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Andy Carroll, Guido Carrillo, Savio Nsereko… 10 Of The Worst January Signings In Premier League History

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Andy Carroll, Guido Carrillo, Savio Nsereko… 10 Of The Worst January Signings In Premier League History

The January transfer window can be a period of optimism and excitement for fans but notoriously difficult for clubs to get right.

Underperforming teams are often tempted into acts of desperation in the transfer market, particularly if the threat of relegation looms large.

While there have been some notable success stories, mid-season investment often ends in disappointment.

Here we take a look at 10 of the worst January signings of the Premier League era.

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Afonso Alves (Heerenveen to Middlesbrough, £12.5m – 2008)

Middlesbrough smashed their record transfer fee to sign Alves in 2008 and on paper it looked to be a good deal for the Premier League club.

The Brazil international boasted an impressive record of 48 goals in 50 games for Dutch club Heerenveen but success in the Eredivisie does not necessarily guarantee goals in England, as the likes of Jozy Altidore and Vincent Janssen have also proved.

Afonso Alves failed to live up to expectations at Middlesbrough (Image credit: Alamy)
Afonso Alves failed to live up to expectations at Middlesbrough (Image credit: Alamy)
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After a promising start in his debut season, which included a hat-trick in an 8-1 win over Manchester City on the final day, Alves quickly faded the following campaign.

He managed just four goals in 31 Premier League games as Middlesbrough were relegated from the top-flight, and the Brazilian was later shipped off to Qatari club Al-Sadd as Boro looked to cut costs.

Savio Nsereko (Brescia to West Ham, £9m – 2009)

The strangest signing on our list, the circumstances surrounding Nsereko’s move to West Ham were so bizarre that vice-chairman Karren Brady pledged to investigate the transfer following David Sullivan and David Gold’s takeover of the club.

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Eyebrows were raised when West Ham broke their transfer record to sign Nsereko, then a relatively unknown German U21 international, for £9m from Italian second division side Brescia.

Savio Nsereko made just one start for West Ham (Image credit: Alamy)
Savio Nsereko made just one start for West Ham (Image credit: Alamy)

A disastrous signing, Nsereko made just one start for West Ham and failed to score in his 10 games for the club before being shipped off to Fiorentina the following summer.

He failed to settle in Florence and was later arrested by Thai authorities in 2012 after allegedly faking his own kidnapping in an attempt to extort ransom money from his family.

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Fernando Torres (Liverpool to Chelsea, £50m – 2011)

Once the golden boy of Liverpool, Torres became a figure of hate on Merseyside when he forced through a January move to rivals Chelsea in 2011 for a then record British transfer fee of £50m. 

The controversy surrounding his defection weighed heavily on Torres in his first season at Stamford Bridge, with the Spaniard providing just one goal in 18 games.

Fernando Torres failed to live up to his £50m price-tag at Chelsea (Image credit: Alamy)
Fernando Torres failed to live up to his £50m price-tag at Chelsea (Image credit: Alamy)
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Torres struggled for consistency in his second season but played a crucial role in Chelsea’s maiden Champions League triumph, scoring a memorable goal against Barcelona in the semi-finals.

He was, however, unable to produce the same individual brilliance he had consistently shown at Anfield and would eventually leave Chelsea in 2015, having failed to justify his record price-tag.

Andy Carroll (Newcastle to Liverpool, £35m – 2011)

It is hard to fathom how Liverpool got it so right and yet so wrong when it came to spending the Torres funds.

On a dramatic deadline day in 2011, the Reds signed Luis Suarez from Ajax for £22.8m – then a club record transfer fee – before breaking it again a few hours later to sign Carroll from Newcastle for £35m.

Carroll endured a difficult start to life at Liverpool. He arrived at the club injured and would go on to manage just two goals in his debut season at Anfield.

Andy Carroll became the most expensive British player when he joined Liverpool for £35m (Image credit: Alamy)
Andy Carroll became the most expensive British player when he joined Liverpool for £35m (Image credit: Alamy)

While Suarez’s genius became fully apparent in the following campaign, Carroll continued to struggle and scored just four goals in 35 Premier League appearances.

The England international was later sent out on loan to West Ham in the 2012-13 season and would go on to leave Liverpool the following summer with a disappointing record of 11 goals in 58 games.

Christopher Samba (Anzhi Makhachkala to QPR, £12.5m – 2013)

Anzhi Makhachkala director German Tkachenko claimed QPR were “out of their minds” when they spent £12.5m on Samba in 2013.

The London club, who were bottom of the Premier League table at the time, signed the former Blackburn Rovers captain on a lucrative contract with the hope that he would transform their defence and help them avoid relegation.

Christopher Samba spent just six months at Queens Park Rangers (Image credit: Alamy)
Christopher Samba spent just six months at Queens Park Rangers (Image credit: Alamy)

Samba was immediately drafted into Harry Redknapp’s starting line-up but failed to impress, with the centre-back forced to apologise to fans after a particularly calamitous display against Fulham.

He would miss the final weeks of the season with a knee injury as QPR finished bottom of the table.

Despite Tkachenko’s earlier comments, Samba would return to Anzhi that summer in a £12m move after just six months at Loftus Road.

Kostas Mitroglou (Olympiakos to Fulham, £12m – 2014)

Another panic buy from a club in relegation trouble, Fulham forked out a club-record £12m to sign Mitroglou from Olympiakos in 2014.

Within weeks of his arrival, it became clear that the Cottagers had made a major error. Mitroglou struggled with injuries and by the time he made his debut for the club at the end of February there had already been a change of manager, with Felix Magath replacing Rene Meulensteen.

Kostas Mitroglou was unable to prevent Fulham from being relegated (Image credit: Alamy)
Kostas Mitroglou was unable to prevent Fulham from being relegated (Image credit: Alamy)

Fitness problems continue to plague Mitroglou and he made just three goalless appearances that season as Fulham were relegated, with the striker returning to Olympiakos the following year.

Former Fulham midfielder Steve Sidwell was less than impressed with the Greek striker.

“This f*****, he did not stop eating,” said Sidwell. “He was a big boy. Every time you saw him, he'd be walking round the training ground with a f****** protein bar!”

Juan Cuadrado (Fiorentina to Chelsea, £23.3m – 2015)

Cuadrado’s time at Stamford Bridge was so forgettable that even the Colombian himself may sometimes question whether it really happened at all.

Chelsea spent £23.3m to sign the winger from Fiorentina in 2015, with Mohamed Salah being shipped the other way on loan. In hindsight, probably not the smartest move.

Juan Cuadrado struggled to make an impact at Chelsea (Image credit: Alamy)
Juan Cuadrado struggled to make an impact at Chelsea (Image credit: Alamy)

Cuadrado had caught the eye for Colombia at the 2014 World Cup but even still, the signing always appeared to be unnecessary splurge from the London club.

He would go on to manage just 15 appearances for the Blues, without scoring, before he returned to Italian football with Juventus in 2017.

Guido Carrillo (Monaco to Southampton, £19m – 2018)

After pocketing £75m from the sale of Vigil van Dijk to Liverpool, Southampton wasted no time in splashing the cash and promptly broke their own transfer record to sign Carrillo from Monaco in 2018.

The Argentinian, who had helped Monaco to the Ligue 1 title in the 2016-17 campaign, was brought in to provide much-needed goals for the relegation-threatened Saints, who had averaged just one per game up until January.

Guido Carrillo failed to score a single goal for Southampton (Image credit: Alamy)
Guido Carrillo failed to score a single goal for Southampton (Image credit: Alamy)

While Southampton would eventually beat the drop under new manager Mark Hughes, Carrillo’s time on the south coast would prove to be a spectacular failure. He managed just ten appearances without scoring in his debut season before being sent to Leganes on loan for the next two years.

Carrillo would later leave Southampton for free in 2020 having failed to register a single goal for the club.

Alexis Sanchez (Arsenal to Manchester United, swap deal – 2018)

Who can forget the excitement and fanfare that surrounded Sanchez’s arrival at Manchester United in 2018?

The Chilean’s move to Old Trafford, a swap deal that saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan head the other way to Arsenal, was confirmed in unique style – with the Chilean playing ‘Glory, Glory Man United’ on the piano in a video on the club’s Twitter account.

Sanchez had scored 80 goals in 166 games for Arsenal, winning the FA Cup twice, and there were high hopes he would kick on at United after being made the highest-paid player in the Premier League.

However, Sanchez’s career would immediately nosedive following his move to Old Trafford. The forward struggled to adapt to a more defensive style of football under Jose Mourinho, and managed just two Premier League goals in his first six months at the club.

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Problems off the pitch also hampered his career in Manchester. Shortly after joining United, Sanchez was handed a 16-month suspended prison sentence in Spain for defrauding the government of £900,000 during his time at Barcelona.

Hopes of a fresh start the following season were soon dashed after series of lacklustre performances and Sanchez would end the campaign with just a single Premier League goal.

He would later join Inter Milan on loan in 2019 before moving to the San Siro permanently the following year, having managed just three league goals during his time at United.

Cenk Tosun (Besiktas to Everton, £27m – 2018)

Turkey international Tosun arrived at Goodison Park in 2018 having built up a solid reputation in Turkish football with Besiktas, where he had scored 41 goals in 96 league games.

Tosun appeared to possess all the qualities needed to be a success at Goodison Park - strong, committed and good in the air, the archetypal Everton striker.

Cenk Tosun looks set to leave Everton in January (Image credit: Alamy)
Cenk Tosun looks set to leave Everton in January (Image credit: Alamy)

He showed glimpses of his ability during his first season at Goodison Park but would lose his place in the side to England’s Dominic Calvert-Lewin following Sam Allardyce’s departure from the club.

After failing to regain his spot, Tosun was later sent on unsuccessful loan spells at Crystal Palace and Besiktas.

Tosun has featured just once this season, a six-minute cameo in the Merseyside derby against Liverpool, and the striker is likely to be moved on from Everton next month having scored just 11 goals in his five seasons in English football.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: Premier League, Football, Liverpool, Manchester United, Southampton, Chelsea, Everton, Fulham, West Ham United, QPR, Transfers, Fernando Torres, Andy Carroll, Alexis Sanchez

Rory O'Callaghan
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