Players come, players go – the transfer merry-go-round is as much a part of football as Leeds fans claiming they take the most supporters to away games and Kyle Walker breaking lockdown.
Replacing a star player is always a difficult task and, as is the nature with the transfer market, some signings work out and others flop. A select few, however, prove to be so mind-bogglingly dreadful you wonder if the scouts who spotted them were turning up to games half-cut.
And so it may prove to be the case once again with Chelsea, who are rumoured to be looking at replacing Real Madrid-bound N’Golo “two-time Premier League winner” Kante with West Ham midfielder Declan “screw Ireland” Rice. Even the mere suggestion of that switch is likely to have Blues supporters screaming just like, er, Declan himself.
In tribute of this potential transfer (and to make Chelsea fans feel a teensy bit better), we’ve headed down memory lane to recall the times replacing a key player didn’t quite go to plan…
Cristiano Ronaldo and Gabriel Obertan
We feel as if typing out quite what happened here is almost a waste of time – the names alone should be more than enough to highlight the error of judgement Man Utd made here. But we’ll give it a go anyway.
After scooping a then-world record £80m transfer fee for the Portuguese in 2009, that same summer Sir Alex tried to repeat his trick of plucking a young winger out of obscurity and turning them into a superstar. Step forward Gabriel Obertan.
Suffice to say it was about as successful as the David Moyes era at Old Trafford. The Frenchman made just 14 league appearances in two years and now plies his trade at world-famous Turkish outfit BB Erzurumspor.
Fernando Torres and Andy Carroll
In a footballing sense, Torres and Carroll are like chalk and cheese – assuming the chalk is a gracefully footed, lethal finisher and the cheese is a big old lump of cheddar with a Geordie accent.
On a dramatic January transfer window deadline day in 2011, Liverpool sold Torres for £50m and immediately brought in Andy Carroll as his direct replacement, shirt number and all. He scored just six league goals in 18 months – not too dissimilar to Torres at Chelsea in fairness – before being shipped out on loan to West Ham.
Gareth Bale and Roberto Soldado
The Welshman’s stellar 2012/13 campaign saw him hit 26 goals in all competitions as Spurs once again blew a top-four place in spectacular style. That goalscoring form earnt the left-back-turned-forward an £85m move to Real Madrid.
Desperately needing to replace that goal-scoring threat, Tottenham turned to the one man they hilariously believed was up to the job: Roberto Soldado. The Spaniard moved to White Hart Lane in a £26m deal – and this tells you everything you need to know about how the move panned out:
— Paddy Power (@paddypower) August 14, 2015
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Peter Schmeichel and Mark Bosnich
How do you replace a goalkeeping legend like Peter Schmeichel? Well, not with Mark Bosnich – as Sir Alex found out in miserable style during the 1999/2000 season.
Fergie snapped Bosnich up on a free transfer from Aston Villa that summer – and in doing so made the Australian the only player he signed twice at Old Trafford – but we bet he wished he hadn’t bothered.
After 23 league appearances at United, he made his way to Chelsea on a free transfer in January 2001. Fergie later called Bosnich a “terrible professional” in his 2013 autobiography. Ouch.
Nicolas Anelka and Davor Suker
Anelka was the world’s most sought-after young striker in the summer of 1999, and after protracted negotiations, he eventually made a move to Real Madrid. In return, Los Blancos allowed Davor Suker – 10 years Anelka’s senior – to move to Highbury on a free transfer, as the Gunners looked to directly replace Anelka’s goals whilst some fella called Thierry Henry settled in.
Suker had won the 1998 World Cup Golden Boot, but it turns out a lot can change in a year. After scoring just eight league goals and missing his penalty in Arsenal’s 2000 UEFA Cup final shootout defeat to Galatasaray, the Croatian was shipped off to West Ham.
Dimitar Berbatov and Roman Pavlyuchenko
With his creativity, eye for goal and trademark movie star good looks, Berbatov was a rare inspired signing for Spurs and flourished at White Hart Lane. So, obviously, he was snapped up by a big club in 2008 when he moved to Old Trafford on transfer deadline day.
Spurs tried to work that magic once again, turning to Russian forward Roman Pavlyuchenko as his like-for-like replacement. But the natural world order was restored once again when it transpired he was complete toilet. Pavlyuchenko departed back to his motherland three-and-a-half years later, having scored just 21 Premier League goals.
Alexis Sanchez and Henrikh Mkhitaryan
This ill-fated swap deal between Arsenal and Man Utd in January 2018 meant both players were intended to directly replace one another. Unfortunately for all parties concerned, both became complete and total disasters at their new clubs.
Sanchez left his shooting boots in London and replaced them with concrete slippers, whilst the “highlight” of Mkhitaryan’s time at the Emirates is being at the centre of a political controversy when it was revealed he wasn’t safe to travel to Baku for the 2019 Europa League final. Both have since been banished on loan to Serie A.
Nemanja Matic and Danny Drinkwater
Sorry Chelsea fans, but what better way is there to round off this countdown than reminding you of the last time you tried to replace a midfield destroyer?
After three successful years at Stamford Bridge, which included two Premier League titles, Serbian brute Matic moved to Old Trafford in a £40m deal to be reunited with Jose Mourinho in 2017. Comically the Blues opted to replace him with Danny Drinkwater for a near-identical fee, a transfer that has been nothing short of a catastrophe.
In the three years that have passed, Drinkwater has played just 12 league games for Chelsea and endured two dreadful loan spells at Burnley and Aston Villa.
On the bright side, it’s fair to say that Declan Rice would have to go some way to being this much of a disaster zone at Stamford Bridge. Every cloud, eh?
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