Manchester United's Owen Hargreaves & 9 of Football's Most Fantastic Flops...
When it comes to the all too common occurrence of the big-money flop, there are always the classics that folk will wax lyrical about in the pub on a Saturday afternoon. The legendary disasters of Shevchenko to Chelsea, Veron to Manchester United, Alberto Aquilani to Liverpool, the ‘Boro Goal Machine’ Alfonso Alves to Middlesbrough and even the hilariously sh**e Ade Akinbiyi, will live long in the memory for the grotesque wastes of money they were. There are also those however that cost an absolute bomb and in return did naff all, only to then end up getting off scott-free and have their crimes to football swept under the carpet. I believe it is now high time to out these charlatans and expose these forgotten disasters for the shockers they truly were.
Steve Marlet - Fulham
The ultimate man in the forgotten disasters club. Marlet cost newly promoted Fulham an unbelievable £11.5m back in 2001 and was supposed to show the Premier League that this new look Fulham meant business, unfortunately for Al Fayed, Steve was hopeless and only managed 11 goals in 54 matches. Dubbed as the only Frenchman not to know where the Onion bag was, so rubbish was Marlet that Al Fayed even explored the possibility of suing his former manager Jean Tigana for buying such a dead horse.
Albert Luque – Newcastle United
Christ Newcastle have signed some rubbish, I should know, I've spent most of my life watching them, and even worse, funding them! I could have selected one of many, with the likes of Marcelino, Owen, Boumsong and Bramble all in contention for the title, but I think the most underrated in the awfulness stakes may well be Albert Luque. A Souness master stroke in 2005 that cost a staggering £9.5m from Deportivo, has done well to top a list comprised of so many overpaid duds. Lightweight, slow, injury prone and overall just completely useless; 21 games, 1 goal. God damn you Graeme Souness.
Massimo Maccarone – Middlesbrough
Back in 2002 Massimo Maccarone was the hottest young striker in Europe and had could have gone anywhere he wanted. Weirdly, in an £8.15m deal he signed for……Middlesbrough. It was seen as quite a coup for the ‘Boro, how did they manage to persuade the boy with seemingly the world at his feet to come to the Riverside!? Well, we soon had our answer. Little did we realise, but it turned out Maccarone was actually a massive hustler and was in fact totally rubbish; five long years on Teesside, numerous loans, 81 games, 18 goals.
Fernando Morientes - Liverpool
At Anfield, long before the whole Andy Carroll debacle, there was the curious case of Fernando Morientes. The Real Madrid striker had done it all at the Bernabeu; league titles, cups and even multiple Champions Leagues medals. Rafa Benitez paid £6.5m to bring him to Liverpool in 2005 and at the age of 28, it seemed a decent deal. There were initial flashes of his class at Anfield, but by and large it just never really worked for Morientes and year later he was shipped off back to Spain to join Valencia. Soon after, Liverpool signed another Spanish striker called Fernando, he turned out rather better. Well, for a while anyway!
Tore Andre Flo/Marcus Stewart - Sunderland
In one of the great transfer deadline day panic buys, to bolster a depleted forward line following the retirement of Niall Quinn, Peter Reid (complete with his monkey’s heed) blew £10m on a Tore Andre Flo/Marcus Stewart double swoop. During the 2002/03 season, in a combined 46 games, Flo & Stewart scored just 9 goals between them helping Sunderland get relegated, whilst at the time, becoming the worst team in Premier League history. To be fair to Stewart, he finally came good for Sunderland the following year in the Championship. Flo did not.
Yuri Zhirkov- Chelsea
Since Roman Abramovich arrived at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have spunked eye watering sums on big name players and quite often got bot-all back in return; Mutu, Shevchenko, Wright-Philips to name but a few. However, in 2009, with Ashley Cole firmly in place as first choice Left-back, Chelsea spent a ludicrous £18m on Yuri Zhirkov. Rumour has it that Roman personally signed his fellow countryman which might well explain why Carlo Ancelotti never quite found a role for the Russian. In two years spent as a utility squad player, Zhirkov made a grand total of 29 appearances. That works out at just over £620,000 a game. Bargain.
Owen Hargreaves – Manchester United
I feel a bit bad about including Owen Hargreaves on this list because when fully fit he was a class player. Of course, as we all know, problem was he was just always knackered. In a transfer that seemed to drag on forever, it seems forgotten now that Manchester United spent a whopping £17m on Hargreaves. In four years at Old Trafford, largely due to his chronic knees, he made just 39 appearances. It's a shame because just how good Hargreaves was, or could have been, for both Manchester United and England, we will probably now never know.
Rolando Bianchi/Jo – Manchester City
When Sven took over at Manchester City in 2007, he and Tord Grip came armed with a list of players they had been collating since their England days ready for their first foray back into club management; top of that list was Rolando Bianchi. Costing £8.8m, the big Italian spent just 6 months at Eastlands before being deemed surplus by Sven being loaned off to Lazio. To replace Bianchi in 2008, Manchester City then spent a mental £19m on Jo! Once again it all ended in tears as the Brazilian ended up spending a majority of that time on loan elsewhere as City chopped and changed owners and managers. Jo scored just the 1 goal in 31 appearances for Manchester City. Rubbish name, rubbish player.
In the modern financial climate, where there seems to be no money left whatsoever and country after country is going bust, the world of football sticks two fingers up to the rest and by & large carries on the way it always has, throwing money around like confetti, ‘You score 25 goals last season?!....Here, have £200,000 a week!’ Regardless of what is happening in the real world, if you’re one of the top clubs and you want to compete for the trophies, you’re going to need to get your wallet out, just ask Arsenal fans. Our only hope as fans is that if we are going slash £20m on the next big thing; they turn out more Ravanelli than Răducioiu.