The 20 worst ever Premier League signings, including Joelinton, Kepa and Shevchenko
Newcastle's Brazilian striker has beeb a catastrophic signing for the Magpies and has earned his place alongside some other memorable flop stars
When Newcastle United attacker Joelinton left the pitch after their 1-1 draw with Wolves last weekend, it brought to an end the latest game of a disastrous spell in England.
The Brazilian joined the Premier League side for a club record £40 million fee in July 2019 to become Steve Bruce's first signing after replacing Rafa Benitez as manager.
In his first season, Joelinton managed just four goals in 44 appearances in all competitions and two strikes in 38 Premier League games.
His second season has followed a familiar path and by the end of March 2021, Joelinton had scored once in 21 league appearances, three in 27 overall.
It is a record that means Newcastle's current No 9 has earned his place in the pantheon of pound-for-pound worst signings in Premier League history – including the likes of Kepa Arrizabalaga, Andriy Shevchenko and Angel Di Maria – which you can read about below and see by scrolling or swiping through the picture gallery above.
The 20 worst Premier League signings
Kevin Davies – Southampton to Blackburn Rovers in 1998 – £7.5m
Bosko Balaban – Dinamo Zagreb to Aston Villa in 2001 – £5.8m
Francis Jeffers – Everton to Arsenal in 2001 – £10m
Steve Marlet – Lyon to Fulham in 2001 – £13m
Adrian Mutu – Parma to Chelsea in 2003 – £16m
Albert Luque – Deportivo La Coruna to Newcastle United in 2005 – £9.5m
Andriy Shevchenko – AC Milan to Chelsea in 2006 – £31m
Owen Hargreaves – Bayern Munich to Manchester United in 2007 – £18m
David Bentley – Blackburn Rovers to Tottenham Hotspur in 2008 – £15m
Bebe – Vitoria Guimaraes to Manchester United in 2010 – £7.4m
Andy Carroll – Newcastle United to Liverpool in 2011 – £35m
Fernando Torres – Liverpool to Chelsea in 2011 – £52m
Eliaquim Mangala – Porto to Manchester City in 2014 – £42m
Mario Balotelli – AC Milan to Liverpol in 2014 in 2014 – £16m
Jack Rodwell – Manchester City to Sunderland in 2014 – £11.3m
Angel Di Maria – Real Madrid to Manchester United in 2014 – £59.7m
Davy Klaassen – Ajax to Everton in 2018 – £24m
Danny Drinkwater – Leicester City to Chelsea in 2017 – £35m
Kepa Arrizabalaga – Athletic Bilbao to Chelsea in 2018 – £71.6m
Joelinton – Hoffenheim to Newcastle United in 2019 – £40m
Kevin Davies (attacker) Southampton to Blackburn Rovers in 1998 – £7.5m
Rovers forked out a new club-record fee for the 21-year-old striker, ten times what Southampton had paid Chesterfield just 12 months earlier. He managed a measly two goals in 29 games before beings shipped back to the Saints in a swap deal involving Egil Ostenstad. In a 2010 interview, Davies said: “There are no grudges on my part. It wasn’t the best period of my career but it’s not something I dwell on or look back on. It just didn’t work out."
Bosko Balaban (attacker) Dinamo Zagreb to Aston Villa in 2001 – £5.8m
A regular scorer in Croatia, Belgium and Malaysia during his career. 10 goals in 35 appearances for the Croatian national team. For Villa? No goals from no starts in the league, making just eight substitute appearances before being sold for nothing to Club Brugge. In a 2019 interview, Balaban said: "If you’re a club that throws big money at signings and then doesn’t let them actually play, the jokes should really be at your expense."
Francis Jeffers (attacker) Everton to Arsenal in 2001 – £10m
A promising, if not prolific scorer at Everton, Jeffers arrived at Arsenal aged 20 with a growing reputation, and was famously described by manager Arsene Wenger as the "fox in the box" his team had been looking for. Jeffers, though, never lived up to his early promise – he scored 13 goals in 16 games for England Under-21s – and he managed just eight goals in 39 appearances before rejoining Everton. Reflecting on his career in 2014, Jeffers told the Independent: “I don’t know whether people think the same as I think which is: I should have been better. I shouldn’t have ended up with one England cap and 250 career appearances, but injuries played a part."
Steve Marlet (attacker) Lyon to Fulham in 2001 – £13m
Fulham forked out a club record fee for the French attacker whose goalscoring record in Ligue 1 had been solid if unspectacular. In London, it wasn't even solid as Marlet found the net 11 times in 54 appearances before heading back to France with Marseille two years later. In 2006, Marlet told Sky Sports: "I only played in England for two seasons, but I love the Premiership. I regret having played there for only two years, because I had signed a five-year contract. But I had problems with Fulham, so they told me to leave."
Adrian Mutu (attacker) Parma to Chelsea in 2003 – £16m
A catastrophic move for player and club. Mutu, an early signing in the Roman Abramovich revolution at Chelsea, had just smashed 22 goals in 36 games for Italian side Parma and started his career in London with four strikes in three matches. His form, though, would quickly fall away and he would finish the season with 10 goals in 38 appearances. Within a couple of months, Mutu would fail a drugs test, be sacked by Chelsea and banned from all football for seven months. A bitter legal dispute between Mutu and Chelsea would then go on for more than a decade. In 2011, he told Corriere dello Sport: "Maybe if I had made other decisions in the past, I could even have won the Ballon d'Or at some point. I'd rather not think about that too much, though."
Albert Luque (winger/attacker) Deportivo La Coruna to Newcastle United in 2005 – £9.5m
Spaniard arrived at Newcastle having built himself a decent reputation playing in La Liga and the Portugal's Primeira Liga but never remotely justified the Magpies' huge outlay. The 27-year-old tore a hamstring in only his second game for the Magpies and never regained the form that had earned his big-money move. He would play just 21 league games in two seasons, scoring a single goal, before being sold to Ajax. In a 2020 interview, Luque told ChronicleLive: "I would like to address all the [Newcastle] fans and apologise to them for not being able to give everything that was inside me as a footballer. Their treatment towards me was exquisite and I wish I could have paid them back with more goals."
Andriy Shevchenko (attacker) AC Milan to Chelsea in 2006 – £31m
A prolific scorer and hero with Dynamo Kiev, AC Milan and the Ukranian national team, Shevchenko was 29 and past his best when he moved for a British record fee to join Chelsea. There would be the odd flash of his old magic but his time in London was a huge anti-climax as he managed just nine goals in 48 league games before being lent back to Milan before returning to Kiev. During his spell at Chelsea, Shevchenko claimed he was being played out of position: “I was playing further behind, away from goal – different from how I played at Milan," he said in 2007. "At Milan, I played in my natural role. Here, I had to adapt to be something else, and I did it so I could help the team.”
Owen Hargreaves (midfielder/defender) Bayern Munich to Manchester United in 2007 – £18m
A superb player whose time at United would be ravaged by injuries. After 34 appearances in his first season, Hargreaves would go on to make just five in the next three and manager Alex Ferguson would call him "one of the most disappointing signings of my career”. The injury problems would force Hargreaves to retire in 2012, aged 31. He would later criticise United's medical staff for the medical procedures he was given. “I’ve had to be a guinea pig for a lot of these treatments,” he told The Guardian in 2011. “We treated it and it got significantly worse through the injections. That obviously had a huge impact. Basically, I was left to pick up the pieces."
David Bentley (midfielder) Blackburn Rovers to Tottenham Hotspur in 2008 – £15m
A wasted talent who joined Spurs aged 23 seemingly with the football world at his feet but would struggle for form and would later admit he had “fallen out of love with the game”. In 2013, he was released by the club after loan spells at Birmingham, West Ham, Blackburn and FC Rostiv in Russia. He played 62 times for Spurs, scoring five goals, and would retire a year after leaving the club, aged 29. “I’ve given up football,” he said during an interview on Sky Sports where he would break down in tears. “I’ve taken the decision to take my life in a different direction."
Bebe (winger/attacker) Vitoria Guimaraes to Manchester United in 2010 – £7.4m
An extraordinary transfer that still leaves fans baffled. Bebe was an unknown 20-year-old who had represented Portugal in the Homeless World Cup and was allegedly also on the radar of Real Madrid. He joined United just five weeks after moving to Guimaraes from Estrela da Amadora in the Portuguese third division, despite manager Alex Ferguson having never seen him play. Bebe would make just two league appearances for the Red Devils before joining Benfica in 2015. He told Goal in 2018: “Every day I called my agent to ask him to get me out. It was a bad time. When you do not play, even if you are at a great club, then you are not happy, so why continue?”
Andy Carroll (attacker) Newcastle United to Liverpool in 2011 – £35m
The big striker joined Liverpool in the final hours of transfer deadline day in January, having scored 11 goals in 19 league games for his home town club that season. The Reds had just sold Fernando Torres and brought in Carroll, 22, and Luis Suarez to compensate. The Uruguayan would go on to become a prolific striker and huge success, Carroll would go on to score six goals in 44 league games before moving to West Ham, first on loan, then permanently for £15m in 2013. On joining Liverpool, Carroll would say in 2019: "Looking back, and how it shaped me as a player and a person, I would honestly still do it. I probably needed to get out of [Newcastle] to grow up.”
Fernando Torres (attacker) Liverpool to Chelsea in 2011 – £52m
A British record-breaking deal that saw the 26-year-old Spain international move to London after scoring 81 goals in 142 games on Merseyside. The early signs at Stamford Bridge were ominous, Torres failed to score in his first 903 minutes and found the target once in 14 games that first half season. And while enjoying some high points at Chelsea, he would fail to reach double figures in the league in any of his four seasons in London. "The only problem I had at Chelsea was not being consistent with my performances," he said in a 2020 interview with TalkSport. "I had really good moments but I was not consistent and in a big club like Chelsea, that’s not possible."
Eliaquim Mangala (defender) Porto to Manchester City in 2014 – £42m
Signed during Manuel Pellegrini's reign at City, was billed by his new manager as having "all of the mental, physical, technical and tactical attributes to become one of Europe's very best defenders". The French centre half never came to terms with the more physical nature of British football and he would leave to join Valencia on a free transfer in 2019, having played 79 times for City. Mangala told The Athletic in 2020: “City were the Premier League champions and I found a league that is very tough. It was totally different to what I knew before. It was very intense."
Mario Balotelli (attacker) AC Milan to Liverpool in 2014 in 2014 – £16m
The controversial Italian arrived at Anfield after star striker Luis Suarez had left for Barcelona a month earlier. It was a risky bit of business that never came off. Balotelli scored just four times in 28 games before being shipped-off back to Milan. In an interview with Corriere dello Sport in 2020, Balotelli – who played 80 games for Manchester City from 2010-13 – blamed his poor form on his relationship with manager Brendan Rodgers. "It was great at City, but bad at Liverpool where I didn’t click with the manager. The ball just wouldn’t go in. I lived through some very difficult days”.
Jack Rodwell (midfielder) Manchester City to Sunderland in 2014 – £11.3m
Rodwell had barely played for City the previous two seasons, a situation that would end up becoming all-too familiar at the Black Cats. When Sunderland were relegated in 2017, they were desperate to get Rodwell's huge wages off the books but the former Everton player refused to budge. He would play just two more games for the club before his contract was eventually terminated in 2018. In 2020, he told the Official Everton Podcast "I feel like I got made a scapegoat without doing anything wrong really. I was ready to play but for whatever reason I wasn’t ever picked, things like that happen in football."
Angel Di Maria (midfielder/attacker) Real Madrid to Manchester United in 2014 – £59.7m
The talented 26-year-old Argentine broke the British transfer record when he joined Louis van Gaal's side. Di Maria failed to fire at United, later blaming the Dutchman for failing to give a him a settled role in the team. After one season, when he scored four goals in 32 games, he left for Paris Saint-Germain. "It's more that they didn't let me settle properly than I couldn't settle," Di Maria told BBC Football Focus. "I did all I could every time I was given the opportunity, but it didn't work out as I hoped."
Davy Klaassen (midfielder) Ajax to Everton in 2017 – £24m
It seemed like a dream signing all round – the Netherlands player and Ajax captain had won three Eredivisie titles and was looking for a new challenge. Everton, managed by his countryman Ronald Koeman, were aiming to build on the previous season's seventh place. The dream quickly turned into a nightmare. After a woeful start to the season, Koeman was sacked. By the end of the campaign, Klassen had made just seven league appearances and was sold to Werder Bremen for a £24m loss. Klassen would tell Elf Voetbal in 2018: "I was not good enough for the game that Everton wanted to play. I was used to the game at Ajax: always the ball in the foot. In England ... the balls always flew over me."
Danny Drinkwater (midfielder) Leicester City to Chelsea in 2017 – £35m
A key member of Leicester's title-winning side of 2016, the 27-year-old signed for Antonio Conte's reigning champions seemingly with his peak years still to come. Instead, Drinkwater's career would quickly fall off the rails due to form and fitness issues, plus off-the-pitch problems. He has played just 23 games for the club and is currently out on loan at Turkish club Kasimpasa. In 2020 interview with The Telegraph, he said: "I told myself that I needed to clean myself up big time. I need an anchor and I need to sort out one side of my life, so if I can sort my football out ... then that will help in the long term."
Kepa Arrizabalaga (goalkeeper) Athletic Bilbao to Chelsea in 2018 – £71.6m
The biggest fee ever forked out for a goalkeeper, surpassing Alisson's £66.8m move to Liverpool. While the Brazilian quickly confirmed his status as one of the world's finest No 1s, Kepa's stock has fallen dramatically due to costly and consistent errors that have resulted in him begin replaced by Edouard Mendy between the sticks. He would also infamously refuse to be substituted when then manager Maurizio Sarri looked to bring on penalty specialist Willy Caballero in the 2019 League Cup final. Last month, he told Spanish outlet Cope: "It has been a complicated year for a number of reasons. But I have never thought about leaving Chelsea. I hope to turn things around."
Joelinton (attacker) Hoffenheim to Newcastle United in 2019 – £40m
A club-record buy who was given the club's famous No 9 shirt ... only problem being the Brazilian isn't a natural centre forward, he doesn't score goals and doesn't set many up for teammates. He has found the net three times in 58 league appearances, provided four assists and been replaced as Newcastle's main striker by Callum Wilson. At the end of his first season, where he managed two league goals from 38 games, Joelinton said: "I think it is still the beginning of my career with the Newcastle shirt and there is a lot to happen from now on. This is a constant evolution and I believe it will be like that at Newcastle."
Updated: March 27, 2021 02:34 PM