CHRIS SUTTON: Why do many record Premier League signings flop?

CHRIS SUTTON: Why do SO many record Premier League signings flop? Romelu Lukaku has struggled to make an impact so far – but Chelsea wouldn’t be the first club to have buyer’s remorse

  • Romelu Lukaku has struggled to make an impact on the pitch so far at Chelsea 
  • Chelsea will hope he isn’t another Premier League record signing to flop 
  • Virgil van Dijk has been a hit at Liverpool, unlike Paul Pogba at Manchester Utd
  • Arsenal’s Nicolas Pepe and Spurs’ Tanguy Ndombele have flattered to deceive 

Romelu Lukaku has struggled to make much of an impact at Chelsea since his £97.5million homecoming last summer. Well, on the pitch, at least.

It’s early days at Stamford Bridge for the Belgian striker but after a slow start Chelsea will be hoping he doesn’t become the latest in a long line of Premier League club record signings who have left their bosses feeling buyer’s remorse.

This is my verdict on every top-flight team’s most expensive addition, and whether they have been a hit or a miss.

Romelu Lukaku has voiced his displeasure with how things are going at Chelsea this week

Arsenal — Nicolas Pepe £72m

He’s scored 26 goals in 101 games, which sounds nice, but they’ve largely come against inferior opponents in competitions outside the Premier League.


Winger Nicolas Pepe has failed to match the lofty £72m valuation Arsenal paid for him

Aston Villa — Emi Buendia £33m

It was never going to be easy to follow the creative whirlwind that was Jack Grealish.

But Buendia was so good for Norwich that it’s been disappointing to see him so flat in a Villa shirt.


Emiliano Buendia has been flat in an Aston Villa shirt after his brilliant spell at Norwich

Brentford — Kristoffer Ajer £13.5m

Injuries have held the central defender back so far. If Brentford survive and he’s a big reason why, it will have been money well spent. 


Krisstofer Ajer could play a valuable part in keeping Brentford in the Premier League

Brighton — Adam Webster £20m

Has he been awful? Absolutely not. 

But good enough to say ‘phwoar, he’s been a worthy club record signing for Brighton’? I’m not so sure, and £20m might have been slightly steep. 


Adam Webster hasn’t shown himself to be a worthy record signing for Brighton

Burnley — Maxwel Cornet, Chris Wood, Ben Gibson £15m

Wood’s proven his worth and so has Cornet after his potentially risky purchase from Lyon. Gibson wasn’t worth it as Burnley took a £7m hit to let him leave. 


Maxwell Cornet and Chris Wood have proven themselves to be valuable signings for Burnley

Chelsea — Romelu Lukaku £97.5m

If Lukaku can return to Thomas Tuchel’s team and guide Chelsea to glory, then his price tag won’t seem outlandish. 

But right now, let’s just say it’s not going great. Being dropped for a game as big as Liverpool is as bad as it gets.


The jury’s still out on Romelu Lukaku despite his controversial interview with Sky Italia

Crystal Palace — Christian Benteke £32m

They managed to get the odd decent season out of Benteke in the past but he’s been too inconsistent and £32m is a chunk of change for Palace. 


Christian Benteke has been too inconsistent since he joined Crystal Palace back in 2016

Everton — Gylfi Sigurdsson £45m

Rafa Benitez has not been able to call on Everton’s club record signing this season, and when he was playing he wasn’t exactly enthralling in midfield. 


Gylfi Sigurdsson wasn’t enthralling in midfield since his £45m arrival back in 2017

Leeds — Rodrigo £26m

There have been flashes of his ability but nowhere near enough to say he’s been the super signing that Leeds hoped they were splashing out on. 


Rodrigo has failed to match the expectations that Leeds hoped for him when he joined

Leicester — Youri Tielemans £40m

Tielemans is consistently towards the top of the statistics among midfielders for tackles and interceptions. If Leicester sold him this month, they’d get their money back and then some. 


Leicester star Youri Tielemans is among the top midfielders presently in the Premier League

Liverpool — Virgil van Dijk £75m

Worth every penny and all the zeroes on that cheque. 

Of all the Premier League clubs’ record signings, Van Dijk is the greatest example of when spending big on a player goes very right. 


Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk is the best example of when a record signing hits for a club

Man City — Jack Grealish £100m

Pep Guardiola dropping him for off-field behaviour is worrying, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s got plenty of years ahead in which his creativity can bring success to City.


Jack Grealish broke the British transfer record fee with his £100m move to Manchester City

Man Utd — Paul Pogba £89m

Considering what United thought they were getting from ‘hashtag Pogback’ and what they got, it’s hardly been a total success and five years of bliss.


Paul Pogba could be set to leave Man Utd for nothing with his contract expiring in the summer

Newcastle — Joelinton £40m

Newcastle broke the bank to sign Joelinton from Hoffenheim. The man came to the North East but the goals didn’t. Now they’re trying to get some value out of him in a midfield role.


Newcastle’s Joelinton has been used in midfield recently after struggling for goals as a striker

Norwich — Christos Tzolis £10m

The bonus for Norwich is that their biggest buy wasn’t eye-wateringly expensive by Premier League standards. But even at a relatively modest £10m, the winger has yet to score or assist a goal in the league. 


Christos Tzolis has yet to score or assist this season for a struggling Norwich side

Southampton — Danny Ings £20m

What Ings brought to Southampton was a guarantee of goals. It’s just a shame for the club that they couldn’t convince him to sign a contract extension. 

At least they made a £5m profit. 


Danny Ings scored 46 goals in 100 games for Southampton before leaving for Aston Villa

Tottenham — Tanguy Ndombele £54m

Mauricio Pochettino signed him and, a series of coaches later, it’s Antonio Conte’s turn to try to get some use out of Ndombele in Tottenham’s midfield. 


A number of Tottenham managers have struggled to get the best out of Tanguy Ndombele

Watford — Ismaila Sarr £40m

Watford spent big to bring Sarr to the club and, to his credit, he was their top scorer in getting them back to the Premier League. 

He’s looked like a £40m player. 


Ismaila Sarr has attracted a number of top clubs with his performances for Watford

West Ham — Sebastien Haller £45m

West Ham decided Haller was such a dud that they were willing to take a £25m hit to sell the big striker to Ajax. Some transfers work, others don’t, and this one was disastrous. 


Sebastian Haller has impressed at Ajax but struggled to hit the ground running at West Ham

Wolves — Fabio Silva £35.6m

He’s young so maybe Silva will come good in the future — at least that’s what Wolves must be hoping. But it isn’t looking like £35.6m well spent, I’m afraid.  


Portuguese teenager Fabio Silva has struggled to adapt to life in the Premier League so far 

I was a record signing at THREE clubs… one didn’t go so well 

I was a club record signing for Blackburn, Chelsea and Celtic, with mixed results!

You’ll hear players say the price tag doesn’t bother them, but there is no escaping it. It follows you around like a bad smell.

They may as well slap it on the back of your shirt along with your name and number. You’re the biggest sum of money that your club has ever spent and with that comes pressure. That pressure multiplies if you’re a striker, because it’s your job to score the goals that win the games and that’s what you’re judged on.

I tipped Chelsea for the title at the start of this season on the basis that they had signed Romelu Lukaku. Imagine what he would think if he read that? I’m placing the championship on his shoulders!

Blackburn signed me for £5million in 1994. I was 21 and I spent the night before the move was confirmed in a cell! I’d gone out to celebrate and, in my drunken haze, dived headfirst into a convertible Mini which did some damage. Police tracked me down in a nearby nightclub and let me sober up at the station. My new manager Kenny Dalglish laughed it off, thankfully, and I’d like to think winning the title in my first season went some way to repaying Blackburn’s faith in me.

Lukaku could do with repaying Chelsea’s faith now, too, after his falling out with Thomas Tuchel. Chelsea signed me for £10m in 1999 and, well, let’s just say that never worked out for either party.

I’ve always felt I let down my manager, Gianluca Vialli. He convinced the club to invest in me but I lost all confidence and didn’t give them the goals they expected.

Then Celtic signed me for £6m in 2000. A fresh start and a chance to be successful. I said I was here to ‘put Rangers in their place’ after arriving and the fans were onside from the get-go. I scored the winner on my debut against Dundee United and immediately felt at home.

Two successful stints out of three? I’ll take it, considering how often we’ve seen it go wrong for other club record signings of today!

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