Football Features

The most expensive transfer ‘misses’ from the 2019/20 season

By Ben Green

Football Index: Most expensive transfer 'misses' from the 2019/20 season

Published: 10:12, 11 September 2020

A huge transfer fee is never tantamount to success. Just because your club signed a £40m striker, doesn’t mean you are getting a ‘£40m striker’. In some cases that is just the going rate in modern recruitment.

Cast your minds back to Chelsea’s mega swoop for Andriy Shevchenko in 2006; or Chelsea’s mega swoop for Fernando Torres in 2011; or Chelsea’s mega swoop for Alvaro Morata in 2017. A lavish price tag can often distort the reality.

There are numerous incalculable factors that can affect a player’s performance — and mindset — factors that can’t be translated on graphs or in the form of a stats pack. Adapting to a new league, new surroundings, a new tactical set-up, these can all prove challenging obstacles for even the very best.

So, when a new marquee signing rolls into town there is always an added pressure to hit the ground running from the off, and if they don’t, well, then the pitchforks assemble en masse and the inevitable disappointment permeates the terraces.

But you can understand that disappointment, when a club spends big bucks on a shiny new toy, you expect them to be pulling up trees from day one. These lads below failed to do so last season. There is, of course, still time to justify their price tags, but for 2019/20 they were very expensive transfer ‘misses’.

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Antoine Griezmann

Football Index: Most expensive transfer 'misses' from the 2019/20 season

Signed for: Barcelona

Signed from: Atletico Madrid

Fee: £107.6m

Current Football Index value: £1.72 (Sell)£2.16 (Buy)

Barcelona clearly didn’t get the hint in the 2018 summer window. After pursuing Griezmann with obsessive zeal, the Frenchman refused to break bread with the Catalans and instead announced his decision to remain at Atleti, in a now-infamous video where he declared: “My fans, my team, MY HOME!!!”.

Twelve months later his new ‘home’ was the Camp Nou. Griezmann made a dramatic U-turn on his initial decision and signed for Barca last summer for a fee just north of £100m. The move itself seemed a strange one on paper. Griezmann, a second striker by trade, fit Diego Simeone’s 4-4-2 system like a hand to a glove, but the Blaugrana have never traditionally, nor under Ernesto Valverde, played with two up front.

Luis Suarez was still the main man up-top last term, so most were scratching their heads as to where Griezmann would fit in. As it turns out: predominantly on the left. He rose to prominence at Real Sociedad out wide, but has truly blossomed through the middle. However, that fruitful transition was clearly lost on Barca.

In a season of turmoil, Barca sacked two managers, with Quique Setien limping to the gallows last month, crashed out of every domestic cup and the Champions League, and conceded the league title to Real Madrid after leading during the hiatus. Griezmann also failed to net double digits in the league for the first time since 2011/12.

Eden Hazard 

Football Index: Most expensive transfer 'misses' from the 2019/20 season

Signed for: Real Madrid

Signed from: Chelsea

Fee: £143m

Current Football Index value: £2.89 (Sell)£3.41 (Buy)

The Galactico conveyor belt has churned out some pretty spectacular individuals, and madridistas thought they were getting the second coming of Cristiano Ronaldo when Hazard pitched up last summer. The diminutive genius was in a league of his own during his Chelsea days, so fans, both Real and the neutral, were excited to see what he could offer at the Bernabeu.

Unfortunately, Hazard’s maiden campaign in Madrid was marred by accusations of weight gain, with Sport reporting (at the time) that he turned up for pre-season duty more than a stone overweight, which the player himself later admitted.

In an interview with AS, he said: “It is true. I will not hide it. When I am on vacation, I am on vacation.

“I gained five kilos in summer. I am one of those who gain weight quickly and lose it fast if I pay attention.

“When I was 18, in Lille, I weighed 72 (11st 4lbs) /73 kilos . Then, when I gained muscle mass, I went to 75 – On a bad day, 77.

“This summer I reached 80 kilos (12st, 8lbs). I lost everything in ten days.”

The Belgian was not helped by persistent injury problems, which restricted him to just 14 La Liga starts, and the eventual break to football. He will be hoping to kick on this season and get some consistent minutes under his belt to really showcase his worth in the Los Blancos colours.

To make matters initially worse for Hazard and Real Madrid with regards to his performances, it was recently revealed that Los Blancos agreed to pay €160m (including bonuses) for the Belgian rather than the initially believed fee of €100m.

Nicolas Pepe

Football Index: Most expensive transfer 'misses' from the 2019/20 season

Signed for: Lille

Signed from: Arsenal

Fee: £72m

Current Football Index value: £2.43 (Sell)£2.58 (Buy)

When a move for Crystal Palace talisman Wilfried Zaha looked unlikely to materialise, fans fretted not, as they had just secured one of the most sought-after wingers in Europe. Here was a player, in Pepe, who had the dribbling ability to match Zaha, but also a clinical end product to boot.

The Ivorian had just netted 22 Ligue 1 goals the season prior, as well as 11 assists, sparking a wave of optimism on the north London terraces. Fans were hopeful they had just acquired a player who would really kick start Arsenal in the post-Arsene Wenger era and have them challenging in the upper slopes once again.

Unfortunately Pepe largely flattered to deceive in his debut season, which culminated in the eventual sacking of Unai Emery. A return of just five Premier League goals frustrated the Arsenal fanbase and hopeful Fantasy Football players in equal measure, but there were glimmers of his elite talent.

All is not lost for Pepe. Mikel Arteta has proven an astute tactician in his opening months, with Pepe making nine direct contributions under his watch — he made just three under Emery. And fans will now be hopeful that he can push on and finally translate his devastating Lille form at the Emirates on a consistent basis.

Joao Cancelo

Football Index: Most expensive transfer 'misses' from the 2019/20 season

Signed for: Man City

Signed from: Juventus

Fee: £60m

Current Football Index value: £1.82 (Sell)£1.90 (Buy)

Cancelo signed for City in a part-exchange which saw Danilo and £27.4m head to Turin, which equalled to bang on £60m. A hefty fee for the right-back, but given his versatility, being able to slot in at left-back (City’s problem position) and the underwhelming exploits of Danilo, this looked somewhat tidy business.

However, for £60m you really would have expected a lot more from Cancelo. He mustered just 13 Premier League starts, registered neither a goal nor an assist, and failed to replicate the explosive, buccaneering tenacity of Kyle Walker at right-back, or Benjamin Mendy when he’s fit and available.

A solid squad addition no doubt, adding depth and European experience to the flanks but again, for £60m, you would have expected so much more. That is now around £200m spent on full-backs for Pep Guardiola at City, and still there are question marks on the left channel.

Sebastien Haller

Football Index: Most expensive transfer 'misses' from the 2019/20 season

Signed for: West Ham

Signed from: Eintracht Frankfurt

Fee: £40.7m

Current Football Index value: £0.88 (Sell)£1.14 (Buy)

Finally West Ham fans, you got your man. A 20-goal-a-season striker to bring back the good days and finally cancel out that horrendous stat about David Gold and David Sullivan signing over 50 forwards since taking ownership of the club in January 2010. That’s five forwards a season, and most were unmitigated disasters. Echoes of Benni McCarthy and Marouane Chamakh are still firmly etched in the psyche of every Hammer.

But, Haller would wipe all of that out, right? Unfortunately at West Ham nothing is straightforward. A year on and the Frenchman has lost his place up front to natural winger Michail Antonio, Troy Deeney has publicly ridiculed his goalscoring ability, and Frankfurt have lodged a complaint to Fifa over a missed payment.

Just another season at West Ham in other words.

“How many did Sebastien Haller get last year for West Ham? Six or seven. Or Joelinton for Newcastle? Two,” Deeney told the Sun.

“Put it into context: these are £40million players and I only cost £300,000.”

A real kick in the “cojones” for West Ham fans, but this is largely par for the course these days. Let the East End soap opera continue!


Football Index: Most expensive transfer 'misses' from the 2019/20 season

Signed for: Juventus

Signed from: Man City

Fee: £32.3m

Current Football Index value: £0.26 (Sell)£0.40 (Buy)

In that same deal with City, Juve acquired Danilo for £32.3m, and just like Cancelo, the Brazilian was largely underwhelming last season as Juventus only just clinched another Scudetto. When we think of Brazilian full-backs, our minds immediately turn to Cafu, Dani Alves, or Roberto Carlos, but it must be said that Danilo doesn’t quite fit into this bracket.

Having started just 16 Serie A games under Maurizio Sarri, the Old Lady would have been expecting more than a return of just two goals and zero assists. Goals are neither here nor there for the modern full-back, but assists are now a key part of the job description, and Danilo failed to deliver.