10 of the worst January signings

Michael Bush

5 Jan 2017

Updated: 24 May 2023

The January transfer window has recently opened - and it's fair to say that, since the first such window in 2003, Januarys have seen clubs signing a wide range of both pearls and swine. And there are commonly those signings that initially seem promising, but ultimately fail to reach expectations. The Guardian has recently looked at various such signings - and, with that news site's help, we are here looking at ten disappointing players that were originally signed in January transfer windows. You could find reading this article to be a nice jog down memory lane...

Michael Ricketts, Bolton to Middlesbrough (2003)

Steve McClaren's tenure as Middlesbrough's manager saw abundant success for the Teesside club, but striker Ricketts didn't get to enjoy a lot of it. Upon joining the club, he recalled: "I was stuck in a rut at Bolton, training was the same all the time, things weren't going the way I planned," adding: "Hopefully that's going to change here." His hopes were dashed; after 18 months of just 12 league starts and three goals, he departed for another Yorkshire club, Leeds.

Jean-Alain Boumsong, Rangers to Newcastle (2005)

The story of the centre-back's time at the Toon is the stuff of a sad song, not a Boumsong... ahem. After a six-month stint at Scottish giants Rangers, Boumsong was picked up for £8.2m by then Newcastle manager Graeme Souness, who enthused about the player's "great desire to be the best". However, much like Souness's Newcastle reign in general, Boumsong simply didn't meet expectations; after about a year and a half, the club sold the Frenchman at a loss of almost £5m.

Hossam Ghaly, Feyenoord to Tottenham (2006)

After three difficult seasons at Dutch club Feyenoord, this Egyptian midfielder must have been hoping to put it all behind him when he joined Spurs. He wouldn't get his way. In a match against Blackburn in May 2007, Ghaly reacted with visible disgruntlement when he was taken off the pitch only 31 minutes after being brought on. Before then, he had made just 17 league starts in 16 months. That summer, Birmingham acquired Ghaly for £3m but cancelled the deal after he quickly fell out with the West Midlands club's then-manager, Steve Bruce.

Julius Aghahowa, Shakhtar Donetsk to Wigan (2007)

Come January's end in 2007, Wigan's plight looked desperate; after eight league defeats in a row, they were bottom of the table. Boss Paul Jewell openly despaired at the team's difficulties - and, to fix things, one man he turned to was the Nigerian striker Julius Aghahowa. Jewell said that the club had thoroughly researched about the player; however, while Wigan did beat the drop that season, Aghahowa didn't score any goals for the Latics in his 23 appearances for them.

Afonso Alves, Heerenveen to Middlesbrough (2008)

Gareth Southgate must have been convinced that the club he was managing had struck gold when, in 2008's January transfer window, it put pen to paper on a contract for Afonso Alves. After all, the Brazilian striker had scored 48 times in 50 appearances for Heerenveen, the Dutch club they were signing him from. However, Boro got little return for the mammoth £12.7m that they paid. His goal-per-game rate in England was poor, and Middlesbrough made a £6m loss when they offloaded him in 2009.

Savio Nsereko, Brescia to West Ham (2009)

West Ham had fended off, in their own words, "fierce competition" for this German striker, who had excelled in the 2008 European Under-19s Championship. However, he stayed at the East London club for just half a season, during which time he made just one start. Savio has said that he "lost grip on reality" during this period, after which he was sold to Fiorentina. The Hammers originally made a financial outlay of £9m for the player, but a loss of more than £6m in selling him.

Michel, Sporting Gijón to Birmingham (2010)

Alex McLeish, then the gaffer at Birmingham City, was clearly enthusiastic when he signed the Spanish central midfielder Michel, noting that he "is in a great age group and has got good legs". However, the Scot added that he might later "realise he might have a problem getting into the team". Those were certainly prescient words; Michel went on to start a mere six games and come on as a substitute for a further six. He was later offloaded to Getafe.

Marvin Sordell, Watford to Bolton (2012)

Sordell had been under consideration for a move to Cardiff, but Bolton boss Owen Coyle intervened on deadline day. Considering this late shift and the £3.2m that the Greater Manchester club paid for him, it's surprising that Sordell then started only 13 times in his 30 months there. A later manager at Bolton, Dougie Freedman, defended a lengthy period of absence for Sordell by explaining: "He's homesick, there isn't even a fancy word for it".

Andrej Kramaric, Rijeka to Leicester (2015)

In January 2015, Leicester shelled out a club-record £9.7m for the Croatian striker Andrej Kramaric. They must have hoped that he would help to lift them out of the relegation zone; they were then bottom of the table. However, while Leicester saw an amazing run of success after his signing, little of that could be attributed to Kramaric, who played for just 22 minutes after Claudio Ranieri replaced Nigel Pearson as the Foxes' manager. After a year with Leicester, he left for Hoffenheim.

Oumar Niasse, Lokomotiv Moscow to Everton (2016)

Everton boss Roberto Martínez has declared that Niasse has a "real hunger and drive to be successful". However, the striker has still started just two league games - and, in the other 13 matches up to last season's end, played for a mere 19 minutes. 14 of those came in a single game, against West Ham. Still, there remains hope for Niasse. He has occasionally played for Everton's under-23 side - the manager of which, David Unsworth, has called him "outstanding" and praised his "incredible" work rate. Could Niasse's efforts finally bear fruit for Everton's first team soon?