The 2014/15 football season is entering its final phase and the race for the title, Champions League spots and survival from relegation is heating up. The season has just blown past us and it seems like yesterday that we were all busy going through the various transfer activities of clubs across the globe.After two transfer windows this season, most of the players who made their moves to new clubs are finally settling in and showing their worth. But not all of them. Some of the high profile signings during the summer transfer window by some of Europe’s top clubs have failed to make any, or made very little, impact at their new clubs and have drawn plenty of criticism for the same.Here is a look at the Flop XI of the 2014 summer transfer window.Honourable Mentions: Guillermo Ochoa, Nemanja Vidic, Thomas Vermaelen, Dejan Lovren, Abel Hernandez, Michel Vorm, Emmanuel Riviere, Remy Cabella and Ciro Immobile.
#1 Goal Keeper: Willy Caballero
Manuel Pellegrini roped in Willy Caballero from his former club Malaga in the summer to provide some competition for Manchester City’s first choice keeper Joe Hart. Hart was dropped by Pellegrini midway through the previous season due to his poor performance, and hence when Caballero arrived at the Etihad stadium it was expected that he may go on to bench England’s first choice keeper and cement his place in the City side.
Things didn’t go according to plan though as the Argentinian’s City career got off to an awful start. His first appearance was in the Community Shield match against Arsenal and the Gunners were able to put three past the hapless keeper. He was only give two Premier League starts and in both matches the opposition put two goals past him despite City winning the game.
Therefore, all his other starts came in cup matches. But Caballero messed up big time in his last start for City in the FA Cup against Middleborough as his mistakes led to both goals and eventually ended their FA Cup run.
The only purpose that was served by hiring Caballero was elevating Joe Hart’s performance in between the sticks.
#2 Right Back: Bacary Sagna
When Manchester City signed Sagna for free in the summer, it was deemed to be a good buy as a stop-gap solution since the Citizens were given spending restrictions due to Financial Fair Play regulations. But Sagna went from being France’s and Arsenal’s first choice right back to Pablo Zabaleta’s backup and a huge flop in a matter of a few months.
It was always going to be hard for Sagna to cement his place in the City line up with Zabaleta in the side as the Argentine has been one of the most consistent and effective full backs in England for quite a while. But even when Sagna was given an opportunity by Pellegrini, he hasn’t even come close to being the player he was in an Arsenal kit.
Sagna has just played six Premier League games and eleven games overall this season and his recent outing for City at the Nou Camp against Barcelona raised several questions about him and the exclusion of Zabaleta. He may have followed in the footsteps of his teammates Samir Nasri and Gale Clichy to Manchester City in the hope of winning a Premier League title, but the chances of that happening look pretty slim now.
#3 Centre Back: Rio Ferdinand
Sometimes footballers need to know when the time is right to call it a day on their professional career, and in the case of Rio Ferdinand, that day may have passed a while back. Ferdinand was once the best centre back in the Premier League and before the transfer of David Luiz to PSG, he was the most expensive defender in the world, a fee that was paid by Manchester United way back in 2002!
The former Manchester United man has won every honour possible at the club level with the Red Devils and has been named in the PFA Team of the Year six times with the latest one coming in the 2012/13 season when Manchester United won the title. But he couldn’t put in the same sort of performances in his final season with the Red Devils and his performance against Olympiakos in the first leg of the Round of 16 of the Champions League last season summed up his decline.
Ferdinand was released by United in the summer and he joined QPR on a one-year contract. His performance for the Rangers was so awful that Harry Redknapp dropped him from the team in favour of another veteran Clint Hill. Overall Ferdinand has just managed nine league appearances for the struggling QPR side.
#4 Centre Back: Eliaquim Mangala
When Manchester City signed the dominant center back Elaquim Managala from Porto for the fifth biggest transfer fee of the summer, it was assumed that they finally found a solution to the biggest weakness in their squad – the centre back position. Managala made his Manchester City debut against Chelsea and he put in a good performance and kept out the dangerous Diego Costa for the major part of the game.
But the towering defender has struggled to adapt to the English game and has often been targeted by opposition players. At least Managala was honest in admitting that the Premier League was tougher than he expected.
A player like Mangala was roped in by a club like City to provide an immediate solution to their defensive problems, but that hasn’t been the case and so Manuel Pellegrini has often had to use the veteran Martin Demichelis to partner Vincent Kompnay.
What will be even more disheartening for City will be the fact that Matija Nastasic, who was overlooked by Pellegrini after the arrival of Managala and therefore sold to Schalke, is doing well for his new club while Managala’s struggles continue.
#5 Left Back: Ben Davies
It is a well-known fact that Tottenham Hotspur fans are not particularly fond of Danny Rose as a left-back as he is caught out of position quite often and occasionally takes too much time to track back after going forward, thereby giving space for opposition players to run into. So the arrival of Ben Davies from Swansea was a welcome sight for the Spurs fans and the last Welsh left-back they signed turned out to be none other than Gareth Bale.
But Davies has struggled to break into the Spurs first team and his appearances have been limited to mainly Europa League games, League Cup and FA Cup matches. It is no surprise that it has left him frustrated, but he hasn’t done anything exceptional to warrant a place over Rose.
Recently, Mauricio Pochettino gave Davies a start against QPR, but the Welshman was far from his best. He played the full game, made one dribble, had a passing accuracy of only 66%, had zero blocks, zero tackles won, zero duels won, zero interceptions and zero aerial duels won.
It looks like Davies is not going to get picked ahead of Rose anytime soon and it won’t be surprising if Spurs go for a new full back who could be an improvement over Danny Rose.
#6 Central Midfield: Benjamin Stambouli
Benjamin Stambouli is the second Spurs player and the third Frenchman on the list. The former Montpellier man was expected to make a swift entrance into the Spurs starting 11, but he is far from doing so.
So far he has started just six Premier League games for his current employers and, like Ben Davies, he too has played majorly in Europa League, League Cup and the FA Cup. Stambouli is an experienced campaigner who should have broken into the team by now, but the emergence of the young Ryan Mason this season has made life difficult for him at White Hart Lane.
Pochettino clearly prefers Mason and Bentaleb as his two deepest midfielders and now Paulinho has emerged as the first in line to replace either of the sure starters. Lack of opportunities has been the major reason behind Stambouli’s problems, but the 24-year-old can still turn things around, but maybe not this season.
#7 Central Midfield: Yann MVila
Yann M’Vila was once heavily linked to Arsenal during his time with Stade Rennais and it was expected that the man who was once dubbed the next Claude Makelele would wind up in London. But M’Vila was motivated by money and eventually moved to Rubin Kazan in Russia. He spent a season and half with the Russian club before joining Internazionale on loan in the summer of 2014.
It was a transfer that showed that M’Vila finally wanted to move his career forward, but the Frenchman botched up his chance with the Italians. He started three League games for Inter this season and they failed to win all of them. Eventually, after the sacking of Walter Mazzari and the arrival of Roberto Mancini, M’Vila was deemed surplus to requirements and was sent back to his parent club.
There was a time when M’Vila was one of the brightest prospects in French football and Paul Pogba was a relatively unknown player. But now Pogba is arguably one of the best young players in the world.
#8 Right Wing: Alessio Cerci
The 2013/14 season was one of the best seasons for Alessio Cerci personally. The Italian scored 13 goals and assisted a league highest 10 goals for Torino. His fine performances attracted the interest of several top European clubs and he eventually moved to defending La Liga champions Atletico Madrid in the summer.
He was limited to only substitute appearances and despite playing just nine games for the club he even managed to get sent off once in between. Cerci was happy when he was finally given a chance to move back to Italy in January with AC Milan, but once again he has found it difficult to find playing time and has now fallen out of favour with the current coach Filippo Inzaghi.
Cerci’s on-field and off-field actions are not helping him in any way and is therefore the perfect addition to our Flop XI.
#9 Left Wing: Hatem Ben Arfa
Ben Arfa is an example of a footballer who never fulfilled his potential due to lack of commitment. The Frenchman was dubbed for big things and broke into the limelight along with the likes of Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri after the 2004 U17 Football Championship.
Nasri and Benzema have gone on to win major trophies and are playing for strong European clubs while Ben Arfa’s career has gone the other way. He has had his moments of magic at Newcastle, but his injury problems coupled with his attitude issues eventually forced former Newcastle manager Alan Padrew to freeze him out of the first team.
Arfa was eventually loaned to Hull City for the season, but once again his poor character cost him heavily. He left England without telling his club or manager and this led to Hull City terminating his loan deal. To make matters worse, Newcastle also terminated his contract.
He eventually joined OGC Nice in France, but FIFA said he was ineligible to play for Nice this season as he had already played for Hull City and Newcastle U21 team which meant he couldn’t play for a third team.
Nice terminated his contract and now Ben Arfa is without a club and without a goal this season after playing for Hull City.
#10 Striker: Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli is an unpredictable character and you can never know what to expect from the controversial Italian, but this season Balotelli’s performance have been consistently poor. Super Mario struggled to make an impact at Liverpool for quite a long time and has so far scored just one goal each in the Champions League, the League Cup and the League, even though all three goals were crucial goals for his side.
Liverpool’s style of play was one which was unfamiliar to the former Manchester City man as he was not used to pressing the opposition players high up the pitch. Moreover, Balotelli is the kind of player who likes to get proper service in the box, but Liverpool’s passing buildup play has been hard for him.
It would be wrong to say that the Italian isn’t trying hard to cope with the problems and perform for the club, but he hasn’t had the sort of impact Liverpool needed or expected from him.
It will be interesting to see if Balotelli will remain with Liverpool the next season.
#11 Striker: Radamel Falcao
Radamel Falcao is arguably the biggest flop of the summer transfer window because of the magnitude of the player’s skills and the money he is eating up even though he is on loan at Manchester United. He was one of the best strikers in the world when he joined up with Manchester United and was even selected in the FIFPro XI only two years ago.
The Colombian’s fall from the grace where he was the first name on the teamsheet to starting for the Manchester United U21 side has been catastrophic and it seems like Falcao is yet to get back to his best after that horrible ligament injury he had last year while playing for Monaco.
Louis van Gaal has given Falcao opportunities to prove his credentials, but he hasn’t done enough to impress the Dutchman or the Manchester United faithful. So far, Falcao has started 12 EPL games for his side and made seven substitute appearances and scored only four goals while assisting four more.
It will be surprising if Falcao will still be a Manchester United player in the coming season.