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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 1 day ago
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By ESPN Staff
May 12, 2008

Top 10 worst buys

The more money there is in the Premier League, the greater scope for it to be wasted. That, at least, is one interpretation of the dealings of the last 12 months. Instead of the 10 worst buys, it could have been a selection of at least 30, though that would not have made more happy reading for Sam Allardyce, Lawrie Sanchez or Damien Comolli.

There would have been unpleasant moments, too, for Roy Keane, Alan Curbishley and whoever has been responsible for Chelsea's recruitment for the last 12 months while, in the interests of not inflicting still further pain, Derby's arrivals were ignored altogether. From a lengthy list of contenders, however, these signings stood out for the wrong reasons.

10. David Nugent (Portsmouth, £6 million)
It seems a long time ago that the scramble for Nugent's services appeared to involve many of the Premier League managers. Rewind a couple of months and he was in demand in another division, with several Championship clubs eager to take him on loan. It was a sign of how far his star has fallen; his goal-a-game record for England appears likely to remain intact, because his form dictates another cap is unlikely. Nugent has the same number of Premier League goals as Alan Smith, though he did at least find the target in cup competitions.

9. Kieran Richardson (Sunderland, £5.5m)
Crossing Roy Keane is a dangerous approach, yet it is something Kieran Richardson appears to do with impunity. While one or two of Keane's outbursts appear directed at his more ill-advised signings, Richardson seems a target of more than most. Besides a match-winning double against Portsmouth, his has been another season of underachievement and it is thought his attitude, as well as his performances, contributed to the omission from the 16 for the matches against Chelsea and Arsenal. Keane believes he requires a hefty budget this summer - presumably to replace some of his own recruits - but with the January arrival of Andy Reid, he has already improved upon Richardson.

8. Kieron Dyer (West Ham, £6 million)
Blaming Kieron Dyer for breaking his leg in just his third game for West Ham would be unnecessarily harsh. Faulting his manager for his choice of targets, however, is legitimate. Buying injury-prone players and then complaining when they get injured is hardly a foolproof plan and Alan Curbishley's willingness to sign Dyer, Freddie Ljungberg and Craig Bellamy last summer ignored their habit of spending extended spells on the treatment table.

7. Jose Enrique (Newcastle, £6 million)
It takes years to establish a good reputation, and a matter of months to destroy it. Sam Allardyce arrived at Newcastle renowned for his ability to sniff out a bargain and lauded for his knowledge of the European market. He departed with buys like Jose Enrique having given him a name for wasting money. For £6 million, a left-back would be expected to be amongst the best in the league; the clumsy, slow and often omitted Enrique certainly wasn't that, with midfielder Charles N'Zogbia often preferred to play out of position. It is no surprise that a left-back figures prominently on Kevin Keegan's summer wish-list.

6. Hameur Bouazza (Fulham, £3.5 million)
Lawrie Sanchez's occasional interviews invariably involve mentions of overhauling Fulham on a huge scale with the implication that his was an unfinished job. But for Roy Hodgson, however, the wholesale importing of Championship players for excessive fees almost transformed them from a Premier League to a lower-division club. Bouazza, the £3.5 million winger from Watford, was, like Lee Cook and Seol Ki-Hyeon, one of several players Sanchez signed to play on the left flank who made no discernible impact. He was, however, a conspicuous absentee from the team whose remarkable resurgence ensured safety.

5. Titus Bramble (Wigan, free)
Chris Hutchings' first venture into management was notable for the lengthy and lucrative contract offered to Benito Carbone, almost bankrupting Bradford. At least the Italian was a genuinely high-class player; Bramble, granted a three-year contract at Wigan, is not. While he remains an easy target, there are reasons why; the terrible blunder 27 seconds into Steve Bruce's reign to give Manchester City the lead, for instance. It is no coincidence that Wigan's defensive record improved and their survival was secured when Bramble was dropped.

4. Steve Sidwell (Chelsea, free)
Signing a £9 million defender who never plays - the lesser-spotted Branislav Ivanovic - ranks among Chelsea's more bemusing deals, but others are still stranger. When Steve Sidwell was signed, the question many posed was: 'Why?' Twelve months on, no satisfactory answer has been proffered. To the benefit of his bank balance and to the detriment of his career, Sidwell is a particularly well remunerated reserve. At best, he is Chelsea's sixth-choice central midfielder at a club blessed with options in the centre of the park. And after Khalid Boulahrouz's unfortunate experiences, Sidwell's Chelsea career does not bode well for the next man to inherit the No. 9 shirt.

3. Darren Bent (Tottenham, £16.5 million)
In Darren Bent's defence, he rejected a more profitable deal from West Ham to join Tottenham. That, though, is where the credit ends. Apart from being an utterly unnecessary addition to a squad blessed with striking options and costing an inflated fee, Bent helped create the impression that Tottenham was a club with more money than sense and represents another triumph of Damien Comolli's recruitment policy. Eight goals is not a disastrous tally but, for £16.5 million, they hardly provide value for money. Clearly an inferior player to Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov, neither does Bent.

2. Greg Halford (Sunderland, £2.5 million)
Perhaps it summed up Greg Halford's undistinguished Sunderland career that, after he was sent off against Fulham, his team-mates fared better with 10 men and equalised. The conclusion - that Sunderland were a superior side without Halford - didn't seem lost on Roy Keane, who later shipped him out on loan to Charlton in January. There, his season got still worse when he was singled out for criticism after being a member of a defence breached five times by Blackpool. Halford's nine Sunderland games included two red cards, but no indication that the ponderous right-back is ready to play Premier League football. He might not again.

1. Alan Smith (Newcastle, £6 million)
Alan Smith has the remarkable distinction of failing to score a goal all season while, for much of the campaign, being the man who had committed most fouls in the Premier League. Among many possible nadirs, the most recent came against Chelsea when Smith came on, proved unable to hold the ball up and duly lost Michael Ballack for the first goal. Despite his continued inability to trouble opponents - apart from upending them - it was remarkable that Sam Allardyce, in perhaps his worst decision, made him captain while Steve McClaren continued to include him in England squads. Newcastle owner Mike Ashley started the season in a Smith replica shirt. Now the XXXXL garment is presumably to be found in a bargain bin in one of his sports stores.


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