Richard Jolly rates and slates the five worst signings in the Premier League this season.
5. Alou Diarra (West Ham, £2 million)
At the time, it seemed a coup. The former captain of France, still near his peak, joined a newly-promoted club, signed by a manager with a long track record of working with inspirational imports. Six months later, Alou Diarra had joined Mario Jardel and Yildiray Basturk among Sam Allardyce’s least successful buys. He departed on loan after complaining West Ham promised him “the moon”. What he got was a solitary league start, an attempt by Allardyce to use the central midfielder in the middle of the defence and an emphatic retort from the manager, who made it clear that Diarra did not figure in his strongest side.
4. Michael Owen (Stoke City, free)
You have just finished a season where you were the lowest scorers in the division and had the fewest shots on target of any side in Europe’s top five leagues. Your solution is to sign a striker who has been among the most feared in the world. Sound logic, it would appear, were Michael Owen’s peak not so long ago, his fitness record so poor in recent seasons and his unease at the move so apparent that he delayed until after the transfer window had closed before joining Stoke City. Tony Pulis must have hoped Owen would make Stoke more prolific; instead, he soon became an irrelevance, unable to displace the fitter, more consistent, more industrious Jonathan Walters. England’s fourth-highest scorer became Stoke’s fifth-choice forward even though, again, they averaged under a goal a game.
3. Scott Sinclair (Manchester City, £6.2 million)
Perhaps Scott Sinclair thought his move to the reigning champions would cement his rise from Championship player to one of the Premier League’s leading wingers. If so, he was sadly, sorely mistaken. Apart from reserve goalkeepers, it is hard to think of anyone who has spent longer sat on the bench this season. Roberto Mancini gave Sinclair two league starts in September. Since then, there have been none, with even left-back Aleksandar Kolarov preferred as a winger. For the record, Sinclair played no minutes of league football in October, February or May, 12 in January, 13 in March, 14 in April and 15 each in November and December. Over seven-and-a-half months, that amounts to 69 minutes on the pitch. No wonder even Mancini admits the move was a mistake.
2. Jose Bosingwa (QPR, free)
From a Champions League winner to a Championship player inside 12 months, it has been a swift and ignominious decline for Jose Bosingwa. Still, at least he has the consolation of a three-year contract worth £10 million and QPR could claw back two weeks’ wages when he refused to sit on the bench against Fulham. Actually, given Bosingwa’s performance level, they may have been better off had he refused to play in the games when he did appear. Several footballers sum up QPR’s clueless overspending on players who scarcely seemed to care, but none do it quite as well as Bosingwa.
1. Christopher Samba (QPR, £12.5 million)
And yet, when it comes to kamikaze economics and the perils of a vulgar attempt to buy safety, the signing of Christopher Samba is more damaging. A £12.5 million fee and an estimated (though denied) salary of £100,000 a week amount to a colossal financial package. Even if QPR insist otherwise, Samba is probably among the half-dozen best-paid centre-backs in the division. And yet, as he admitted after relegation was rubber-stamped, he wasn't even fully fit in his time at Loftus Road. His abysmal performance in the 3-2 defeat to Fulham, when he gifted Rangers’ local rivals two goals, was yet another illustration of Rangers’ considerable spending backfiring.