Whenever a superstar footballer is involved in a transfer, the deal is usually a costly one. As football has developed, the market has too, meaning the more money in the game, the higher the value of a player.

Every summer, it seems to keep increasing, and ‘value’ is relative. Perspective is the most important factor when judging a big money move, because while it can appear a club has paid over the odds, with the pace in which the game moves, there is a fear of being left behind if they don’t act.

It is easy to fall into the trap of taking a player’s ability for granted and assuming they will succeed wherever they go, but they are human beings and nobody is perfect. Factors can take effect and sometimes the hype just isn’t matched on the pitch. Here are ten examples of players failing to justify their high-end fees.

1. Gianluigi Lentini – Torino to AC Milan for £13million, 1992.

At the height of their powers in the late 1980s and early 90s, Milan could do no wrong under Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Cappello. At the forefront of Italian football, the Rossoneri were defensively strong with frightening talent up front, and Lentini was fully expected to compliment the likes of Marco van Basten, while adding a wide option, aided by his phenomenal dribbling skills.

While he remained at the San Siro for four years and winning three Serie A titles and the Champions League under, Lentini never quite reached the heights promised by what at the time was a world record transfer fee. A car crash in 1993 overshadowed his career, and he couldn’t fully recover having fractured his skull and damaged his eye socket aged just 24.

2. Mario Gotze – Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich for £32million, 2013.

There are a lot of achievements in his career that Mario Gotze can rightfully be proud of. In 2014, at the age of 22, he scored the winner for Germany in the World Cup final against Argentina. It was a moment that, had it come a few years later, would probably have defined his career.

But people always expect more, and it is easy to forget Gotze’s age. Having shot to fame at Borussia Dortmund, he appeared to sever all ties with them when he joined Bayern, but three tough years, in which he struggled for regular action under Pep Guardiola, stifled his development.

Carlo Ancelotti’s arrival in place of Manchester City-bound Guardiola didn’t stop the prodigal son returning to the Signal Iduna Park with his tail firmly between his legs earlier this summer.

3. Andriy Shevchenko – AC Milan to Chelsea for £30million, 2006.

Still in it’s infancy, Roman Abramovich’s power and success driven reign at Chelsea reached new heights when the Blues lured perhaps the world’s best striker to Stamford Bridge in 2006, reportedly against the wishes of then boss Jose Mourinho.

Just three years earlier, the Ukrainian hitman had scored the winning penalty in the Champions League final for Milan against Juventus, before missing a similarly huge one at the same stage against Liverpool two years after that.

Overall, he netted 127 goals in 208 Serie A games during seven years at the San Siro, but could score just nine in 48 in two Premier League seasons before returning to the Rossoneri for a failed loan spell.

4. Fernando Torres – Liverpool to Chelsea for £50million, 2011.

In a similar story to Shevchenko, Chelsea swooped for Fernando Torres on deadline day in January 2011, after the Spaniard had lit up Anfield in three and a half years at Liverpool.

His record of 20 league goals in 110 games is not deserving of a £50million player, and he never really hit the form of his days as a Red, but Torres did have some great moments with Chelsea.

En route to winning the Champions League in his first full season, he scored the clinching goal in the semi final against Barcelona.

He’ll be fondly remembered in West London despite his struggles, but fans will be disappointed they never saw the best of him.

5. Radamel Falcao – Atletico Madrid to Monaco for £50million, 2013.

Nicknamed ‘El Tigre’ and probably the man who took Torres’ mantle as the hottest striker on the planet while with Atletico Madrid, Radamel Falcao had his pick of the world’s elite when he departed, having won back to back Europa League titles, first with FC Porto and then Los Rojiblancos, in 2011 and 2012.

But that summer, he surprised the world by choosing to sign for newly-rich Monaco. While his early goal record in the Principality was as prolific as ever, following a record of 52 goals in 68 La Liga games for Atleti, but a serious knee injury a few months later has haunted him since.

Loan moves to Manchester United and Chelsea promised much, but he was never the same player. Now 30, he is back at Monaco looking for anything close to his best form.

6. Denilson – Sao Paulo to Real Betis for £21.5million, 1998.

To break the world transfer record at the age of 18, talent must be unquestionable, and that was the case with former Brazil midfielder Denilson when he joined Real Betis in 1998.

What did raise doubts, however, were his temperament and desire to fulfil his otherworldly potential. Although he earned 60 caps for his country and stayed at Betis for seven years, a move to one of Europe’s truly elite clubs never came, and he ended his career in 2010 having jumped aimlessly from continent to continent.

7. Gaizka Mendieta – Valencia to Lazio for £30million, 2001.

Two successive Champions League final defeats at the beginning of the century had not taken anything away from Gaizka Mendieta, who was the most sought after player around in the summer of 2001.

At the time, Lazio were a huge draw, having won Serie A a year earlier, and they struck a deal to bring Mendieta to Rome. But after making 230 league appearances at the Mestalla, he only racked up 20 in three years at the Stadio Olympico, while also taking loan spells at Barcelona and Middlesbrough at that time.

8. Robinho – Real Madrid to Manchester City for £32.5million, 2008.

Throughout the summer of 2008, Robinho was a target for Chelsea and so desperately wanted to leave the Santiago Bernabeu and Real Madrid.

As is becoming more and more typical, the saga rolled on all summer but the Blues couldn’t clinch a deal. On the final day of the summer transfer window, Manchester City were taken over by Sheikh Mansour, and with money to burn stole in to sign the 24-year-old.

But Robinho himself didn’t know who he had signed for when asked for his thoughts on international duty, claiming he thought he’d joined Chelsea after all.

That really set the tone. Brilliant in places but only netting twice away from home in his debut season, he was shipped on loan to Santos after 18 months before being sold to AC Milan.

9. Juan Sebastian Veron – Lazio to Manchester United for £28million, 2001.

While the Red Devils have entered the market for established superstars more since Sir Alex Ferguson, the capture of Veron was arguably the last true showing of their financial muscle in comparison to others.

Another of the most wanted in the world, Veron arrived with a huge reputation as an Argentina international. Technique and composure on the ball were no problem but the pace and physicality of the English game was too much for him. He was sold to Chelsea in the early Abramovich days for £15million.

10. Kaka – AC Milan to Real Madrid for £58million, 2009.

Some players earn the right to break the world transfer record, and Kaka was certainly one of them. Still riding the wave from his Ballon d’Or win in 2007, having inspired Milan to the Champions League that year, he became a new Galactico in Madrid president Florentino Perez’s second spell at the helm.

He promised much, obviously, but injuries and a lack of the big personality desired to succeed in the Spanish capital, and he eventually returned to Milan before joining Orlando City in MLS via a loan spell at Sao Paulo.

About the author – Harry De Cosemo

Harry is a European football writer specialising in English, Spanish and Italian football. He has worked for a number of top publications including MARCA in English, uMAXit football, FourFourTwo, Squawka and the Press Association.

twitter: @harrydecosemo


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Italy delivered the first truly stunning performance of Euro 2016, upsetting the odds to secure a well-worked 2-0 victory over Belgium on Group E’s opening night. Few, including Italian pundits and fans, saw the result coming. Antonio Conte had selected an ageing squad with little by way of star names but, despite widespread criticism of his squad choices, his tactics were perfect.

He then led the Azzurri to another win, this time over Sweden in their second game, to ensure progress as group winners. A much changed team lost to Ireland in the final group game. The Azzurri then outclassed Spain in the last sixteen before losing to World Champions Germany on penalties.

Italy’s performance in this summer’s championships has been better than expected, Conte is no longer the national team head coach; now that Italy’s tournament is over, he will move to London to take charge of Chelsea. His replacement will be Giampiero Ventura.

The 68-year-old’s name is not one that many outside of Italy will recognise, but he is hugely experienced and highly thought of in his home country. In short, there are plenty of reasons for the Azzurri to be excited about the future under Ventura’s auspices.

Tactical continuity in the post-Conte era

Perhaps the primary positive regarding Ventura’s appointment is that he is likely to build on a number of the tactical themes laid down by Conte. This is because the two coaches, whilst having vastly different levels of experience, are of a similar mindset.

Ventura, like Conte, is flexible when it comes to the basic shape he opts to utilise, something former Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli commented on last October in an interview with Calciomercato, saying: “I love those coaches who can adapt their principles to the qualities of the players they have at their disposal, and it’s why I believe that the best coach in Italy today is Giampiero Ventura.”

Ventura also has similar preferences to the incumbent Italy coach; both men have experimented with a rather unique 4-2-4 shape in the past, but have settled more recently on the 3-5-2. This is the system in which Italy have operated at Euro 2016, and it is the system Ventura has used to good effect with Torino in the past three seasons.

He has organised the Granata side to circulate the ball effectively in the build-up between the three defenders and one defensive midfielder, while the outer central midfielders push up to support attacks as well as to apply pressure to opposition full-backs. The two wing-backs have often included one on the opposite side to their favoured foot, allowing them to drive inward and create overloads, while up front Ventura has tended to opt for one physical centre forward to lead the line, while another striker whirs behind and beyond.

This setup is extremely similar to that which Conte has used with Italy this summer. Consequently, the players should be well versed in Ventura’s principal tactical layout when he takes charge later this year.

Azzurri’s exciting future

One aspect of Ventura’s management that will particularly excite Italian football fans is his proclivity for blooding young players and giving opportunities to the untested. With Torino he was responsible for rejuvenating the careers of Matteo Darmian, Alessio Cerci and Ciro Immobile, all of whom went on to earn call-ups to the Azzurri and moves to Manchester United, Atletico Madrid and Borussia Dortmund respectively.

He also worked wonders to turn around Kamil Glik’s fortunes; the Pole led his country’s defensive line expertly at Euro 2016. Additionally, the likes of Davide Zappacosta and Marco Benassi earned call-ups to Italy’s pre-Euro training camp having developed under Ventura’s tutelage.

This faith in youngsters and undervalued players is something that should allow the former Torino coach to instigate a change in Italy’s selection policy. While Conte has been conservative with his call-ups, Ventura may begin to mine the Azzurri’s youthful riches that Conte claims do not exist.

That talent pool includes 17-year-old Milan goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, 21-year-old centre-backs Daniele Rugani and Alessio Romagnoli, 24-year-old regista Jorginho and 21-year-old forward Domenico Berardi, among others.

How Ventura’s Italy might line up at the 2018 World Cup

With such promise at his disposal, it is enticing to consider who may start for Italy should they qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia under Ventura’s guidance. He is known for his adaptability, which means that, while the 3-5-2 is popular right now, he could be open to changing that in order to maximise the qualities of his players.

Conte has occasionally opted for a 4-3-3 shape during his stint in charge and Ventura would be wise to do the same; this system allows Italy to make use of the high quantity of good wingers and inside forwards available at present.

38-year-old goalkeeping icon Gianluigi Buffon has confirmed that he will retire after the 2018 World Cup, meaning he is likely to keep his place between the sticks. In front of him, time is running out for the 35-year-old Andrea Barzagli and 32-year-old Giorgio Chiellini, though the latter could continue his partnership with Leonardo Bonucci going forward, with Rugani and Romagnoli as able deputies.

Alessandro Florenzi is, at 25 years old, maturing into a fine attack-minded full-back. His energy, tenacity and crossing capability make him a good long-term option for the right-back spot, though he will face competition from Darmian, who is only one year older. The Manchester United man could also compete for the left-back berth, though Bologna’s 22-year-old Adam Masina has shown real potential in this position.

Marco Verratti may have missed out on Euro 2016 through injury but at 23 he remains integral to his country’s footballing future, while Claudio Marchisio, still only 30, can also play a part going forward. Jorginho can be the deep-lying playmaker Italy are in need of as Andrea Pirlo settles into his late-30s, perhaps entertaining thoughts of retirement, while Benassi and Juventus’ Stefano Sturaro could inject dynamism in midfield.

On either side of the front three, Ventura will have a wealth of options to pick from, including Berardi, Federico Bernardeschi, Lorenzo Insigne, Stephan El Shaarawy and Giacomo Bonaventura. All are under the age of 26. And, up front, he may choose to call on Andrea Belotti, with the 22-year-old showing mobility, positional awareness and improved finishing in his debut season with Torino.

On the back of some good opening displays at Euro 2016, Italy’s present situation is good. But, with Ventura in charge and a talented crop of young stars making their way through the ranks, the future could be exceptional.

About the author – Blair Newman

Blair is a freelance football writer with experience of working for some well known publications, including FourFourTwo, Squawka and Bleacher Report. His main passions are Italian football and football tactics, and he also takes a keen interest in major European leagues and international football in general.

twitter: @TheBlairNewman


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