Every professional football club across the globe will soon be looking to sign a player or five to satisfy the fans, the manager and the board.
Sportsmail has previously covered the Premier League clubs’ worst ever signings, as well as the 20 best and worst Premier League transfers across the last decade.
Ahead of the January 2021 transfer window, we take a deep dive into the worst transfer windows of all time: from Arsene Wenger to Zinedine Zidane and everything in between.
The odd transfer misstep is understandable – but here we cover the eye-wateringly expensive to the downright shameful transfer windows. QPR, Arsenal and Real Madrid fans cover your eyes…
Queens Park Rangers, winter 2013
In January 2013 QPR pursued a doomed strategy of throwing money at underperforming and overpaid players like Park Ji-Sung, Julio Cesar and Jose Bosingwa, saddling the club with a gargantuan wage bill.
The nadir of this policy was spending £12.5million on Chris Samba, essentially a head-it-kick-it defender. Like Sol Bamba, but with 80 per cent of his surname and 20 per cent of his composure.
QPR spent £12.5m on Chris Samba; Harry Redknapp later called him a terrible disappointment
Eyebrows were raised when he transferred from Guus Hiddink’s wealthy Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala into a relegation dogfight.
Not long after manager Harry Redknapp stated ‘you shouldn’t be paying massive wages when you’ve got a stadium that holds 18,000 people,’ Samba arrived on £100,000-a-week, excluding bonuses and add-ons.
He was hailed as an ‘unbelievable signing’ by Redknapp, who would later say: ‘He proved a terrible disappointment.’
After one particularly shocking performance against Fulham, where he gave away two goals, Redknapp said: ‘We gave away the most terrible goals I’ve ever seen. Scandalous goals. It was an absolute disaster.’
Samba ended the game to go up front as an auxiliary target man, disobeying tactical instructions. Needless to say, it didn’t work.
Miraculously, Anzhi bought him back in July that year for £12m following QPR’s demotion, a loss of just half a million, after 10 lacklustre games.
Defender Jose Bosingwa was fined two weeks’ wages for refusing to sit on the bench vs Fulham
Samba had replaced Ryan Nelsen, their skipper and who Redknapp proclaimed as his ‘best player’, who left mid-season on a free to become Toronto manager, massively destabilising the QPR defence.
Striker Loic Remy, who joined on £70,000-a-week deal, was hamstrung by injuries but finished top scorer with six goals, while defenders Tal Ben Haim and Yun Suk-Young made three appearances between them.
The jury’s out on whether the failed move to buy Peter Crouch from Stoke or Redknapp’s presumed interest in Niko Kranjcar would have made a difference.
Across the whole season, then-chairman Tony Fernandes spent a net £40m on transfers before getting relegated. Fernandes later said: ‘We screwed up with the major part.’ Too right.
Real Madrid, summer 2019
Spanish giants Real Madrid are renowned for signing world-class superstars at premium prices with their ‘galacticos’ policy.
But last summer president Florentino Perez and manager Zinedine Zidane contrived to spend roughly £300m on six players, none of whom properly broke into the first team.
Eden Hazard, who was a superstar for Chelsea, became an overweight sicknote. Real Madrid’s most expensive signing ever at an initial £88m, potentially rising to £130m, arrived supposedly in the prime of his career aged 28 but had noticeably gained weight and has since struggled constantly with injuries.
Eden Hazard was Real Madrid’s biggest signing ever at £88m but only scored one goal last year
He only scored one goal in the entire 2019-20 campaign after 21 for Chelsea the year before, while £50m-plus striker Luka Jovic only scored twice all year after 27 for Eintracht Frankfurt.
Elsewhere the regeneration project failed to pay off, as defender Eder Militao (£45m) could not oust 34-year-old Sergio Ramos.
£50m striker Luka Jovic scored 27 for Eintracht Frankfurt in 2018-19 but only two for Madrid
Young Brazilians Rodrygo and Reinier Jesus – bought for a combined total of £60m – are promising young players but made little impact on the first team.
Marcos Llorente left for city rivals Atletico and has been superb for the current LaLiga leaders, while Mateo Kovacic, Keylor Navas and Theo Hernandez also departed on permanent deals and have impressed at Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain and AC Milan respectively.
Their extravagant spending meant they made zero major signings in the summer 2020 window.
Arsenal, summer 2016
In summer 2015, the only arrival was veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech from Chelsea – which many fans regard as the beginning of the end for Wenger at Arsenal. The Frenchman did not do much better 12 months later.
He splashed £35m each on walking red card Granit Xhaka and error-prone defender Shkodran Mustafi, who has made three league appearances so far this season.
Mercurial Arsenal duo Shkodran Mustafi (left) and Granit Xhaka (right) cost a combined £70m
German centre-back Mustafi has only made two Premier League appearances this campaign
Forward Lucas Perez arrived from Deportivo for £17m, scored one league goal and was ingloriously sent back to Spain. Japanese international Takuma Asano signed for £3m, but after being refused a work permit left the club in August 2019 having never played.
They also sold Serge Gnabry to Werder Bremen for just £5m; he is currently starting for European champions Bayern Munich and has scored an astounding 14 goals in 17 appearances for Germany.
This just about pipped the January transfer window in 2013-14, when the sole arrival was 31-year-old Swede Kim Kallstrom. Despite a scan during his medical showing he had a back injury, Arsenal inexplicably signed him anyway.
Swedish midfielder Kim Kallstrom was signed despite a back injury showing during his medical
Kallstrom didn’t make his debut until March, making only four appearances. He went on to play for Grasshoppers and Djurgardens.
Fulham, summer 2018
Fulham panic-bought so many players in 2018 that promoted sides spending beyond their means is now semi-affectionately known as ‘doing a Fulham’.
Owner Shahid Khan certainly backed Slavisa Jokanovic with transfer funds, but the Serbian manager only lasted until mid-November and his successors Claudio Ranieri and Scott Parker struggled to get a tune out of the squad they inherited.
The £25m midfielder Jean Michael Seri was not named in Fulham’s 25-man squad in October
Jean Michael Seri – who reportedly turned down Barcelona – Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa and Aleksandar Mitrovic all joined for more than £20m each.
Mitrovic scored 11 that season but now often finds himself out of the side, and Seri was not even named in Fulham’s 25-man Premier League squad in October.
Goalkeeper Fabri was dropped after two horrendous games, and Alfie Mawson, Joe Bryan and Maxime Le Marchand were part of the worst defence in the league.
Fulham goalkeeper Fabri was dropped after two poor performances and has not played since
After that window, the only January signings they could muster were 32-year-old journeyman Ryan Babel and loans for Havard Nordtveit (five appearances) and Lazar Markovic (45 minutes). Ouch.
Celtic, summer 1999
A manager/director of football double ticket of John Barnes and ‘King Kenny’ Dalglish had Celtic pulses racing in June 1999.
Ian Wright came with a good goalscoring pedigree but only netted three times, while Olivier Tebily scored an own goal on debut.
John Barnes (left) and Kenny Dalglish (right) formed a high-profile ‘double ticket’ at Celtic
The pair signed Brazilian defender Rafael Scheidt for almost £5m without ever seeing him play
The centre-back later said he wanted 2002 to be known as ‘the Scheidt year.’ Tragically, it was
Celtic’s Scheidt signing
- Rafael Scheidt was signed for almost £5m despite neither John Barnes nor Kenny Dalglish ever seeing him play
- He signed a four-and-a-half-year deal on £20,000-a-week but only played 10 games in total at the club
- The club only printed ‘Rafael’ on the back of his shirt, upsetting his father
- He heavily underwhelmed at Parkhead despite winning three caps for Brazil
- A team-mate commented: ‘The guy couldnae trap a bag of cement.’
- He said he wanted 2003 to be known as ‘the Scheidt year.’ It was.
Eyal Berkovic, fresh from being kicked in the head by future Celtic icon John Hartson at West Ham, was signed for more than £5m but never convinced and left in 2001 for £1.5m.
The worst of the lot was Rafael Scheidt, which conveniently rhymes with ‘blight’, as in ‘he was a blight on the Celtic defence’.
Signed for nearly £5m on a four-and-a-half-year deal of £20,000-a-week despite Barnes or Dalglish having never seen him play, the ‘defender’ only managed 90 minutes in his first six months.
Moreover, the Hoops got off on the wrong foot, understandably only printing ‘Rafael’ on his shirt, upsetting his dad and doubtless Rangers fans too.
Martin O’Neill, who shipped him off on loan after a wretched performance in a friendly match against Irish side Bray Wanderers, later opined: ‘I like footballers who are not like you. I like footballers who play well.’
An unfortunate team-mate commented: ‘The guy couldnae trap a bag of cement.’
The three-time Brazil international later stated he wanted 2003 to be known as ‘the Scheidt year.’ Tragically, it was. Neither Barnes nor Dalglish lasted a full year at Parkhead.
Tottenham, summer 2013
Who can forget Spurs spending all of the Gareth Bale money and more on Erik Lamela, Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Christian Eriksen, Etienne Capoue, Vlad Chiriches and Nacer Chadli?
Roberto Soldado (left) and Paulinho (right) were two Spurs signed using the Gareth Bale cash
Manchester United, summer 2014
New Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal promised to give youth a chance, before spending approximately the GDP of New Zealand on shiny new players.
Angel Di Maria signed for a then-British record of £59.7m but only lasted a year, while the less said about Radamel Falcao the better.
Angel Di Maria signed for a then-British record of £59.7m, but left Old Trafford after one year
Neither Di Maria nor Radamel Falcao (top right) made a positive impact at Manchester United
Chelsea, summer 2017
After winning the league Chelsea’s Antonio Conte signed Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater, Antonio Rudiger and Davide Zappacosta for a combined £185m, selling Nathan Ake (now at Manchester City) and talismanic striker Diego Costa.
The £35m midfielder Danny Drinkwater was sent off during a reserve match on December 14
Liverpool, summer 2010
Roy Hodgson began his seven-month Liverpool spell inauspiciously with a host of odd signings – maverick mohicaned midfielder Raul Meireles, Christian Poulsen, Paul Konchesky and Brad Jones. Joe Cole and Milan Jovanovic looked overpriced on free transfers, and they sold Javier Mascherano to Barcelona.
Joe Cole (left), Milan Jovanovic (centre) and Danny Wilson (right) failed to impress at Liverpool