Eric Djemba-Djemba, Nantes to Manchester United
Eric Djemba-Djemba, so bad they named him twice, they used to joke…although United fans weren’t laughing.
The Cameroon midfielder wasn’t a hopeless player—he’d impressed in France with Nantes and won the 2002 Africa Cup of Nations with Cameroon—but the new Roy Keane, he was not.
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Eric Bailly, Villarreal to Manchester United
There have been times—as Manchester United have lurched from one defensive crisis to another—that hope blossomed that the club might turn to Bailly as they looked to solve their issues at the back.
Ultimately, it’s never really happened to the defender, whose time at Old Trafford has been mottled by injury and inactivity.
Mbwana Samatta, Genk to Aston Villa
Things actually started pretty well for Samatta at Villa after he was signed in January 2020 as a replacement for the injured Wesley.
In his first two games he helped Villa reach the EFL Cup final, and netted on his league debut against Bournemouth.
He would also score in the Villains’ final defeat by Manchester City, but that was as good as it got, as the striker—who’s still on the club’s books after loans to Fenerbahce and Royal Antwerp—never came close to realising his £8.5 million fee.
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Wilfried Bony, Swansea to Manchester City
Bony became Africa’s most expensive player when he signed for City for £28 million in early 2017, having translated his Eredivisie goalscoring form to the Premier League.
However, while the Ivorian forward tore up top flight defences with the Swans, he struggled to come close to replicating this form at the Etihad Stadium.
His arrival at Eastlands was delayed due to the 2017 Nations Cup, while injuries and an inability to dislodge Sergio Aguero also affected his ability to gain a measure of momentum at the club.
By the time he moved on loan to Stoke City in 2016, he had fallen behind rookie Kelechi Iheanacho in the pecking order, and never regained his previous goalscoring form.
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Jean Makoun, Lyon to Aston Villa
While midfielders such as Michael Essien and Mahamadou Diarra translated successful spells at Lyon with memorable stints at European giants, Makoun wasn’t so fortunate after moving to Villa for £6.2 million.
He struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League, and departed after nine league games, costing Villa just under £700,000 per appearance, not including wages…!
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Bebe, Vitoria to Manchester United
United parted with a reported £7.4 million to sign unknown Bebe from Vitoria Guimaraes, with the legendary Sir Alex Ferguson later confessing that he’d never seen the wideman play.
United fans saw little more of him; as Bebe, who had bounced back from homelessness to forge a professional career, managed only two league appearances at Old Trafford before returning to Portugal.
The wideman, who currently plays for Rayo Vallecano, made his Cape Verde debut earlier this year.
Savio Nsereko, Brescia to West Ham United
£9 million was a hefty fee for a Ugandan teenager who had potential, but had demonstrated precious little at Brescia to suggest that he was worth the outlay.
Savio started just one match, failed to score, and was soon shipped backed to Italy and Fiorentina.
He’s currently playing in the German lower leagues, and is yet to be capped by either Germany or Uganda.
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Chris Samba, Anzhi Makhachkala to Queens Park Rangers
Recruited by QPR for a whopping £12.5 million in a late bid to stave off relegation—and on a reported £100,000 weekly salary—Samba returned to England after a brief spell in Russia, having previously been a hit with Blackburn Rovers.
QPR fans were not left with fond memories, and the Congolese centre-back fell out with the club’s fanbase while contributing a series of underwhelming showings as they dropped into the second tier.
He hung up his boots after last playing for Aston Villa in 2018.
Jordon Ibe, Liverpool to Bournemouth
How Liverpool managed to convince poor Bournemouth to part with a club-record £15 million to sign the winger in 2015 remains a mystery.
He’d shown talent in patches at Anfield, but nothing to justify that kind of fee, and never made the grade with the Cherries.
Across four seasons, he scored three goals and registered six assists, with Eddie Howe’s side dropping out of the top tier in the process.
Ibe is currently playing in the Turkish lower divisions.
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Benni McCarthy, Blackburn Rovers to West Ham United
The Hammers have had their fair share of transfer duds over the years, and both Rigobert Song and Tita Camara could have easily made this list.
Instead, we’ve opted for McCarthy, who had impressed at Blackburn Rovers—alongside the aforementioned Samba—but was firmly past his best when he arrived in East London for £2.25 million.
He struggled with injury and fitness problems, was sidelined for six weeks on his debut, and was also criticised by the club’s hierarchy…a sorry way for the striker’s fine career in Europe to come to an end.
Ali Dia, Free agent to Southampton
Dia is of the most baffling stories in the history of the sport.
Then-Southampton boss Graeme Souness thought he’d struck gold in 1996 when he received what he thought was a phone call from reigning Ballon d’Or winner George Weah recommending his ‘cousin’, who counted Paris Saint-Germain among his previous employers.
Souness believed the call—which turned out to be from a friend of Dia’s, rather than the current Liberia president—and handed Dia a one-month contract.
He was introduced as a substitute for injured club legend Matt Le Tissier against Leeds United, but was withdrawn 50 minutes later as it became palpably clear that he was not a player of such pedigree.
Dia was released shortly afterwards.
Nicolas Pepe, LOSC Lille to Arsenal
Arsenal plumped for Pepe ahead of Wilfried Zaha in the summer of 2019, despite Unai Emery reportedly preferring the Crystal Palace man.
£72 million was a significant amount of money for the Gunners to part with, although having had a hand in 33 goals in his final season in France—22 goals and 11 assists—Pepe clearly had immense talent to burn.
He’s demonstrated precious little of that quality in the Premier League, with the false dawn of the 2020-21 season followed up by a disappointing 21-22, as he had a hand in just three goals throughout the Premier League.