The Premier League has seen its share of big signings go bad or sour in recent decades and this is no surprise as such must be expected in the round leather game.
A good number of top players from top clubs in the major leagues have made that big move to England and never remained the same, failing to replicate the form and performances that saw the big clubs in the league go all out to acquire their signatures.
Most of them were unexpected and never lived up to the billing till they left the Premier League, although they were at the peak of their footballing careers at their previous clubs before being acquired.
Some reasons have been noted for this. Most folks have pointed out the physicality of the Premier League, as well as the pace at which the game is played. These could be genuine factors though.
Please note that this is by no means an exhaustive list as some inclusions and exclusions might be debatable. Regardless, this is what I’ve come up with regarding the big-name soccer players who came to the Premier League and failed to make it.
This is also not a ranking of who was worse than who but a list. Do well not to place emphasis on their numerical positions as they are placed in no particular order.
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1. Radamel Falcao
This is a case of Manchester United and Chelsea suffering in sequences. However, the former suffered a bigger loss. Falcao nicknamed El Tigre was one of the most lethal center-forwards in the world at the time and arrived with quite a reputation after his exploits with Porto and Atletico Madrid.
He made a move to Monaco where he appeared to lose some steam after an injury. Regardless, the Red Devils gambled on him. He scored a meager 4 goals in 26 games for Man United and was very poor on the pitch most of the time.
Chelsea went for him on a lucrative contract. However, he was the opposite of prolific and scored just 1 goal in 10 games for the Blues. The London outfit had no choice but to count their losses.
2. Andriy Shevchenko
Andriy Shevchenko was one of the unexpected Premier League flops going by his consistency and the reputation he built at AC Milan and the world at large. He is arguably the biggest player to flop in Premier League in history.
The Ukrainian striker won the Ballon d’Or in 2004 and was the top scorer in the UEFA Champions League in the 1998/99 and 2005/06 seasons. He also carved a niche for himself by appearing in 2005’s FIFPro World XI.
He joined the Blues in 2006 and cast a sulking figure in his time at Stamford Bridge. His inconsistency was one of the reasons why Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho was sacked from Chelsea for the first time.
He scored 21 goals in 77 games in all competitions for Chelsea. This was a very big far cry from his numbers at AC Milan, considering that he was a big-money signing by Roman Abramovich.
3. Ángel Di María
The dazzling and exciting Argentine joined Manchester United from Real Madrid in a £59.7m record deal. Man United fans were very confident they had a great portion of their wing problems sorted out. Well, they received shockers to their spines.
Di Maria wore the legendary number 7 shirt although it eventually proved too heavy for him. He scored just 3 goals for Man United and reportedly had issues with then United manager, Louis Van Gaal. He left United for Paris Saint-Germain where he appears to have rediscovered his touch.
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4. Juan Cuadrado
The seemingly exciting Colombian winger blossomed in the Serie A with Fiorentina, coupled with his impressive performances for the Colombia national team at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Chelsea signed him in 2015 but he never looked like the player everyone thought he was in all his time at Chelsea.
I daresay there were no occasional glimpses of brilliance from Cuadrado. He was so poor that six months was all he could spend at Stamford Bridge before being shipped out to Juventus on an initial loan deal which was eventually made permanent.
5. Roberto Soldado
One of the La Liga greats. only mostly dominated by the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo on the highest goal scorers’ list. However, when he arrived in the Premier League with Spurs, he became the opposite of great.
Roberto Soldado managed to score 7 goals in 52 games for the North London outfit and is one signing that should haunt Spurs fans for years to come. Regardless, they still have him to thank and should be pacified by the fact that his inconsistencies resulted in the emergence of Harry Kane.
6. Memphis Depay
The Eredivisie star was described as the next Cristiano Ronaldo at Manchester United. Well, this was not the case. Depay joined the Red Devils in 2015 in a deal worth £25m.
He came with lots of promises namely; an efficient set-piece taker, a dribbler, a creator, and a decent finisher. However, he never proved any of the aforementioned roles in his time at Old Trafford. It was only a matter of time before he was handed a seat belt on the bench.
He scored just 2 goals and provided 1 assist in his first season. He eventually left for Lyon after struggling for game time in the following season. He may be remembered at Old Trafford for his conspicuous tattoos and nothing more.
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It could be recalled that Robinho was the subject of a transfer battle between Chelsea and Manchester City. He eventually settled for the former and was treated like a god on his arrival at the Etihad. The Citizens acquired the Brazilian from Real Madrid in a whopping £32.5m deal in 2008.
He started on a high and fans in the Blue part of Manchester were confident they had a gem in their hands. Well, things escalated quickly as time progressed as the Brazilian soon forgot how to perform his duties effectively on the pitch.
Injuries and inconsistencies got the better of him before he was eventually loaned out to the Brazilian side Santos in 2010. Recall I said there was a battle between Chelsea and City for his signature right? Well, Chelsea fans eventually counted themselves lucky, having dodged the Robinho bullet.
8. Davor Šuker
Unarguably one of Croatia’s greatest players going by his performances for club and country. Davor Suker was the real deal in La Liga for 8 consecutive years from 1991 to 1999 representing Sevilla and Real Madrid in that period.
He scored loads of goals in his time and also played a vital role in Croatia’s progression to the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup in France. Therefore, Arsenal presented themselves as victims to the slaughter for his signature.
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The Gunners signed him from Real Madrid but he managed to score in just 5 league games and spent only one season at Arsenal before making the move to West Ham where he also capitulated and left for Germany.
9. Eliaquim Mangala
The towering and physically imposing rugged-looking Eliaquim Mangala was the most expensive Premier League defender on his arrival at the Etihad in 2014 in a deal worth £42m.
After two seasons, his time was up. He made a lot of costly mistakes on the pitch and seemed scared of having the ball on the pitch occasionally. He was eventually sold to Valencia for free in 2019 after some failed loan moves.
10. Juan Sebastián Verón
The Argentina international was a household name in the round leather game at the time before his arrival at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. He had dazzled in Serie A with Parma and Lazio, as well as with the Argentina national team.
However, his record in England is one he may be willing to chalk off his career statistics if he could. His style of play was just not suited to the Premier League and he ended up being average at best, and eventually surplus to requirements at Old Trafford.
Chelsea decided to go for him. I guess they thought the Man United experience was a one-off. Well, they were proven wrong as Veron was still not at the top of his game after joining the Blues in 2003. He was obviously not made for the game in England.
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There are many other notable players that came with the hype from other leagues but flopped badly in the Premier League. Some might say it’s relative. Some other names include:
- Fernando Morientes – Liverpool
- Gonzalo Higuain – Chelsea
- Shinji Kagawa – Manchester United
- Filipe Luis – Chelsea
As I mentioned earlier, this list could end up being debatable for some folks due to some reasons like players not being given chances to prove themselves, injury hamperings, and the age factor, amongst others.
Regardless, these soccer players never lived up to the billing that saw some of the decent clubs in the Premier League go through the trouble of acquiring them. The reputation that preceded them was never seen in the Premier League and everyone can attest to that at least.