Soccer

11 flops who somehow cost more than Haaland including Arsenal waste Nicolas Pepe

The transfer window doesn't open for another month but already Manchester City have wrapped up the smartest bit of business this summer or any other with the imminent signing of Erling Haaland.

Perhaps the only thing more surprising than the fact Pep Guardiola has finally solved his long-standing striker problem is that Haaland will arrive at the Etihad for a crazily low price. Thanks to a release clause in his Borussia Dortmund contract, the Norwegian hitman will move to the Premier League for a scarcely believable £62million.

That would make him the 36th most expensive transfer of all time according to transfermarkt, and compared to these 11 flops who cost considerably more, he looks an absolute snip.

Philippe Coutinho (£121.5million)

Yes, Barcelona really did pay Liverpool £121.5million for Philippe Coutinho. In fairness to Barca, the Brazilian winger was at the peak of his powers when he signed for the club in 2018, having been involved in 99 goals in 201 appearances for the Reds.

Unfortunately for the Catalan giants and their poor bank account, Coutinho has been unable to replicate that form at the Nou Camp, scoring 25 goals and providing 14 assists in a forgettable 106 appearances.

The good news for both parties is that his Barcelona ordeal looks to be coming to an end very soon, with Aston Villa reportedly keen to make his loan deal permanent this summer.

Jack Grealish (£105.75million)

It would be unfair to call Jack Grealish a flop just yet, but he'll need to improve drastically for Manchester City next term. The England international has failed to impress since his £105.75million move from Aston Villa last summer and unfairly received a large portion of the blame for City's Champions League exit to Real Madrid last week.

"It has probably been a bit more difficult than I thought it would be," Grealish candidly revealed in December. "I thought I was going to come here and maybe double my goals and assist tally that I had at Villa."

So far, that has not been the case, with Grealish stuck on five goals and four assists for the season compared with seven goals and 12 assists in his last campaign at Villa Park.

Eden Hazard (£103.5million)

What is it about Premier League stars making ill-fated moves to La Liga? One year after Coutinho started his failed Spanish odyssey, Eden Hazard embarked on his own – with similar results.

The Belgian swapped Chelsea for Real Madrid in a £103.5million move in the summer of 2019. But things have not gone well for the 31-year-old at the Bernabeu, with a mix of injuries and poor form disrupting his time at Los Blancos.

Hazard still has two years left on his contract in the Spanish capital, but Premier League clubs will no doubt be circling around the star this summer. We're looking at you, Newcastle.

Romelu Lukaku (£101.7million)

We're nine months into Romelu Lukaku's second spell at Chelsea, and it's fair to say things are not going well. Despite costing the earth, or £101.7million to be precise, the Belgian has only really managed to get under the skin of his own fans since his return to Stamford Bridge.

Signed to great fanfare on deadline day 2021, Lukaku has flattered to deceive on the pitch, contributing 14 goals and two assists during an interrupted campaign. Not good enough for the world's 10th most expensive player.

But of more annoyance to Chelsea fans was his disastrous interview last December when he revealed he was "not happy" because Thomas Tuchel had "chosen to play with another system." Lukaku later apologised for the gaffe, but the damage had already been done.

Harry Maguire (£78.3million)

Manchester United broke the transfer record for a defender to sign Harry Maguire from Leicester in 2019. Three years on and it's hard to make a case that United have received value for money on their investment.

Despite a promising start to his Old Trafford career, Maguire has really struggled this season as United have lurched from one disaster to another, first under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and now Ralf Rangnick.

Maguire hit back at the critics before United's game against Liverpool last month, which they lost 4-1. "I’d say from this season, I’ve had some bad games but I wouldn't be playing every game for Manchester United in the starting XI if I’d been playing bad every game or not playing well enough," he told Sky Sports.

"I cost a lot of money and when things aren't going well, when we’re conceding too many goals, I’m going to get criticised," Maguire added.

Jadon Sancho (£76.5million)

Like England colleague Grealish at Manchester City, Jadon Sancho can't be considered a flop just yet. However, the signs aren't good for the 22-year-old following his £76.5million move from Borussia Dortmund last summer.

The former City academy product has found game time limited at Old Trafford this season, struggling to make an impact under both Solskjaer and interim boss Rangnick.

His lack of time on the pitch – and opportunities to play in his preferred position – have contributed to disappointing statistics of just three goals and three assists in 29 appearances. He'll be hoping for more of a look in under Erik ten Hag next time around.

Kai Havertz (£72million)

Chelsea blew £72million on Kai Havertz during their summer of spending in 2020. And while the 22-year-old certainly hasn't been a failure at Stamford Bridge, it's hard to argue he has provided good value for money.

Isolated goals such as his dramatic winner against Manchester City in the Champions League final or decisive penalty in the Club World Cup final suggest he is a man for the big occasion.

But just 22 goals and 14 assists in 90 appearances overall for the Blues is a poor return for a player who was Chelsea's most expensive signing of all time until Romelu Lukaku turned up last summer.

Nicolas Pepe (£72million)

Arsenal made Nicolas Pepe the most expensive signing in their history and the 26th costliest transfer of all time in 2019 when they forked out the small matter of £72million to take him from Lille.

Most Gunners fans have spent the last three years working out why. Despite the odd flash of brilliance here and there, primarily confined to the Europa League, Pepe has been a huge disappointment at the Emirates.

The Ivory Coast international has managed just 27 goals and 20 assists in 110 appearances for the north Londoners, with only 24 of those goal involvements coming in the Premier League.

Kepa Arrizabalaga (£72million)

Chelsea thought they were onto a winner when they signed Kepa Arrizabalaga to replace Real Madrid-bound Thibaut Courtois in 2018.

And while the £72million goalkeeper has made headlines, they have been for the wrong reasons. Displaced by Edouard Mendy at the start of the last season, Kepa's most infamous moment came during the 2019 Carabao Cup final when he refused to be substituted for Willy Caballero as the game approached penalties.

Three years on from that astonishing act of defiance, it's hard to see a future for Kepa at Stamford Bridge, with Newcastle reportedly interested in a deal for the most expensive goalkeeper of all time.

James Rodriguez (£67.5million)

Did Real Madrid learn nothing from Manchester United's signing of Karel Poborsky in 1996? Signed off the back of his performance at Euro 96, Poborsky flopped at Old Trafford and was flogged to Benfica 18 months later.

For Poborsky in 1996, read James Rodriguez in 2014. Suckered in by his displays for Colombia at the World Cup, Real splashed a cool £67.5million to bring the exciting star to the Bernabeu from Monaco.

Sure enough, James flattered to deceive in the Spanish capital, managing 37 goals and 42 assists in 125 games before being sold to Everton in 2020. The 30-year-old shone sporadically at Goodison Park but now plays in Qatar with Al-Rayyan.

Angel Di Maria (£67.5million)

His signing was meant to mark the start of Manchester United's return to the top under Louis van Gaal. But Angel Di Maria probably goes down as the starting point for years of decline at Old Trafford.

After a bright start to his United career against Leicester, the £67.5million went down the pan rapidly and ended up with only four goals and 12 assists to his name before hot-footing it to PSG after only 12 months.

In an interview last year, Di Maria laid the blame for his Red Devils failure at the door of Van Gaal. "My problem at Manchester was the coach. Van Gaal was the worst of my career," he said.

"I would score, assist, and the next day he would show me my misplaced passes. He displaced me from one day to the other, he didn’t like players being more than him."

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