Monday saw the transfer window shut for International deals, however EFL teams can still do deals with Premier League clubs until 16th October.
Sunderland and transfer windows are a very bad combination, thinking of some of the signings that have come through the doors of the Stadium of Light can cause nightmares. Our recruitment process over the years has been nothing short of atrocious. Money was thrown at signings continuously without ever gaining profit when selling players on. When Patrick Van Aanholt was sold to Crystal Palace in 2017 for £14 million, it was the first time Sunderland made a profit on a player they had signed since they sold James McClean to Wigan in 2013.
Signings would leave for next to nothing, or worse on a free. A painful example of this was Emanuele Giaccherini who was sold to Napoli for £2million after starring for Italy at Euro 2016. An international footballer with proven big tournament pedigree was sold for only £2million, in the same summer we spent £14 million on Didier N’Dong, it really does make the mind boggle. The club signed Jack Rodwell, Didier N’Dong, Papy Djilobodji, Steven Fletcher and Ricky Alvarez for over £60 million and every single one of them left on a free. Years of little to no profit is catastrophic business and is why Sunderland were in millions of pounds worth of debt when Stewart Donald took over the club in 2018.
This article will look at a few of the worst signings we have made in recent years and before you ask, yes it was a tough decision to narrow it down to a select few. Each singing included in this article will come with its very own Top Trump style card for you to play with (or burn) at home.
So here we go:
TORE ANDRE FLO - £8.2 MILLION
Tore Andre Flo was signed by Peter Reid on deadline day in the summer of 2002 as a replacement for the recently retired Niall Quinn. A fee in the region of £6.75 million was paid to Rangers, which at the time was Sunderland’s record transfer fee. The lateness of the deal and the fact Flo had struggled to score for Rangers led to many believing it was a last minute panic buy. Despite this Flo scored on his debut against Manchester United and like most signings gave fans false hope that he might succeed. Filling the shoes of Quinn was always going to be a tough ask but Flo didn’t even come close. He struggled to fill the role of a target man and didn’t form a partnership with Kevin Phillips. In 33 games for Sunderland he scored six goals and was part of the side that was relegated from the Premier League at the end of the 2002/03 season. Flo’s Sunderland career ended like most of our expensive signings, leaving the club on a free.
IGNACIO SCOCCO - £3 MILLION
Ignacio Scocco. Who? I hear you ask, did he play for us? Yes he did. Scocco was signed by Gus Poyet for £3 million in January 2014 from Brazilian side Internacional. It was hoped he would be Sunderland’s answer to Lionel Messi when in reality he was about as useful as Lionel Perez would be up front. His only start came against Hull in an FA Cup Quarter Final in March 2014. Having been beaten by Man City at Wembley in the League Cup final the week before, Sunderland travelled to Hull hoping to secure a second Wembley trip of the season. Gus Poyet fielded a side that included Scocco and goalkeeper Oscar Ustari, don’t remember him? Don’t blame you. Ustari did save a penalty that afternoon in Humberside, albeit before conceding three goals as we crashed out the cup. The pain of conceding three goals in nine second half minutes is still a sore subject, knowing we were one game away from another trip at Wembley. Having said that, we’d have probably got beat at Wembley anyways so the lads probably saved us extra heartache. Scocco’s Sunderland highlight was an assist of an assist in a 2-2 draw at Manchester City in April 2014. He passed the ball to Emanuele Giaccherini who then crossed it in for Connor Wickham. After spending six months at the club he was sold back to former club Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, where he received a hero’s welcome. In true ex Sunderland player fashion, Scocco began scoring goals once again and revived his career. The goals he scored at Newell’s Old Boys earned him a move to River Plate in 2017.
JOZY ALTIDORE – £6 MILLION
Jozy Altidore, where to begin. Signed from AZ Alkmaar in the summer of 2013 after impressing in the Eredivisie, Altidore came to the Premier League with the potential of being the next best thing. The week before he made his Premier League debut he scored a hattrick against Bosnia whilst on international duty for the USA. Like most strikers we sign, Altidore led fans up the garden path thinking that we had a world beating striker on our hands, oh how wrong we were. Scoring three goals in 52 appearances Altidore is up there with one of the worst strikers to ever grace the pitch at the Stadium of Light. However I actually did feel sorry for Altidore during his time at Sunderland. Even though the ability was rarely there the effort always was. His performances in both derbies in the 2013/14 season were sensational. His lay off for Borini’s winner at the SOL was superb and his performance in the reverse fixture at St James’ Park was just as brilliant. He took out the entire Newcastle defence with one turn in the build-up to Adam Johnson’s second goal. After a painful 18 months at the club, the football gods looked down on Sunderland and by some miracle we managed to swap him for Jermain Defoe in January 2015. In a recent interview Altidore was full of praise for Sunderland. He was quoted as saying; “The fans are amazing, there is no club with better fans in England. Sunderland fans are up there, the away end is full, the stadium is full every Saturday. It feels like 80,000 at times, they’re that loud.
RICKY ALVAREZ - £20 MILLION +
The Ricky Alvarez saga is a total mess. Alvarez signed from Inter Milan on transfer deadline day in August 2014. He signed on a season long loan deal, with a clause in his contract that meant he would sign permanently for €10.5 million the next summer, if Sunderland stayed up. The deal also included a clause that stated SAFC would not have to sign the player permanently if a chronic knee injury prevented him from playing. After making his debut against Spurs, Alvarez went onto make 11 appearances for the lads, scoring once in an FA Cup tie at Fulham. A knee injury cut his playing time short at Sunderland. After staying up the Black Cats tried to pull out of the deal to sign Alvarez on a permanent basis, arguing that the player's knee injury scuppered the terms of the deal. Years’ worth of legal battles continued after his loan spell, without the player actually playing for Sunderland. Alvarez signed for Sampdoria in January 2016. In 2017 the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that Sunderland were liable to pay Inter the transfer fee. Sunderland’s argument that they weren’t aware of Alvarez having surgery to his right knee in 2012 was dismissed by the CAS, as it was revealed Sunderland’s club doctor had discovered it during his medical but did not follow it up at the time. In the end Sunderland have paid almost £20 million for a player that played 11 games. The lads were also ordered to pay Alvarez himself for loss of earnings after he spent the next six months of his career in limbo. The whole saga is one big joke and reflects how poor Sunderland’s transfer dealings have been in the past few years.
JACK RODWELL - £10 MILLION
The worst signing in our history? Not many fans will argue against that statement. Signed for £10 million in 2014, Rodwell came to the club after struggling to find game time at Man City. When he burst onto the scene, Rodwell was tipped to be England’s next best thing and for a while at Everton it looked like he could be. Even when he signed for Sunderland he was only 23 and still had the world at his feet. What ensued after that is four years of nothing. It is criminal when you realise he earned £12.7 million during his time at Sunderland when he contributed to nothing but back to back relegations. Rodwell was the only member of the first team squad whose contract didn’t include a salary reduction after relegation from the Prem. Rodwell made a total of 76 appearances for Sunderland. When combining fee and salary Rodwell cost £299,000 per appearance. Rodwell finally agreed to rip up his contract in 2018 and left the club. He appeared on the Netflix documentary Sunderland till I Die where he was rightly portrayed as a villain. His smug attitude and lack of desire to play for the club reflected a player who was far too big for his boots. Since then Rodwell has signed for Premier League club Sheffield United.
PAPY DJILOBODJI - £8 MILLION
In August 2016 Sunderland signed Djilobodji from Chelsea for £8 million. Making his debut in a defeat against Middlesbrough Djilobodji looked like a decent player despite the result. However as the season went on he looked poorer and poorer, his performance in the 3-0 home defeat to Everton was nothing short of atrocious. Red cards against Hull and West Brom did nothing to help his case. He made 23 appearances as Sunderland were relegated from the Prem. He spent the 2017/18 season on loan at Dijon as Sunderland were relegated from the Championship. Dijilobodji stated his desire to leave the club rather than play in League One. He reached an agreement with the clubs new owners that he would remain on unpaid leave during July 2018 in order to find a move away from the club, however he would have to maintain his fitness. After failing to return to training in August, Dijilobodji finally arrived back at the club in September insisting he had done nothing wrong. After failing a fitness test he was sacked for breach of contract and left the club for nothing. Whilst it was refreshing to see a firm stance took towards players who messed the club about, not recouping a transfer fee was once again repeating the past mistakes of bad business by the club. In July 2019, Djilobodji joined Turkish club Gazişehir Gaziantep
DIDIER N’DONG - £14 MILLION
The final name on this list, Didier N’Dong, still holds the record for our record signing, yikes. That pill doesn’t get any easier to swallow when you realise he was signed by David Moyes instead of Yann M’Vila. One of the finest players to grace the Stadium in recent years M’Vila was frantically trying to secure a move to the club (remember those Instagram stories). However Moyes and his infinite wisdom decided that N’Dong was a better option. N’Dong was a regular during his first season at Sunderland and scored his only goal for the lads in a 4-0 victory at Crystal Palace. After relegation N’Dong was still a regular during our Championship campaign. He was sent off against Cardiff in January 2018, in what turned out to be his final appearance for SAFC. N’Dong signed on loan for Watford on January 31st in a deal with a view to a permanent move. In the four months he spent at Watford he did not play a single minute and was an unused substitute three times. When Sunderland were relegated to the third tier, N’Dong stated his desire to leave the club. During the summer of 2018 he was linked with a number of clubs, including Torino, who agreed a fee of £6.6 million but N’Dong's personal demands proved to be a stumbling block. N’Dong returned to SAFC on 24th September and was sacked for breach of contract. In 2019 N’Dong signed for French side Guingamp. Our record signing leaving the club disgraced and on a free, oh the joys of being a Sunderland fan.