Welcome to Flop Parade

#? Thomas Vermaelen (FC Barcelona)

Age: 29
Transfer Fee: £15 million
Wages: £55,500 per week
2013/14: 21 apps, 1 assist
2014/15: 0 apps

It has to be one of the most mysterious flops in the entire 21st century so far. This Belgian centre-back, who was tipped to be Barcelona’s solution for lack of height in the team lineup, spent the entire season recovering from what is a full-blown injury nightmare. It all came down to his thigh muscle: he strained it first in summer, literally a week before his transfer to the Catalan side – and then strained it again, in October, this time knocking himself out of action for full six months. Obviously, now that he’s back in training, he has no chance of making any impact on the team’s play, as all his teammates are on a completely different level of match fitness and the team is cruising forward without it’s expensive convalescent. However, at this point, the fans don’t even expect him to bring any quality: all they want to see is no more health problems with his legs. It will be a Herculean task for Barcelona backroom staff, to make it happen: between 2007 and now, Verminator has spent exactly 831 days sidelined by all kind of injuries, missing total number of 159 games for his clubs. In the end, Andoni Zubizarreta took the fall for this failure by resigning from his position of Director of Football in January. He still claims he has faith in the guy. Too bad nobody else does. What’s the use of a good player if he can’t ever recover? Sooner or later, Barca will find out the answer to that question.

#9 Juan Manuel Iturbe (AS Roma)

Age: 21
Transfer Fee: £16,5 million
Wages: £33,000 per week
2013/14: 34 apps, 8 goals, 5 assists
2014/15: 33 apps, 3 goals, 3 assists

It is perhaps too early to call 21-years old, developing player, a “flop”, but truth to be told, Iturbe didn’t turn out to be the man Roma needed in their challenge for Juventus’… oh, excuse me, Serie A trophy. Possessing pretty much similar set of skills as Gervinho, but not as experienced, the winger had only few brief moments of excellence, including a 29-minute long cameo appearance against CSKA Moscow (one goal, two assists) and an away game with bianco-neri (scored only to see his teammates throwing the lead away). Other than that, the lad was never close to the level he’s shown in the past for Hellas Verona. When we look back today and see the list of teams that shown interest in him – including Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Inter and Barcelona – it almost seems that Roma won themselves a rather rough-shaped diamond who needs a lot more time to shine. According to Rudi Garcia, despite the setbacks, Iturbe’s mind is fine and he’s still an excellent player to have. Well, if so, then why Roma dropped out of Europa League against Fiorentina and came very close to lose a prestigious race for domestic #2 with their rivals from Lazio? No, there’s still a problem out there – and Romans need to urgently bring in a striker who will replace legendary Francesco Totti in the middle and will be able to work with two, blisteringly fast players out wide. Then, maybe – maybe – Iturbe will rise again.

#8 Eliaquim Mangala (Manchester City)

Age: 24
Transfer Fee: £31.8 million
Wages: £100,000 per week
2013/14: 42 apps, 5 goals, 2 assists
2014/15: 27 apps, 1 assist

FC Porto knows how to market their players. From Deco, through Falcao, Hulk, James Rodriguez and, most recently, the new Real Madrid right-back Danilo, they have surely accumulated a gigantic moneyball through the last decade – and they continue to grow players who soon grow to be desirable for bigger clubs. However, even them have some ex-players who won’t confirm their price tags. Mangala, hailed as the best centre-back not yet employed by the top European side, had a very rough start in the most demanding league on the whole continent, scoring an own goal in a dreadful display against Hull, as well as taking part in few other defensive calamities – like Burnley or Newcastle games. In the meantime, the lad has been temporarily dropped by Didier Deschamps from French national football team and his poorly developing partnership with both Vincent Kompany and Martin Demichelis pretty much costed Manchester City the title this season. Athletic, but surprisingly mediocre in aerial duels and often too eager to jump in and commit unnecessary fouls, the player himself recently admitted that he’s had some tough time adapting and will show more in the next campaign. He’s really going to need this: currently, his main goal should be to at least perform better than aging Demichelis and make fans stop wishing for Matija Nastasić to come back from Germany…

#7 Rémy Cabella (Newcastle United)

Age: 25
Transfer Fee: £7.4 million
Wages: £60,000 per week
2013/14: 40 apps, 14 goals, 8 assists
2014/15: 32 apps, 1 goal, 2 assists

£7.4 million does not seem like that big amount of cash, but trust me: for a club owned by a notorious money-saver Mike Ashley, it is. Back then, in July, such fee paid for a 25-years old, pacey, attacking midfielder who proved himself in Ligue 1 and was crowned a French champion in 2012 – it all looked like a nice bargain. However, the player, known by FIFA 15 fans to be an absolute beast, in reality had a horrible time and joined the long list of NUFC French-based transfer failures – right up there with the likes of Yoann Gouffran, Sylvain Marveaux and Hatem Ben Arfa. The only two four-star performances he put in came in January, against Chelsea and Hull – but what was enough to earn the title of Fans’ Player of the Month, wasn’t enough to redeem the entire season. For a long time, it seemed that it won’t matter anyway. Newcastle were doing okay in the league, keeping themselves in the top half of the table and even a total lack of end product by their winger didn’t do much harm. However, after a 1-0 win over Aston Villa on February 28th, The Magpies literally imploded before our eyes, suffering an abysmal 8 defeat in a row and suddenly finding themselves fighting against the threat of relegation. Cabella needs to win them just one more game. Just. One. But even if he does, it won’t change the fact that he flopped quite miserably.

#6 Ciro Immobile (Borussia Dortmund)

Age: 25
Transfer Fee: £14.5 million
Wages: : £45,000 per week
2013/14: 34 apps, 23 goals, 3 assists
2014/15: 30 apps, 10 goals, 3 assists

Italian players never did particularly well in Bundesliga – and neither did the ex-Torino striker. Crowned a top Serie A goalscorer with 22 accurate finishes under his belt in 2013/14 campaign, Immobile was Jurgen Klopp’s first-choice replacement for Robert Lewandowski, who left for Bayern last summer. And then, the misery followed. Upon his arrival, the Italian has witnessed a painful decline of Dortmund team: defenders plagued with injuries, Shinji Kagawa and Henrikh Mkhitaryan underperforming and Klopp eventually announcing his departure, after the crisis was eventually averted late in the season. Despite all their trouble, BvB persistently tried to make their all-out, high-pressure, insane attacking football work, and it didn’t – because there was no suitable centre-forward on the pitch to supplement it. Neither Immobile nor ex-Hertha forward, Adrian Ramos, could fit the job description Lewandowski had: a versatile striker who tackles frequently and is able to hold on to the ball with his back against the opponents’ goal. The results were sad: in 2013/14 season, Dortmund scored 80 league goals in 34 games; in current season, they have only 40 goals in 30 games. Will Immobile remain in the team stripped of it’s brilliant manager and obviously not well suited for the type of striker he is? Well, Napoli and Liverpool are now observing him while Borussia declares interest in Edin Džeko…

#5 Dejan Lovren (Liverpool FC)

Age: 25
Transfer Fee: £20 million
Wages: £70,000 per week
2013/14: 31 apps, 2 goals, 1 assist
2014/15: 36 apps, 1 goal

Sorry, Liverpool fans: your backline was, is and will be shaky – at least in the foreseeable future. Although Dejan Lovren, the man partially responsible for Southampton’s terrific defensive record last season, now plays for your club, it seems that in his case, the environment he was in is much more important than the player himself. Instructed by José Fonte and adapted to Saints’ cautious style, the Croatian used to look like a hot name to sign. Right. Used to. However, when he suddenly found himself in one of the most recklessly attacking sides in Premier League, a side so aggressive in their attempts to score, they often leave their defenders in precarious positions – he cracked. Until November, he participated in 14 games for The Reds and his team kept the clean sheet only twice. It didn’t get much better later. Liverpool were eliminated from the Champions League by Basel, lost three crucial league games to Chelsea, Newcastle and Crystal Palace and later, they dropped out from Europa League against Besiktas. Although Lovren had few decent games in this part of the season, when the time has come and Brendan Rodgers switched to three-at-the-back policy – his new £20 million player was first to be left on the bench. Pretty underwhelming. Besides: if you’re losing a first-team competition with a 34-years old Kolo Touré – you sure are doing something wrong.

#4 Ángel Di María (Manchester United)

Age: 27
Transfer Fee: £59.7 million
Wages: £150,000 per week
2013/14: 52 apps, 11 goals, 26 assists
2014/15: 32 apps, 4 goals, 12 assists

When Real Madrid was getting rid of the Argentinian and replaced him with ludicrously expensive James Rodriguez, many people were shaking their heads in disbelief. Today, it looks like Carlo Ancelotti knew better. While the Colombian star is rocking the pitches in all competitions with stunningly brilliant play, Di María keeps rotting in Manchester United. After a promising start to the season (3 goals and 5 assists in first 10 games for MU), the Angel amongst the Devils quickly settled for mediocrity. An annoying injury he picked up against Hull in November did not help the matters: after a month-long recovery, Di María came back as a shadow of his former self. Visibly unable to fit into both 5-3-2 and 4-1-4-1 lineups Louis Van Gaal kept toying with, the ex-Real Madrid star would miss one through ball after another, eventually get frustrated and earn himself a deserved red card in a home 1-2 defeat to Arsenal. It was a brilliant pretext for his manager to prepare new strategy and actually start winning several games in a row without their “star” player. The conclusion? Last six games saw Di María entering the pitch from a bench and van Gaal already told the press that he’s prepared for him to leave, if only the player wants it too. Still: in a harsh new world of Financial Fair Play, can anyone afford to buy him and take the risk connected with it?

#3 David Luiz (Paris SG)

Age: 28
Transfer Fee: £50 million
Wages: £70,000 per week
2013/14: 34 apps, 3 assists
2014/15: 42 apps, 5 goals, 1 assist

Intentionally or not, Paris SG managed to fill up their backline with Brazilian internationals. The £50 million transfer of David Luiz from Chelsea saw him joining Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Maxwell on a quest for bolstering Les Parisiens defences. Then, a shocking 1-7 in the World Cup happened, a 0-3 follow-up with Netherlands happened, few more calamities in both Ligue 1 and Champions League happened and everyone started wondering if having too much money to spend messes up the buyers’ mind. To put it bluntly: Sideshow Bob played like a piece of garbage! His positional sense never really came into play, he had very little responsibility, his attempts to intercept key passes either went through his legs or were completely misread and had to be salvaged by Silva, who was almost always there to cover for his erratic partner. However, when Thiago had to do his job elsewhere and Luiz was left to his own designs, he was eventually nutmegged twice by Luis Suarez in PSG’s most important game of the season, against Barcelona. Both Gary Cahill and Chelsea’s new player, Kurt Zouma, had better season than the one whose services were valued so highly, they made him the most expensive centre-back in the history. Of course, there will be always a second chance next season – but, as it stands, I’m giving Luiz no chance if he ever has to play against Blaugrana again.

#2 Radamel Falcao (Manchester United)

Age: 29
Transfer Fee: £6 million loan fee, £43.5 million buyout clause
Wages: £265,000 per week
2013/14: 19 apps, 11 goals, 1 assist
2014/15: 31 apps, 6 goals, 5 assists

This was a shock move by Louis van Gaal. To come after the player who had such massive injury concerns last season and offer him an insane wage (third best-paid player in the entire Premier League!) – it took crazy imagination, for sure. What’s even more suspicious, is the fact that Manchester United already had a perfect striker who was begging to be used more. But, no – Javier Hernandez, the man who already had some experience with Premier League, got loaned out to Real Madrid while MU brought the ex-Atletico Madrid poacher. As it turns out, it didn’t work well for anyone – maybe with the exception of Chelsea and Arsenal. While Chicharito never even got a sniff in Madrid, Falcao would jump from one minor injury to another and when he was fit – he’d either be the most expensive substitute striker in EPL’s history or simply wouldn’t fit into the hoof-the-ball style Red Devils used to employ. Bad stats quickly confirmed the bad impression. With the same number of league goals as Chris Smalling and one less than both Ander Herrera and Marouane Fellaini, the Colombian will be heading back to Monaco this summer, no question about it. His time at the top is running out too. I’m sorry to say it, but at the age of 30, the old Radamel, Radamel who could massacre Chelsea by himself and score five La Liga goals in a single game – he’s simply not coming back. Ever.

#1 Mario Balotelli (Liverpool FC)

Age: 24
Transfer Fee: £16 million
Wages: £110,000 per week
2013/14: 41 apps, 18 goals, 8 assists
2014/15: 28 apps, 4 goals

“He’s not a player” – Arrigo Sacchi; “He is wasting everything” – Roberto Mancini; “He’s a waste of space” – Liverpool legend Jimmy Case; “Danny Welbeck is better than him” – Arsenal fans during their league clash against The Reds. We’ve all seen it coming: Mario Balotelli has turned out to be a complete disaster and easily won the competition for the biggest flop of the whole season. It got to the point when Brendan Rodgers would start the 32-years old Rickie Lambert ahead of him and get better results. It got to the point when Mario’s match-winner, a tap-in against Tottenham in February, hit the newspapers’ headlines all across the country, as it was the guy’s first ever league goal for Liverpool – the goal he needed 13 EPL games and five months to score. The tactics, the opposition, the occasion didn’t matter: it was the same lazy Mario – unable to press the defenders, cracking psychologically after two or three misses, walking on the pitch nonchalantly as it was anyone’s but his business to do something out there. Eventually, The Reds started to field a 3-4-3 formation with Coutinho adapted to be a false #9, thus pushing Balotelli back to the place where he belongs – on a bench. And you know what the saddest part is? Instead of him, Liverpool could’ve snapped Wilfired Bony – the man who scored 17 EPL goals last season and who’s currently wasting his time in Manchester City…


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