Money to burn
Published 28/01/2011 | 05:00
With Emmanuel Adebayor following Roque Santa Cruz out of Manchester City on loan, it looks as if clubs are using this transfer window to spring-clean the dressing-room of their most embarrassing purchases.
Also dispatched on loan, from Tottenham and Wigan respectively, have been David Bentley and Mauro Boselli, while West Ham are desperately hawking Benni McCarthy around. It is shrewd thinking; no manager wants to remind the chairman of the duds when asking him to invest -- even when, as with McCarthy, the chairman bought him.
While City are in line to incur a sizeable loss on Adebayor, his haul of 15 goals from 34 appearances is reasonable. The striker's attitude appears to have been the real problem.
The most spectacular waste of money is surely his former team-mate Santa Cruz. The Paraguayan returned to Blackburn Rovers two weeks ago after a miserable 18 months at Eastlands, during which he made just six starts, a staggeringly poor return on City's £17.5m investment.
However, one club's flop is another's success. A Blackburn supporter could argue Santa Cruz represents the best piece of transfer business in Premier League history. Santa Cruz not only scored 29 goals in 70 matches for Rovers, he reaped a £13.7m profit on his original £3.8m cost.
Santa Cruz was unlucky at City, enduring numerous injuries, notably to calf and knee -- not that this should have been a surprise given his record at Bayern Munich. He also suffered from the change in management. Mark Hughes, having bought Santa Cruz for Blackburn and City, believed in him; Roberto Mancini, Hughes' successor, preferred other options.
Things might have been different had Hughes stayed -- the two goals Santa Cruz scored in the Welsh manager's final game, the 4-3 win against Sunderland in December 2009, were his first in the league and could have reignited his career.
The difference of opinion regarding Santa Cruz is far from unique. Take Adebayor (as City have persuaded Real Madrid to). He may not be popular at Arsenal, but 62 goals in 143 appearances, plus an £18m profit, is an outstanding return on Arsene Wenger's £7m investment. Better, certainly, than City have had.
Manchester City have also received poor value from Joleon Lescott (£22m), Jo (£18m), Craig Bellamy (£14m), Wayne Bridge (£12m), and Shaun Wright-Phillips (£9m). However, their wealth forces a reassessment of the parameters when judging value. By the standards of most they have wasted huge sums of money, but given City's owner, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed al-Nahyan, is estimated to be worth in the region of £20bn, he, and by extension the club (as long as the sheikh's cash is not provided in loan form), can afford it.
It could be argued a far bigger waste is the £5m spent by Hull City on buying Jimmy Bullard from Fulham in January 2009. Not only did Bullard fail to keep Hull in the Premier League last season, a knee injury meant he only made one substitute appearance in his first 10 months at the club. Hull plunged into debt and subsequently changed ownership.
Looking at transfer activity across the last five years, it is clear some clubs are prone to reckless spending. West Ham have made a series of poor decisions, laying out close to £25m on Savio Nsereko, Kieron Dyer, Julien Faubert and McCarthy.
They could argue that Dyer has been unfortunate with injuries, but the player's fitness record at his previous clubs should have prompted them to insist on linking payment with appearances, as Everton did when buying Lescott from Wolves in 2006.
Consideration of some recent Liverpool signings (such as Robbie Keane, Andrea Dossena, Glen Johnson, Alberto Aquilani) makes it obvious why the new owners wish to exert close control over transfer policy.
It is not, however, an exact science. Were the accompanying list of poor-value signings being drawn up six months ago Johan Elmander, having scored seven goals in 52 matches for Bolton following his £10m signing, would figure prominently. This season the Swede striker has scored 10 goals in 27 games and Bolton's concern now is whether they can hold on to him.
Joey Barton looked one of the worst signings of all time when he was arrested, then jailed, within a year of joining Newcastle from Manchester City for £5.8m in 2007. Barton is now in excellent form and contributing to Newcastle's solid return to the Premier League.
The value of a signing cannot be judged solely by reference to a transfer fee. Eidur Gudjohnsen joined Stoke on a free transfer in August. Free, but no bargain. It is safe to assume that the former Chelsea, Barcelona and Spurs player is on significant wages, enough to make his four substitute appearances, totalling 63 minutes, very costly indeed. (© Independent News Service)