If you were told that they your side would be playing against an all-time Premier League super team that was going to be made from former Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal players- you’d be crossing your fingers that this is the match-day squad that they would pick. I have compiled together a 4-4-2 line-up and seven subs that make up a ‘Top Three Squad of Flops’ from the past 18 seasons; just to show that sometimes even the best clubs in the game get it wrong.
Goalkeeper: Massimo Taibi – Manchester United 1999-2000
It wasn’t a difficult choice. The Italian signed for the treble-winning side for £4.4m and will always be remembered for ‘that goal’. On September 25, 1999 Southampton came away from Old Trafford with a 3-3 draw thanks to some of the worst goalkeeping ever seen in the top flight of English football. Le Tissier’s weak long-range shot was heading straight at the Italian goalkeeper who looked to have it covered but the ball squirmed its way through his unnecessary dive and the Saints were gifted a point with just over 15 minutes left to play. Taibi conceded 11 times in only four appearances for the Red Devils, including an embarrassing 5-0 defeat against Chelsea.
Right-Back: Nelson Vivas – Arsenal 1998-2001
After a successful career in Argentina; Nelson moved to Arsenal but struggled to break into the first team during his time there. He played in 23 league matches for the Gunners in his first season but managed to end his Arsenal career with just 40 Premier League appearances- 26 as a substitute. After just 18 months, Vivas was sent out on loan to Spanish side Celta Vigo and eventually left the club permanently at the end of the 00/01 season.
Centre-Back: Winston Bogarde (C) – Chelsea 2000-2004
Winston is the captain of this match-day squad for his, (quite literally,) incredible Chelsea career. Despite being at the club for four seasons; Bogarde played in just nine Premier League fixtures for The Blues- starting twice. It is understood that the defender was amazed at the contract he was offered by Chelsea and couldn’t sign it quick enough; reportedly earning £40k per week. (It works out that he was paid £4,444.44 per match.) The language barrier is often a problem for foreigners who come to the Premier League but astonishingly it worked in Winston’s favour at his medical with the London-based club. Bogarde stated that his knee-injury was ‘recurring’, which the Chelsea medical staff heard as ‘recovering’ and Vialli gleefully told the Dutch defender: “I’m so glad you’re going to help us!” Is there a better advert for hindsight?
Centre-Back: William Prunier – Manchester United 1995-1996
Amazingly Prunier played fewer times than his central partner in this defence- featuring just twice in the Premier League for United. He bought out his own contract at Bordeaux so that he could be reunited with Manchester United hero Eric Cantona but unfortunately things didn’t work out the way William had hoped. An injury crisis meant that the Frenchman was thrown in at the deep end and made his debut QPR; partnering make-shift centre-back Gary Neville in the heart of the defence. Man United won the game 2-0 and things didn’t go badly for William on his debut. However, what was to follow was a disaster. On New Year’s Day Manchester United suffered a 4-1 defeat against Tottenham Hotspur and many blamed Prunier for the result. Despite Ferguson offering to extend his trial, it was the last time he played for the club.
Left-Back: Giovanni Van Bronckhorst – Arsenal 2001-2004
Perhaps a controversial choice; in terms of quality- Gio shouldn’t be in here. A serious injury meant that he never had a chance to properly impress the Arsenal faithful. Although he had a decent career away from the North London side- it didn’t work out for him at Highbury and after spending just two seasons at the club, Van Bronckhorst joined Barcelona for €2m in 2004 having spent the 03/04 term on-loan at the Catalan giants. Arsenal had spent £8.5m on Van Brockhorst and were made to suffer an expensive loss. During his time in England he played in 43 Premier League games; 19 as a substitute, scoring twice. Gio could play at Defensive-Midfield or Left-Back.
Right-Midfield: Juan Sebastian Veron – Manchester United 2001-2003, Chelsea 2003-2005
Big things were expected from the Argentine when he arrived at Old Trafford after an impressive two years at Lazio. Ferguson parted with just over £28m to bring the versatile midfielder to the club but this proved to be money poorly spent as Veron failed to perform in the Premier League. In 2009 he was voted Ferguson’s 2nd worst signing by United fans on a forum. (The first? Massimo Taibi.) Despite his grim Man United career, Chelsea gave Veron a second bite of the cherry and forked out £15m to bring him to Stamford Bridge. He made a mere 7 league appearances for the London club- scoring once.
Centre-Midfield: Eric Djemba-Djemba – Manchester United 2003-2005
Djemba-Djemba was signed as a long-term replacement for Roy Keane. However, his stay at United was so short that he ended up leaving the club just a month after the man he was supposed to succeed did! The 21-year-old was bought for £3.5m by Ferguson and made 20 league appearances for the Red Devils. In that time he never scored and Manchester United finished third in both seasons – their lowest Premier League position. Djemba-Djemba joined fellow Premier League side Aston Villa for £1.35m where he failed his second top-flight audition.
Centre-Midfield: Enrique De Lucas – Chelsea 2002-2003
For an attacking midfielder; De Lucas wasn’t very attacking. He failed to score in any of his 25 league appearances in his only campaign at the Bridge and picked up seven yellow cards in the process. Despite being a free signing, many Chelsea fans were left feeling short-changed after Enrique moved back to Spain after a single season and it was fair to say that the creative Spaniard hadn’t delivered.
Left-Midfield: Jose Antonio Reyes – Arsenal 2004-2007
The striker/winger embarrassed himself during his time at Arsenal thanks to a fake telephone call in 2005. A prankster rang the Spaniard claiming to be calling from Real Madrid to talk about a possible transfer deal. Reyes poured his heart out to the fraud- saying that he wanted to leave Arsenal because there were ‘bad people’ at the club and that London wasn’t how he imagined it would be. Reyes was inconsistent throughout his career in England and ironically did move to Real Madrid- on loan for the 2006/2007 campaign before eventually joining Atletico Madrid in 2007.
Striker: David Bellion – Manchester United 2003-2006
The young French forward made just five starts and 19 substitute appearances during his three years at Old Trafford. He was signed for £2m and scored four league goals between 2003 and 2005, (he spent his final season on loan at West Ham… where he didn’t score at all in eight games) and never really impressed. Bellion was signed for his potential but after three seasons Ferguson had decided that he was never going to be good enough to play for one of the biggest clubs in the world. The thing is- he only scored once in 20 games for Sunderland too!
Striker: Francis Jeffers – Arsenal 2001-2004
£8m was spent on the young Evertonian striker who had succeeded during his time with the Toffees. Injuries limited him to a handful of starts as an Arsenal player and he was constantly kept out of the side by the likes of Arsenal legends Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. Similarly with Bellion, his final season at the club was spent elsewhere as he returned to his boyhood side Everton on loan where he played 18 times and failed to score.
Sub Goalkeeper: Mark Bosnich – Manchester United 1989-1992, 1999-2001, Chelsea 2001-2002
The arrival of Fabien Barthez meant that Bosnich became third choice goalkeeper during his second spell at Old Trafford. He then moved to Chelsea but was sacked in September 2002 for failing a drugs test.
Sub Defender: Pascal Cygan – Arsenal 2002-2006
The £2m signing was very much a back-up player for Arsenal and never really recovered from a hamstring injury. Arsenal fans had an affectionate song for the centre-back which highlighted his lack of natural talent as well as his role as a bench-warmer. ‘He’s bald, he’s s**t, he gets a game when no-one’s fit…’
Sub Defender: Tal Ben Haim – Chelsea 2007-2008
The Israeli centre-back suffered following a managerial change at Chelsea. José Mourinho was the man who signed Tal and the defender openly criticised his replacement Avram Grant for not picking him enough. He lasted just a single season in London; making 13 appearances.
Sub Midfielder: Kleberson – Manchester United 2003-2005
The Brazilian midfielder impressed Sir Alex at the 2002 World Cup and he was signed a year later for £6.5m to replace Veron. He was largely inconsistent and made just 20 league appearances before moving on in 2005.
Sub Midfielder: Scott Parker – Chelsea 2004-2005
Parker was the driving force behind a couple of successful seasons at Charlton Athletic and was eventually signed by Chelsea in January 2004 for £10m. He failed to deliver for the title-challengers; playing in 15 league games- scoring once.
Sub Striker: Adrian Mutu – Chelsea 2003-2004
The Romanian star became a disgraced Romanian star after he was sacked in 2004 for failing a drugs test for cocaine. Mutu cost the club £15.8m and started brightly but could only manage 6 league goals in his time at the Bridge.
Sub Striker: Andriy Shevchenko – Chelsea 2006-2009
Milan officials were laughing all the way to the bank when Chelsea forked out £30.8m on the 29-year-old forward. In two seasons at the club his goal-scoring tally didn’t break the double-figures mark and he spent his final season as a Chelsea player back in Milan where he went on loan. He didn’t score a single league goal during his return.
Written By Stephen Rudd