The Rundown

Top 10 big-money Premier League flops

The Rundown

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With the struggles of big-money duo Fernando Torres and Edin Dzeko and Benni McCarthy's expensive release by West Ham in the public eye, we list some of the Premier League's big-money flops.

McCarthy will have cost the Hammers around £6 million in total after he was paid off to get out of Upton Park, the portly South African having long lost the physique and ability to be a top-flight player.

Torres and Dzeko are expected to eventually come good for Chelsea and Manchester City - they are young, gifted and surely recoverable - but some of the megabucks signings in the modern era quite literally went to waste.

Steve Marlet didn't know whether he was a striker or a winger or even a footballer, Afonso Alves was comically flaky and Tomas Brolin was, well, big-boned.

So in no particular order, we give you our top 10 Premier League flops...

Afonso Alves (Heerenveen to Middlesbrough, 2007, £12.7m)

The mercurial Brazilian striker seemed like money well spent at the time, having scored 45 goals in 39 Eredivisie matches, including seven in one game - a Dutch record. But, along with Chelsea flop Mateja Kezman, he remains a cautionary tale about strikers from Holland: it is a lower standard and the ability won't always translate. Alves started reasonably, but inconsistently, netting six goals in 11 games after joining at the end of the January transfer window: however, five of those goals game in two matches. The next season he was straight-up awful, clearly lacking the stomach for a relegation fight - he only scored four times as Boro went down. Since then he has plied his trade in the Gulf, a graveyard for washed-up pros that simply does not count.

Steve Marlet (Lyon to Fulham, 2001, £11.5m)

When France forward Marlet arrived, he openly admitted he had moved for the money, saying: "It's a fantastic offer for any player and too good to refuse." A bad start got worse as the forward took over four months to score his first goal, and ended with a tally of just 11 Premier League strikes in two seasons as he transpired to be not particularly quick, not particularly strong, not particularly skilful and not particularly good. His disastrous spell ended in litigation, as Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed refused to pay the final instalment of Marlet's fee, accusing manager Jean Tigana of deliberately inflating his price, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport ordered Fayed to pay up. A half-decent spell at Marseille followed but he slid into obscurity afterwards and now plays for an amateur side in France.

Andriy Shevchenko (Milan to Chelsea, 2006, £30m)

This deal brought great personal embarrassment upon Shevchenko's greatest advocate, Roman Abramovich. Having scored 83 goals in his final three seasons at Milan, Sheva netted just 22 in two seasons for Chelsea - only nine in the Premier League - while his prickly relationship with Jose Mourinho contributed to both men's downfall. He was sent on loan back to Milan but could not manage a single goal in half a season, having clearly lost the edge required at the highest level: Sheva's problem was that, at 30, he had lost a yard of pace when he arrived at Chelsea, which was horribly exposed by the quicker tempo of the England game. A sorry tale ended when Shevchenko left Chelsea for former club Dynamo Kiev on a free transfer, where he finds the back of the net more frequently from deeper positions.

Corrado Grabbi (Ternana to Blackburn, 2001, £6.75m)

Most will remember Grabbi as having been totally unable to adapt to life in England after his big-money move. He was also not really very good, a lower-league striker who rose to prominence after a 20-goal season in Italy's second division. But that campaign made him hot property, leading to a move that, it later transpired, he did not want: after refusing to sign with the agent son of since-jailed Juventus crook Luciano Moggi, transfers to other Italian clubs mysteriously fell apart, forcing him abroad. He scored one league goal in his first season at Rovers and ended up back in Italy's lower leagues, playing for Ancona, Genoa and Arezzo as he drifted into obscurity, hardly helped by a rare foot disease that resulted in extended periods out of the game.

Adrian Mutu (Parma to Chelsea, 2003, £15.8m)

Six goals in the striker's first five games and the Stamford Bridge faithful were singing both his name and his praises. But all that ended when he tested positive for cocaine amid lurid tales of blood-sucking sex parties. A bizarre early-morning police chase through the streets of Bucharest and a failed attempt to engineer a transfer to Juventus later, Mutu was finally sacked, and subsequently ordered to pay Chelsea a ridiculous £14.6m for breaching his contract. Has since rebuilt his career at Fiorentina, although keeps getting in trouble for nightclub scrapes and recently served a ban for an apparently accidental positive drug test (dietary, not recreational). Probably more suited to being a rock star than a footballer, he is still talented and - remarkably given his lifestyle - in good shape for 32.

Massimo Taibi (Venezia to Manchester United, 1999, £4.5m)

Sir Alex Ferguson does not usually get it wrong, but the post-Schmeichel era saw some hapless goalkeeping displays, none more so than Taibi's against Southampton. The Italian, highly rated in a homeland blessed with top shot-stoppers, allowed a Matt Le Tissier daisy-cutter to squirm through him a la Robert Green, leading to jibes such as the 'blind Venetian'. He wasn't all that great in the three other league matches he played in, conceding five against Chelsea, and Fergie quickly decided it was enough, shipping him back to Italy at a loss of £2m where he served with relative distinction for several clubs before retiring in 2009. At least Fabien Barthez was good for a bit, and at least Mark Bosnich was free.

Pierluigi Casiraghi (Lazio to Chelsea, 1998, £5.4m)

There is a lot of Chelsea on this list, unsurprising given how they have spent money since the late 1990s, and it is possibly harsh to include Casiraghi given that his 10-game Chelsea career was ended by injury. But it has to be remembered that he arrived as a lauded Italy international striker and that he only scored once in those 10 games, sliding the ball into the net after winning a race with Phil Babb, whose tear-inducing legs-akimbo collision with the post was more memorable than the goal. Not long after Casiraghi collided with West Ham keeper Shaka Hislop, destroying his knee - after 10 operations he gave up and his career was over. He has since become a moderately successful coach with the Italy U21 team.

Ade Akinbiyi (Wolves to Leicester, 2000, £5.5m)

Akinbiyi makes this list despite having rebuilt his career after this disastrous spell. Akinbiyi was one of the best players outside the Premier League, with searing pace and a powerful physique. His exploits for Wolves, Bristol City and Gillingham led Peter Taylor to take a punt after the sale of Emile Heskey to Liverpool. Akinbiyi's problem was a case of wrong man, wrong club, wrong time: Leicester were on a downward spiral after the departure of Martin O'Neill, their limitations exposed when one of the game's top bosses left what was in reality an over-achieving Championship squad. Akinbiyi's first season was by no means a disaster - he scored nine in the league - but his second saw him lose confidence as his team's plummeted. He failed to score in his first nine games which, while not unheard of, was accompanied by some terrible misses until he finally broke his duck against Sunderland. The damage was done though and the club sold him in February; they went down at the end of the season. Maybe they would have stayed up had they persisted with him but Akinbiyi's name was forever associated with Leicester's relegation, even though he did well with Stoke, Burnley and Sheffield United afterwards.

Marco Boogers (Sparta Rotterdam to West Ham, 1995, £1m)

The striker insisted he wasn't mad, but clearly he was. Anyone who rejects a Premiership footballer's lifestyle in favour of a Dutch caravan park has to be. Signed by Harry Redknapp, Boogers's career got off to a terrible start when he committed a horror tackle on Manchester United's Gary Neville in his second game for the Hammers. The resulting red card allegedly forced him into hiding (in the aforementioned mobile home) before being offloaded on loan to Groningen soon after. Redknapp claimed he bought him on a whim after watching some videos. There have been no confirmed sightings of Boogers in this country since, although he did play on in Holland, claiming the caravan report was a fabrication.

Tomas Brolin (Parma to Leeds, 1995, £4.5m)

Possibly the chubbiest player ever to grace a Premiership pitch, Brolin's fall from grace is the stuff of legends. George Graham watched the Swede's devastating performances at Euro '92 but waited until 1995 to bring him to Leeds, by which time the rot had already set in. A series of training ground bust-ups and continual speculation over what exactly he was eating ended with Brolin leaving for Crystal Palace after making just 19 appearances. He is now a businessman back in Sweden and an international-level poker player.

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