Any player signed for a hefty fee is expected to make a significant impact at their new club sooner rather than later. However, these five expensive summer signings are yet to live up to expectations even though the season is nearing its end.
#5. Radja Nainggolan – Signed for €38 million
Radja Nainggolan was named in the Serie A Team of the Year in all four seasons he played for AS Roma. The actual fee Inter paid to Roma for the Belgian’s services was €24 million but they also let Davide Santon and Nicolo Zaniolo go the opposite way and these players were valued at €14 million. More on these players later.
Nainggolan has struggled with injuries and missed games against Barcelona, Juventus and Lazio. In addition, he had to be taken off before half time against AC Milan and Spurs due to injuries.
Even when the 30-year-old has managed to play the full game, he has failed to impress and has racked up only four goals and three assists in 23 games across all competitions. To top off his poor form and injuries, Inter suspended him for disciplinary actions in December.
Inter sacrificed Nicolo Zaniolo, a promising midfielder who scored 13 goals in 26 games for the club’s title-winning Under 19 squad, to sign Nainggolan. The club has a history of selling promising youngsters before they’ve realised their potential and some notable examples would be Andrea Pirlo and Philippe Coutinho. Based on what we have seen so far, they may have repeated the mistake with Zaniolo.
Zaniolo has broken into the Roma first team and scored five goals in 28 appearances this season. That’s one goal and five games more than Nainggolan has for Inter this season.
#4. Malcom – Signed for €41 million
Malcom was on the verge of signing for Roma when Barcelona intervened at the last moment and signed him for €41 million. It was curious why Barcelona needed another winger when they were struggling to use Ousmane Dembele in Ernesto Valverde’s system.
The Brazilian has played in 15 games for Barcelona this season but started just six of those game with five of those starts coming in the Copa del Rey. To be fair to him, he has three goals for the club despite his minimal playing time with a goal each against Inter Milan and Real Madrid in an eventual 1-1 draw.
However, since scoring the equaliser against Real Madrid on 6th February, he has played just five minutes for the club.
The 22-year-old had offers to leave the club in January but he stayed put to fight for his place. However, it is unlikely that he’ll receive much playing time under Valverde and he looks destined to leave the club next summer as an expensive flop.
#3. Fred – Signed for £52 million
Since Sir Alex Ferguson’s departure, Manchester United have signed a plethora of midfielders and even broke the world record to sign Paul Pogba. Their latest expensive midfield recruit was Fred from Shakhtar Donetsk and he was United’s only major signing of the summer.
Manchester United stole Fred from under the nose of Manchester City and he was expected to improve the midfield. Instead, he now finds himself on the bench more often than not as Ole Gunnar Solskjær prefers the midfield three of Paul Pogba, Nemanja Matic and Ander Herrera.
The Brazilian has featured in only 19 games for United so far and started only 14 of those games. He only has a goal and an assist to show for his time at Manchester United so far.
Fred impressed in United’s 3-1 away win against PSG but he followed it up with a poor show against Arsenal in a 2-0 defeat. This quickly promoted Solskjær to leave him on the bench in the 2-1 defeat to Wolves in the FA Cup.
A big summer is on the horizon for Manchester United. So, Fred has very little time to salvage his Man Utd career.
#2. Thibaut Courtois – Signed for £35 million
After a fantastic World Cup for Belgium, Thibaut Courtois moved to Real Madrid for £35 million and Real Madrid managed to sign him for a relatively cheap fee only because he was entering the final year of his contract.
Courtois was signed to replace the reliable Keylor Navas who is also a fan favourite. However, the Belgian’s first season at the club couldn’t have been worse. He has conceded 30 goals in 24 La Liga games including five on his El Clasico debut. He has been heavily criticized for the manner in which he has been beaten on many occasions.
The Belgian’s season went from bad to worse when Zinedine Zidane returned to the club and reinstated Keylor Navas in goal. Even on the international stage, Courtois is enduring a torrid time as he made an embarrassing error in his previous game against Russia and conceded five against Switzerland in the game before that.
#1. Naby Keita – Signed for £52.75 million
Liverpool wanted to sign Naby Keita before the 2017/18 season but because Leipzig were unwilling to sell him, they struck a deal that allowed the player to join Liverpool in 2018. For this, Liverpool paid a premium of £4.75 million on top of his £48 million release clause which was active after the 2017/18 season.
Since Liverpool fans had to wait one season to see the player in the club’s colours, most fans watched him play for Leipzig and were thoroughly impressed by his dynamism and expansive skillset.
The Guinean impressed in preseason and started the first three Premier League games for the club while showing flashes of his brilliance. However, injuries and the tough fight for a starting role in the Liverpool midfield has seen him being restricted to 1209 minutes in 25 games (14 starts) across the Premier League and Champions League so far this season.
The 24-year-old has shown sparks in a few games recently, but a return of no goals and one assist makes him one of the biggest flop signings of the season.