25 high profile strikers who flopped miserably in the Premier League
Sometimes great strikers bring great expectations – and then fail to live up to them. Yes, there's a lot of Chelsea on this list...
Successful foreign imports have written Premier League history over the years. From Didier Drogba to Thierry Henry, Sergio Aguero to Ruud van Nistelrooy, English clubs have shown that doing your shopping overseas can be the path to success.
That’s not always true though, of course, and there have been some spectacular flops over the years. This lot, however, had everything on their CV to suggest that goals were a guarantee, only to choke under the spotlight.
We've presented them here in no particular order, but numbered them just for you...
1. Andriy Shevchenko (Chelsea, 2006-09)
Shevchenko was among the world’s best players and foremost goalscorers when he arrived at Stamford Bridge for a then-British record fee of £30.8m in 2006. The Ukrainian had scored 28 goals in all competitions for Milan the previous season, so there was no sign of what was to come for the former Ballon d’Or winner.
Shevchenko struggled to fit into Jose Mourinho’s system, and rumours abounded that he had been signed by Roman Abramovich rather than the Chelsea head coach. The striker managed just four Premier League goals in 2006/07 and five in 2007/08, before re-joining Milan on loan two years after his big-money move to London.
2. Fernando Morientes (Liverpool, 2005-06)
Liverpool appeared to have snared a bargain when recruiting Morientes, then 28 and considered at his peak, for £6.3m from Real Madrid in January 2005. The Spaniard may have been struggling for minutes at the Santiago Bernabeu, but that was understandable given that Ronaldo, Raul and Michael Owen had also been vying for playing time.
The three-time Champions League winner showed flashes of his talent at Anfield, but he generally struggled for both form and fitness. After scoring only 12 goals in 60 appearances for the Reds, the striker returned to Spain with Valencia 18 months later.
3. Alen Boksic (Middlesbrough, 2000-03)
If the great Croatian didn't truly disappoint at the Riverside, there's also no question that he was past his best by the time he arrived at the club – earning what was then a staggering £70,0000 per week until his sudden retirement, mid-season, in February 2003.
Boksic actually got his Boro career off to a brilliant start, notching a brace in a 3-1 debut victory over Coventry. The ex-Lazio marksman ended his maiden campaign in England with a respectable 12 league goals to his name, but he failed to reach double figures in 2001/02 and then found the net just twice the following season.
4. Hernan Crespo (Chelsea, 2003-06)
A glance at Crespo’s goals-per-game record in the Premier League suggests that the ‘flop’ tag is somewhat harsh in the Argentine's case: he netted 20 times in 49 Premier League outings.
Nevertheless, the former Parma, Lazio and Inter sharp-shooter never really convinced at Stamford Bridge. Regularly rotated in his debut season by Claudio Ranieri, he was sent on loan to Milan in 2004/05 and then struggled for starts under Jose Mourinho after returning to west London the following campaign.
5. Radamel Falcao (Manchester United, 2014-15; Chelsea, 2015-16)
The Colombian had performed like a complete centre-forward for Porto and Atletico Madrid before injuring his anterior cruciate ligaments at Monaco, but his arrival at Manchester United on a £6m season-long loan wasn’t considered the risk it proved to be.
Falcao scored just four goals all season for Louis van Gaal’s men, while another pricey loan switch to Chelsea the following campaign proved even more fruitless: El Tigre barely roared at all in a blue shirt, scoring only once in all competitions in what was a miserable season for both player and club.
6. Mario Jardel (Bolton, 2003-04)
The prolific Brazilian, then 29, arrived at Bolton as a free agent having struggled with depression amid marriage problems at Sporting. But it was there where he’d scored a scarcely believable 42 league goals during his blistering first season of 2001/02.
There was plenty of optimism that Jardel could again excel at Bolton as another of Sam Allardyce’s bargain bin Galacticos, but he left a year later having scored only three times – all in the League Cup.
7. Sergei Rebrov (Tottenham, 2000-03)
The £11m Ukrainian, then 25, had been one half of what was arguably Europe's most devastating strike partnership at Dynamo Kiev alongside the irrepressible Andriy Shevchenko.
Recruited to become the prolific goalscorer that Spurs lacked, Rebrov ultimately struggled to perform at anywhere near the same level and was overlooked for the 2002 League Cup Final when Teddy Sheringham and Les Ferdinand – at a combined age of 70 – were preferred. Sixteen goals might have been an acceptable return for one season, but not his entire time there, which came to an end in January 2003 amid denials of him nearing a breakdown.
8. Adrian Mutu (Chelsea, 2003-04)
Chelsea occasionally teased the best out of the talented Mutu, particularly during an exciting start to his time in west London when he combined superbly with Damien Duff.
But the Romanian's form declined, not uniquely, as his first season at Stamford Bridge progressed without the winter break he had been accustomed to. Jose Mourinho's subsequent arrival as manager wasn’t good for Mutu: the Portuguese's preference for more physically-imposing strikers meant he was always unlikely to succeed at Chelsea, even if he inspired his own downfall after being sacked for cocaine use in September 2004.
9. Roberto Soldado (Tottenham, 2013-15)
Another Spanish striker to struggle in England, the then-28-year-old Soldado became Spurs' club-record £28m signing after 30 goals in 46 appearances the previous season with Valencia. He left two years later for £7m, following seven strikes in 52 Premier League matches.
But if Soldado rarely looked comfortable in English football, he also joined Spurs during a period of significant instability – as one of seven new first-team signings in the summer of Gareth Bale’s departure – and left as Harry Kane broke through.
10. Diego Forlan (Manchester United, 2002-04)
It’s tempting to wonder if Manchester United would have gone four years without winning the Premier League title between 2003 and 2007 had Diego Forlan combined with the similarly prolific Ruud van Nistelrooy as Alex Ferguson had intended.
The Uruguayan’s disappointing haul of 17 goals in 98 appearances – the first not coming until his 34th game – did little to suggest he was capable of becoming the goalscorer he did, although two memorable strikes at Anfield secured him a place in United folklore nonetheless.
11. Gonzalo Higuain (Chelsea, 2019)
Higuain has scored goals for fun almost everywhere he’s stepped foot – except England. The Argentina international’s half-season loan spell at Chelsea yielded five goals in 14 appearances, a fraction of what was expected of a man of his abilities.
Higuain had hit double figures in La Liga for Real Madrid in five consecutive seasons before his move to Napoli in 2013, where he struck a record 36 goals in a single season to earn his move to Turin. More goals followed there, leaving Blues fans scratching their heads over his under-par performances at Stamford Bridge.
12. Claudio Pizarro (Chelsea, 2007-2009)
The Peruvian hit 100 goals for Bayern Munich to establish a reputation as one of Germany’s top marksmen, and his arrival at Chelsea on a free transfer looked like a clever piece of business.
He missed a penalty in an ill-fated Community Shield shoot-out against Manchester United on his debut and things didn’t improve much thereafter, as Pizarro notched just two goals in 21 matches before departing after one season.
13. Alvaro Morata (Chelsea, 2017-2019)
To say Morata was a flop at Chelsea may be a bit harsh; to suggest more was expected of the club’s £60 million record signing from Real Madrid wouldn’t be.
He ended up being sent on loan to Atletico Madrid in January after finding the net 16 times in 46 Premier League games for the Blues.
14. Mateja Kezman (Chelsea, 2004-05)
Hopes were high that Kezman could do the business for Chelsea after the Serbian had scored for fun with PSV in the Eredivisie.
But it soon became apparent that the striker was by no means the new Ruud van Nistelrooy, and he departed London after just one year in which he scored four goals.
15. Stephane Guivarc’h (Newcastle, 1998)
The Frenchman was brought in at St. James’ Park after featuring regularly in his country’s World Cup triumph earlier in the summer.
Despite his pedigree at international level, Guivarc’h mustered just four Premier League appearances for the Magpies before being sold to Rangers.
16. Vincent Janssen (Tottenham, 2016-2019)
Janssen was brought in to deputise for Harry Kane, and at a price: the Dutchman’s prolific form for AZ saw him command a £17m transfer fee.
However, the striker looked completely out of his depth in the Premier League, and by the time he departed permanently over the summer, he had just six goals in 42 games in all competitions to his name.
17. Jo (Manchester City and Everton, 2008-2010)
City signed Jo for a record £18m fee in July 2008 after an impressive spell at CSKA Moscow, which included a Champions League double against Inter Milan.
But he found game time hard to come by in Manchester and managed to find the net just once in nine league games before heading off to Everton on loan, where he did slightly better until breaching his contract by heading home to Brazil for Christmas without permission.
18. Jon Dahl Tomasson (Newcastle, 1997-98)
Tomasson was one of the earlier examples of when poaching a striker on hot form in the Netherlands doesn’t go to plan.
The Dane struggled at St. James’ Park following his move from Heerenveen, but went on to show his quality at Feyenoord and AC Milan, after leaving the north-east.
19. Tomas Brolin (Leeds and Crystal Palace, 1995-1998)
Brolin was a known man in England prior to his arrival, thanks to the goal he scored for Sweden at Euro ’92 that knocked out the Three Lions, and his profile was raised further as the Swedes finished third at the 1994 World Cup.
At club level, he collected trophies for fun at Parma, with a Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Cup and Coppa Italia to his name. But his time at Leeds and Crystal Palace was a disaster, as he put on weight, struggled with injuries and eventually departed with little more than a collection of humorous anecdotes to show for his time there.
20. Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham, 2014)
Fulham looked to have got their hands on a decent piece of business in January 2014 when they signed Greece international and reliable Olympiacos goal-getter Mitroglou for a record £12m in a bid to save their season.
However, the striker struggled for fitness and with injuries, and made just three appearances for the doomed Cottagers before returning to Greece on loan just six months into his four-and-a-half year deal.
21. Helder Postiga (Tottenham, 2003-04)
Tottenham spent more than £6m to bring in Postiga after his role in helping Jose Mourinho’s Porto to the treble in 2003.
But the striker couldn’t adapt to English football and scored just once in the Premier League.
22. Kenny Miller (Wolves 2003-04, Derby 2007-08)
One of the top 10 scorers of all time in the Scottish Premiership, Miller always found times a bit tougher when he moved south of the border.
The Scotland international had two spells in the Premier League, with Wolves in 2003 and Derby in 2008, mustering just six goals in 55 appearances.
23. Jared Borgetti (Bolton, 2005-06)
Borgetti pitched up at Bolton in the twilight of a career that had made him Mexican football royalty.
The striker had scored bucketloads of goals in his home country for Santos Laguna and for the national team, but managed just two in 19 Premier League games under Sam Allardyce – although he fared a little better in the cups.
24. Darko Kovacevic (Sheffield Wednesday, 1996)
Kovacevic’s form for Red Star Belgrade peaked the attention of Sheffield Wednesday, but the striker mustered only four goals during half a season in Yorkshire.
He later showed what he was capable of in successful spells with Juventus, Real Sociedad and Olympiacos.
25. Nikola Kalinic (Blackburn, 2009-2011)
Kalinic took until February to score his first Premier League goal for Blackburn in the 2009/10 season and he was never prolific in England, departing after two seasons with seven goals in 44 league outings to his name.
A spell in Ukraine with Dnipro earned him another crack at elite European football with Fiorentina, and he has since gone on to pull on the illustrious shirts of AC Milan, Atletico Madrid and Roma.
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Greg Lea is a freelance football journalist who's filled in wherever FourFourTwo needs him since 2014. He became a Crystal Palace fan after watching a 1-0 loss to Port Vale in 1998, and once got on the scoresheet in a primary school game against Wilfried Zaha's Whitehorse Manor (an own goal in an 8-0 defeat).