As with many things in the sport, loan deals are one of the many gambles that are made in football with the hope that things turn out as good or better than planned. These sorts of deals have become common practice, allowing clubs to ‘borrow’ a player from another club for a certain period of time.
While bolstering the new team, a loan deal essentially provides an opportunity for the player to benefit either as a young talent getting valuable game experience or an established performer looking to regain form in a new environment or put themselves in the shop window for potential suitors. Teams can receive a sensational upturn in fortunes or even boost the career of the loanee but on the other hand, some short-term deals do end up being catastrophic ventures.
Here, we will be refreshing your memories with some of the most awful loan deals football has seen.
Arthur Melo (Juventus to Liverpool)
The most recent one on this list is Arthur Melo’s surprise switch to Liverpool after the Brazilian midfielder joined on the final day of the 2022 summer transfer window in a bid to add to their midfielder ranks that had been hit by injuries to Thiago Alcantara, Curtis Jones, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Naby Keïta.
Juventus confirmed that the Reds paid €4.5 million in loan fees, with an option to purchase the player for €37.5 million at the end of the season. However, it became clear he would not be staying on in England given he only made a single appearance – a 13-minute cameo in the heavy Champions League away defeat to Napoli throughout the entire campaign.
The 27-year-old was plagued by fitness issues thereafter and he will go down as one of the worst loan deals of all time.
Gonzalo Higuaín (Juventus to AC Milan to Chelsea)
Although the Argentine ended the campaign with a UEFA Europa League winners medal, Higuain will have quickly forgotten about the 2018/19 season.
El Pipita found himself in an awkward situation when Juventus signed Cristiano Ronaldo in 2018 just after he had scored 23 goals to help them win the Serie A title the previous season. The Old Lady had to balance the books and their squad somehow, hence the decision to send the striker on loan to AC Milan for an €18 million loan fee alongside the option to buy Higuaín outrightly for €36 million.
That season-long agreement was cut short in January after he had scored just six times in 15 appearances in the league. A move to England beckoned in the form of a reunion with former manager Maurizio Sarri at Chelsea on another short-term deal.
Although two goals were scored on his home debut against Huddersfield, the striker found the net a total of five times in 19 matches before he returned to Juve when Sarri took charge that summer.
Radamel Falcao (Monaco to Manchester United 2014/15 and Chelsea 2015/16)
An expensive addition to spearhead AS Monaco’s glamorous additions in the summer of 2013, Radamel Falcao was then regarded as one of the best strikers of his generation but a severe ACL injury ruled him out for the rest of the 2013/14 season as well as the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The Colombian signed for Manchester United on loan for a £6 million fee including wages of £265,000 per week in 2014 in a bid to fill the goalscoring void lacking at Old Trafford. However, Falcao’s high-profile arrival was followed by a subdued spell as he struggled with the after-effects of recovery from his long-term injury.
Four goals and five assists in 29 games proved scant return alongside a host of fitness issues, meaning it was little surprise that United opted against making his move permanent.
Falcao would now be entering a double-whammy of horror loan deals as Jose Mourinho and Chelsea backed themselves to get the best out of the prolific frontman.
The Blues got the striker on loan for the 2015/16 season in a deal worth £4 million, a salary of £170,000 a week as well as the option of making it permanent for a fee of £38 million. He continued to suffer consistent injuries which limited him to just 12 appearances in all competitions and a solitary goal to his name.
To his own credit, El Tigre returned to Monaco and plundered 70 goals with 13 assists and also won the league title in 2017
Kim Källström (Spartak Moscow to Arsenal)
Arsène Wenger brought the Sweden international to Arsenal in January 2014 when they were behind only Manchester City in the league table and in need of key reinforcements to keep up with the Cityzens. Therefore, the addition of the experienced midfielder for cover made some sense.
Meanwhile, Källström had injured his back while playing football on concrete in a mid-season tour of Abu Dhabi only a few days earlier.
“I fell badly on a small rock. I hit my back and had some pain,” he later told the Arsenal website. “Obviously we were due to go back to Moscow the day after so we didn’t do any medical check-up there because it wasn’t too bad at the time. We informed Arsenal straight away that I had a problem with my back and that I had no idea what it was, so they just told me to come along anyway.
“It was a bit of a blur because the deal had to be done quickly. I came to London, we had the medical and we found out there were some problems but we arranged the deal anyway.”
Källström spent two months on the treatment table and made only four appearances for the club, the most notable of which was a cameo in extra-time of an FA Cup semifinal against Wigan when he scored a penalty in the shootout at Wembley.
The Swede would later describe that appearance as “the greatest 15 minutes of my life” but he still earns his place on our list of the worst loan signings ever.
Julien Faubert (West Ham to Real Madrid)
As a right-sided player who had battled injury issues throughout his first season at West Ham United, Julian Faubert could not have imagined ending his second season as a Real Madrid player but that is how it turns out as he found himself in negotiations with the Spanish giants.
Then-Madrid boss Juande Ramos had been at Tottenham the year before and was impressed by the Frenchman in the two games against West Ham hence he got a chance to sign for Los Blancos on a loan deal worth £1.5 million.
After his club debut in 2009, events off the pitch made it a bizarre adventure for Faubert who missed a training session after thinking he had the day off. The player’s lack of professionalism was further brought to light when he appeared to be dozing off on the bench. Although he insists he did not fall asleep during the game against Villarreal but instead closed his eyes due to boredom, Faubert made only two appearances in the famous white kit – a total of 54 minutes of football – as his infamous six-month spell was brought to an end.
“Of course, when I came back to West Ham, my teammates joked around with me about the whole thing,” Faubert later said of his shock loan spell. “Carlton Cole was one of the main culprits; the first day I returned to training, he came over to me, offered his hand out and asked me how I’d like him to greet me; was I a sir now, or something else?! And then, often in training, if I made a quick burst down the wing, Mark Noble would say something like ‘wow, guys we’ve got a Real Madrid player in our team!’
It is good to see that his teammates saw the funny side of what was a truly disappointing loan deal.