The Premier League attracts some of the best footballing talent the world has to offer, but it can also be a very cruel mistress.
England’s top flight attracts world class stars like moths to a flame, and while some thrive in the limelight, others get burned.
Raphael Varane is just the latest elite player to come and test his abilities in what is often regarded as Europe’s best league, after securing a move to Manchester United from Real Madrid.
And, although the World Cup-winning Frenchman has all the qualities and experience to elevate the Red Devils to title contenders this year (regardless of what Danny Mills says), we at 90min thought it could be fun to have a look back at some big name imports that just didn’t work out.
Davor Suker arrived in England having been established himself as great of 1990s football.
A La Liga and Champions League winner with Real Madrid, a World Cup Golden Boot winner in 1998 and a Ballon d’Or runner-up the same year, Suker went to Arsenal in 1999 with some pedigree – even if his best days were already behind him.
The Croatian managed just eight Premier League goals for the Gunners in his only season, before Harry Redknapp took him to West Ham, where he notched two.
From Ballon d’Or runner-up to Ballon d’Or winner.
George Weah is a legendary figure for his spells at Paris Saint-Germain and Milan. Although never the most prolific of strikers, his electric and untouchable displays for PSG earned him the lucrative Ballon d’Or award in 1995, before he excelled even further in Serie A with I Rossoneri.
Four full seasons and two scudetti later, Weah moved to Chelsea in January of 2000 for a loan spell that yielded just five goals.
That summer Milan let him go to Manchester City on a permanent transfer, where he’d go on to score once in the league.
A joy to watch at his best, Deco was one of those gifted midfielders who made the creative side of the game look as easy as anything.
So when Chelsea signed him from Barcelona ahead of the 2008/09 campaign, the Blues’ faithful were all smiles. He went on to grab an assist and score the above 30-yard screamer on his debut in Chelsea’s opening Premier League fixture against Portsmouth.
Unfortunately, there’s only one way to go from the top, and Deco found that out soon enough. The Portuguese maestro finished that season having scored three times and assisted just twice.
The following year, Deco became just a bit-parter as Carlo Ancelotti’s side romped to the title. He was moved on to Fluminense after failing to live up to expectation.
For a player who managed 76 Serie A goals from 2015 to 2018, Gonzalo Higuain’s loan move to Chelsea in January 2019 should have yielded a fair few goals – even if it was for just half a season.
As it turned out, the Argentine did bag a not disastrous five goals in 19 appearances, but never really looked fully fit at Chelsea, with opposition fans poking fun at his weight.
Probably the best right-back in world football in 2010, Maicon was pretty much uncontrollable up the right flank for Inter and Brazil around the turn of the decade – marauding doesn’t even cover it.
The Brazilian will likely be best remembered for that goal he scored against North Korea at the 2010 World Cup – not for his spell at Manchester City.
There was understandable hype around the 2012 arrival of such an exciting powerhouse during a thrilling time of City’s progression into a superpower of English football.
However, Maicon’s spell at the Etihad proved disastrous, racking up just nine Premier League appearances without a goal or assist and eventually being moved on to Roma after just one season.
A striker who consistently hit double figures in La Liga, Fernando Morientes made the switch to Liverpool for the 2004/05 having won two league titles and three Champions League crowns at Real Madrid.
At 28 years of age, there was expectation for a player who was supposed to be in his prime.
However, eight Premier League strikes across two seasons would have suggested otherwise. The Reds eventually let the Spaniard depart for Valencia where, in his first season, he hit double figures for league goals.
A UEFA Cup victor, Serie A champion and two-time Coppa Italia winner before his arrival in England in 2001, Juan Sebastian Veron was a renowned complete midfielder.
A creative and powerful conductor, the Argentine cost Sir Alex Ferguson a whopping £28m from Lazio – an English record at the time. The early signs would suggest that Veron was going to repay the faith, earning the Premier League player of the month award for September in his maiden campaign.
However, his clear talent only made itself visible in little glimpses throughout his time at Old Trafford, leaving everyone involved frustrated. Having never really fulfilled his potential, the midfielder was moved on to Chelsea in teh summer of 2003.
Surviving just one calamitous campaign at Stamford Bridge, Veron was sent back to Italy to play for Inter.
One of the first names that comes to mind when you think ‘flop’ Angel Di Maria endured a cursed season at Manchester United after arriving from Real Madrid ahead of the 2014/15 campaign.
Okay, so he did actually manage 11 assists in the league which really isn’t to be sniffed at. But so much was expected from United’s new number seven, and to only notch three Premier League goals simply wasn’t good enough following his then-British record £59.7m transfer from Real Madrid.
Following the conclusion of the campaign, the Daily Telegraph voted on Di Maria as the worst signing of the season – no mean feat considering Mario Balotelli and Jack Rodwell both endured horror moves the same year.
A frustrating and hugely disappointing time at Old Trafford ended with a move to PSG that summer.
One of the most feared and prolific forward men in Europe, Radamel Flacao was on top of his game at Atletico Madrid and Monaco in the early 2010s.
The Colombian then decided top test himself in England, securing a loan deal to Manchester United for the 2014/15 season.
A much heralded signing, Falcao went on to score just four goals in 26 Premier League appearances before heading back to Monaco.
Rather than giving up on his English’s adventure however, Falcao returned to the Premier League on loan with Chelsea the following year, where he managed an even poorer season, scoring once in all competitions.
El Tigre has since rediscovered his shooting boots at Galatasaray.
Arguably the name that encapsulates a flop, Andriy Shevchenko was a Ballon d’Or recipient just two years before moving to Chelsea in the summer of 2006. And, given that Roman Abramovich had been chasing the striker for a number of years, the deal creating a whole frenzy of excitement.
Well, the legendary forward would go on to score nine times in 47 Premier League appearances, leaving every Chelsea fan deflated and every rival fan with split sides.
The Ukraine all-time top scorer and Milan’s second all-time most prolific player ended his time at Stamford Bridge after one-and-a-half dire years, being loaned back to I Rossoneri for the second half of 2008/09 before permanently moving Dynamo Kiev that summer.