The 20 Most Wasteful, Extravagant Purchases by Europe's Top Clubs
It was back in 2010 that former Tottenham Hotspur manager David Pleat told The Guardian that transfer fees had "accelerated out of all proportion."
Well, David, things have hardly become more modest since then, and even the spectre of Financial Fair Play has not been enough to dissuade some of Europe’s biggest clubs from wasting their money on players they either didn't need or that would never live up to the money paid for them.
Following is a look at 20 of the most wasteful, extravagant transfers in football history. Some of them were down to poor (or nonexistent) scouting; others were the result of bidding wars gone out of control.
And a good many were simply down to carelessness with the purse strings.
Let’s get started.
20. Ricardo Quaresma: Porto to Inter Milan
A hot-shot prospect at Sporting Lisbon at the beginning of the last decade, Ricardo Quaresma played a single season at Barcelona before joining Porto, where his talents were finally able to flourish.
Then, with his goal totals having increased each of the last three seasons, the Portugal international joined Inter Milan for nearly €19 million in September 2008. He scored just one goal before Christmas and was loaned to Chelsea in January.
19. John Utaka: Rennes to Portsmouth
John Utaka played at a handful of African clubs before moving to Rennes, where he became just the latest young talent at one of the best academies in France.
Still, he was never able to live up to the £7 million Portsmouth valued him at when they bought him in 2007, and the club's extravagance in acquiring him was just one reason why they went into administration several years later.
18. Alberto Aquilani: As Roma to Liverpool
Between 2009 and 2012, Alberto Aquilani played just 18 Premier League matches for Liverpool, scoring once. This, despite a £17 million move to Anfield from AS Roma, where he had won back-to-back Coppa Italia trophies in 2007 and 2008.
Loans to Juventus and AC Milan followed, and in 2012 he was finally shipped to Fiorentina in exchange for £7 million.
17. Stan Collymore: Liverpool to Aston Villa
An inspirational striker at Liverpool following a big-money move from Nottingham Forest, Stan Collymore became Aston Villa’s club-record signing when he joined the West Midlands side for £7 million in 1997.
But in parts of three seasons at the club, Collymore managed only seven Premier League goals and went on loan to Fulham in 1999.
16. Seth Johnson: Derby to Leeds
Seth Johnson had already been capped for England when he joined Leeds from Derby for £7 million in 2001, but injuries would plague the midfielder’s time at Elland Road and ultimately lead to a 2005 switch back to Derby.
Leeds even refused to play Johnson upon his return to full fitness as to avoid further payments to Derby.
15. Fernando Torres: Liverpool to Chelsea
Liverpool were never going to resist the £50 million offered by Chelsea for Fernando Torres during the January transfer window, especially as they had a swoop for Andy Carroll to finance.
But if the Blues thought the slumping striker was going to be rejuvenated at Stamford Bridge, they were sadly mistaken. He scored just once through the rest of the season and has yet to hit double digits in a Premier League campaign for the club.
14. Robinho: Real Madrid to Manchester City
Robinho's 2008 move from Real Madrid to Manchester City may have been designed as a brand-building scheme, but he scored only 14 Premier League goals for the club in 41 appearances and spent the second half of the 2009-10 season on loan at Santos.
This for a player in whom City had invested £33 million, and who would recoup only £15 million of that upon his sale to AC Milan in 2010.
13. Andy Carroll: Newcastle to Liverpool
Andy Carroll was setting the Premier League alight during the first half of the 2010-11 campaign, and on the final day of the January transfer window, he became Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish's most expensive capture when he concluded a £35 million switch from Newcastle to Anfield.
Carroll scored just two goals down the stretch for his new side in 2011, and after bagging only six goals in the English top flight for Liverpool he was sold to West Ham for £15 million.
12. Garry Birtles: Nottingham Forest to Manchester United
Manchester United parted with £1.25 million for Garry Birtles in 1980—a monumental sum at the time.
But the forward would prove a flop at Old Trafford and returned to Nottingham Forest only two years later, having scored just 11 goals for the Red Devils.
11. David Bentley: Blackburn Rovers to Tottenham Hotspur
On the back of a a 2007-08 season in which he scored eight goals and earned 12 assists, Blackburn Rovers playmaker David Bentley joined Tottenham Hotspur for £15 million (with a further £2 million performance-based fee).
As it happened, Bentley never really settled in London, and with all the other attacking options at Spurs, he struggled to find a place in the team. In parts of three seasons, he scored just three Premier League goals for the club before a series of loan spells.
10. Luther Blissett: Watford to Milan
Luther Blissett was the old English First Division’s top goalscorer in 1982-83 as Watford qualified for European football.
The Jamaica-born striker then moved to AC Milan for £1 million, although he would never replicate his previous success at the San Siro. In 39 career matches for the Rossoneri, he scored only six goals.
9. Sergei Rebrov: Dynamo Kiev to Tottenham Hotspur
A long-time striker partner of Andriy Shevchenko for both Dynamo Kiev and Ukraine, Sergei Rebrov made a much-anticipated move to England when he joined Tottenham Hotspur from Dynamo for £11 million in 2000.
It was a fee that would soon look ridiculous, as Rebrov would score only 10 Premier League goals in 59 matches for Spurs before being moved on to Fenerbahce in 2002.
8. Juan Sebastian Veron: Lazio to Manchester United
Juan Sebastian Veron became the most expensive acquisition in the history of English football when he joined Manchester United from Lazio for just over £28 million in 2001.
The Argentine would never adapt to the quicker pace of the Premier League, however, and just two years after arriving at Old Trafford, he was sold to Chelsea for £15 million. In 2009 he proved he could still play when he led Estudiantes to the Copa Libertadores.
7. Steve Daley: Wolves to Manchester City
Steve Daley earned a reputation as a big-money flop following his £1.5 million move from Wolves to Manchester City in September 1979.
A UEFA Cup finalist in 1972, Daley was a bust at Maine Road, where he made just 48 league appearances before joining Seattle Sounders in 1983 for £300,000.
6. Denilson: Sao Paulo to Real Betis
In 1998, Real Betis established a new world transfer record when they paid £21.5 million for Sao Paulo winger Denilson.
Already a Brazil international and Copa America winner, Denilson nevertheless struggled in Europe, scoring just eight goals over parts of five seasons before being sold to Bordeaux.
5. Gianluigi Lentini: Torino to Milan
Gianluigi Lentini’s story is marked with tragedy, as in 1993 he suffered severe injuries from a car crash during the pre-season.
Just a year before, he had completed a £13 million move from Torino to AC Milan, and while he ended up making a full recovery following the accident, he failed to pan out at the San Siro and was offloaded to Atalanta in 1996.
4. Andriy Shevchenko: AC Milan to Chelsea
The fact that Andriy Shevchenko was such a colossal failure at Chelsea is somewhat upsetting given a legendary career with AC Milan that saw him surpass the 25-goal mark on five occasions, lift the European Cup and also win a Scudetto.
In 2006, he joined the Blues for an English record £30.8 million and proceeded to score just four Premier League goals during his first season at Stamford Bridge. Following a loan spell back at Milan, he finished his career where it began—at Dynamo Kiev.
3. Bebe: Vitoria De Guimaraes to Manchester United
The son of Cape Verdean immigrants to Portugal, Bebe played in the 2009 European Street Football Festival and lived in a homeless shelter before being recommended to Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson in 2010.
United paid Vitoria de Guimaraes over £7 million for his playing rights, even though Ferguson only met him the day before the transfer was finalized. To date Bebe has made just two Premier League appearances for the Red Devils.
2. Rafael Scheidt: Gremio to Celtic
Even more absurd than Kenny Dalglish's big-money move for Andy Carroll was the Scot's £5 million acquisition of Rafael Scheidt during his co-management tenure alongside John Barnes at Celtic.
Scheidt, a Brazilian playing for Gremio, played just three times for Celtic before moving to Corinthians, and he retired in 2008 after a season at Chinese outfit Guizhou Renhe.
1. Gaizka Mendieta: Valencia to Lazio
You know a player’s career trajectory has taken a dive when, barely two years after completing the world’s sixth-most expensive transfer at the time, he finds himself at Middlesbrough.
A Champions League runner-up with Los Che in both 2000 and 2001, Mendieta joined Lazio for an eye-popping €48 million in 2001 as part of the Serie A side’s strategy for replacing Juan Sebastian Veron.
But much like the United-bound midfielder, Mendieta failed to impress in the Italian capital and made just 20 Serie A appearances before loan moves to Barcelona and Middlesbrough and eventually a permanent switch to The Riverside in 2004.