World Football

Top 10 footballers who flopped after moving to a top club

Sudesh BaniyaSudesh Baniya

January 7 2022
Footballers flopped top clubs
(Courtesy : Footy Renders/

These players failed to cope up with the expectations after moving to a bigger club.

Despite modern scouting techniques limiting the chances of a big failure, transfers have continued to be puzzling. While players have stood out after taking on a new challenge, some instances remain on the other side of things. Clubs that can afford to, and have, spent huge amounts have sometimes not been able to get out what they want from their premium signings. Many promising footballers have flopped and seen their careers sliding down the slope after transfers to top clubs.

Let’s take a look at 10 footballers whose careers dipped after moves to top clubs, where they flopped.

10. Timo Werner to Chelsea

Timo Werner
Timo Werner scored only 17 goals in 67 appearances for Chelsea (Courtesy: Football Insider)

After leading the way as the first choice attacker and goalscorer for RB Leipzig, Timo Werner made the move to England in the summer of 2020. The German signed alongside fellow countryman Kai Havertz, who also sprung from Bundesliga. Looking to spend at a giant scale after the transfer ban, Chelsea expected to reinforce their attack under Frank Lampard with the two Germans.

However, things have not looked as per expectations for the two Germans since their move to Premier League. This particularly falls true in the case of Werner, who has not been able to replicate his performances from Leipzig. In 67 appearances for Chelsea, he has accumulated 17 goals. A significant dip from his tally of 95 goals in 159 appearances for Leipzig. Similarly, Werner has not been as influential in terms of squad presence, which has directly cost his development as a player.

9. Shinji Kagawa to Manchester United

When Shinji Kagawa’s transfer to Manchester United was finalized, the world expected to see a stint similar to another Asian, Park Ji-Sung. However, things turned to the worse as the attacking midfielder did not fare well at Old Trafford. He struggled to make his mark and ultimately left the club.

Making a name as a goalscoring and hardworking midfielder at Borussia Dortmund, Kagawa was brought into the United side to aid for a creative outlet. However, after an irregular tenure that saw him make 57 appearances with mere six goals and 10 assists, the Japanese returned to Dortmund. Kagawa’s career never took a similar height, albeit glimpses of resurgences were seen in his second spell at Dortmund.

8. Alex Song to Barcelona

Footballers flopped top clubs
Song made a sensational move to Barcelona but could not perform (Courtesy: FC Barcelona)

Barcelona’s quest for a defensive midfielder, preferably as a competition to Sergio Busquets, ended after getting Alex Song in 2012. Despite strong resistance from the Arsenal dugout, Song made his way to the Camp Nou aiming to continue at the peak of his powers and hopefully, to make his mark in a Blaugrana shirt.

Despite spontaneous good performances, Song’s Barcelona career was the one to forget. While injuries kept holding him from performing well, the chances that he got were not properly utilized. Lacking synchrony with the playing style, Song had difficulties adapting until 2014, ultimately moving to West Ham United. Song now plays for Djiboutian side As Arta/Solar7, after below-par stints in West Ham, Rubin Kazan, and FC Sion.

7. Andy Carroll to Liverpool

Liverpool broke their bank when they signed Andy Carroll in 2011 for 42 million euros. Carroll, then at Newcastle United, was creating ripples with his impressive goalscoring form. He was seen as England’s next big thing. However, it was not as simple as that for Carroll.

In the resulting tenure, things did not click well both for Carroll and Liverpool. After scoring just 11 goals in 58 appearances for Liverpool, Carroll moved to Wes Ham for a reduced fee. Despite bwqeing in prominence for a while in the English top-flight, the Liverpool stint’s hangover lasted, ultimately leaving him without a club in the summer of 2021. Carroll is now at Reading, after a failed stint at Newcastle in the top-flight.

6. Donny van de Beek to Manchester United

Donny van de Beek
Donny van de Beek is surprisingly yet to make a start under Ralf Rangnick (Courtesy: Red Devil Armada)

“Take good care of him,” was what the CEO of Ajax, Edwin van der Sar, wrote in an open letter to his former club when Donny van de Beek made his way to Old Trafford. What was once seen as one of the most exciting transfers, has now started to turn into a long wait. The 24-year-old has made only 48 appearances, most of them coming out of the bench, and has not had the chance to show up on a consistent basis.

A talented central midfielder, van de Beek was a part of Ajax’s exciting youth team that made it to the 2018/19 Champions League semi-finals. Despite an impressive start to his career, the present condition has acted as a buffer – the Dutchman has only scored twice so far in a Red Devils shirt.

5. Ousmane Dembele to Barcelona

One of the most expensive transfers in the world happened as a reaction to the most expensive one, when Barcelona signed Ousmane Dembele after losing Neymar to PSG. As an exciting winger who was capable of using both legs to his advantage, Dembele had established himself as one of the hottest prospects in all of Europe in 2017.

Since Barcelona landed the French winger, things have taken a turn for the worse. Dembele’s recurring injuries have not only hindered his playing time, but his development as a player. Now trying to establish himself in the team and convert the potential into sold set of performances, Dembele’s career definitely took a hit during these four years.

4. Kaka to Real Madrid

Footballers flopped top clubs
Kaka couldn’t find his best form at Real Madrid (Courtesy: The Real Champs)

When Real Madrid dropped jaws in 2009 by signing the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema, Xabi Alonso, and Kaka in the same transfer window, they were embarking on a journey that resembled that of the Galacticos. Unfortunately for Real Madrid, the first card to fall off among these, was the former Ballon d’Or winner Kaka.

Making his way from AC Milan, the Brazilian was the most decorated among the signings. However, Kaka never settled down and did not find enough opportunities to leave his mark. After four miserable years at Madrid, Kaka returned to AC Milan for free, not reciprocating the 67 million euros that Los Blancos spent on him. Kaka’s career after the stint only diminished, as he retired in 2017 following a three-season-long stint at the MLS with Orlando City SC.

3. Fernando Torres to Chelsea

Fernando Torres was a hot prospect when he started firing, and quite ruthlessly, for Spain and Liverpool. The now Atletico Madrid youth coach was known for his goalscoring prowess, and the ability to be incisive in front of the box. It was this very ability that made Roman Abramovich lure him to Chelsea in 2011 for 50 million.

In his five seasons at Chelsea, however, it rained cats and dogs for the Spaniard. Despite playing more matches for Chelsea than Liverpool, Torres ended up with fewer goals and output. Consequently, El Nino made his way out to AC Milan, and ultimately to Atletico Madrid and Sagan Tosu before hanging up his boots.

2. Eden Hazard to Real Madrid

The night that Maurizio Sarri’s Chelsea defeated Arsenal to lift the Europa League, the triumph was somewhat overshadowed by Eden Hazard’s decision to leave Stamford Bridge. Embarking on a leap to Real Madrid, most thought the Belgian would work wonders in the capital of Spain.

Things, however, have not turned as per expectations so far. Hazard’s Real Madrid career has so far been tainted with injuries, and the playmaker has looked as ineffective as ever. In addition, added competition in the squad has served to accentuate the struggles. Consequently, the ex-Lille attacker is at crossroads to leaving Bernabeu soon.

1. Philippe Coutinho to Barcelona

Philippe Coutinho
Coutinho is linked with a move to Aston Villa from Barcelona (Courtesy: The Sun)

Coutinho became Barcelona’s most expensive signing in history in January 2018, costing the Catalans 135 million euros. Brought with hopes of filling the shoes of departing Andres Iniesta, the Brazilian was coming off a successful Liverpool career. The transfer, itself was creating buzz, since Coutinho himself had handed a transfer request to arrive in Barcelona.

The aftermath of it, however, turned out to be exactly the opposite. Despite the initial performances, Coutinho never looked to be on his own. In addition, added tensions regarding his fitness, playing him out of position mounted upon him. Even though Barcelona loaned Coutinho out to Bayern for a season, it was not a success in both party’s regards.

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