10 of football's worst summers EVER: fire sales, sulking Frenchmen and a hero's last act

Diego Maradona

'Tis the season for unrealistic optimism – unless you were this sorry bunch, that is

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1. Anzhi: going, going, going...

For 31 glorious months, Anzhi Makhachkala lived the dream – sort of. They might not have won the league or progressed past the last 16 in the Europa League but, spearheaded by the world's highest-paid player Samuel Eto’o, the Dagestan outfit caused a stir after snapping up some of Russia's (and Europe's) finest talents.

But then their billionaire owner pulled the plug. Just four matches into the 2013/14 season, Suleiman Kerimov slashed the club’s annual budget and put the entire first-team squad up for sale. Eto’o was quickly followed out of the exit by the likes of Willian, Aleksandr Kokorin (signed and sold in the same window, before he'd even played a game), Igor Denisov (within two months of signing), Oleg Shatov, Lassana Diarra and Christopher Samba in a crazy two-week cull. Others followed later, including Lacina Traore to Monaco for £8.8 million – almost half of what Anzhi had paid for him six months previously. 

Unsurprisingly, Anzhi finished bottom of the Russian Premier League with just three wins all season, and were relegated to the National Football League. 

2. From Russia without love

Anzhi's first-team squad weren’t the only ones to incur the wrath of Kerimov’s cost cutting. After Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, Manchester United coach Rene Meulensteen’s 12-year association with the Reds ended when the 50-year-old decided to go his own way.

That is, after Guus Hiddink left two games into the season and assistant Meulensteen was handed the reins. But his Anzhi breakthrough soon turned into a break-up when, after just 16 days, he was sacked and replaced with former boss Gadzhi Gadzhiyev after failing to win any of his four matches in charge. Unfortunately for Rene, his next managerial gig at Fulham didn't go any better. 

3. Barbosa: never forgotten... or forgiven

Until Germany added food for thought in 2014, the Maracanazo had loomed large for over 60 years as Brazil’s biggest sporting disgrace. While the nation mourned, goalkeeper Barbosa was scapegoated for the shock loss to Uruguay in 1950 and never allowed to forget it.

The goalkeeper had expected Alcides Ghiggia to cross from out wide, but was caught out of position and beaten at his near post for the match-winning strike. The moment haunted Barbosa for the rest of his life and even prevented him from meeting Brazil’s 1994 World Cup squad for fear he would bring bad luck.

Just two weeks before his death in April 2000, the poor sufferer lamented: “Under Brazilian law the maximum sentence is 30 years. But my imprisonment has been for 50.”

4. Nipping up the road

For most football fans, the summer provides a chance to renew expectations about their team’s chances. That, however, was not the case for Wimbledon fans at the beginning of the 2003/04 campaign. By this point they knew full well that their club would be imminently relocating to Milton Keynes; the decision had been made for good, and the club had fallen into administration.

Although the move was sanctioned by an independent FA panel in May 2002, it wasn’t until September of the following year that the Dons finally moved into their new temporary home at the National Hockey Stadium. The majority of supporters turned their backs on the club in disgust, after owner Pete Winkelman changed the club's name, badge and colours to kill off Wimbledon as English football knew it. 

5. Not-so-brilliant Marange

Florian Marange pitched up at Crystal Palace in summer 2013 as Ian Holloway’s ninth signing, but fumed just two weeks later that he wanted to “rip up” his contract. Why? Along with fellow new boy Stephen Dobbie, the former France Under-21 international had been left out of the south Londoners' 25-man Premier League squad.

“I have never been presented to the press, I have never had an official photo and I am still waiting for my club suit,” moaned the ex-Bordeaux defender. With just a solitary League Cup appearance to his name, he promptly departed to Sochaux in October. “I needed some pace in that backline and he hasn’t got it,” Holloway grumbled. Who knew about scouting, eh?