Football history is littered with the stories of players who made big-money moves to different clubs and then for whatever reason, simply fell off the radar or completely failed to live up to expectations.
The reasons for this can be varying – sometimes it’s injury-related, sometimes it’s simply a case of the player not being able to make the step up to the next level, and sometimes – more commonly now – it’s a case of a large, rich club looking to stockpile players to prevent other smaller clubs from keeping hold of them.
At any rate, here are five examples of players who switched teams, and then fell off the radar.
#1: Fabian Delph
Fabian Delph spent six seasons at Aston Villa, and his importance to the team grew with each one. Establishing himself as a starter in 2012/13, Delph finally blossomed in 2013/14 and became Villa’s key man, making 34 appearances that season and being voted Player of the Season by the fans.
By the end of 2014 Delph was not only a key player for Villa, but he’d also broken into Roy Hodgson’s England setup and his future seemed bright indeed. Despite his Villa contract ending at the end of the 2014/15 season, he pledged his future to the club by signing a new deal until 2019.
It didn’t take long for his head to be turned, though. After another outstanding season, he was linked with Manchester City, and despite coming out and telling Villa fans he was going nowhere, he was quickly on his bike to Manchester for a fee of £8m.
And since then? Practically nothing. In two seasons at City, Delph has made 24 appearances and has barely figured, particularly since the arrival of Pep Guardiola. And naturally his England career has gone down the tubes too.
It’s a classic case of a big club needlessly signing a player for the sake of it, and who knows if he’ll ever make it back to the forefront?
#2: David Bentley
Emerging through the youth set-up at Arsenal, it wasn’t until a move to Blackburn Rovers in 2006 that Bentley began to make a name for himself. Over the course of three seasons at Blackburn, due to some tremendous performances and spectacular goals, his reputation grew to the point where he was labelled the “new David Beckham” by then-England boss Steve McClaren.
Despite finishing 7th in 2007/8, Bentley put in a transfer request asking for a move to a bigger club. He received it when Tottenham Hotspur swooped in and paid a huge £15m fee. It seemed like he’d live up to the hype when he scored his first Spurs goal against his old club Arsenal, helping his side to a remarkable 4-4 draw in one of the season’s craziest games.
Bentley made 25 appearances for Spurs in 2008/9 but not long after, his form dipped dramatically. He made just 15 appearances in the following season and then ended up on a string of loan moves, first to Birmingham City, then to West Ham, Russian club FC Rostov, and finally back to Blackburn. None of the moves really worked out and Bentley never recovered his form before prematurely retiring in 2014. He was just 29.
An example of a player unable to make the step up? Or someone who believed his own hype a little too much? It’s hard to tell.
#3: Andriy Shevchenko
One of the greatest European strikers of all time, Shevchenko is the classic example of a transfer going wildly wrong and practically wrecking a career.
After making his name with Dynamo Kiev, Shevchenko joined AC Milan in 1999/00 where he had his greatest successes, scoring a bucketload of goals and winning the Scudetto and the Champions League. He even won the Ballon d’Or in 2004. Around the same time, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich was making his takeover at Chelsea.
It was the summer of 2005 when Shevchenko was first linked with the Blues, but it wouldn’t be until the summer of 2006 that he made his move – breaking the British transfer record at the time with a £30.8m fee. Unfortunately, it felt from the off that he never quite fitted in at Stamford Bridge – the rumour at the time was that it was Abramovich, not manager Jose Mourinho who actually wanted the Ukrainian.
Shevchenko only spent two seasons at Chelsea, scoring a meagre 9 league goals in 47 appearances. He was shipped back to Milan and then Kiev in loan moves, but never recovered the form that made him so feared by defenders during his initial run in Italy.
He retired in 2012 and in hindsight should probably have never moved to Chelsea.
#4: Jack Rodwell
Breaking into Everton’s first-team setup in the 2008/9 season, it appeared that the Toffees had discovered another gem in Jack Rodwell. A powerful midfielder who could both play as a holder or an attacker, it was thought that Rodwell had the potential to be a key player for Everton – and England too – for years to come.
Indeed, after an impressive 2010/11 season Rodwell was handed his first England caps against Spain and Sweden. It seemed like the future was bright, despite injuries restricting him to only 17 appearances in 2011/12.
Then Manchester City came knocking. Despite having a glut of world-class midfielders – Yaya Toure, Samir Nasri and David Silva, for example – Rodwell decided to make the move and signed with the Citizens for £12m. It turned out to be the worst possible move for his career.
Rodwell made just 15 appearances for City in his first full season and then only 5 in his second, and although injuries contributed to that, it was quite clear that in a squad full of seasoned internationals he was a little out of his depth.
He’s since moved on to Sunderland, but while he has played much more, he hasn’t gotten anywhere near the form he displayed at Everton that allowed him to break into the England setup.
#5: Giovani Dos Santos
One of football’s ultimate “what if?” stories, Mexican forward Giovani started his career at Barcelona, breaking into their first team in the 2007/8 season where he featured 37 times. Giovani’s reputation at this point was huge, with some pundits labelling him as a better prospect than even Lionel Messi.
It was curious then when he was sold to Tottenham Hotspur at the beginning of the 2008/9 season for just £5m. The rumour was that new Barca boss Pep Guardiola was concerned about the amount of time Giovani spent partying rather than training or resting, but evidently then-Spurs boss Harry Redknapp saw enough talent in the young Mexican to take the risk.
He was unfortunately proven wrong. After having his commitment questioned by Redknapp, who begged him to stay out of nightclubs, Dos Santos was loaned to Ipswich Town before his first full season at Spurs had even ended. Further loans to Galatasaray and Racing Santander followed before a full move to Mallorca in 2012/13 finally ended his time at Tottenham.
He’s since become a bit of a journeyman, and is currently at MLS club LA Galaxy. Who knows what kind of heights his career could’ve reached though had he not left Barcelona in 2008 – it’s a classic case of a transfer going badly wrong.
Which other players fell off after big transfers?
Until next time....