When Radamel Falcao joined Manchester United on deadline day of last season it was supposed to be the cherry on top of a summer of marquee spending. With a club record already paid for Angel Di Maria, United seemed to have out done themselves by securing the services of the man who had been arguably the best out and out striker in Europe for the past few seasons. They had even protected themselves against his injury being a long term issue by taking him on loan for a season with a view to a permanent deal. But, Falcao was one of the best players on the planet so it was all going to be fine. Wrong.
What United ended up having for a season, and at an extortionate expense, was what appeared to be a shell of the player we had seen at Atletico Madrid and FC Porto. It felt like you were watching Space Jam in real life. Someone has stolen this man’s talent. It was a fall from grace that was almost painful for all fans to watch, not just Manchester United supporters. It begged the question has there been a bigger disappointment in the Premier League than Radamel Falcao? You can place a wager on this season’s failures at Ladbrokes! There has always been disappointing signings for sides, but Falcao was one of the globes most recognised talents. In a time when it is argued that out and out, goal scoring centre forwards are a scarce commodity he was one of the few that stood out. We aren’t just talking about a player failing to play at his best. This was one of the best players failing to play at all. But, you’ll find that he isn’t the first player to have such a remarkable decline in talent and here I am going to compare him to those before him.
- AS Monaco to Manchester United (on loan)
- 26 league appearances
- 4 goals
After having watched Falcao struggle so much in the Premier League with Manchester United it is easy to forget the player he was and the reason he had built such a reputation for himself. If it wasn’t for the fact that Falcao was playing in the same era that Messi and Ronaldo are smashing goal scoring records for fun, Falcao would be considered the most prolific goalscorer in recent memory. He first made a name for himself with FC Porto in Portugal after joining from River Plate. In just 48 league appearances for Porto Falcao found the net 41 times. Not only that but he led the line in the Portuguese team’s successful Europa League campaign. Not only did he score the winning goal in the final, but that was also his 17th of the competition setting a new record for most goals scored in a single Europa League campaign since Jurgen Klinsman had netted 15 many years earlier. Cynics would argue that the Portuguese league isn’t the biggest test for a world class striker, so he got his big money move to Atletico Madrid. In the Spanish capital, Falcao managed to score a startling 52 goals in 67 league appearances. We can take those statistics and couple it with the fact that once again Falcao led the line in a successful Europa League campaign scoring 12 goals on course to Atletico lifting the trophy. This made Falcao the first player to win the Europa League consecutively with two different teams. It was his demolition of Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup that really got Falcao making headlines in the British media. His outstanding hat-trick saw off Chelsea with ease as it appeared Falcao was confirming himself as the best striker on the planet. The Colombian then made the controversial move to AS Monaco rather opting to join a top Champions League side as expected. His time in the wealthy principality was stalled when he suffered a serious knee injury in January of 2014, one which saw him miss Colombia’s World Cup in Brazil. It appears that the first six months of his season with AS Monaco was the last we had seen of the Falcao we knew. Even with the Ligue 1 side Falcao had scored 11 league goals before his injury in January.
Now, the fear factor has gone. Falcao looked impotent playing for Manchester United, his 4 goals in the league season are a reflection of that. He seemed a yard slower from the start, his sharpness in the box was gone and his ability to take an easy chance, let alone a difficult one, had been lost. When Manchester United insisted on a loan deal that was the first warning sign that there was worries about his return from the knee injury and those worries seemed justified as the season played out. Now the Colombian forward is at Chelsea on loan, another team taking a risk on him. Chelsea are hoping he can rediscover the form that once made him the most sought after striker in football. However, his early performances in a blue jersey have seemed alarmingly similar to those he was consistently putting in for United last year. It is hard to see Falcao returning to the striker he once was, but he isn’t the only one to wear the blue of Chelsea that has been the case with.
- Liverpool to Chelsea (£50 million)
- 110 league appearances
- 20 goals
Fernando Torres’ record transfer to Chelsea mid-way through the season was at first heartbreaking for Liverpool fans. As the story unfolded though, it became almost pantomime for all supporters but the Chelsea ones. When Chelsea took Fernando Torres to Stamford Bridge from Anfield it was a typical case of Roman Abramovich deciding he knew better than his manager. He opened his cheque book and splashed cash on the man who had been arguably the most feared Premier League strikers in recent times. A transfer that then coach, Carlo Ancelotti, didn’t deem necessary and it became apparent he was right to believe so. Torres had a horrible time at Chelsea. The writing may have been on the wall prior to his move, as in the first 6 months of the season he didn’t seem quite the same player that Liverpool had been accustomed to. Perhaps that was why they were willing to sell. He looked bereft of confidence, uncomfortable on the ball and too stiff to manoeuvre the pitch with the usual grace and quality. The man that had found the net 65 times in 102 league appearances for Liverpool could, ironically, not buy a goal for Chelsea.
Such was his decline we have all but forgot that Torres was one of the best players in the world from a young age. It was a terrifying prospect to play Liverpool during his time with the club due to the fact he seemed to able to score every type of goal from any given situation. He was strong, he was quick, he was intelligent and he could score goals. It was almost like he was the purpose built striker for the Premier League. Perhaps because he had been playing at such a high level from such a young age it was inevitably the case that he would burn out eventually. But, his burn out was comical for all those watching. The chances he was missing were unbelievable and with that his confidence sunk to the lowest depths possible. The irony is that in terms of individual performances Chelsea was a terrible time for Torres, but it was also his most successful time as a player in terms of trophies. He collected a Champions League trophy, a Europa League trophy and an FA Cup while in London. In all his days at Liverpool he never lifted one trophy. Although, he didn’t score much for Chelsea he did score that iconic goal at the Nou Camp in the Champions League Semi-Final to put his side in the final against Bayern Munich. If we are going to look for positives from Torres and his time at Chelsea that is probably the only one.
- AC Milan to Chelsea (£30.8 million)
- 48 league appearances
- 9 goals
Andriy Shevchenko is the only man who can make Fernando Torres look like a Chelsea success story. Do you remember when everyone was terrified of Chelsea during Mourinho’s first spell in charge? When it looked like nobody was going to be able to stop them? Then they signed Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan and we were even more terrified than we already were? In the end it turned out there wasn’t much to be terrified about after all, as the Shevchenko signing flopped so bad it ended up leading to the end of Mourinho at Chelsea, for a while anyway.
Andriy Shevchenko was the definition of a top class striker before his move to Stamford Bridge. He had 127 goals in 193 league appearances for AC Milan. He was a 2 time Champions League top scorer, twice in the UEFA team of the year, the Ballon D’or winner in 2004 and runner up on 2 separate occasions. With AC Milan he had won; the Serie A, the Coppa Italia, the Supercoppa, the Champions League and the UEFA Super Cup. There weren’t many, if any, strikers you could sign at that point in time with a better pedigree than Andriy Shevchenko. From the year 1998 to 2006 he had only missed out on Ballon D’or consideration once (in 2002). This is all why it was so unbelievable how bad Shevchenko was for Chelsea. One of the best strikers in recent memory couldn’t even reach double figures after a near half century of league appearances. Unlike Torres who had his moment against Barcelona for Chelsea, there is nothing of note I can recall from Shevchenko’s time with Chelsea.
Not only was it such a failure of signing due to the cost and his on pitch exploits, or lack thereof. But, it was ultimately what caused the already tenuous relationship between Jose Mourinho and Roman Abramovich to snap. Abramovich thought he knew best because it was his money being spent and Mourinho is hardly a man to be told what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to football. Chelsea were well on course to establishing a new Premier League dynasty as it seemed no one could keep pace with their set up under the special one. Once Jose left London the fear factor had gone and teams were able to challenge them again.
- Real Madrid to Newcastle United (£16.8 million)
- 70 league appearances
- 26 goals
Nowadays we are used to complaining about Michael Owen’s tedious commentary and punditry. About 15 years ago though he was being heralded as one of the greatest talents on the planet. After breaking into the Liverpool team an early age and lighting up the World Cup ’98 in France, Owen had set the tone for his career as a prolific striker. After 118 goals in 216 league appearances for Liverpool, Owen was sold to Real Madrid. With a Ballon D’or, best young player at the World Cup, 2 Premier League Golden Boots, a Premier League Player of the Year trophy, an FA Cup, 2 League Cups, a UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup to his name Owen arrived at the most famous club in football. That’s a transfer that not many, especially British players, have on their CV. His 13 goals in 36 appearances for Real Madrid were deemed not good enough by the clubs lofty standards. When it appeared his career was spiralling out of control Graeme Souness took a risk and made him Newcastle United’s record transfer signing.
His career on Tyneside had started with promise. His 7 goals in in 10 games during the first half of his debut season showed potential. However, it would be injuries that ultimately caused Owens demise at Newcastle. A broken foot halted his debut season when it was looking a good move for both parties. It was the opening game of the World Cup ’06 that was truly the killer for Owen’s time in the North East and his prominent career. During England’s first game of the tournament against Sweden, Owen injured his cruciate ligament and would subsequently miss nearly a year of action. To return from an injury like that is difficult for most players and Owen was no different. Having had a style that relied so much on his agility and electric pace his knee injury seemed to take away his key weapons. After returning to action after nearly a year out the curse of injuries would follow Owen. Unable to string together a run of form due to niggling injuries that halted any progress turned Owen turned into a shadow of the world class talent he once was. He eventually refused to sign a new deal with Newcastle until his contract had run down and he could assess his options. It turned out that Newcastle would be relegated that season and Owen would leave and sign for Manchester United on a free transfer. Newcastle were unlucky with the signing of Owen as they never got any return on their investment and he missed so much of his time there with serious injuries.
- Real Madrid to Manchester City (£33 million)
- 41 league appearances
- 14 goals
After Manchester City’s new owners from Abu Dhabi had taken charge of the club they made it clear they wanted to attract big names to the blue half of Manchester. There were all sorts of rumours about who they were after (Ronaldinho and Kaka were that names that regularly cropped up). In the end, the man they splashed the cash on to be the opening salvo in their attack on future transfer windows was Robinho. The talent of Robinho could not be denied as he had gotten himself a move to Real Madrid from Santos at such a young age. However, the whole signing at Manchester City just screamed panic buy from the new Abu Dhabi owners.
The Brazilian had already openly stated his desire to sign for Chelsea, which everyone believed had been confirmed until City entered the fray. His first season at City was a relative success as he was there cornerstone player managing to score all 14 goals of his tenure with the club in that season. It all went wrong from there.
Injuries in his second season and a desire to leave Manchester saw the clubs first big marquee signing only make 10 league appearances. It all came to a very damp ending when he returned to Santos on loan. For what it was intended to be Robinho was a massive failure of a signing for Manchester City. It was signing for the sake of it rather than to improve the squad. If he was meant to be the first big name to help attract more big name players to the club as they looked to grow in stature, it almost did the opposite. It made the club look naïve believing that singing any big name instantly made your club a big name also. Luckily, for the supporters, the club learned from this mistake and ended up with more strategy to their recruitment from there. They built towards their goal and are now 2 time Premier League champions. What can’t be denied though was that the signing of Robinho goes down as one of the biggest failures for the City owners.