Ranked! The 50 worst players in Premier League history
It’s a good pub quiz question: who was Manchester City’s record signing prior to Robinho? Oddly enough, that title was held briefly by another Brazilian forward, Jo, who arrived for £19m two months prior to his compatriot in 2008.
Jo was a victim of circumstance at City, signed immediately prior to the sudden dawn of Mansour era, then supplanted within weeks by a far glitzier signing. Yet that doesn’t fully explain his shambolic level of performance, nor how it remained that way once he’d been shipped off to Everton on loan. Has since rediscovered his poacher’s instinct back in Brazil, and currently plies his trade with Nagoya Grampus in Japan.
39. Andreas Cornelius
Whenever a club breaks their transfer record to sign a striker, you imagine there’s a fair few fingers crossed in the boardroom. The bigger the signing, the sillier you can end up looking.
It’s a lesson that was learned the hard way at Cardiff, when the Welsh club parted with £8m or so after manager Malky Mackay identified Andreas Cornelius as a striker who knew where the goal was. As it turned out, he barely knew where the pitch was. His Cardiff career consisted of eight appearances, zero starts, zero goals, and one cut-price move back to Denmark after six months. Red faces all round, not least in the boardroom.
38. Richard Kingson
Ghanaian goalkeeper Kingson made his Wigan debut as a substitute and soon saved a penalty against West Brom, but it was all downhill from there. And downhill immediately: Chris Brunt knocked in the rebound of that penalty, Wigan lost 3-1 and Kingson played three more top-flight games for Wigan – all defeats.
Not great, although there was rather more fun to be had in his subsequent season with Blackpool; their one-year stint in the Premier League under Ian Holloway. He played 20 games, conceded 38 goals and contributed to historic wins over Liverpool and Spurs. Sure, it all ended with a relegation and Kingson being released at the end of the season, but it’s the journey that counts, right?
37. Torben Piechnik
Liverpool’s Graeme Souness era is remembered with little fondness on Merseyside for good reason. History has come to recall all this through the prism of Souness’s horde of terrible signings, and towards the top of a list that includes Paul Stewart, Dean Saunders and Julian Dicks sits Torben Piechnik.
The defender was acquired in the wake of Denmark’s triumphant Euro 92 campaign, to which he contributed a decent performance and a half in the latter stages. After a quietly encouraging start, Piechnik’s form fell off a cliff and he was packed back off to Denmark after two inauspicious years. Merseyside remembers him not as the Alan Hansen replacement he was touted as, but as the epitome of Liverpool’s early ’90s fall from grace.
36. Dean Leacock
Leacock is that rare treat of a footballer: a one-time top-flight pro who has embarked on a devoted career of whistle-stop lower-league journeymanship. Now 33, the centre-back plies his trade for Lowestoft Town of the Isthmian League and among his former clubs can count Billericay Town, Welling United, Whitehawk and Crawley Town. Yet in his Premier League heyday, it was Derby County and Fulham.
There’s plenty to love about a player willing to trek to even the most windswept outpost in his thirst to simply play football – and given that he was a member of that Derby side of 2007/08 (11 points from 38 games), no one can say he hasn’t earned it. Good luck to him.
35. Yaya Sanogo
In January 2018, Yaya Sanogo scored his first top-flight league goal. Unfortunately for Arsenal, it did not come for them, nor even within four years of signing for them as a promisingly muscular young striker who looked set to hit the big time at Auxerre. Instead, he became a kind of walking punchline, unable to control or pass the ball, let alone direct it towards the goal.
His promise turned bumbling ineptitude was late-Wenger era Arsenal in a nutshell, and neither a loan spell in the cultured surrounds of Ajax nor the rough and tumble of Selhurst Park could prompt a return to that heady early trajectory. The fact he took 15 games to hit his first goal for Toulouse suggests that Wenger's only transfer market mistake involving Sanogo was buying him in the first place.
34. Erik Meijer
Football fans can occasionally be a forgiving lot, and for many players limited ability need not mean limited popularity. Never has this been truer than in the case of Erik “He’s big, he’s red, he’s off his f*****g head” Meijer, signed by an upwardly mobile Liverpool in 1999 to add some brawn to a frontline that comprised Michael Owen and Robbie Fowler.
Meijer certainly provided brawn. The Dutchman also provided an unquenchable thirst to chase lost causes, and the uncanny habit of bellowing at his team-mates for reasons good, bad and unclear. “Mad Erik” became a cult hero on the Kop, never scored a league goal in his Liverpool career and departed after a year, replaced by the infinitely more prolific Emile Heskey.
33. Konstantinos Chalkias
For a goalkeeper, it’s not a great look when your performances have your manager dipping into his pocket to sign Sander Westerveld in a bid to instate some level-headedness to the position. Unfortunately for Chalkias, that’s exactly what happened during his brief stint at Portsmouth in the mid-noughties, signed presumably in the hope that he might bring his lucky charm from Greece’s underdog triumph at Euro 2004 – albeit as backup keeper – to the south coast.
It didn’t quite work out that way: five appearances, four defeats and 11 goals conceded saw him lose his place to Jamie Ashdown. “Champion goalkeeper? Champion of the kebab shop, maybe," recalled Harry Redknapp with typical hilarity.
32. Andy van der Meyde
Twice a Double winner with Ajax and a winger who'd played alongside the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron, Edgar Davids and Christian Vieri at Inter; many an Everton fan thought they'd landed a superstar when the Dutch winger signed in 2005.
Instead, injury troubles hobbled Van der Meyde from the off. During his lengthy absences, addiction, mental health struggles and turmoil in his family life formed a perfect storm of discontent. A visibly out of shape Van der Meyde only ever made 20 appearances for Everton across four seasons.
31. Lukas Jutkiewicz
Jutkiewitz only played four Premier League minutes during a two-year stint at Everton, but that they bore zero goals was a sneak preview of what was to come. Half a decade later, the beefy striker reappeared in England top flight, this time with Sean Dyche's Burnley, a side whose rough and ready blueprint would surely play to the English forward’s strengths.
Quite what those strengths were never became truly clear. Over a 25-game season, ball was never once introduced to net. He now plies his trade in the Championship with Birmingham, for whom he is now one of the second tier's deadliest marksmen. Quite the turnaround.