Unlike England and Spain where top clubs do not hesitate to spend loads of cash on star players, the Italians are a bit more cautious, although they are also prepared to delve deep into their pockets usually when pressurized into making a big name signing by their own fans. These big money moves often bear fruit and help Serie A sides improve their positions but, as this list will show, they sometimes have just the opposite effect and can prove to be a real waste of money.
10.) Simone Loria (Roma)
The product of Juventus youth system spent five seasons playing for Serie C1 and Serie C2 clubs before helping Cagliari gain promotion from Serie B. Loria achieved the same feat with Atalanta before moving on to Siena and after just one season at Artemio Franchi, he made a shock move to Roma for €2.8 million. The defender couldn’t have hoped for the worse start at Olimpico as his defensive mistakes managed to cost his team almost a goal per game and it was no wonder he was quickly relegated to the bench and allowed to leave club, but the showings in 9 Serie A games earned him the tag of one of the worst defenders ever to have played in Italy’s top flight.
Having already been dubbed one of the worst flops in Premier League history after moving from Milan to Chelsea, his return to San Siro was hardly a profitable move, even when taking into account there was no transfer fee involved. Once a hero of Milan faithful, Shevchenko failed to find a net in 18 league appearances for the Rossoneri before returning to the club where it had all started for him, Dynamo Kyiv. The Ukrainian thus became one of just few players with two major transfer flops during the course of his career.
8.) Fabio Grosso (Juventus)
Fabio Grosso’s performances at the World Cup 2006 have been nothing short of magical as he was an integral part of Italy World Cup winning team, having scored some extremely important goals in the late stages of the tournament. After the tournament in Germany, the left-back played for Inter and Lyon prior to his move to Juventus that has earned him a place on our list. Grosso was paid just €3 million by the Bianconeri but while the left-back was expected to become a key player for the side, he proved to be a major flop, just like the whole Juventus team that season and he was never able to reproduce the form that earned him a wide recognition in the football world.
While on loan at Lazio from Al Sadd, Mauro Zarate began to prove his enormous potential at Olimipico even though he was often criticized for his extreme selfishness and lack of team work. Claudio Lotito took quite a gamble when opting to buy out his contract for €20 million but the club president probably thought the Argentine would be the leading players for years to come for the Biancoclelesti. That hardly proved to be the case with Zarate scoring just 3 goals in 22 starts the following season, with Lazio barely escaping relegation from Serie A.
6.) Felipe Melo (Juventus)
Felipe Melo’s career had been on the uptrend ever since he started playing professional football at Flamengo and when Juventus paid Fiorentina €25 million for the Brazilian, everyone expected him to become a new leader of the team, together with fellow midfielder Diego. Nonetheless, it seems that the pressure of expectations was just too much for him to bear and his performances were utterly disappointing in most of the games he played for the Bianconeri. Melo was later included in the Brazil World Cup squad and while he hoped the good showing in South Africa would get his career back on track, he instead scored an own goal and got sent off in the quarter-finals against Holland, which proved to be Brazil’s last match in the competition.
Diego arrived to Juventus at the same time as Felipe Melo and for almost the same amount of money, with his impressive performances at Werder as well as €24.5 million fee making him the most important player on the team sheet before he even put on the black and white jersey. The Brazilian was simply outstanding in the opening games of the season, making the fans believe he will be the one to return the old glory days to the club, but everything quickly changed as Diego couldn’t live up to the hype surrounding him. The club decided to offload him to Wolfsburg at the end of the season for €15.5 million, having assessed he was not worth the money they had invested in him.
4.) Klaas Jan Huntelaar (Milan)
I have to say this is one of my favorite players, so the mere fact he is on this list proves he fully deserves to be there. Klaas Jan Huntelaar have been scoring goals for fun in Holland prior to his move to Santiago Bernabeu in 2009 and even though he was never given a real chance at Real, the Dutchman went to score 8 league goals in just 13 starts for los Merengues, but that wasn’t enough to earn him another chance in Spain. Milan thought €15 million was not too much money for such a great player, so they decided to buy him just six months into his career at Real, but the transfer hasn’t proved to be as fruitful as they would have liked. In all fairness, Huntelaar was not given a chance to prove his worth at San Siro and after a full season at Milan, he moved to Schalke with the Rossoneri losing just a couple of million euros in the process.
Being a similar player to his compatriot Cristiano Ronaldo, it was no wonder that Quaresma’s goals and tricks were a regular feature in football highlights and he was indeed on top of his game when Inter agreed to pay Porto €18.6 million for the tricky winger. Still, Jose Mourinho was not too impressed with his compatriot as Quaresma neglected the defensive duties and tactical tasks, something that the now Real boss values more than anything, and nobody was too surprised to see the midfielder spending more time on the bench and in the stands than on the pitch.
2.) Gianluigi Lentini (Milan)
Gianluigi Lentini became world’s most expensive player when he was transferred from Torino to Milan for £13 million in 1992, but that remained the only thing he was famous for since the Italian did absolutely nothing to show that he is worth all that money. Lentini did win the Serie A title in his first year at San Siro but then played just 33 more games in the next three years for Rossoneri before his career started taking the wrong turn. Lentini went on to play until he was forty, playing his trade in Italian amateur sides, as he probably wanted to show everyone that the journey from top flight football to the lower leagues is not that long and difficult after all.
1.) Gaizka Mendieta (Lazio)
While I had some doubts when this list was formulated, Gaizka Mendieta was always going to be the number one. He was definitely not one of those players who became flops only because they moved on earlier than they should have, as the Basque midfielder left Valencia at 27 years of age after eight extremely successful seasons at Mestalla.
Seeing that he was probably the most sought after player on the market at the time, Lazio decided to fork out no less than €45 million for Mendieta, but that proved to be a total waste of money as the Spaniard only lasted one season before being sent on loan to Barcelona and Middlesbrough respectively. Nobody knew what happened to the player who had led Valencia to successive Champions League finals and the player who had been voted European Midfielder of the Season for 1999/2000 and 2000/2001.