17:25 04 July 2016
The Premier League is one of the world’s highest-profile and wealthiest football leagues, drawing some of the best footballers to its teams, but that is not to say that the league has not witnessed some less-than-stellar players. The development of the Premier League from its beginnings in 1993 cannot be told without reference to the worst signings in its history.
If you follow the Premier League, you will know that the close season is a time of huge speculation in the media over which players will be signed by which clubs. With Euro 2016 taking place in France, speculation this summer is rampant, with players previously unknown to the wider footballing public suddenly elevated into being the “next big thing.” Players predicted as being stars of the future or even ones regarded as being at the peak of their powers have arrived to play in the Premier League in the past, only to find themselves labelled as a failure, often within weeks of their debut. Some of the worst signings in the Premier League have been:
Juan Sebastián Verón: Sir Alex Ferguson is the most successful Premier League manager ever, with the former Manchester United boss winning 13 league titles, but even Ferguson could not get everything right, and among his failures was the signing of Argentina international Juan Sebastián Verón in 2001. Verón arrived from Italian club Lazio for a fee of £28.1 million, a record for the Premier League at that time, and had built a considerable reputation for himself as the complete midfielder, mixing a full range of passing with an eye for goal and a strong work rate. However, he failed to adapt to the fast pace of the Premier League and could not find the space on the ball that he craved. He left United for Chelsea in 2003 but did not settle there either and went back to Italy and to Inter Milan in 2004.
Andriy Shevchenko: When Andriy Shevchenko joined Chelsea from AC Milan in 2006, the £30 million transfer fee was reflective of his reputation as one of the world’s best strikers. The Ukraine international had been a huge success in Italy, scoring 175 goals in 296 games, but he lost his touch at Chelsea. It was said that Chelsea’s manager at the time, José Mourinho, never wanted Shevchenko, but in any case, his time in London was an unhappy one, at least on the pitch. A total of 22 goals in just 77 games in three years was not a poor return in relative terms, but the Shevchenko who turned up at Chelsea was a shadow of the player who lit up European football at Milan. When a high-profile signing becomes a footballer who does not play, then something is clearly wrong.
Bebé: It might seem odd to return to Sir Alex Ferguson, but he did sign more than one flop, and perhaps the strangest of them all was Bebé, signed from Portuguese club Vitória de Guimarães in 2010 for £7.4 million. Curiously, the player had been an amateur just a year before arriving at United. Ferguson admitted afterward that Bebé was the only player he ever signed without seeing him play first, and you have to ask what the United boss was thinking. Bebé failed to impress, even on loan spells away from the club, and was sold after four years to Benfica, with United recouping just £2.3 million. He made only seven appearances for the club.
Boško Balaban: Aston Villa fans will remember Balaban for all the wrong reasons. Signed in 2001 by then Villa manager John Gregory, the Croatia striker cost £5.8 million but had a strong goal-scoring record in his native country. In a spell lasting two and a half years, he made a mere nine appearances, seven of which were as a substitute. To say that Balaban did not find any form at Villa would be an understatement. He never scored a goal in his spell in England.
With the 2016-17 Premier League season fast approaching, the leading clubs will be chasing new signings in the hope that those players that do come in are a success. Keeping up with the latest football transfer news stories is as easy as going online, with such sites as 888sport a great source of speculation.
As a Premier League fan, you will have seen some of the best players in the world grace its pitches, but the story of the Premier League is never complete without reference to those players who arrived, often with high reputations, only to find themselves labelled a flop.