10 worst Premier League transfers of the season

James Shearman Updated: 25 May 2022 18:31 BST 7 min read
Romelu Lukaku, Chelsea, 2021-22

The Premier League season is now officially over. Manchester City won a fourth league title in five years after a dramatic final day comeback against Aston Villa.

Liverpool had to settle for second and were joined by Chelsea and Tottenham in the Champions League places.

Arsenal, Man Utd and West Ham qualified for Europe, while Norwich, Watford and Burnley were relegated from the division.

With the season over, we can review now who the worst transfers of the 2021-22 campaign were.

Below are our top 10, in no particular order.

Jack Grealish (Aston Villa to Man City) - €118m

Jack Grealish was signed for a British record fee in the summer of 2021, but pound for pound, he has been the biggest transfer flop of the season.

The 26-year-old has just two league goals and three assists all season from 25 games. In the last nine months he has one goal and two assists, against lowly Leeds, and Brighton and Newcastle respectively.

Grealish’s performances have also not been worthy of such an astronomical outlay. Tactically, he has struggled to adapt to Pep’s system and he has been accused of taking too many touches and slowing down the team’s play.

He also was responsible for Man City going out of the Champions League semi-finals when he missed two easy chances just minutes before Real Madrid’s late second-leg comeback.

Romelu Lukaku (Inter Milan to Chelsea) - €115m

Romelu Lukaku's return to Chelsea in the summer of 2021 has proved to be one of the most underwhelming Premier League transfers of recent memory.

While it may have seemed odd on paper for the Blues to spend €115m on a player they once had on their books as a young prospect, the signing of Lukaku was undoubtedly a statement transfer from the club.

He was supposed to be the final piece of the jigsaw in a team that had months earlier won the Champions League without a natural striker.

However, he failed dismally in his first season. He publicly admitted in December 2021 that he regrets leaving Inter and then went months without scoring in the Premier League in 2022 as he was dropped. He could leave after just one year back.

Nuno Tavares (Benfica to Arsenal) - €8m

The downgrade from Kieran Tierney to Nuno Tavares was evident in Arsenal's run-in, and led to Mikel Arteta selecting Takehiro Tomiyasu and Granit Xhaka as left-backs ahead of the summer signing.

Tavares arrived for just over €8m last summer, and although his underlying numbers look impressive, with nearly 7.0 progressive carries per 90, his erratic nature has left Arsenal with severe problems.

The win at home to Man Utd was a perfect example. Although Tavares opened the scoring, he gave away a needless penalty and was constantly found out-of-position and flying into tackles which ultimately led to his yellow card for pulling back Anthony Elanga after a heavy touch.

Tierney is needed if Arsenal want to return to the Champions League.

Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid to Chelsea) - Loan

Despite links with Aurelien Tchouameni last summer, Chelsea opted to bring in the experienced head of Saul Niguez on loan from Atletico Madrid.

Once a key figure of Diego Simeone's side, Saul fell slightly out of favour in the two years before his move to Chelsea, and it's clear why.

His debut against Aston Villa lasted just 45 minutes after he was hooked by Thomas Tuchel following a dismal first-half in which he looked miles off the pace of the Premier League.

He didn't start in the league again for over two months and his next appearance in the starting XI saw him removed after 45 minutes again, this time against Watford.

All in all, Saul made five Premier League starts and although he begun to adapt to the division, he couldn't quite cut it at Chelsea.

Emerson Royal (Barcelona to Tottenham) - €25m

Emerson Royal signed for Spurs as the replacement for Matt Doherty but has struggled just as much as the Irishman, if not more.

The attacking wing-back has failed to deliver in north London, registering just one goal and one assist in the Premier League, while also looking shaky defensively.

Indeed, he was so poor that head coach Antonio Conte tried to replace him with Adama Traore in January, before he signed for Barcelona.

There is no doubt that another wing-back will be on the agenda for director of football Fabio Paratici this summer.

Dele Alli (Tottenham to Everton) - €12m

Dele Alli's Tottenham career was given hope by Nuno Espirito Santo at the start of the campaign, but that fizzled out before long.

The former England international netted once, a penalty against Wolves, for Spurs before Antonio Conte's arrival, which signalled the end of his career at the North London club.

He was soon out of favour and sold to Everton in the January transfer window as the Toffees sought a goal-scoring midfielder to guide them to safety.

Although they achieved their goal of staying in the Premier League, it wasn't down to Alli, who is yet to score his first goal for the club. The fee could rise all the way to €40m with add-ons.

Wout Weghorst (Wolfsburg to Burnley) - €15m

Signed from Wolfsburg as a replacement for Chris Wood, tasked with the objective of firing Burnley to safety, Weghorst's two goals were simply not enough.

''Here I had a super start, but then I had to deal with the dismissal of a trainer,'' he told Ziggo Sport last week.

''Then I notice that I am a person who likes rest. This really does require energy, these are situations that are not ideal. So I’m certainly happy when it’s over next week.''

The Burnley striker's admission to 'liking rest' in the middle of a relegation scrap rather sums up the transfer.

Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund to Man Utd) - €85m

Jadon Sancho has had a poor start to life at Old Trafford and has only shown his best qualities in glimpses as the instability at Manchester United has affected his form.

The English winger joined the club last year from Borussia Dortmund, with previous manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer being a long-term admirer of the player.

Sancho made an €85m move last year and has responded with five goals in three assists in 38 appearances, which isn’t a return that was expected when the move was made.

There is, however, a feeling that incoming coach Erik ten Hag can get the best out of him, as the Dutchman’s reputation of working with young attackers is very good.

Raphael Varane (Real Madrid to Man Utd) - €40m

The French defender joined the club last summer in a €40m million move from Real Madrid, but has struggled to show his best form for the Red Devils.

A lot of that isn’t his fault – the club have had a torrid season and have a poor defensive record – but he isn’t faultless either.

The World Cup winner has been affected by injury problems as well, suffering four injuries in his first season at the club and missing 16 games in total, as well as one due to catching the coronavirus.

Jannik Vestergaard (Southampton to Leicester) - €18m

Signed following the severe injury to Wesley Fofana last summer, Jannik Vestergaard arrived after a quietly impressive time at Southampton.

However, the Danish defender was unable to live up to expectations put on him and he was soon exposed in one of the division's worst defences.

Vestergaard wasn't included in Leicester's matchday squad for their final nine games of the season, and started just three league games from October onwards. In those three games, Leicester conceded 11 goals.

Daniel Amartey, a natural midfielder, and the out-of-form Caglar Soyuncu, were both preferred to Vestergaard for the majority of the season, while Brendan Rodgers dealt with injuries to Fofana and Jonny Evans.

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