Buying Foreign Gone Wrong – Top Ten Worst Premiership Imports

There is no doubt the Premiership attracts the top players from overseas, rivalling Spain and Italy as the best place to play your football. So many of the superstars have come from abroad; Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry and Cesc Fabregas to name just a couple. However, there are plenty who come over and virtually steal a living, halting the progress of the top English youngsters. Surprisingly for such a good league, there are an astonishing number of candidates vying for places in this list. Here are ten of the worst imports to grace the Premiership:

  1. Jose Antonio Reyes – Technically, Reyes wasn’t the worst foreign player to feature in the Premier League, it’s more the spectacular failure to reach the hype surrounding his signing that earns him a place here. Signed for a fee that could have potentially reached £17million, Reyes did make a tremendous start to the 04/05 season after a difficult settling period, scoring in 6 successive games. Even Zidane compared his pace and skill to him “playing on an invisible motorcycle.” He got the invisible part right, Reyes did a disappearing man act for the rest of his Arsenal career, even getting sent off in the 2005 FA Cup final. Eventually he left for Real Madrid, a move no-one quite understood, and it all ended in vast disappointment for a man once competing with Cristiano Ronaldo for the Premiership’s youngest foreign star. The only thing he competes with Ronaldo for nowadays is who can get the most ‘wet look gel’ in their hair. Such wasted promise.
  1. Tomas Brolin – The infamous Mr Brolin was so bad, he features at the top of all terrible footballer articles, never mind the worst foreigners. It appears Leeds United set themselves well on the way to financial ruin before Peter Ridsdale’s time by buying turnips like Tomas. The Swede cost £4.5million after decent displays at Euro 1994, only to turn up at Elland Road wider than he was tall. Some feat given he was 5ft 10. Given that professional athletes body’s are supposed to be temples, Brolin’s was more like a bouncy castle. Perhaps Leeds should have rented him out to children’s parties to try to return some money on the worst investment the club has ever seen. Some effort considering Ken Bates’ new £7million restaurant built on the side on the East Stand.
  1. Winston Bogarde – When you sign a defender whose played for the Netherlands 20 times and costs absolutely nothing, fans nod and think, yep, good deal. Ah. Think again. Bogarde made just 4 appearances in 4 years for Chelsea, whilst picking up £40k a week, failing to get past Glen Johnson for the right back spot in his final season at the club, a man whose defensive ability is so bad, the five-year olds in the park fancy their chances of getting on the outside of him. The press finally picked up on the fact that Winston was still at Stamford Bridge, asking him to explain why he still trained with the Chelsea youth team rather than find a new club. His answer? “This world is about money, so when you are offered those millions you take them. Few people will ever earn so many. I am one of the few fortunates who do. I may be one of the worst buys in the history of the Premiership but I don’t care.” What fantastic morals. All I can say is Bogarde must have had some damn good hobbies to occupy himself during those barren 4 years, his garden must look spectacular!
  1. Ali Dia – Who, you ask? I’ve never heard that name before. What a shame Graeme Souness, then Southampton manager in 1996, didn’t ask the same question. Well as it turns this man is the greatest con artist since Arnold Schwarzenegger’s impression of being a politician. The story goes that Souness received a phone call off someone who claimed to be former Liberian legend, George Weah, suggesting Dia was his cousin and a Senegalese international that played for Paris Saint-Germain. None of which was true. The call was actually made by a university friend of Dia, possibly ranking as the greatest prank call ever made. Souness gave Dia a chance and picked him on the bench against Leeds United, where he came on after 32 minutes. Matt Le Tissier described his performance as such: “He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice; it was very embarrassing to watch,” before Souness subbed him after 52 of the funniest minutes in football, 52 minutes that must have left Souness feeling like a right mug. Needless to say, he didn’t play again, last seen graduating with a business degree from Northumbria University where it is rumoured he failed to make the football team there. Dia-bolical.
  1. Massimo Taibi – The Sun recently published an article on David De Gea’s poor form for new club Manchester United, featuring an insert from one Massimo Taibi, offering him advice on how to cope with blundering in a United shirt. Well De Gea would do well to ignore that advice. In a string of poor United keepers that featured Mark Bosnich, Tim Howard and Roy Carroll, Taibi was the worst. Costing £4.5m from Venezia, he made just for 4 appearances for the Red Devils, 4 appearances that were so bad, they earned him the nickname ‘the Blind Venetian.’ Harsh, but unfortunately true. Two mistakes stand out clearly, Matt Le Tissier’s infamous daisy-cutter that rolled straight through his legs, and his collision with Dennis Irwin that led to Chelsea’s first goal in their 5-0 drubbing of Man United in 1999. Moved on quickly by Fergie, he did become only the second goalkeeper to score in Serie A from open play, but his career will be remembered only for being Sir Alex’s worst ever foreign import.
  1. Eric Djemba-Djemba – So good they named him twice. If only. Another mistake made by Fergie in the foreign transfer market, perhaps vindicating his decision to sign the best of British recently. Eric, a Cameroon international, appeared in the 2002 World Cup at the age of 21, and signed for £3.5million from Nantes, to try to fill the gap left by Roy Keane’s departure. His form however, turned out to be dodgier than Lady Gaga’s dress sense. He made little to no impact upon United’s midfield, before moving to Aston Villa, enjoying similar success, failing to oust the likes of Gavin McCann from the side.  If this was a column for the best double barreled names in football, Djemba-Djemba would win hands down, but it’s not. His surname remains the only impressive thing about the man, though mention it to Fergie and I’m not sure he’d be amused. Awful signing.
  1. Roque Junior – Track back to 2003, and Leeds United were fighting many battles, one against relegation on the pitch, and another against financial ruin off it. So it was a nice surprise when the club actually signed a player. This excitement increased ten-fold when fans heard it was Brazilian World Cup winning centre back, Roque Junior. Surely this would fix the leaky defence, providing Lucas Radebe with an adequate partner to keep out all opposition attacks. Erm, think again. 7 games later, and Leeds had conceded 24 goals, with Roque scoring an own goal and being sent off on his debut against Birmingham. He now goes down in Elland Road folklore as one of the worst players ever to pull on the white shirt, some mean feat given he played in the same era as a certain Paul Okon.
  1. Xisco – Ah Xisco. A prime example of the transfer policy that eventually landed Newcastle United in the Championship. He arrived at St James’ Park in 2008 for £5.7million, a fee that proved to be around £5.6million too much. He made 9 forgettable appearances and failed to break into a Newcastle strike force that contained Michael ‘one leg’ Owen, Shola ‘loyal but shite’ Ameobi and Peter ‘not good enough for Rangers’ Lovenkrands. It comes as no surprise to anyone involved in football that he was a Kevin Keegan signing, evidence of his rather gung-ho approach to transfers. By which I mean, he literally throws the cheque book at any player in the game, in the small hope they’ll turn into Alan Shearer. Xisco was undoubtedly, a terrible import, and had the tag of ‘worst Spaniard to play in the Premier League’ wrapped and sealed until Fernando Torres tried his damn hardest to rip it off him in recent weeks.
  1. Bosko Balaban – A Croatian who cost Aston Villa £5.8million in 2001, a fee that gave Chairman Doug Ellis a fair few nightmares. Bosko had the first touch of a wrecking ball, and the turning circle of a rather large oil tanker, resulting in just 9 appearances during his miserable stay at Villa Park. The move got even worse, as it turned out manager John Gregory was under investigation for his role in deal, perhaps offering an answer to why he was brought to Villa in the first place. Released on a free transfer, Balaban rubbed salt into the wounds of Villa fans as he proceeded to score goals-a-plenty around Europe since. A serious case of buying foreign gone wrong.
  1. Pascal Cygan – Arsenal have really struggled for defenders in recent years, with new signing Per Mertesacker doing his best to protect Arsene Wenger’s proud record of buying hopeless centre halves. Cygan was the one who set the ball running though. More clumsy than Mr Bean, Pascal struggling for pace, and lacked the positional sense to sustain himself in an Arsenal side during his 4 year stint. Looking remarkably like Patrick Stewart in Star Trek, it’s a shame the Frenchman had no star quality of his own, with the only intrepid voyage he made during his spell in England was to propel himself right into this list, as one of the foreign foreigners to play in our country.

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