When big names transfer from one club to another it isn’t always a success story. We take a look at some of the very worst signings of all time.
Juan Sebastián Verón – Lazio to Manchester United – £28m (2001)
Manchester United paid a British record fee to sign Juan Sebastián Verón from Lazio in 2001, which seemed like good business, as he started well, with 3 goals in his first 4 Premier League appearances. However, the speed of English football soon took its toll, and Verón’s performances seemed to get worse and worse.
“[Verón] is a f*cking great player, and you’re all f*cking idiots,” Sir Alex Ferguson told the media. However, even Ferguson admitted defeat in 2003 and sold Verón to Chelsea for half of what United had paid Lazio 2 years before. The injury-prone Argentine was just as bad at Stamford Bridge, making just 7 Premier League appearances before returning to Inter Milan in Italy, where he managed just 3 goals in 49 games.
Kaka – AC Milan to Real Madrid – €68.5m (2009)
The Brazilian playmaker was one of the finest players of his generation, a stylish attacking midfielder whose skill was matched by his power. He was the last player to win the Ballon d’Or before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s 10 years of dominance.
Yet, despite becoming the world’s most expensive footballer when he joined Real Madrid in 2009, it soon became clear that he wasn’t the player that he was before. Injuries hampered his first 2 years at the Bernabeu and Mesut Özil took his place in the team. Kaka was sold back to Milan in 2013 on what was basically a free transfer. It remains one of football’s biggest ever transfer losses to this day.
Mario Balotelli – AC Milan to Liverpool – £16m (2014)
Mario Balotelli was once regarded as one of Europe’s top young talents. He was signed by Liverpool to replace Luis Suarez who headed to Barcelona. Suarez was the man who had scored 31 times in 33 Premier League games in the 2013/14 Premier League season and single-handedly almost dragged his teammates to the title.
Balotelli however scored just 1 Premier League goal for the Reds as Brendan Rodgers’ side collapsed into mid-table mediocrity. Balotelli was let go for free, after a loan back to Milan.
Ángel Di María – Real Madrid to Manchester United – £60m (2014)
13 years on from Juan Sebastián Verón, Manchester United once again broke the British transfer record to sign an Argentine midfielder, and Ángel Di María continued the trend of them failing at Old Trafford, despite arriving from Real Madrid with a fine reputation.
He started impressively, winning Manchester United’s player and goal of the month awards for September 2014, but his form soon nosedived and he was named UK newspaper, the Telegraph’s worst signing of the 2014/15 season. He left after just 1 campaign for a loss of over £15m. Annoyingly for the Red Devils, he is now a key player for both Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina, with that one-year spell in England pretty much the only low point in an otherwise successful career.
Eden Hazard – Chelsea to Real Madrid – €146m with add-ons (2019)
Real Madrid signed Hazard as the big-name replacement for Cristiano Ronaldo at the Bernabeu. The strange thing was that Madrid could simply have waited a year and got Hazard for free. However, they didn’t and essentially paid more than €100m for the one goal he scored in the whole of the 2019/20 season. He had a total of 5 goals for Real by the start of the 2021/22 campaign and even more injuries.
The player, who is now 30 years old, and is reportedly on £400,000 a week, arrived for pre-season training 7 kilos overweight in 2019 and later laughed with Chelsea players as they knocked Real Madrid out of the Champions League in 2021.