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The worst football transfer signings of all time

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The transfer window is a thrilling time in the football calendar, but all too often the signing that is supposed to save your club’s season has the opposite effect. Cillian Dunn takes a look at six of the worst.

Quashie celebrating his relegation mission. Photo: bbc.co.uk
Quashie celebrating his relegation mission. Photo: bbc.co.uk

6) Nigel Quashie: Portsmouth to Southampton – £2.1 million (2005); Southampton to West Bromwich Albion – £1.2 million (2006); West Bromwich Albion to West Ham United – £1.5 million (2007)

Nigel Quashie’s agent is a genius. The fact he succeeded in persuading Premier League clubs to take on his client, season after season, in spite of the fact the Scot was a proven bad luck charm, is nothing short of incredible. Quashie, still going strong for Íþróttafélag Reykjavíkur in Iceland, was relegated an amazing four times from the Premier League with four different clubs – QPR, Nottingham Forest, Southampton and West Brom – and even has a Facebook page in his honour called “Nigel Quashie was relegated with my club”.

Having learnt his trade early on, helping QPR and Forest to relegations in the late 90s, Quashie embarked on his quest to break all records with a vengeance. Frustrated with the monotony of mid-table finishes at Portsmouth, Quashie switched to bitter rivals Southampton for the excitement of a good old relegation scrap. “I am certain we will stay up”, he lied. Southampton finished bottom of the table.

Not content with this, Quashie moved on to West Brom the following January, where he achieved the rare distinction of being relegated from the Premiership in two successive seasons. But Quashie, always striving for more, was determined to make it a glorious hat-trick. Reviewing the league table carefully, West Ham must have seemed like the perfect place to fulfil his dreams.

Everything begun as planned, with Quashie making 8 appearances, none of them on the winning side. Believing his work to be done, Quashie allowed himself to be injured. He hadn’t counted on one Carlos Tevez. The Scot remained contracted to the Hammers until 2010 but failed to make a single further appearance in this time. Presumably his attitude was that if it wasn’t a relegation battle, he wasn’t interested. It was a shame he left when he did. He would have got on well with Avram Grant.

Benni McCarthy: offering an alternative football build. Photo: dailymail.co.uk
Benni McCarthy: offering an alternative football build. Photo: dailymail.co.uk

5) Benni McCarthy: Blackburn Rovers to West Ham United – £2.5 million (2010)

Mido. Chamackh. Katan. Paulista. West Ham traditionally sign at least one forward in this window, who never makes more than 5 starts, misses chance after chance, but is still paid more in a month than most people are in a year. Yet dire as they all undoubtedly were, none even come close to filling the king sized shirt of Big Mac.

A Champions League winner with José Mourinho’s Porto, McCarthy had scored 24 goals in his first season with Blackburn, but his form had deserted him during his last year with the club, and frozen out by manager Sam Allardyce, his weight had already begun to balloon. Future Hammers manager Allardyce probably couldn’t believe his luck when they offered £2.5 million to take an overweight 32-year-old off his hands, and the Irons were equally generous to McCarthy, handing him a two and a half-year £38,000 a week contract.

And boy did Benni make the most of it! Following the traditional injury on his debut, something of a rite of passage for all West Ham signings, McCarthy devoted his hard earned cash on a cause close to his heart – his stomach. By May, he was 15st, with a body fat percentage of 24.2 (the expected percentage of a professional athlete is five to 12 per cent).

South Africa were hosting the 2010 World Cup but McCarthy was so heavy that they were forced to omit their talisman and all-time leading goal scorer from the squad altogether. This might have acted as an incentive to some, but not to Benni, and although he was fined almost £200,000 by West Ham for his failure to shed the pounds, this approach was no more successful.

Ultimately, the Hammers were forced to pay him £1.5 million to terminate his contract. In just over a year with the club, he’d made just two starts, cost over £5 million in wages and transfer fees, and failed to score a single goal. He was, in the eloquent words of West Ham Vice-Chairman Karren Brady, a “big, fat mistake”.

4) Afonso Alves: Heerenveen to Middlesbrough – £12.7 million (2008)

It must be said in Boro’s defence that Alves’ goal scoring record in Holland was impressive. But then again, the same can be said of Marco Boogers, who was famously sent off on his Premier League debut, managing another three appearances before fleeing back to Holland to live in a caravan from where he declared himself “psychologically unfit to play football” (Boogers’ public stance was that “he was not mental, but just had a sore stomach”).

Alves never quite hit those barmy heights, although he spent much of his time on Teesside looking as though he’d much rather be residing in a caravan than spend another moment of his life in Middlesbrough (arguably the Brazilian is not alone in holding this view, but unlike the vast majority of Smoggies, he was being paid £50,000 a week to live there).

His first half-season with the club arguably showed some promise (6 goals in 11 appearances) but the warning signs were there already, with Alves criticised for his poor all round play. It was the following season, however, where Alves’ vilification begun in earnest; his record of 4 goals in 31 games an appalling one by any forwards’ standards, let alone a £13 million club record signing. Boro were relegated and can count themselves lucky to have made a loss of ‘only’ £7 million on the striker, who signed for Qatari club Al-Sadd, and has been gradually winding down his career in the Middle East ever since.

West Ham show off their proud new signing. Photo: thesun.co.uk
West Ham show off their proud new signing. Photo: thesun.co.uk

3) Savio Nsereko: Brescia to West Ham United – £10 million (2009)

Argentinians on dodgy third party contracts, eccentric Dutchmen with a fondness for caravans (oh come on, did you seriously think any other football club would sign Boogers?) and a goalkeeper called Ruud Boffin – they’ve pretty much seen it all in East London. Or at least they thought they had, until the club announced that star striker Craig Bellamy (sold to Manchester City for £14 million the previous week) would be replaced by a completely unknown Ugandan born teenager from Brescia.

Astutely realising that Hammers fans might not be too happy about this, crafty West Ham CEO Scott Duxbury claimed that the Irons had beaten off “fierce competition” from Europe’s leading clubs to sign the winger for a club record fee. With the club even releasing an ‘exclusive picture gallery’ to celebrate Savio’s first day of training, Hammers fans might have been forgiven for thinking they had landed the new Pele.

It quickly became clear that they had not – Savio made 10 appearances, just one of which was a start, and continued the proud tradition of West Ham forwards signed in January in failing to score. Come the summer, Savio had been sold to Fiorentina, and to say that his career went downhill from there would be a gross understatement; he is currently playing for Kazakhstani Premier League side FC Atyrau.

During this time he has been reported missing on numerous occasions (having his contract cancelled by more than one of his clubs as a result of this), spent £14,000 in casinos and strip clubs in the space of a week, and while holidaying in Thailand, even faked his own kidnapping, in a bizarre attempt to extort money from his own family. I’ll remind you again; a Premier League football club once paid £10 million for this guy. The current board have even launched an official investigation into what we are all wondering – why?

2) Fernando Torres: Liverpool to Chelsea – £50 million (2011)

Some people, it is said, have more money than sense. Others, it would appear on this evidence, just have money. It is certainly difficult to argue that there was any logic to Chelsea’s purchase of Fernando Torres – though he had proven himself a world class finisher at Atlético Madrid and Liverpool, injuries had resulted in him losing the pace and mobility that allowed him to be so.

But Roman Abramovich wanted a marquee signing, and so he brought Torres. Thus far, the Premier League’s most expensive player has repaid him with just 18 goals in almost 100 games. Admittedly, no one expected him to be quite that bad. But still Roman, £50 million, seriously?

One cost £22.8m, one cost £35m. Who would you pick? Photo: zimbio.com
One cost £22.8m, one cost £35m. Who would you pick? Photo: zimbio.com

1) Andy Carroll: Newcastle United to Liverpool – £35 million (2011)

The transfer fees for both Carroll and Torres were ridiculous, the inflated fee paid for the former a direct result of Newcastle taking advantage of the fact that Liverpool had just sold the latter for an equally outlandish price. Evidently, the logic at Anfield a little off, with Messrs Dalglish and Comolli apparently under the impression that having received such a generous fee for Torres, they were obliged to spend equally lavishly themselves.

And spend they did, with the £35 million transfer fee making Carroll, a 22-year-old with 14 Premier League goals to his name, the most expensive British player in history. It was almost enough to make Abramovich look sensible – at least Torres had once been a world class player.

Carroll, on the other hand, was not, never had been and never will be – 6 goals in 44 Premier League appearances for Liverpool sum it up. They persisted with him for a season and a half, but when Brendan Rodgers was appointed as the new Liverpool boss, looking to implement the passing style of football he had won recognition for with Swansea, Carroll was never going to be part of his plans.

There was, however, a problem. Surely no football club would be stupid enough to match both Carroll’s £90,000 a week wages and Liverpool’s £17 million asking price? Fortunately for the Reds, they then remembered that there was in fact one such club. In June 2013, Andy Carroll signed a six year deal with West Ham United.

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