker at Arsenal. Amid speculation that he was homesick, not getting along with teammates and maneuvering for a transfer back to Spain, Reyes was loaned to Real Madrid in 2006 in exchange for the loan of Brazilian forward Júlio Baptista.
8 Stewart Downing: Aston Villa to Liverpool, $31.12 Million
Downing completed his move to Liverpool in July 2011 following a two year spell at Aston Villa. The English midfielder was coming off a very good season at Villa which saw him score 7 and assist 9 times in 38 games. Seeing potential in Downing, the Reds made their move, to the tune of $31.12 million. In the following two seasons at Anfield, Downing never replicated the form he had in the 2010/11 season. In his 65 league appearances for Liverpool, Downing only scored 3 goals and assisted 5 times. Despite helping the club to win the League Cup in 2011/12 – a final in which he was named Man-of-the-Match – Downing’s low production meant he was allowed to sign for West Ham United in the summer of 2013.
7 Shaun Wright-Phillips: Manchester City to Chelsea, $34.5 Million
Shaun Wright-Phillips was one of the most anticipated transfers of the 2005/06 season. Over the previous seasons the speedy winger had been named Manchester City’s Young Player of the Year, four times. He was fast and many in the media speculated he would have a major impact on the EPL. In his final season at Manchester City, he scored 10 goals in 34 league appearances. Unfortunately, he never became the force many had predicted. In his three seasons at Chelsea, Wright-Phillips made 81 appearances and scored only 4 goals. As opportunities on the pitch became limited, he made his move back to Manchester City in August 2008 for less than half of what he joined Chelsea for.
6 Roberto Soldado: Valencia to Tottenham, $42.5 Million
Judging current players can be difficult and sometimes unfair. While Roberto Soldado has not even completed one season in the EPL, his price-tag versus production means he invites some criticism. Any time a player breaks a club’s record transfer fee, they face a high standard. The Spaniard’s move from Valencia to North London attracted much attention. as Soldado had netted 114 times in 207 appearances for Getafe and Valencia. In Soldado, Tottenham believed they had found their man to lead the front line. Unfortunately, this has not been the case so far this season. Soldado has netted only 5 times in the league and only one of those goals has come from open play. As a result, Tottenham’s pricey striker has fallen down the pecking order and is currently second choice behind a resurgent Emmanuel Adebayor.
5 Juan Sebastián Verón: Lazio to Manchester United, $46.1 Million
In 2001, the signing of Verón by Manchester United was a massive event with a massive price-tag. Nicknamed La Brujita (Little Witch), the Argentinean midfielder had helped Parma win the Coppa Italia and UEFA Cup in 1999. The following year, Verón helped Lazio win Serie A, the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup. It came as no surprise that Manchester United were willing to break the English transfer record for his signature in 2001. The return was not good. 7 goals in 51 league games was an abysmal production rate and United cut their losses and sold Verón to Chelsea for approximately $24 million in 2003. The Blues found out the hard way that you should never buy a witch, especially in a deal brokered by a devil.
4 Andriy Shevchenko: AC Milan to Chelsea, $50.5 million
The signing of Shevchenko in 2006 was a signal of Chelsea’s intent to remain a power in English and European football. The Ukranian striker had been a force while playing with AC Milan in Serie A. In 7 years, he had scored 175 goals for the Rossoneri. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich broke the English transfer record hoping Shevchenko would continue his scoring ways. It was not to be. Shevchenko managed only 9 goals in 48 league appearances during his time at Stamford Bridge. He never came close to replicating the form which had made him so deadly with AC Milan. In 2009, Shevchenko returned to Dynamo Kiev, the club he had started his career with.
3 Robinho: Real Madrid to Manchester City, $54 million
Following the purchase of Manchester City by the Abu Dhabi United Group in August 2008, City began throwing around large sums of money in an effort to attract big-name players. Real Madrid’s Robinho was the first of these notable stars to arrive in a record transfer bid. In a comical twist, Robinho appeared to believe he had signed for Chelsea, stating at a Manchester City press conference that he was happy to have signed for the London club. The Brazilian forward started out well with the club netting 14 times in 31 league games. However, production dropped quickly and he featured in only 10 league games in the 2009/10 season. Robinho was loaned out for the rest of the 2010 season before joining AC Milan permanently.
2 Andy Carroll: Newcastle to Liverpool, $57.4 million
Andy Carroll is proof that just because a player performs well with one team, that doesn’t mean they will perform well with a new team. Liverpool found this out the hard and expensive way. Following the departure of Fernando Torres in January 2011, Liverpool had over $80 million burning a hole in their pocket and an empty striker position to fill. The result was that they over-paid for the services of Andy Carroll. The English striker never fit in well at Liverpool. Although he had some notable games for the Reds, the six-foot-four English striker only managed 6 league goals in 44 appearances. He was loaned out to West Ham for much of the 2012/13 season with the deal made permanent the following year.
1 Fernando Torres: Liverpool to Chelsea, $82 million
Fernando Torres’ move from Liverpool to Chelsea, in January 2011, makes him the most expensive ever EPL signing and currently 9th on the world transfer record list. Many criticized the valuation of the striker but there was no denying that Torres was one of the most lethal strikers in the world at the time of his move. In his 4 seasons with Liverpool, the player nicknamed El Nino, tore apart opposition defences by scoring 65 goals in 102 league appearances. He was also named to the Premier League PFA team of the year twice.
At Chelsea, Torres has failed to find the form he displayed at Liverpool. In 99 league appearances (so far) for the Blues, he has netted just 19 times. This substantial reduction in output has been somewhat offset by his contribution to Chelsea’s Champions League, Europa League and FA Cup titles. His transfer value and previous form will continue to hang over him in the coming years. Amidst all of this, the Chelsea fans generally stand by the Spanish striker even when management has not.
The topic of EPL flops is highly subjective. There are, no doubt, many other players who are eligible for addition to this list. The higher the transfer fee, the greater the scrutiny. Unfortunately, there is only room for 10. Whether they are players who just can’t find the form of previous years, can’t live up to expectations and predictions or would rather score a line of cocaine than a goal, the EPL has seen its share of overpriced and under-performing players.