Premier League's 10 Biggest Transfer Fails of All Time

Laura Greene@@Greene_LFeatured ColumnistJanuary 29, 2014

Premier League's 10 Biggest Transfer Fails of All Time

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    The Premier League has seen many stars come and go over the years. It has also witnessed more than its fair share of truly terrible buys.

    But who have been the biggest transfer fails? There are plenty to choose from but we've whittled it down to just 10.

    Arranged in order, with the worst coming in at No. 1, this is not an exhaustive list, so feel free to add your own choices below.

    Read on for more!



10. Steve Marlet

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    No matter how much time goes by and how much money is unwisely spent, Steve Marlet's name will always crop up in discussions about the Premier League's worst buys.

    Fulham paid £11.5 million for the Frenchman's services in 2001—breaking the club's transfer record in the process.

    Marlet was signed by then-Fulham boss Jean Tigana after a decent season in Ligue 1 with Lyon. Over the course of the next three Premier League campaigns, the striker racked up 55 appearances, scoring just 11 goals.

    Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed was so angry at the money Tigana had spent on Marlet that he took him to court, claiming that the manager had knowingly overpaid for the Frenchman.

    "I won't let any crook destroy Fulham," Al Fayed said at the time, via the Daily Mail.

    "Fulham claims that striker Steve Marlet was purchased at a gross overvalue of £11.5m in August 2001 when the transfer was worth no more than £7m."

    Marlet was released from Fulham in 2005.

9. Chris Sutton

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    When Chelsea signed Chris Sutton from Blackburn Rovers in July 1999, Blues fans can be forgiven for being excited. 

    The England striker's £10 million deal was one of the biggest English transfer deals at the time. 

    In retrospect it was a bit of a gamble, considering Sutton had missed a large chunk of the 1998-99 season through injury and had scored just four goals in his final season at Ewood Park.

    "He can be a tough player on the pitch, which is something sometimes that we missed last season and he's got a great personality," manager Gianluca Vialli told The Independent's Alan Nixon that summer.

    "He's not a cheap player—£10m is a lot of money—but I think sometimes you have to spend money if you want to improve the team and strengthen the team, and that's why we've signed him."

    It was a punt that failed to pay off, as Sutton scored just three goals in 39 appearances for Chelsea.

    After failing to make it at Stamford Bridge, Sutton was sold on to Celtic in 2000.

8. Francis Jeffers

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    When Arsene Wenger bought Francis Jeffers from Everton in 2001, he thought he was getting a "fox in the box."

    It didn't quite work out that way.

    £8 million bought Arsenal 22 appearances and four goals from the Liverpudlian striker, who struggled to make it in north London after suffering an ankle injury and being up against Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp for a place in the side.

    Needless to say, he didn't last long and was sent back to Goodison Park in 2003, rejoining Everton on loan before falling out with David Moyes.

    In 2004, The Guardian's Paul Walker wrote:

    This season's return to Everton has been a disaster for Jeffers and the club. He has started only six games and made 13 substitute appearances. The 23-year-old has scored just two goals - both in the FA Cup against Fulham.

    Poor form and his latest spat with Moyes means there is more hope of Everton fans seeing Lord Lucan leading the forward line next season.

    Jeffers was later sold on to Charlton Athletic for £2.6 million.  

7. Bosko Balaban

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    Oh, Bosko, at least he had a great name.

    The Croatian striker was snapped up by Aston Villa in 2001 after spending one year with Dinamo Zagreb, where he scored 20 goals in 46 games.

    He came with a rather hefty pricetag of £5.8 million. Needless to say, Villa fans expected something.


    But Balaban did not deliver. After failing to score a single goal for the club and appearing in just eight games, he went back to Dinamo Zagreb on loan before getting a move to Club Brugge in 2003.

    He went on to score 38 goals in 81 games for Club Brugges.

    Prolific in Belgium, rubbish in England, Balaban is one of the worst Premier League signings of all time. 

6. Stephane Guivarc'h

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    Expectations were running high when Newcastle United signed Stephane Guivarc'h in 1998.

    Fresh from winning the World Cup with France, the striker looked every inch the star signing when he put pen to paper with the Magpies as part of a £3.5 million deal from Auxerre.

    Things didn't go according to plan, as the man who'd won the Ligue 1 and UEFA Cup Golden Boot the previous year played just four games and scored one goal before being sold to Rangers during the winter transfer window.

    To add insult to injury, Guivarc'h went on to win the Scottish treble with Dick Advocaat's side the very same season.

5. Andriy Shevchenko

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    On paper, it looked like a stellar signing. In reality, it was a huge disappointment.

    Chelsea broke the British transfer record to bring Andriy Shevchenko to Stamford Bridge, by paying £30.8 million to AC Milan in 2006.

    The striker had scored 175 goals in 322 appearances for the Rossoneri and had registered 48 goals in 111 matches for the Ukraine.

    Sheva could also boast five successive Ukrainian titles with Dynamo Kiev, the Champions League, the UEFA Super Cup, the Ballon D’or (2004) and the Scudetto with Milan. He was a touch of class.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    The goals dried up. In fact, Shevchenko only managed 22 goals in three years at Chelsea, which puts each of his strikes at a cost of £1.4 million.

    As far as epic fails go Sheva, sadly, is right up there.


4. Tomas Brolin

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    The name "Tomas Brolin" instantly conjures up images of a 90s footballer with a rapidly expanding waistline, which tells you nearly all you need to know about the Swede's impact on the Premier League.

    Bought by Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson in 1995, Brolin's reputation was riding high after the 1994 World Cup and a successful five-year spell with Parma.

    A broken foot, suffered the winter before he came to Elland Road, signaled the beginning of Brolin's decline. His reputation was still lofty, but his performances were about to suffer.

    Leeds paid £4.5 million to Parma to get their man, who was brought in to act as provider for Tony Yeboah. However, things did not work out as planned.

    Often played out of position, Brolin's fitness was questionable and his appearances started to dwindle. Eventually, he stopped being picked.

    By the time he bid farewell to West Yorkshire, Brolin had made just 17 starts during his time with the club.



3. Andy Carroll

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    It's still hard to believe that Liverpool paid £35 million for Andy Carroll in January 2011. No matter how many times you think about it, or chew it over, it just doesn't make sense.

    After arriving on the scene with Newcastle, Carroll looked like an exciting prospect. Before he made his Anfield switch, he'd put away 11 goals in 19 league games, had made his full England debut and was on the up.

    However, his big-money move did not go well.

    Carroll ended up making 58 appearances for Liverpool in all competitions, where he scored just 11 goals. 

    In August 2012, the striker was loaned out to West Ham, who eventually signed him on a permanent deal which broke the club's transfer record, albeit for a comparatively thrifty £15 million.



2. Bebe

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    Bebe is up there as one of the worst signings of the Premier League era, not only for Manchester United but for the division as a whole.

    With a rags to riches back story, Bebe had been raised in an orphanage and spent parts of his childhood on the streets before finding solace in football and being plucked from obscurity by Sir Alex Ferguson.

    Not much was known about the Portuguese when he came to Old Trafford in 2010, but Ferguson obviously knew something that others didn't when he splashed £7.4 million on the young striker.

    Or did he? There was one big problem—Ferguson had never seen Bebe play.

    The forward struggled at Manchester United, where he seemed out of his depth. He made just seven appearances for the side before being sent out to Besiktas on loan.

    Damning of his time at Old Trafford are the following statements from Bebe, told to (via the Daily Mail's John Drayton): 

    I never took Manchester United seriously and never understood a word about what Alex Ferguson was saying.

    I thought, I'm here, I'm doing well and I don't have to try hard every day. It was my fault. I was messing around too much.

    (On Ferguson) I went into the room and saw that he was looking for me, very concentrated. He told me to cut my hair, it will look better. So I cut it the same day. In the next training session, he didn't recognise me. I went past him many times and he didn't know me.

    Technically, Bebe is still a Manchester United player although he's currently on loan with Portuguese side Pacos de Ferreira. 

1. Ali Dia

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    Ali Dia holds the dubious honor of being not only one of the Premier League's worst-ever buys, but one of the World's worst buys. That's some claim to fame.

    Ironically, it was also a claim to fame that saw Dia signed by Southampton in 1996. The Saints' then-manager Graeme Souness received a phone call from someone pretending to be the former FIFA World Player of the Year, George Weah—who told Souness to give his cousin a trial.

    It seemed that Dia was a Senagalese international and had played for Paris Saint-Germain. All this, however, was a hoax.

    But, Dia was given a one-month contract on the south coast, where he made an appearance for Southampton during a Premier League tie with Leeds United. 

    When he was brought on as a substitute for Matt Le Tissier, it quickly became obvious that Dia was not a professional player and, after 53 minutes of playing for Southampton, he was yanked off the pitch.

    In 2008 Le Tissier was quoted in The Guardian, as saying:

    His performance was almost comical. He kind of took my place, but he didn't really have a position. He was just wondering everywhere. I don't think he realised what position he was supposed to be in.

    It came out that he'd been recommended by someone pretending to be George Weah. It was all a bit embarrassing, and it became a taboo subject with the manager. He had been made to look very, very silly.

    Overall I'd say he's probably the worst player I played with.