Good recruitment is a huge part of football as signing the wrong players can be hugely detrimental to a team, as well as an enormous source of embarrassment for years to come.
While the likes of Eric Cantona, Patrick Vieira, Luis Suarez and N’Golo Kante have represented incredible business over the years, there are plenty of flops to choose from as well.
Here’s a look at the 30 worst signings in Premier League history.
30. Andy van der Meyde (Everton)
Dutch winger Andy van der Meyde had all the makings of a star when he traded Inter Milan for Everton in 2005, having previously enjoyed much success with Ajax back home.
Unfortunately for Van der Meyde, he was beset with injuries and a myriad of personal problems that included alcoholism and his young daughter’s health during his time with the Toffees and his performances were severely limited as a result. He was released in 2009.
29. Andre Santos (Arsenal)
’Panic buy’ is the term that comes to mind when thinking about Arsenal’s purchase of Brazilian left-back Andre Santos on summer deadline day in 2011. The Gunners had just been thumped 8-2 by Manchester United and needed desperate strengthening.
Santos, who had hardly enjoyed two modest seasons in Turkey, was not the answer. He played just 23 times for Arsenal in two Premier League seasons and infamously irked fans when he swapped shirts with ex-captain Robin van Persie at half-time of a game in 2012.
28. Erik Meijer (Liverpool)
A journeyman forward who had already played for eight different clubs by the time he signed for Liverpool in 1999, Dutchman Erik Meijer endured a hapless spell in the Premier League.
He became something of a cult hero among fans for the way he embraced the club, its history and traditions, even joining supporters to drink and sing ahead of a UEFA Cup tie against Borussia Dortmund in 2000/01. But he never actually scored a league goal in two seasons.
27. Mario Jardel (Bolton)
A two-time European Golden Shoe winner with Porto and Sporting CP and scorer of over 350 goals by the age of 30, Mario Jardel arguably doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
His legacy, especially in England, is tarnished by a brief and disappointing spell at Bolton Wanderers in 2003/04 that marked the beginning of a journeyman existence. The Brazilian failed to find the net once in the Premier League, making just seven appearances.
26. Eric Djemba-Djemba (Man Utd & Aston Villa)
Manchester United were supposedly securing a long-term replacement for Roy Keane when Eric Djemba-Djemba, ‘so good they named him twice’, joined the club in 2003.
The Cameroonian international came with a reputation as a fierce tackling midfielder when he first arrived from Nantes in France. He didn’t live up to expectation at Old Trafford, nor did he when he subsequently transferred to Aston Villa in 2005.
25. Radamel Falcao (Man Utd & Chelsea)
Manchester United gambled that Radamel Falcao was fit enough to make an impact in the Premier League just seven months after suffering a serious knee ligament injury while in action for Monaco – an injury that had ruled him out of the 2014 World Cup.
The Colombian, arguably the best ‘number nine’ in the world during the three previous seasons, just couldn’t hack it and seemed to get worse as his confidence took fresh hits every time he played. Inexplicably, Chelsea made the exact same mistake the following season.
24. Javier Margas (West Ham)
Famed for his often wildly coloured hair, Chilean defender Javier Margas had been spotted by West Ham at the 1998 World Cup and made the switch to east London soon after the tournament to link up with then manager Harry Redknapp. But he struggled to settle.
Margas’ very first day was a nightmare when he got lost trying to get to training and ended up stranded after suffering a tire puncture. His wife was homesick and had returned to Chile, so one day he literally escaped through a hotel window, never to be seen by the club again.
23. Sean Dundee (Liverpool)
Liverpool saw fit spent £2m on South Africa-born German striker Sean Dundee in the summer of 1998 after his impressive goal record with Karlsruhe in the Bundesliga.
Unfortunately for Dundee, he didn’t do enough to warrant a place in Gerard Houllier’s team ahead of teen prodigy Michael Owen or experienced German Karl-Heinz Riedle. And when Robbie Fowler returned from injury, his chances were gone. He left in 1999 without a goal.
22. Adrian Mutu (Chelsea)
Chelsea had spent big to buy Adrian Mutu in the summer of 2003, around £15m, but the versatile forward looked as though he would be a massive hit in the Premier League after scoring four goals in his first three appearances.
That prolific form quickly dried up, though, and he netted just twice more in the next 22 games. Mutu then failed a drugs test in 2004 after taking cocaine, resulting in a seven-month ban, dismissal from the club and a lengthy legal battle as Chelsea sought compensation from him.
21. Jean-Alain Boumsong (Newcastle)
Jean-Alain Boumsong was poor for Newcastle. The centre-back had arrived for £8m in January 2005, just months after signing for Rangers in Scotland as a free agent from Auxerre, where he’d impressed in the Champions League.
Despite having been a top player for previous clubs, there was a calamitous element to his game while at St James’ Park and was he sold to a freshly relegated Juventus for £3m in the summer of 2006 after just 18 months in England.
20. Roque Junior (Leeds)
Brazilian defender Roque Junior played close to an hour of the 2003 Champions League final for AC Milan mere months before an ill-fated loan spell at doomed Leeds United, a union that lasted just one season.
Leeds conceded 25 goals in Roque Junior’s seven appearances for the club, including a 6-1 battering at the hands of newly promoted Portsmouth. He had earlier been sent off on his debut, and even a brace in the League Cup against Manchester United couldn’t save him.
19. Steve Marlet (Fulham)
£11.5m was a positively enormous sum for newly promoted Fulham to spend on French striker Steve Marlet in the summer of 2001, especially seeing as that was less than Liverpool’s club record capture of Emile Heskey just the year before.
Marlet didn’t have an outstanding goal record in France for Lyon and Auxerre as it was, but he didn’t even reach a respectable level for Fulham, scoring just 11 Premier League goals in three seasons. He was effectively a passenger as the club established itself in the top flight.
18. Massimo Taibi (Man Utd)
Massimo Taibi, cruelly dubbed ‘The Blind Venetian’ after his disastrous spell in England, has long been a source of embarrassment for Manchester United fans. He was bought for £4.5m, a substantial fee for a goalkeeper at that time, but was shipped off back to Italy after four games.
The former AC Milan stopper overcame an early flap on his debut against Liverpool to put in a man of the match performance. But he allowed a tame shot to squirm through his body in a 3-3 draw with Southampton and was utterly hopeless as United were hammered 5-0 by Chelsea.
17. Corrado Grabbi (Blackburn)
From one Italian flop to another, Corrado Grabbi became Blackburn’s record signing in 2001 when he joined the club from Italian second tier side Ternana for close to £7m.
Blackburn had only just returned to the Premier League after relegation in 1999 and were looking for a goalscorer to help them kick on, but Grabbi wasn’t it. He scored just two league goals in 30 appearances and was still contracted to the club until 2004, before returning home.
16. Kleberson (Man Utd)
2002 World Cup hero Kleberson became the first Brazilian to sign for Manchester United when he made the £6m switch from Atletico Paranaense to Old Traffod in the summer of 2003.
United fans had plenty to be excited about after hearing how the midfielder had been one of the first names on the team-sheet during Brazil’s road to glory. In reality, they saw nothing of the sort, with an early injury disrupting his progress. Ultimately, he never managed to settle.
15. Savio Nsereko (West Ham)
Forgotten by most given that his stay in the Premier League was so brief, West Ham fans probably wish they could forget about Savio Nsereko, bought in January 2009 for what was then a club record fee of £9m.
Quite why the Hammers paid so much for an unknown 20-year-old with barely any first-team experience remains a mystery, but it was quickly obvious it was a mistake. The Ugandan-born German failed to settle and didn’t scored a single goal before leaving a few months later.
14. Roberto Soldado (Tottenham)
Only Erik Lamela arrived at Tottenham for more money than £26m striker Roberto Soldado in the summer that Gareth Bale left White Hart Lane for Real Madrid in a world record deal.
Soldado had enjoyed three fine seasons with Valencia in Spain, but the Premier League proved to be a step too far for the ex-Real youngster. His first season with Spurs yielded just six league goals, while his second produced only one. He has never rediscovered his form.
13. Serhiy Rebrov (Tottenham)
Serhiy Rebrov shot to fame as part of an extremely talented Dynamo Kyiv team that reached the Champions League semi finals in 1998/99, and his strike partner from those halcyon days is unfortunately also set to feature on this list.
Rebrov joined Tottenham for the substantial figure of £11m in the summer of 2000, only to badly struggle with the demanding Premier League. He scored 10 league goals across two seasons, netting just once in the second, and was released in 2004 after two loans in Turkey.
12. Tomas Brolin (Leeds & Crystal Palace)
Swedish forward Tomas Brolin had been a star in the early 1990s, part of an exciting Swedish golden generation that reached the semi finals of Euro ’92 and the 1994 World Cup, as well as starring for a top Parma side in Serie A, then the undisputed best league in the world.
By the time he joined Leeds in late 1995 for £4.5m things had started to unravel. Injuries and clashes with manager Howard Wilkinson meant fans never saw Brolin at anything like his best. He later wound up at Crystal Palace in 1997 and struggled terribly with weight.
11. Winston Bogarde (Chelsea)
Winston Bogarde’s four-year spell at Chelsea is infamous because the Dutchman, who had previously won the Champions League with Ajax and played for Barcelona, spent most of his team at the club simply training and collecting lucrative wages, without actually playing.
Claudio Ranieri had been hired shortly after Bogarde’s arrival and didn’t want him. But the defender had signed a contract worth €15m over four years and didn’t believe he could earn as good a salary anywhere else. So he stuck around until 2004 to take every penny he was owed.
10. Juan Sebastian Veron (Man Utd)
Juan Sebastian Veron had established himself as one of the best midfielders in the world during spells at Parma and Lazio in Serie A’s heyday, prompting Manchester United to shatter their transfer record to buy him for a shade over £28m in 2001.
Veron promised so much and showed occasional flashes of brilliance, but a combination of injuries, playing out of position and difficulty adapting to life in England all contributed to an exit for a 50% loss in 2003. It is little coincidence his best games for United came in Europe.
9. Jo (Man City)
Brazilian striker Jo arrived at Manchester City a few weeks before the Abu Dhabi takeover in 2008 and the £19m paid represented a huge new record, albeit one that would be smashed when Robinho joined for £32.5m later that summer.
It quickly became apparent that there was no place for Jo and after only a few months. He showed he had quality after five goals in 12 Premier League games for the Toffees, but that deserted him the following season. Back at City, he proved just as useless as before.
8. Angel Di Maria (Man Utd)
Angel Di Maria wasn’t the only one at fault for his dismal season at Manchester United in 2014/15. He was played out of position and often restricted by manager Louis van Gaal, while an attempted break-in at his house irreparably unsettled the Argentine and his family.
United fans thought they were getting a superstar when the £59.7m deal was completed as Di Maria had been named man of the match in the Champions League final for Real Madrid only a few months earlier. But after a strong start, he never looked prepared to put any effort in.
7. Bosko Balaban (Aston Villa)
Former Croatia international Bosko Balaban has become a Premier League cult figure for all the wrong reasons as a result of his awful spell at Aston Villa after joining from Dinamo Zagreb for around £6m in the summer of 2001.
Balaban, who was earning a handsome weekly wage of £20,000, did not start a single game for Villa in the Premier League. He never managed to find the net in claret and blue either and wound up being released after spending the 2002/03 season back home in Croatia on loan.
6. Andriy Shevchenko (Chelsea)
2004 Ballon d’Or winner Andriy Shevchenko was the player that billionaire owner Roman Abramovich desperately wanted at Chelsea, finally getting his man in the summer of 2006 for a huge fee in excess of £30m.
He actually scored in his very first Chelsea appearance, netting in the Community Shield, but he was simply not the same player who had scored over 170 goals in seven years at Milan. Instead, Shevchenko became a joke and scored nine Premier League goals in two seasons.
5. Andy Carroll (Liverpool)
Liverpool had already broken their transfer record on winter deadline day in 2011 to buy £23m Luis Suarez from Ajax, but smashed it to pieces mere hours later to land Newcastle striker Andy Carroll for £35m.
The Geordie target man had only 18 months of regular first-team football under his belt at that time and represented a huge panic buy for the Reds. Carroll scored four Premier League during his only full season and was eventually sold to West Ham in 2013 for a £20m loss.
4. Afonso Alves (Middlesbrough)
While Luis Suarez and Ruud van Nistelrooy are both fine examples of how prolific Eredivisie players can thrive in the Premier League, Middlesbrough flop Afonso Alves is a fine example of the exact opposite after his failed stint in England.
The Brazilian had scored more than a goal per game in Dutch football for Heerenveen and joined Boro for a club record £12.5m in January 2008. He made a perfectly respectable start, but his first and only full season was atrocious and he quickly moved on to Al-Sadd in Qatar.
3. Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham)
In grave relegation danger in 2013/14, Fulham turned to Kostas Mitroglou in the January transfer window, splashing out a cool £12m on the Greek striker in the hope that his goals would fire the club to safety.
It was a big ask, even though he had scored 14 goals in 12 league games for Olympiacos in the first half of the campaign. The problem was that Mitroglou barely even got on the pitch to make a difference, playing only three times as the Cottagers fell through the trap door.
2. Ali Dia (Southampton)
In terms of quality, or lack thereof, Ali Dia is widely regarded by many as the very worst player ever to grace a Premier League pitch after his sole appearance for Southampton in a five-minute cameo against Leeds back in November 1996.
The Saints had been kidded into believing the forward was George Weah’s cousin after someone claiming to be the 1995 Ballon d’Or winner recommended Dia to the club. Manager Graeme Souness then named in the squad to face Leeds without ever having seen him play.
It was all over very quickly as Dia was released soon after, and remains a source of major embarrassment rather than a painful financial loss.
1. Fernando Torres (Chelsea)
The only reason Liverpool had £35m to spend on Andy Carroll in 2011 was because Chelsea had just given them £50m for Fernando Torres, an enormous figure that made him the third most expensive player of all time behind only Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka.
The Spaniard had been an absolute revelation when he first joined Liverpool in 2008, but this was a player already on the wane while still at Anfield as injuries began to hit, affecting his electric pace and badly knocking his confidence.
That only worsened after moving to west London and Torres scored just 20 Premier League goals in three-and-a-half seasons at Chelsea.