The Biggest January Transfer Flops in Football History
February 08, 2018
In general terms, football clubs do their best and most considered business during the summer transfer window.
In contrast, the January window tends to see clubs make a higher number of panic buys, as they look to spend out their way out of relegation trouble or reignite a failing title bid. This means that the winter window has seen some genuinely shocking deals down the years, and we thought that we’d reflect on some of the biggest January flops!
1) Andy Carroll, Newcastle to Liverpool for £35m, 2011
We start with current West Ham hitman Andy Carroll, who was part of a truly shocking deadline day deal in January 2011. Liverpool moved to sign the target man after commissioning the sale of forward Fernando Torres to Chelsea for £50m, with Carroll arriving at Merseyside alongside the mercurial Luis Suarez.
While the addition of Suarez made sense and proved to be an unqualified success, the decision to pay a staggering £35m for Carroll remains baffling to this day. Sure, we must factor in the inflated nature of the UK transfer market, but we must remember that the striker had made just 19 Premier League appearances at the time and scored a total of 11 goals.
Carroll went on to score just 6 EPL goals in 44 appearances during two-and-a-half years at Anfield, and while he fared a little better in cup competitions, he was eventually sold to the Hammers at a substantial loss of £20m.
2) Michael Ricketts, Bolton to Middlesbrough for £3.5m, 2003
When Michael Ricketts struck the decisive goal for Bolton during their 2-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2001, it appeard as though a star was born. The young forward went on to score 15 goals in his maiden, top-flight season, while also making his England debut in a friendly against Netherlands in February 2002.
Despite scoring just seven further goals for Wanderers, Ricketts remained highly thought of and completed a £3.5m move to Middlesbrough in January 2003. This represented a relatively large investment at the time, but the powerful striker was never able to replicate his initial form at the Reebok Stadium.
In fact, Ricketts scored just four goals in 38 appearances on Teeside, while his departure in the summer of 2004 precipitated a gradual drop through the divisions. His career came to an end after a single season at League One side Tranmere Rovers in 2010, as he drifted out of the game at the tender age of 32.
3) Christopher Samba, Anzhi Makhachkala to QPR for £12.5m, 2013
With QPR mired in a relegation battle during the winter of the 2012/13 season, manager Harry Redknapp broke out the chequebook in a bid to reverse the clubs’ fortunes. One of his first decisions was to sign the former Blackburn defender Chris Samba from Russian outfit Anzhi Makhachkala, with the centre-back costing a hefty £12.5m and a weekly wage in excess of £100,000 per week.
Samba struggled to bolster Rangers’ flagging defence during the final five months of the season, while he cut an increasingly disinterested figure as the club shuffled towards relegation. He subsequently became a hate figure among the Loftus Road faithful, before quietly rejoining Anzhi during the summer transfer window.
This was one of the most bizarre transfers in recent times, with Anzhi apparently offering to buy Samba back from QPR within hours of the defender completing his move to London. Samba certainly never looked settled at Rangers and the suspicion remains that he never wanted to leave Russia in the first place.
4) Jean-Alain Boumsong, Glasgow Rangers to Newcastle United for £5m, 2005
Prior to joining Glasgow Rangers in the summer of 2004, French centre-back Jean-Alain Boumsong was one of the most highly-sought after defenders in Europe. He also impressed during six months and 24 outings in the Scottish League, which in turn compelled Newcastle United manager Graeme Souness to sign Boumsong for £5m in January 2005.
Perhaps Souness should have scouted Boumsong for a little longer, as Boumsong never came remotely close to replicating his Rangers form at St. James Park. Sure, the Scottish manager may have dreamed of signing Boumsong as the second half of an athletic and powerful central defensive partnership alongside Titus Bramble, but in hindsight this was a plan with more holes that a piece of Swiss cheese.
In fact, Boumsong saw his performance levels dip dramatically during his 18-months on Tyneside, as he struggled with fitness and the sheer pace of the English game.
Ultimately, the Magpies sold Boumsong to the newly-demoted Juventus in the summer of 2006, accepting a cut price bid of £3m to offload the defender.