After nearly 28 years and countless iconic moments, only six of the Premier League’s 22 founding teams still boast the accolade of having never missed a single moment of top-flight action in the Premier League era. With no further ado, these are the top ten worst signings made by any of the Premier League’s six ever-present clubs.
- Sean Dundee (Liverpool)
Back in 1998, the Reds were equally capable of destroying Arsenal as they were losing at home to Barnsley. As such, a differential option up front aside from the Fowler-Owen axis was needed. The man designed to give that partnership a shake-up was one Sean Dundee, but after he signed for £2m it quickly became apparent that his fitness was never going to be up to scratch.
By then-manager Roy Evans’ own account, Dundee drove him to distraction with an unprofessional attitude toward instructions and was destined to fail from day one. Five appearances and zero goals later, and Dundee exited before any Reds fans could figure out who he was.
- Andy van Der Meyde (Everton)
Picture the scene, it is July 2005 – just two months after Everton have qualified for the Champions League for the first time ever. In a bid to establish his men at the very top, David Moyes has acquired the services of one Andy van der Meyde from Ajax. Having been drilled in the same school as men like Cruyff, Van Basten and Bergkamp, he would surely bring every quality needed to succeed in the royal blue jersey.
Due to struggles with injuries, fitness and weight, the Dutchhman’s first act of note would not come until March 2006, taking the form of a very amateurish red card in a Merseyside derby. There was no place for him anywhere in the XI, and by the summer of 2006, rumours about van der Meyde’s personal life took a more unsavoury turn.
Despite being destined to fail, van der Meyde still somehow managed to eke out enough time at Everton to redeem himself somewhat in February 2009, when he assisted Dan Gosling for a Merseyside derby winner in the FA Cup.
- Per Kroldrup (Everton)
Remarkably, that same window saw the arrival of Per Kroldrup from Udinese, with whom he had put in some exceptional defensive performances in 2004/05, giving the ‘Zebretti’ their own against-all-odds top-four finish. Like van der Meyde, Kroldrup was also a crock, undergoing groin surgery as Everton limped to a return of just three points from the first 24 available in 2005/06.
In his only league appearance with Everton, Kroldrup was akin to an onlooker, as a very mediocre Aston Villa side transformed into Barcelona by comparison, and ran out rampant 4-0 winners. Off he went, to be replaced in January by the re-signed Alan Stubbs, precipitating Everton’s surge towards comfortable Premier League safety.
- Paolo Tramezzani (Tottenham)
At least in Haringey and surrounding areas, a common pub debate is which of Juande Ramos, Jacques Santini, David Pleat and Christian Gross should go down as Tottenham’s worst Premier League manager. It is a tough call, but the signing of Paolo Tramezzani is often used as fuel to nominate the latter – and with some justification.
Seen as a fighter and habitual ball-winner, Tramezzani arrived from Piacenza in the summer of 1998, and quickly proved that the tag ‘Italian defender’ does not always equate to endless clean sheets. A poor start to 1998/99 coincided with Gross’ departure for George Graham, and with Sir Alan Sugar finally appointing a manager that had something other than a tube ticket up his sleeve, tragic Tramezzani was soon exiled – along with any “ticket to the dreams”.
- Juan Sebastian Veron (Manchester United)
Veron completes a hat-trick of Serie A imports that struggled badly to adapt to the English season’s innate brutality. At a club like Manchester United, anything less than the unwavering ability to battle at home and in Europe was out of the question, and despite boasting plenty of credentials at Serie A heavyweights like Lazio and the successful late-1990s Parma side, Veron’s supposed ‘natural’ ability as a deep-lying playmaker proved unsuitable.
Time and again, Veron would inadvertently slow the pace of Manchester United’s play, making the likes of Ryan Giggs, David Beckham and Ruud van Nistelrooy – so used to being given free rein to wreak havoc – much easier to mark by any half-decent opposition defender. He added very little to the attack either, netting just seven goals in 51 appearances for Manchester United, standing as an utter parody of the box-to-box colossus he was at Lazio.
A transfer to Chelsea in 2003 proved utterly worthless for Veron’s cause.
- Sergei Rebrov (Tottenham)
From Jimmy Greaves to Gary Lineker, Tottenham undoubtedly like their strikers. Their reliance on current number nine hero Harry Kane’s fitness, in light of his recent injury, is self-evident, especially with the latest Premier League predictions at Marathonbet showing that his injury can only harm their prospects for the remainder of the current season from here.
Yet, there was once a Tottenham striker whose absence, if anything, made the squad stronger.
Back in the year 2000, strike partners Sergei Rebrov and Andriy Shevchenko were arguably the most feared strike partnership at club level across Eastern Europe – and unquestionably the best inside the whole of the former Soviet bloc. Dynamo Kyiv sauntered to a succession of league titles with the duo up front, seemingly giving ample justification for George Graham to purse Rebrov.
It would soon become painfully apparent that some strikers are nothing without familiarity, and he was unable to gel with Les Ferdinand in the same manner. After a pathetic league strike rate of just one goal every six games by the end of 2001/02, Rebrov was duly shipped off back to his own personal level – namely Fenerbahce.
- Alex Nyarko (Everton)
The summer of 2000 saw Everton bring said Lens midfielder to Goodison Park for a then-sizeable £4.5m. The Ghanaian enjoyed a very strong debut, albeit in a 2-0 away defeat to a Leeds side expected to challenge for the title. However, that was as good as it got, and as Everton struggled to stay afloat, his performances eventually reached indescribable levels of wretchedness.
Just eight months after sparkling at Elland Road, Nyarko found himself face-to-face with an irate Everton fan at Highbury, on the pitch itself during a break in play, having done precisely nothing in a 4-1 defeat. The fan in question had leapt the barriers, stripped off his own shirt and offered to swap with Nyarko, showing in no uncertain terms that he genuinely believed he could do more in ten minutes than Nyarko had done since his deceptively-promising debut.
Understandably or not, Nyarko all but gave up on Everton after that incident. From an Evertonian perspective, the feeling was most assuredly mutual.
- Andriy Shevchenko (Chelsea)
Shevchenko played ten years of uninterrupted senior football for Dynamo Kiev and later AC Milan. Across those two spells, he averaged 0.44 goals-per-game, equating to a near-50/50 chance that he was going to score. In 2006, however, he joined the growing litany of players who failed to make the leap from Serie A to the Premier League.
On paper, a partnership alongside Didier Drogba should have cemented Chelsea’s dominance for years. After seeing his average of goals-per-game simmer at a paltry 0.22 during his debut season at Stamford Bridge, this move would quickly become known as the greatest flop of the Roman Abramovich era.
That is until the £60m arrival of Alvaro Morata last summer, and he shares a list of Chelsea flops that could easily give the remainder on this list a run for their money.
- Francis Jeffers (Arsenal)
‘Fox in the box’ was a popular term at the start of the Millennium, but in the months after Jeffers’ defection from Goodison Park to Highbury in June 2001 for £10m, it became synonymous with the biggest waste of money since the annual London Eye fireworks.
Earlier in his Everton days, Francis Jeffers struggled with injury and inconsistency, but it was not until the spring of 1999 that he came into his own, forging a partnership with Kevin Campbell that gave the Toffees a short period of stability. He would soon be found out at Arsenal though, with Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp tearing the league apart in 2001/02 and locking the jug-eared scouser out of the first-team frame, and out of all contention for a future at the very top.
- Andy Carroll (Liverpool)
Up until 2011, ‘King’ Kenny Dalglish could do no wrong in the eyes of Liverpool fans, but that all changed when he splashed a staggering £35m on Newcastle striker Andy Carroll. He had proven to be a tall and commanding presence for the Magpies during their 2009/10 promotion campaign, while doing his part in the first half of 2010/11 to keep Newcastle up.
Though his height would theoretically make set-pieces almost akin to a penalty, investing so much into a man with an average of a goal every other game represents risky business. It was a gamble that failed to pay off, and injuries have seen to it that Carroll would fall short in his efforts to become a go-to England international.
Coincidentally, Newcastle improved massively in their first full season without him, finishing a heady fifth in 2011/12 – three places and 13 points above Liverpool.