The Ten Worst Free Transfers Of All Time

Watching Jermain Defoe pocket £100,000 a week for Bournemouth aged 35 really gets me annoyed. It really is understated how bad of a signing a 35-year-old Jermain Defoe was for Bournemouth on a three-year deal. Even though it was a free transfer 100 grand a week for three years is still paying 15 million pounds for a man who will be 38 at the end of his current deal. It did get me thinking however, what are the worst free transfers of all time and where does Defoe place on that list? Here are the top ten worst free transfers of all time.

10: Javier Saviola to Real Madrid


The signing of Javier Saviola by Real Madrid did little more than annoy their El Clasico rivals Barcelona. Saviola had almost no impact at Real Madrid scoring just five times in 28 appearances for Los Blancos, mostly from the bench. Saviola had been a promising young talent at Barcelona who never quite lived up to his potential. To make matters worse for Real Madrid they had to pay 5 million Euros to get rid of him. As Madrid had to pay compensation for selling him to Benfica with two years left on his contract.

9: Owen Hargreaves to Manchester City


Similarly to Saviola Hargreaves’ signing to Man City achieved nothing more than annoying their closest rivals Manchester United. Desperation was the word that sprung to mind when Hargreaves decided to upload videos of him training on YouTube in order to try and prove he was fit in order to find himself a new club. Manchester City took a punt on the crocked midfielder and to nobodies surprise, he only made four appearances for City, scoring one goal against Birmingham in the League Cup. It is a real shame that Hargreaves has found himself on a list like this. Once upon a time he was England’s best player in the 2006 World Cup and it is a true shame that his career was cut short by injuries. Hargreaves’ career will go down as one of footballs greatest “what if’s” but his free transfer to City stands amongst the worst of all time.


8: Ali Dia to Southampton


The only reason Ali Dia isn’t number one on this list is because it is way too obvious. The man who conned his way onto a Premier League football pitch was signed by Southampton and played just one game before being found out as a fraud and released. Financially not as bad as some others on this list but by a mile the worst player to ever play in the Premier League.

7: Any former player over 45 to any non league club


Obvious publicity stunts from Non-League clubs that stunt the progression of their team. The most famous example is Socrates playing for Garforth Town in 2004 aged 50. Did the manager of Garforth think that Socrates would be the answer to his midfield problem? Most likely no, but Garforth got a lot of exposure and a boosted attendance for the one game he played. Other examples include Stuart Pearce playing for Longford, and Paul Merson playing for Caerau.

6. Milan Jovanovic to Liverpool


How could Liverpool go wrong signing “One of the greatest soccer players in the world.” Neighbours might have slightly overestimated Jovanovic’s abilities and I really hope that Liverpool didn’t sign him due to the Australian soaps false promises. Impressing in Belgium for Standard Liege it looked like Roy Hodgson had picked up a real steal when he signed the winger on a free transfer after he had impressed in the World Cup. Jovanovic flopped badly though, scoring 0 goals in his 10 league appearances for the reds being sold to Anderlecht after just one season.

5: Jermain Defoe to Bournemouth


Giving a £100,000 a week three-year deal to 35-year-old old is a bad business move nobody can deny that. But many fans called Defoe a “steal” as he moved to Bournemouth after he scored 30 goals over the past two seasons in a struggling Sunderland side. Unfortunately for The Cherries Defoe has started poorly scoring only three goals in 18 appearances this season. A poor business move that turned out to be a bad footballing move as well.

4: Joe Cole To Liverpool


Another of Hodgson’s Liverpool signings to make this list. It’s quite upsetting that Joe Cole couldn’t revitalise his career at Liverpool. At the time it looked a fantastic deal for both the club and the player with Cole needing a fresh start and Liverpool going through a transition period after sacking Rafa Benitez. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out with Joe Cole being sent off on his debut against Arsenal and underperforming in almost every game since. Making only 26 appearances at Anfield before leaving for West Ham

3: Emmanuel Eboue to Sunderland


Emmanuel Eboue wasn’t a great player at the best of times but when Sunderland signed him on a free in March with two months to save their Premier League status it had a lot of people scratching their heads. Even more puzzling was the fact that 22 days after signing for Sunderland Eboue was handed a one year ban from football for failing to pay a former agent. Eboue came in and lasted less than a month. He never played a game for Sunderland and is now without a club again.

2: Winston Bogarde to Chelsea


Apparently when Winston Bogarde was signed by Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli had no idea it was happening as the Director Of Football at the time was behind the transfer. Handing the ex-Barcelona and Ajax defender a four year contract on £40,000 a week making him one of the top paid players at the club in 2000. Bogarde played only 9 times for Chelsea. The blues tried to force Bogarde out by making him play for the reserve and youth teams however Bogarde was happy to stay and collect a paycheck saying “This world is about money, so when you are offered those millions you take them. Few people will ever earn so many. I am one of the fortunate few who do. I may be one of the worst buys in the history of the Premiership but I don’t care.”

1: Mark Bosnich to Manchester United and Chelsea


Manchester United were desperate for a goalkeeper after the departure of Peter Schmiechel. They turned towards their former player Mark Bosnich to fill the void that the Dane left. The Australian keeper has hundreds of quotes about his unprofessional behaviour whilst at Old Trafford with Alex Ferguson commenting on him in his 2013 autobiography saying ”

“We played down at Wimbledon and Bosnich was tucking into everything; sanwiches, soups, steaks. He was going through the menu.

“I told him ‘For Christ’s sake, Mark, we’ve got the weight off you. Why are you tucking into all that stuff?”

“We arrived back in Manchester, and Mark was on mobile phone to a Chinese restaurant to order a takeaway. Is there no end to you? I just couldn’t make an impact on him.”

Bosnich played 23 games in the league for Man United before dropping down to third choice the following year. After that he somehow got a move to Chelsea reportedly earning £45,000 a week playing five times in three years.

Author: Charles Jones

Journalist. Fulham supporter. Leeds Trinity University student.

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