Worst football transfers of all time | Top 5

The 2020 summer transfer window is now closed with a staggering £3bn spent across the biggest five leagues in Europe. If your team have been splashing the cash then it’s easy to be giddy with excitement but things don’t always work out well just because you throw money at them. Here we look at five of the worst big money football transfers of all time to prove just that.

The 5 worst football transfers ever

5. Ciro Immobile (Torino to Borussia Dortmund)

Hands up if you forgot Immobile even had a spell at Dortmund during 2014/15 season? The Italian had just had a superb year for Torino in Italy, notching a goal every 116 minutes with 23 goals in 34 appearances. Dortmund, who were managed by Jurgen Klopp, were on the lookout for a new striker with Robert Lewandowski heading to Bayern. They opted to pay £17m for Immobile.

In terms of dodgy football transfers it was a disaster. He scored just three Bundesliga goals in 24 games as Dortmund finished in their lowest position – seventh – for seven years. Immobile was sent packing. Still, he’s done alright since and 36 goals last year on his way to the European Golden Shoe shows there was a goal machine in there somewhere. Not that it will offer any comfort to Dortmund fans.

4. Jonathan Woodgate (Newcastle United to Real Madrid)

If you can remember Woodgate’s debut for Real Madrid then you’re already one step ahead of the average football fan. The England centre-back surprisingly moved to the Bernebeu from Newcastle United back in 2004 for £17m. Two years and just nine league appearances after moving to Spain, he returned to the north-east with his tail between his legs to join Middlesbrough.

That move was a loan which became permanent but it meant his signing had cost the Spanish giants a staggering £19k per minute or over £1m per appearance. His most memorable night for Los Blancos was his ill-fated debut which saw him score an own goal and collect two yellow cards, and subsequently a red, in just over an hour. To make matters worse, he’d waited a year to make his bow due to injury. Real Madrid fans will argue strongly that Woodgate was one of the worst football transfers they’ve ever made.

3. Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal to Manchester United)

Can you remember when Alexis Sanchez for £30m looked like a bargain? The Chilean had been one of the most exciting players in the world during his time at Arsenal. When Man United won his signature over their neighbours, Man City, in a swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, it was seen as a major coup – even if his wages were £350k per week. Just five goals and 18 months later, he was bombed out on loan to Inter Milan and deemed surplus to requirements.

He’s since joined the Nerazzurri permanently and revealed he wanted to leave United after one training session. Although United have a recent history of turning good players into bad players, this particular instance said more about the player than the club and Sanchez goes down as not only one of the Red Devils’ biggest flops but also one of the worst Premier League signings ever.

2. Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao to Chelsea)

Is it harsh to include a 26-year-old who is still at the club in a list of the worst transfers of all time? Absolutely not. Kepa has not once looked like a £72m keeper since his move to Stamford Bridge in 2018. In fact, had Chelsea paid a third of that (£24m) then they’d still have been ripped off, with Frank Lampard still continuing to attempt to flog that particular dead horse at the time of writing.

Not only has Kepa not lived up to his price tag but he’s made so many mistakes that pundits have begun to feel sorry for the lad. Chelsea boss Frank Lampard has always backed him publicly but the recent signing of Edouard Mendy for £22m shows that his time at the club is surely doomed. Kepa is still young, particularly for a keeper, and his recent comments suggest he’s willing to fight for his future. Unfortunately for him that future probably lies away from Stamford Bridge when a buyer can be found.

1. Phillipe Coutinho (Liverpool to Barcelona)

What does £142m buy you? In this long, drawn out transfer saga the answer was not a lot, although that doesn’t quite paint the whole picture. Liverpool did alright when they reinvested the cash, signing Virgil van Dijk and Allison who would inspire The Reds to become English, European and World champions within the space of 12 months, prompting Graeme Souness to say it was the best business in Liverpool’s history.

For Barca and Coutinho though, to say the move hasn’t worked out is an enormous understatement. His first six months offered promise as he notched seven goals and provided six assists in 18 La Liga games. Unfortunately, it’s been downhill since and, after the 2018/19 season saw just five goals and two creations, Coutinho was sent on loan to Bayern Munich.

To add insult to injury, he came up against his parent club in the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019/20, scoring twice and adding an assist as Bayern smashed Barcelona 8-2, the most shocking defeat in the clubs’ history and one which led to the manager being sacked and Messi demanding to leave.

He’s now back with Barca and with a new boss it’s not too late to prove his worth. He has his work cut out though to move his transfer from the top of our list of the worst football transfers ever.


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