Fringe players which clubs just can't get rid of
Not even Arsene Wenger would have imagined how bad a signing, Sebastien Squillaci would turn out when the Frenchman was signed in the summer of 2010 for £5.3m. The signing was a good one at the time as Squillaci was a reputed, international defender having just arrived after winning the Copa Del Rey with Sevilla in 2010. And with the long term injury of Thomas Vermaelen, Squillaci was a good replacement.
However, no one, not even Squillaci – now 32 years old – himself, could have predicted what followed next. After a somewhat decent start to his Arsenal career, things started to go downhill when Squillaci was made captain for the game against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The defender put in a dreadful performance as he simply couldn’t handle the duo of Didier Drogba and Nicholas Anelka, while Arsenal were lucky not to lose more than 2-0.
From then on, it seemed his confidence zapped as a number of high profile errors, along with his inability to adapt to the pace of the Premier League, saw Johan Djourou promoted in place of Squillaci. The curse of the number 18 jersey (worn by faltering Arsenal defenders in the past, Pascal Cygan and Mikael Silvestre) seemed to live on as Squillaci was no longer in Wenger’s plans. However, the Arsenal manager couldn’t offload him due to his high £50,000 p/w wages which other clubs weren’t ready to offer while Squillaci wasn’t ready to take a pay cut.
With the rise of Laurent Koscielny, the return of Vermaelen as well as the signing of Per Mertesacker, Squillaci dropped down the pecking order and was even behind 19 year old Ignasi Miquel – further highlighting his decline. From 32 games in his first season, the Frenchman only made 6 appearances last season with only one of them coming in the Premier League – where his clearing header assisted Bobby Zamora to score the winner for Fulham against Arsenal.
Having tried to offload Squillaci all summer only to fail, Arsenal fans will be happy with the fact that Squillaci’s contract expires at the end of this season, as this was a move which simply failed in epic proportions.
The talented French midfielder was actually a very good signing for Chelsea in 2007, directly contributing to over 70 goals in his first 4 seasons. However, oddly enough, it was after his second best and most productive season that 32 year old Florent Malouda became a fringe player on the decline.
After 14 goals and 5 assists in the 2010/2011 season, Malouda was benched, not seeming to be in new manager Andre Villas-Boas’ plans. It seemed to affect the former Lyon man as his performances off the bench as well as starts in the less important games weren’t impressive either, as the Frenchman slowly lost the support of the Chelsea faithful.
“You have to accept it. I finished the previous campaign [2010-2011] as Chelsea’s leading scorer in the league and I started the next season on the bench.” – Florent Malouda.
After failing to be offloaded in the summer of 2011, Malouda, despite new manager, Roberto Di Matteo making it certain he didn’t have a Chelsea future along with the arrivals of Marko Marin, Eden Hazard and Oscar, insisted on staying at Stamford Bridge. With offers from many clubs, albeit with lower salaries, including Lyon, Malouda remarkably rejected all those offers, while some believe he wanted out but his financial demands put off potential clubs.
Malouda just barely made the 25 man Premier League squad for Chelsea, mainly due to U21 players in Hazard and Oscar not needing to be registered. However, he hasn’t made the Champions League squad or the France national team squad for the World Cup qualifiers. The latest news is that he’ll be training with the Chelsea U21 squad this season – similar to how Alex and Anelka were treated by Villas Boas – as the Frenchman posted on his Twitter account.
Similar to Squillaci, Malouda’s contract expires this summer as it seems another overpaid, fringe player will finally leave one of the top clubs in England.
One of the hottest talents not so long ago, 28 year old Arsenal graduate, David Bentley – labelled the next “David Beckham” by Steve McClaren once upon a time – has to be one of the most expensive fringe players in the game today, whom Tottenham have found so hard to get rid off.
In fact, he is Spurs’ record signing at £17 million and where is he now? Currently on his third loan stint away from the club, this time, at Russian club, FC Rostov. Having once told Theo Walcott to leave Arsenal just as he did to thrive, Bentley just two seasons ago, failed to get into the starting eleven of a relegated Birmingham City team – quite a decline.
“I think there’s a big stigma around me in England. The picture that Tottenham painted of me was so wrong. I’ve heard a lot of managers ringing players up and saying, ‘I’ve heard he’s trouble.’ The players then tell me about it, but by then they had decided not to sign me.” – David Bentley.
After playing a key role in helping Spurs qualify for the Champions League in the 2009/2010 season, it seems his infamous celebration putting water over manager at the time, Harry Redknapp as a good natured, congratulatory gesture didn’t go so well with the former Spurs manager as he didn’t get a look in since, causing his decline. Bentley couldn’t even get new manager Villas-Boas to give him a chance:
“I thought the new manager might give me a chance but there’s probably been too much water under the bridge already.” – David Bentley.
After numerous amounts of failed attempts to offload the Englishman, it looks as if Spurs and its’ fans will have to wait until next summer to finally see the back of Bentley as his contract expires in 2014 – a record signing who just didn’t fit in, in the end.