Manchester United have bade farewell to both Wilfried Zaha and Anderson in the past week, and there won’t be many mourning their departures.
The pair cost over £30m between them but they didn’t contribute much to the United cause, with Zaha almost exclusively sent out on loan deals and Anderson doing little more than merely hanging around the fringes of successful squads.
The pair are far from the only disappointing United signings, though, and here’s the proof.
Massimo Taibi – £4.5m from Venezia, 1999
In 1999 – the years before oligarchs left seven-figure tips – United paying £4.5m for a goalkeeper was a pretty big deal, especially when that goalkeeper was being asked to replace Peter Schmeichel following injuries to the first two men who had a crack at that impossible job, Mark Bosnich and Raimond van der Gouw.
Taibi arrived with a big reputation but that took several knocks on his debut against Liverpool when he flapped at a cross as Sami Hyypia scored (although he did later make a great save from Vladimir Smicer), and soon after he found everlasting fame as he let Matt Le Tissier’s shot squirm underneath him in Southampton’s 3-3 draw at Old Trafford.
He played one more game – a 5-0 defeat to Chelsea – before United erased all traces of him and nothing but grainy videos of the Le Tissier goal remained.
Kleberson - £6.5m from Atletico Paranaense, 2003
The 2002 Brazil World Cup-winning team was hardly their best ever vintage, but they still, well, won the World Cup.
That success gave the players within the squad – Roque Junior, Ricardinho, Juliano Belletti – a certain gravitas when it came to English clubs, and nothing demonstrated this better than United’s move for Kleberson a year after that success in Japan & Korea.
He could run about a bit and get up and down the pitch, but that basically makes him a Brazilian James Milner and not exactly someone to get excited about. He played 30 matches over two seasons and was then quietly shown the door.
“He’s quick, aggressive and a good passer of the ball, and that is the kind of athletic footballer we are looking for,” were actual words out of Alex Ferguson’s actual mouth when he signed Cameroon’s Djemba-Djemba in the same summer as Kleberson.
He was proven to be none of those things, and like his Brazilian teammate he hung around for a couple of years before embarking on a wonderful career journey which took him to Aston Villa, Burnley and then stints in Qatar, Denmark, Israel, Serbia, Scotland, India and now Indonesia, spreading joy and passes out of play wherever he goes.
William Prunier – Trialist, 1996
Alright so he didn’t cost any money, but what French defender William Prunier lacked in financial cost he more than made up for in mental scarring for United fans.
Ferguson needed a defender in late 1995 and Eric Cantona recommended the centre-back, an old teammate of his, who was soon drafted into the team due to injuries to Steve Bruce, Gary Pallister and David May (ah, those were the days).
Prunier was actually okay in a game against QPR and even hit the bar (the opposition’s), before he had a shocker alongside Gary Neville at centre-back in a 4-1 loss at Spurs on New Year’s Day. He left soon afterwards, his United career having spanned two games across two different years.
Bebe - £7.4m from Vitoria Guimaraes, 2010
Ah yes, here we go.
Wow this was weird, wasn’t it? Unconfirmed rumours about Bebe’s participation in the Homeless World Cup were already doing the rounds by the time the Portuguese winger/forward/liability was completing his £7.4m transfer to United from Vitoria Guimaraes in 2010, just weeks after Vitoria themselves had signed him on a free.
If that sounds dodgy to you then you aren’t the only ones, and the football authorities were reportedly looking into the deal by the time Bebe made his debut, his first of only seven appearances for the club, in September 2010.
He hung around for a bit longer before embarking on a series of loan moves and leaving United for Benfica in 2014, with everyone left wondering just what all that was about.
Now United fans can get a bit touchy when you suggest that Veron was a flop, but the fact is that for a £28.1m outlay – astronomical terms back in 2001 – the Argentinean simply didn’t deliver what was expected of him.
Two years of the occasional silky touch or clever pass were all well and good but Veron didn’t really contribute enough before jumping ship to Roman Abramovich’s Chelsea revolution in 2003.
He played 14 games for the Blues, none of them very memorably.