Europe's worst and best transfers of 2012-13
Last summer saw plenty of big-money transfers. While some succeeded at the new clubs, many didn’t prove value for money. With the best and worst transfers in the Premier League covered earlier this week, here are five who flopped and five who starred elsewhere in Europe in 2012-13.
Alex Song, Barcelona
There was some logic behind Barcelona’s purchase of Song last summer. They required a midfielder capable of providing the physicality lost following Seydou Keita's departure and someone who could fill in at centre-back too. With Song making headlines with his brilliant through-balls at Arsenal, the Cameroonian appeared to fit into Barcelona's style of play.
However, his impact has been minimal. Barcelona's 4-0 defeat to Bayern rather summed it up. Barca were losing a physical battle in midfield and were struggling at centre-back with youngster Marc Bartra looking out of place, but Tito Vilanova didn’t summon Song from the bench. His embarrassing misjudgment in Barcelona’s title celebration Sunday was the most notable moment of his campaign.
Marco Ruben, Dynamo Kiev
This was one of those transfers where you suspect a decimal point was placed in the wrong position, or at least a heinous currency exchange error was committed. Ruben is not, and never will be, a 10 million-pound footballer. He’s a decent all-round striker who scored sporadically in La Liga, but at Villarreal, he was a Plan B in the days when they challenged for Champions League places and a regular only when they were on course for relegation.
In his first campaign in Ukraine, Ruben has managed just 418 minutes, failing to complete a single league match and registering only one goal. With the younger, quicker, taller and more prolific Nigerian Ideye Brown starting up front in a 4-2-3-1, it’s difficult to know where Ruben fits in, or why he was signed in the first place.
Luuk De Jong, Monchengladbach
De Jong is clearly a good footballer, but the Eredivisie remains an unreliable litmus test of a striker's capabilities. For every Ruud van Nistelrooy there is an Afonso Alves, for every Luis Suarez a Mateja Kezman. So far, De Jong has shown himself to belong to the latter group following a hugely underwhelming first Bundesliga campaign. He simply hasn’t scored frequently enough, or even offered a regular goal threat, and has been gradually used only as a substitute by Lucien Favre.
“There have been other strikers who did not have the perfect first year in Bundesliga,” De Jong said. “I scored important goals, and I need to keep on working.”
He has a point: His last three goals all came in 1-0 victories. Next year, the Dutchman might come good.
Elijero Elia, Werder Bremen
Elia has flopped for the second consecutive season. After a hugely uninspiring year at Juventus, where he could at least complain he didn’t suit the 3-5-2 system Antonio Conte favoured, things haven’t gone much better in Germany. From 22 starts, Elia has been substituted no fewer than 18 occasions.
For a winger who was performing in the World Cup final three years ago, used as Holland's impact substitute to run at a tired Spain defence, it’s a significant fall from grace. He’s been outperformed by a variety of other attacking midfielders in Bremen, has completed only 16 crosses all season and might be moved on again this summer -- if he can find a buyer.
Yann M’Vila, Rubin Kazan
Once a target for seemingly every top club in Europe, many decided against signing M'Vila because of his apparent disciplinary problems. With France’s U-21 side he was suspended for organising an unauthorised night out with fellow members of the squad -- and is suspended from the national team until next year -- then later was the victim of an embarrassing robbery by two prostitutes.
Incredibly, M’Vila has run into trouble in this respect again -- and faces jail if found guilty of sleeping with a 15-year-old prostitute in Russia. His on-field performance barely seems relevant given his legal problems, but he’s hardly excelled in his four league appearances.
Paul Pogba, Juventus
The French midfielder was purchased as a prospect for the future but made an immediate impact in Turin. He started fewer than half Juventus’ Serie A matches but made crucial contributions in big games and occasionally starred when Andrea Pirlo, Claudio Marchisio or Arturo Vidal was unavailable.
His two brilliant long-range efforts in a 4-0 win over Udinese demonstrated his technical quality, and Antonio Conte even experimented with a 3-5-1-1 system to include Pogba as a fourth central midfielder. Pogba was also impressive on his international debut against Spain, despite a slightly unfortunate red card, and it remains surprising that Manchester United allowed him to leave.
Mario Mandzukic, Bayern Munich
He didn’t come cheap, but Mandzukic’s impact at Bayern has been extraordinary. Look past his goals record -- which is impressive but doesn’t tell the whole story -- and look at his all-around play. Mandzukic is a great hold-up player, he battles in the air to drive his side up the pitch, his link-up play has improved significantly, and he makes a crucial defensive contribution too.
Against Arsenal and Juventus, Mandzukic was crucial because he pressed from the front then dropped back into a compact shape to prevent opposition midfielders getting time on the ball. In both ties he significantly disrupted the opposition’s intricate passing game. While that isn’t generally considered a key attribute for a striker, Jupp Heynckes' love of universality has been crucial in Bayern’s success this season.
Jackson Martinez, Porto
They’re pretty good at this scouting lark, Porto. After the surprise departure of Radamel Falcao in summer 2011, Porto played the majority of last season without a reliable centre-forward. But after signing another prolific Colombian, Martinez, they were a more complete side in 2012-13, making it to the Champions League knockout stage and pipping Benfica to the league title.
Martinez is a tremendous all-around striker. Initially you're struck by his strength and physicality, but he also makes consistently intelligent runs and has the ability to score with a range of deft touches and flicks with both feet. Twenty-six strikes in 30 league appearances accounts for 37 percent of Porto’s goals. He should be at the Dragao next season, but if not, Porto will make a healthy profit.
Borja Valero, Fiorentina
Valero is still unable to explain how Villarreal contrived to be relegated in 2011-12. Having started the campaign in the Champions League, they ended it facing a season in the Segunda. But Fiorentina recognised Villarreal's squad was still packed with quality and snapped up Valero, defender Gonzalo Rodriguez and forward Giuseppe Rossi. Playmaker Mati Fernandez, signed from Sporting Lisbon, is another Villarreal old boy.
Valero has starred on and off the pitch. As a technically gifted midfielder, he was famed for his short passing but has evolved into a more creative player with Fiorentina; only Francesco Totti and Marek Hamsik recorded more than his 11 assists. The Spaniard has been a key man in Serie A's surprise package this season and is supposedly in demand from even bigger sides.
He's also become popular with fans for embracing the Florentine lifestyle, regularly tweeting pictures of himself sampling the various culinary delights of the city, and for speaking openly about politics and his country’s current economic problems.
Dario Cvitanich, Nice
Nice took something of a gamble on the 29-year-old Argentine striker, who had impressed in his home country with Banfield but after an underwhelming spell in Holland with Ajax was loaned out to Mexican club Pachuca and then Boca Juniors. There were concerns about his attitude and whether he suited European football.
However, only Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang have scored more goals in Ligue 1 this season. Cvitanich has scored from all ranges and angles -- a brilliant chip from the edge of the box against Evian sticks in the memory -- but he has basically been a reliable poacher, scoring 10 more goals than any other Nice player. He's the primary reason the club is on the verge of a Europa League slot after escaping relegation last season.