Premier League Transfers: Top 25 Potential Transfer Flops of Summer 2011
After a weak Premier League season, this summer promises to be one of the busier transfer markets in recent memory.
The traditional big four are all in need of some measure of squad investment, while Tottenham and Manchester City are sure to be wheeling and dealing as well. Even clubs like Newcastle and Blackburn have found themselves in the money and are in need of additions to their team.
Therefore, this list is made up of all the potential lemons lurking in the transfer market. To be called a flop is not to be judged on an absolute standard of transfer failure (like Mikael Silvestre); rather it is more of a relative determination primarily based on the expectations that would presumably be placed on the player.
So without further ado…
25: David De Gea
The best goalkeepers usually follow one of three paths;
1) Emerge through the youth system at a top club (Victor Valdes, Iker Casillas).
2) Make an inexpensive yet high profile move as a relative unknown but nevertheless with a few quality seasons under their belt (Petr Cech, Julio Cesar or as a complete opposite, Manuel Almunia).
3) Establish themselves at a recognizable club before eventually making the big move (Gianluigi Buffon, Pepe Reina, Edwin Van der Sar and potentially the Hugo Lloris/Manuel Neuer/ Rene Adler group).
There’s a reason that clubs rarely take big money gambles on a keeper’s potential. This position, more than any, is defined by consistency and knowing how to handle nerves, two things young footballers aren’t exactly known for.
Because keepers have a much longer shelf life than outfield players, potential suitors can usually afford to wait to see if a keeper pans out at a club before making their move. This is the one position you really can’t afford to mince about with.
De Gea could end up being a worthy successor to Van der Sar, but is he ready for the pressure of Old Trafford?
24: Fabio Coentrao
With Harry Redknapp sometimes approaching the transfer market like it was a game of Football Manager, it’s no surprise to hear a name like Coentrao linked to Tottenham.
Though Tottenham faces stiff competition from the favorites Bayern Munich, Redknapp has pulled off this type of signing before.
The Benfica left back has it all in an attacking sense. His defense has also not been criticized as much as the typical continental fullback, but once again, it’s all about how well it translates into the Premier League, and for some reason, I don’t see it panning out for Coentrao.
Didn’t we go down this road with Jose Bosingwa at Chelsea? And despite a promising start, hasn’t he ultimately flattered to deceive?
Tottenham may be well advised to back off and let Bayern have him.
23: Miroslav Klose
For whatever reason, Klose just has not cut it at Bayern Munich, leading to the slightly awkward development of him backing up Mario Gomez at club level, while Gomez backs up Klose at international level.
Tottenham has earmarked him as another potential answer to their striking problems. But at 32 years old, Klose’s only going to go downhill.
His once fearsome leaping ability is slowly disappearing. His instincts remain razor sharp, but it’s unclear whether his body can keep up.
While it is true he most likely would be available on a Bosman free transfer, any top-six team looking for more than a third choice striker will end up disappointed.
22: Charlie Adam
I’m a big fan of Adam and what he’s done for Blackpool. But can he really be much better than he is right now?
He was almost another domino to fall in the Torres/Carroll saga this January window past, and in truth, his form probably warranted him a mention.
However, players starring for teams in the bottom half of the table do not have a good track record of making it with clubs challenging for a Champions League place or above.
The prototypical jack of all trades/master of none English midfielder (except perhaps for his set pieces), Adam could be a good pickup for an upper echelon team looking for a good member of their midfield rotation.
Unfortunately, you don’t pay in the teens for squad players, and that is exactly the kind of price that Blackpool is asking for.
21: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain
It may be a few years too early to call the Southampton prodigy a flop. Moreover, his success would largely be determined by his circumstances.
If Chamberlain moves to a Europa League caliber club and doesn’t cost more than €7-8 million, then he would have ample playing time to hone his craft without the pressure of an inflated price tag.
However, far more likely is for him to end up at a top four club where the hype would be incessant, and every game would be a veritable struggle for playing time.
Furthermore, his fee would probably be in excess of €10 million, giving him another unwanted burden to live up to.
Chamberlain has the talent, but as of now, a move to a top four club may be a mistake.
20: Gary Cahill
There are really two schools of thought on Gary Cahill; those who think that he is nothing but a distinctly average defender for Bolton, and those that think that the Bolton jersey is the only thing holding back a potential stud at centre back.
I’m a little bit in between; he’s not quite as talented as some make him out to be, yet he’s no mid table lump either.
The problem is that any deal would be in the €20 million range—meaning only a top four club will be able to pull it off.
For that type of money, you expect a certain caliber of player and I think that Cahill would ultimately fail to live up to those expectations.
19: Fernando Llorente
For Tottenham, Jermain Defoe, Peter Crouch and Roman Pavlyuchenko have not done the business, prompting Harry Redknapp into a bevy of failed deadline day bids for a striker in January.
Llorente is one of the many names that have been linked with Spurs, after a solid few years with Athletico Bilbao.
The archetypical target man, his height and strength are what set him apart.
But this may also be to his detriment. The current tactical era favors a lone striker, and that striker has to have a diverse skill set, especially in Champions League caliber teams. The classic target man has somewhat lost his place in the modern game.
Llorente will not offer Spurs anything significantly different than Peter Crouch, and therefore will not be the answer to their striking problems.
18: Mario Goetze
Goetze’s decisive role in Dortmund’s run towards the Bundesliga title cannot be understated. Incredibly quick feet with superb technique and vision, he could easily end up being the next Mesut Ozil.
As with any young talent, the rumors have come thick and fast, with seemingly every elite club in with a shot at him.
But this is still his debut season as a first teamer, and lest we forget, he’s still only 18.
The Bundesliga is the relative bubble where he can hone his craft. A move abroad would be reckless in these early goings, especially to the rumble tumble of the Premier League.
He may yet become a world beater, but at the moment, I think that the EPL would be too much of a shock for a player of his age and build to deal with.
17: Phillipe Mexes
For the past few years, Mexes has been one of those names that writers throw into a transfer rumor when news is hard to come by.
But with his contract up in a few months, this may finally be the summer where he makes his move.
Mexes himself has hinted at a move to AC Milan, but there has also been talk of Liverpool and the inevitable Arsenal link.
Defensively, he has a bit of everything in his locker, and on his day can look like a world beater. But he is prone to mistakes, often with catastrophic results.
And defenders of that sort, no matter what other qualities they have, are often defined by those slip ups.
A Premier League move will not end well.
16: Jose Enrique
Liverpool has history of signing some distinctly average players in recent years, initiated by Rafa Benitez's shotgun approach to the transfer market.
In fact, their interest in Enrique is a direct result of the failure of just such a player in Paul Konchesky.
Enrique has been solid for Newcastle for the last three seasons, even though one of those seasons was spent in the Championship.
But if Liverpool wishes to reclaim top four status in the next few years, does Enrique really inspire that ambition? All signs point to another Liverpool signing that flatters to deceive.
The €12 million dollar fee quoted in the papers would represent an excellent piece of business for Newcastle and could end up being another disappointment for Liverpool.
Dalglish should learn from the mistakes of his predecessors.
15: Papiss Demba Cisse
His 22 goals in 29 appearances is hugely impressive, but naive would be the club that falls for it.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this season ends up being the peak of his career.
All pace and not much else, this season is very much an anomaly for him.
If Cisse winds up in the Premier League, his career there could very well go the way of his namesake Djibril, especially if the rumors with Liverpool are to be believed.
14: Moussa Sow
Sow has scored 20 goals in Ligue 1 for Lille this season, and this has apparently made the likes of Newcastle and Sunderland think that he’ll solve their problems up front.
But like Cisse, Sow may be nothing more than a one season wonder.
Really, how many times must we see a player parlay one season of success into a transfer, only to revert to type soon after?
Sorry Newcastle fans, but there’s a lot of better ways for you to spend the Andy Carrol money, that is, if Mike Ashley has any intention of doing so.
13: Douglas Costa
Part of Shaktar’s attacking Brazilian quartet that has excelled in the Champions League, (along with Willian, Jadson and Luiz Adriano), Costa has been rumored to be on his way to Old Trafford as Sir Alex Ferguson looks to improve a decidedly mediocre Manchester United midfield.
However, Costa could easily end up struggling with the pace of the typical Premier League midfield. Lightweight playmakers usually do not fare well in English football.
Moreover, Shaktar are said to be demanding a minimum of €20 million for Costa’s signature. Whoever moves on that deal would not be playing the odds.
12: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
He was supposed to be the man who resurrected appreciation of the lost art of the poacher, but that honor has fallen to Javier Hernandez.
In truth, his career hasn’t been that bad so far, but whatever he has achieved has been overshadowed by constant rumors linking him with a move to England.
He has followed in the footsteps of Mateja Kezman and Alfonso Alves—becoming a footballing nomad after a ridiculous goal-scoring return in the Eredivisie.
For whatever reason, he hasn’t fully delivered for the clubs that have signed him. Currently at his fourth club in the last two and a half years, this summer may be the one that he finally fulfills his tabloid destiny of playing in the Premier League.
But if it happens, don’t count on it being a success. Though his finishing and instincts are widely admired, Huntelaar is a very lethargic player. The Premier League is simply not the right place for him.
11: Garra Dembele
Seriously, what is it with these one season wonder strikers? Dembele has plundered 28 goals in 32 appearances in all competitions.
But the obligatory pinch of salt—he has done this in the colors of the mighty Levski Sofia of the Bulgarian PFG.
As with Cisse and Sow, this season is very much out of character for Dembele, yet he has attracted interest from teams like Aston Villa if tabloids are to be believed.
I know there's a general shortage of quality front men but surely Villa can do better?
Unless he moves for under €5 million, there is no way that Dembele meets expectations.
10. Per Mertesacker
As long as Arsenal struggles defensively, you can bet on a Per Mertesacker rumor being floated around somewhere.
He reads the game superbly and is adept at the more "technical" aspects of defending (tackling, etc). But he is one of the most excruciatingly slow players you will ever see.
This never translates well in the Premier League, especially since he can’t dominate physically to compensate for his lack of pace a la John Terry.
You would think that his height would give him that ability, but any striker with a bit of muscle can give him problems.
Very much a finesse defender, he plays the game like a 6’6” Laurent Koscielny. In other words, he’s soft.
Mertesacker has his obvious strengths but his height and general awkwardness makes him a limited player. Think of him as the Peter Crouch of center backs.
9: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
One of my least favorite players in the world, you really can’t call Ibrahimovic anything more than a talented but high priced mercenary.
At this point, you know what you’re getting with him; 20-25 goals a season (and a few stunners among them), a very good chance at a domestic title and an even greater chance at a choke in Europe.
His transfer to Barcelona has to go down as one of the most boneheaded decisions in the past twenty years (and I really don’t think enough was made of what a mess the Ibra/Eto’o saga was).
It’s never a good idea to spend big money on a player that’s only effective when the entire offense is structured around him, especially since that player has a habit of bottling the big games.
Ibrahimovic never totally fulfills the expectations of the teams that sign him, and usually ends up leaving on bad terms.
Still only on loan at AC Milan, his future is far from certain. Only Manchester City or Chelsea have the resources to make a move for him.
Personally, I hope its Man City, only for the small chance that they pair Ibra with Balotelli, recall Adebayor and Bellamy and trot out the most universally despised forward line in football history.
In complete contrast to Ibrahimovic, we have Kaka, one of the nicest guys on the planet, a phenomenal teammate and a proven warrior in the Champions League.
However, for his last two AC Milan seasons and his first two at Real Madrid, Kaka hasn’t been himself. Injuries are the main culprit, as he’s usually on the treatment table or trying to play himself back into fitness and form.
He always seemed to be an awkward fit at Real Madrid, and with the emergence of Ozil and Di Maria, plus whoever Madrid decides to splurge on this summer, there really isn’t a place for him.
It’s a depressing revelation for such an outstanding character, but there have been rumors of him making his way to England. Whoever makes a move for him would be hoping that they get something close to the pre-2008 World Player of the Year Kaka, instead of the one that’s been limping around for the past two seasons.
But sadly, I think that the former version is unlikely to return. I’m praying for a “Ronaldo in 2002” type comeback, but realistically, do you see it happening?
7: Nicklas Bendtner
To the brief jubilation of many Arsenal fans, Bendtner was subject to a January deadline day enquiry by Newcastle as a replacement for Andy Carroll. Even more euphoric was the price being quoted—around €15 million.
Bendtner ended up staying at Arsenal but in hindsight, if the rumors were indeed true, Arsenal should have taken the money and ran. They may yet get another chance this summer, especially if they end up belatedly signing a proven striker.
As one of the increasing number of Arsene Wenger’s projects that have backfired, Bendtner’s inadequacy at the highest level is painfully noticeable. There is a feeling amongst some Arsenal fans that he would be better off at a mid table Premier League club.
But a move away will not magically improve Bendtner’s bad finishing, worse first touch and his annoying habit of anointing himself as the Chosen Striker. Wherever Bendtner ends up going, expect these tendencies to continue.
If he moves for anything close to the kind of money that Newcastle were allegedly offering, that would probably be Arsenal’s biggest victory of the summer.
6: Keisuke Honda
Best case scenario – Shunsuke Nakamura 2.0
Worst case scenario – Bullied out of the league
He’ll more likely than not end up being somewhere between the two; a lightweight, mediocre playmaker who will create or score a few goals from set pieces.
He could potentially be a savvy pickup for a mid table Premier League club, but not for the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal (the clubs he’s been liked with).
5: Gennaro Gattuso
It’s no secret that AC Milan are one of the many top level teams looking towards a squad revamp, and Gattuso could be one of the names out the door.
Gattuso has been linked with a move to Russia, but he may yet decide to give his battleaxe a swing in the Premier League.
But his skills have long been on the decline, reducing him to little more than a hatchet man nowadays. In fact, he is most likely to end up as the new Robbie Savage, a universally insufferable player not good for much more than a nuisance factor.
Any team that signs him better be prepared for the baggage he is sure to bring on board.
4: Wayne Bridge
It’s largely been a 2011 to forget for Wayne Bridge. He was pushed out of Manchester City, suffered a historically dreadful debut for West Ham against Arsenal, and nowadays, even John Terry has managed to regain the England captaincy.
Bridge will most likely be on the move again this summer, but interest in him must surely be based on reputation rather than reality.
His best days are surely behind him, but his wage demands would still be excessively high. Not as ridiculous as the £90 000 per week that West Ham are currently blowing on his loan deal, but still disproportionate to what he actually brings to the table.
Don’t count on a resurrection anytime soon.
3: Roque Santa Cruz
Any team dumb enough to go for Santa Cruz at this point probably deserves their fate.
The same goes for anyone thinking of Michael Owen—you're paying for a washed up striker that appears on the injured list more than the team sheet.
2: Arjen Robben
Bayern Munich is in serious danger of missing out on a Champions League spot next season, and the Bayern camp has entertained the idea of Europa League football with the same enthusiasm as an outbreak of the bubonic plague.
If Bayern do not end up making the Champions League, Robben has been tipped to return to Chelsea or join Manchester United.
At this point, you know what you sign up for with Robben and his dodgy ligaments. He’s either going to considerably elevate your team to new heights or end up ruining your season.
Unless he comes with a set of replacement legs or a live-in surgeon, I don’t see the sense for any title chasing club to take a gamble on him.
Name me the last Brazilian forward to make it in the Premier League. Neymar may have all the talent in the world, but why does it feel like his potential move to Chelsea is destined to end badly?
Maybe Robinho is still a bit fresh in the mind, but I can’t shake the feeling that he’d be better off in Spain or Italy. The Premier League will require him to grow up faster and adapt his game to having a lot less time on the ball. For all his undoubted ability, he’s still only 19, and this may be asking too much too soon.
Additionally, what of his professional character? I may run the risk of stereotyping, but Brazilian attackers aren’t exactly celebrated for their professionalism. For every Kaka there’s ten Ronaldinhos or Adrianos.
In truth, we haven’t had time to really measure his professional conduct amid all the fuss, but who knows what sort of Ballotelism lurks in his behavior? Plus the mohawk is usually a red flag.
Considering his great price tag and greater hype, a move to the Premier League could easily end up flopping badly.