From Anderson to Mario Balotelli: The 17 worst career moves

One of football’s biggest elements, especially in the modern era, is the transfer.

Transfers can sometimes be borne out of a deep frustration with a current situation – a need for change, for change’s sake.

But most of the time they occur because the player wants to increase their chances of gaining something – usually playing time, medals, or money.

Sometimes a transfer can work out spectacularly and a player gets all three, sometimes it’s bad and they get none.

 

Sometimes a transfer can propel a player on to new heights, but sometimes there are transfers that are so bad that they completely derail a player’s career.

One has to hope that Jordan Veretout’s move to Aston Villa will not turn out to be such a move. One year ago today, the young Frenchman snubbed Leicester City to join Aston Villa.

So now, one year hence, instead of being a Premier League winner he’s preparing for a season in the Championship.

There’s still time for Veretout to turn it around of course (leaving Villa would be a good start) so that he can avoid ending up like these sorry misfits who had their careers sent spiralling into a ditch following transfer moves that turned sour in the worst way.

Sergio Canales

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From: Racing Santander

To: Real Madrid

For: £5.1m

In: 2010

One of the hottest prospects Spanish football had seen for years. Fast, fleet-footed with a glorious eye for goal; here was an attacking threat who made David Silva look like David Bentley.

But an ill-advised move to José Mourinho’s Real Madrid saw Sergio Canales’ career ground to a halt as he spent a season sat on the bench twiddling his thumbs.

Farmed out to famed disaster-club Valencia, injuries began to hit him like raindrops and he’s not looked the same since.

Anderson

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From: Porto

To: Manchester United

For: £26.78m

In: 2007

Obviously the man nicknamed “Andershow” won a lot of trophies at Manchester United, but for the most part he was peripheral to these triumphs.

A magical No.10 at Gremio and Porto, Sir Alex Ferguson sought to turn him into a box-to-box runner and the dissonance between his instincts and the positional constraints of his new role saw him disappoint whenever he played, which wasn’t all that much.

Anderson is now back in Porto Alegre with Internacional, just sort of there, existing.

Radamel Falcao

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From: Atlético Madrid

To: Monaco

For: £36.55m

In: 2013

Literally the best striker in the world by a country mile in the summer of 2013, Radamel Falcao decided to join Monaco because even Jorge Mendes can’t convince Atlético Madrid to sell directly to cross-town rivals Real Madrid.

He was poor in France and tore his ACL in a meaningless cup game in January, ending his season and in effect his career, as he lost that burst of pace and power that made him so formidable.

He’s back at Monaco now and would struggle to make a list of the best 100 strikers in the world.

Andriy Shevchenko

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From: AC Milan

To: Chelsea

For: £36.81m

In: 2007

If you’re a physically unremarkable yet technically excellent striker who has only ever played over 50 games once in your career, it’s probably not a good idea to join a Mourinho side in the hurly-burly Premier League, just a month shy of your 30th birthday.

But that’s just what Andriy Shevchenko did and it worked out about as well as you imagine.

His career very quickly settled into a downward spiral the likes of which top players don’t usually undergo until they hit 35. Shevchenko retired at 36.

 

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain

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From: Southampton

To: Arsenal

For: £11.73m

In: 2011

When you’re one of the hottest prospects in English football, especially if the reason for all that heat is your technical ability and vision, it must seem like the obvious choice to join Arsenal.

But Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain should have looked at Theo Walcott’s startling lack of growth as a footballer in the (then) five years since making the same move, to realise that the notion of Arsenal as a finishing school is a mirage.

In fact, it is a place where promising young talent goes to stagnate and fade into a morass of average football in red shirts with white sleeves.

At 22, he should be one of England’s best players right now, ready to explode onto the world stage. Instead he’s competing with Joel Campbell and Alex Iwobi to be Aaron Ramsey’s backup.

Emmanuel Petit

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From: Arsenal

To: Barcelona

For: £12.75m

In: 2000

Leaving Arsenal isn’t always the best idea either, as Emmanuel Petit found out way back in 2000.

Less than two years removed from scoring in the World Cup final, the French midfielder found himself lost at sea in the Camp Nou, barely playing and looking poor when he did.

After just one season in Catalonia, he returned to London to play for Chelsea, when playing Chelsea usually meant you were a washed up European footballer looking for a big payday, which is what he had become.

 

Royston Drenthe

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From: Feyenoord

To: Real Madrid

For: £11.9m

In: 2007

If you’ve just starred in your country’s Under-21 European Championships win and sign for Real Madrid, then score a thunderbolt on your debut, you’d think things are going to go well, right?

Wrong. As usual, a young prospect misjudged just how bad an environment Madrid is for developing talent.

Royston Drenthe struggled, being too harshly criticised for mistakes and given no opportunity to grow, and went from can’t-miss prospect to random journeyman as he has spent the rest of his career bouncing around mediocre clubs.

Fernando Redondo

From: Real Madrid

To: Milan

For: £14.88m

In: 2000

Fernando Redondo didn’t want to leave Real Madrid – and why would he? The Argentinian was the heartbeat of a side that had won two of the last three Champions Leagues. He was in a class of his own.

But Florentino Perez had just signed Luis Figo for £51 million and needed to raise cash, so naturally sold a defensive midfielder.

Redondo then suffered a serious knee injury in one of his early training sessions for the club and didn’t play a single game for two years, before cobbling 33 appearances together across two seasons and retiring.

Asier Del Horno

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From: Athletic Bilbao

To: Chelsea

For: £10.20m

In: 2005

When Spain won the 2010 World Cup, Asier Del Horno was 29. For a defender he was the perfect age, and should have been in the prime of his career as Spain’s starting left-back.

Turns out he was already washed up because five years previously, he left Athletic Bilbao for Chelsea, in a move that should have catapulted him to a higher level of play but ended up dropping him straight back down to the ground.

 

Mario Balotelli

From: Milan

To: Liverpool

For: £17m

In: 2014

After a frustratingly inconsistent spell at Manchester City where he fell out with everyone, including the manager, Mario Balotelli had rebuilt his image and form back home.

He grew up a Milan supporter and now was playing well for them as the star striker.

It was a perfect situation and his subsequent move to Liverpool was an absolute disaster on every conceivable level, throwing him for such a loop that he can’t even play well for Milan anymore (where he spent last season on loan).

Dmytro Chygrynskiy

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From: Shakhtar Donetsk

To: Barcelona

For: £21.25m

In: 2009

If you’re the stud centre-back for the UEFA Cup winners, and the Champions League winners want to sign you, then you probably make that move as it seems a natural progression.

But when Dmytro Chygrysnkiy did just that his career didn’t so much careen into a ditch as explode into a million tiny pieces.

He was terrible in Catalonia, and was sold back to Shakhtar after a season but never recovered his previous form. Then he cut his long hair. Now he’s in Greece somewhere. It’s been a sad decline.

Kaka

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From: Milan

To: Real Madrid

For: £55.25m

In: 2009

Unquestionably the greatest transfer flop of all-time. Kaka joined Real Madrid for an enormous fee and was supposed to be the centrepiece of Florentino Perez’s Galacticos 2.0, but instead he was monumentally useless, often injured and utterly outshone by just about everyone else to wear a white shirt.

He’s now in Orlando sunning himself in Major League Soccer, but he hasn’t been a serious footballer in about five years, failing to impress in returns to Milan and Sao Paulo.

 

Robinho

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From: Real Madrid

To: Manchester City

For: £36.55m

In: 2008

Before Neymar, there was Robinho. The Santos-forged magical dribbling wing-forward who could score, assist and bedazzle in equal measure.

Real Madrid tried to use him as a makeweight to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, which he didn’t like, obviously. Instead of getting over it like an adult, he forced an exit and joined Manchester City.

The Sky Blues were not set-up to handle a genius like his, and he only played well for them when the weather was warm.

Since City he has moved around a handful of clubs, never really settling and certainly never coming close to recapturing the excellence he showed before that awful move to Manchester.

Mateja Kezman

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From: PSV Eindhoven

To: Chelsea

For: £6.38m

In: 2004

How bad was moving to José Mourinho’s Chelsea for Mateja Kezman’s career? That’s easily illustrated with numbers.

In the four years before he rocked up at Stamford Bridge, he scored more than twice as many goals (129) as he did in seven seasons after leaving (59).

 

Juan Sebastián Verón

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From: Lazio

To: Manchester United

For: £36.21m

In: 2001

When you are one of the greatest midfielders in the world, and at the age of 25 one of the greatest clubs in the world signs you, you’d expect things would go pretty well.

Yet Juan Sebastián Verón’s time in Manchester was such a disappointment that what should have been the peak period of his career was instead a wasteland of shame.

A late career renaissance with hometown club Estudiantes can’t disguise the fact that Verón nearly killed his career with one bad move.

 

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