As the January transfer market comes closer, the rumors and speculations about some players moving to certain clubs have begun to intensify. Surely, these speculations involve big names and big clubs and a lot of money. While most of the players get transferred to some clubs to attain more glory, some of them prefer to carve an identity for themselves in a different league. This process brings with itself a fair share of troopers and bloopers. The debate on the topic of transfer flops assumes great significance as it involves so many factors including the compatability between the clubs and the players themselves, the finances of the club, the long term vision of the club, injuries to the player and more importantly emotions of fans associated with various clubs.
But the basic question is, how does someone define a flop? Every individual has his own criteria of labeling a certain player as a flop. Some players being injury prone for most of their time might be considered as a flop. But the main criteria chosen for the players in this article is the hype which surrounded the player at the time of transfer, the money paid to acquire him and his performances for the club. As another decade(2000-10) goes by, we pick the “Flop Five” transfers of the decade.
1. Andriy Shevchenko
Arguably, the best player Ukraine has ever produced, six-time Ukranian footballer of the year, Ballon D’or winner in 2004, Champions League winner 2003, nominated twice for the UEFA team of the year in 2004 and 2005, leading Ukraninian player in their only World Cup appearance in 2006, Milan’s second highest all-time goal scorer, behind Gunnar Nordahl ,the only Ukrainian in Pele’s FIFA 100 list, – Andriy Shevchenko was supposed to be on the verge of greatness when he signed for Chelsea in 2006 for a record sum of £30.8 million. He was a striker who could score goals and terrorize defenses. Little did Roman Abramovich and Andriy Shevchenko knew that, in future, it would be regarded as their worst mistake ever.
Shevchenko was a superstar at AC Milan and due to Roman’s proximity with him, the Chelsea owner coaxed him to make the big move to London. The arrival of Shevchenko was seen as a potential ground-breaking move for Chelsea and that could possibly end their European Championship drought. The first season of Shevchenko incidentally was the last season for Mourinho in charge of Chelsea before he was sacked and replaced with Avram Grant. Shevchenko had a disappointing first season and managed only 14 goals in 51 appearances. His second season proved to be more disastrous – he managed only 5 goals in seventeen games. He failed to impress Scolari and was promptly dropped to the bench. AC Milan offered to take him on loan and his second spell at Milan was even worse. He failed to score even a single goal in the league and managed only 2 goals in his 26 appearances for the Rossoneri. He was sent back to Chelsea and he was then sent away after a disastrous 3 years at Chelsea to his boyhood club, Dynamo Kyiv. His goal tally at Chelsea in BPL reads 9 goals in 47 appearances. Football analysts have failed to decipher the flop code of Shevchenko over the years and his failure still seems unbelievable. What a shame, that one of the most prolific goal scorer in the world has been reduced to an average player. Undoubtedly, the biggest transfer flop in recent history.
2. Juan Sebastian Veron
After his exploits in the World Cup 1998, Veron was signed by Parma for £15 million. Parma won the Coppa Italia and the UEFA cup. Then Veron signed for Lazio in the very next year for £18.1 million and they won the Scudetto, the Italian cup and the Italian Super Cup. Then Manchester United came forward with a record breaking £28.1 million and Veron was on the plane to the Red half of Manchester.
When he signed for Manchester United, he was described by some as a combination of Zinedine Zidane and Roy Keane and by some as ‘The New Platini’. He had great flair, technical finesse and was destined for greatness. He could pass, tackle and read the game very well. Ferguson on signing Veron said,
“You need one player who can make a difference. The people watching United only want to see the best and we’ve got that today.”
But Veron found it extremely difficult to adapt to the pace and physical nature of the Premiership. He was very inconsistent and couldn’t play in the 4-4-2 formation of Manchester United. He was reduced to a support player for the irreplaceable Paul Scholes in the midfield and when the media questioned Sir Alex Ferguson about the bad performances of Veron, Ferguson uttered the unforgettable lines, “….On you go. I’m not f*cking talking to you. He’s a f*cking great player. You are all f*cking idiots.”
Still, Veron didn’t do enough to repay the manager’s faith in him and he was sold to Chelsea for £15 million. His spell at Chelsea was equally disastrous and he was then sent back to Italy to play for Inter Milan. Undoubtedly, he was one of the worst signing of the most decorated manager in football world, Sir Alex Ferguson. Currently, Veron plays for his boyhood club, Estudiantes de La Plata, and has been voted the South American footballer of the year of 2008 and 2009. But his stints with Manchester united and Chelsea are surely a blot in his illustrious career.
3. Gaizka Mendieta
Before the rise of the Davids-Villa and Silva for Valencia, Los Che had Gaizka Mendieta. The European midfielder of the year for 2000 and 2001, Mendieta had led Valencia to two Champions League finals consecutively but failed to win on both occasions. He was considered the hottest property in Spain and with 231 appearances for Valencia, Florentino Perez bid for him to incorporate the Spanish playmaker into his Galacticos. But Valencia sold him to the Italian club Lazio for a record breaking €48 million as a potential replacement to Veron who had got transferred to Manchester United. Mendieta failed to impress at Lazio and managed only 20 appearances with no goals. In his own words,
“Italy was difficult for me; I never felt I got any continuity there, any chance to settle into a routine. I just didn’t play that many games, didn’t get that many chances and it was hard, very hard, especially after where I had come from.”
He was subsequently loaned to Barcelona the following year and then to Middlesbrough where he ended his career. He will always be remembered as a superb play maker, who failed to fulfill his true potential.
4. Denílson de Oliveira Araújo
Denilson was a star at Sao Paolo, who scored 58 goals in 110 appearances for the Brazilian club. He was considered to be one the best wingers Brazil had produced and had set the FIFA Confederations Cup 1997 on fire by winning the Golden Ball in the process. Impressed with his performances for Brazil, Real Betis forked out a record transfer fee of £21.5 million making him the costliest footballer in the world. Though he was transferred before 2000, his transfer affected Betis post 2000 as well.
Denilson was considered a prodigy and had all the tricks and his step overs were a treat to watch. But his performances for Betis were never good enough and Betis were relegated to the second division after his signing in his very first year. He assumed that he was special and this attitude led to his downfall.. He was then loaned to Flamengo and then returned to Betis. He was a part of the world cup winning squad in 2002 with Brazil but his performances for Betis turned from bad to worse. He was eventually sold to the French club Bordeaux in 2005 for an undisclosed amount and from then onwards has been changing clubs at the drop of a hat.
When you are proclaimed by Pele as his heir apparent, you are bound to be in the news. Robinho started for Santos and helped them win 2 Campeonato Brasileiro (the domestic league in Brazil). His performances began to get better and soon Real Madrid snapped him up for €24 million. He had his fair share of glory and criticism at Real Madrid until the summer of 2008 which changed the dynamics of transfer market. Manchester City was taken over by Sheikh Mansour and the Chelsea bound Robinho was snapped up by City for a British record of £32.5m.
The transfer of Robinho was supposed to kick off a new chapter in the history of Manchester City. The fans loved Robinho and saw in him a terrific talent, who could take them to glorious heights. He became an instant fan favourite and a mascot of Manchester City. He started his first season with City on a positive note as he slowly began getting used to Premier League football and impressed fans and pundits with his performances. The second season started on a bad note for Robinho as he was plagued with injury problems and his differences with coach Roberto Mancini did not help the matters either.
He went back to Santos on a 6 month loan and then passed comments on Mancini’s managerial prowess. This irked Mancini and Robinho was allowed to leave City to AC Milan for £18m. Robinho made 41 appearances for Manchester City and considering that City paid €42.5 million for him, his each appearance cost City more than €1million. Robinho didn’t even feel the need to justify his transfer fee and had failed to meet the expectations of his board and City’s fans, making him a complete transfer flop at the Blue half of Manchester.