Just a matter of months ago Arsenal fans were delighted following the announcement of a new contract for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, the club captain ending speculation over his future by penning a new mega-money deal to remain at the Emirates.
Aubameyang had starred as one of the finest forwards in the Premier League since arriving at Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund in a then club-record deal, with the Gabon international having proven the inspiration behind the Gunners’ FA Cup triumph last season.
It’s been a sorry state of affairs for both club and player since their big announcement in September, however, with Aubameyang having looked a shadow of his former self since putting pen to paper.
The 31-year-old has scored just three league goals this season, not quite the return expected from a player recently rewarded with a new three-year deal worth a huge £55m.
There’s still time for Aubameyang to rediscover his finest form but Premier League history is littered with players whose big-money deals proved massive mistakes.
Here are five times Premier League clubs regretted giving players big-money contracts:
The irony of Chelsea’s capture of Winston Bogarde was that the financially-draining deal for the defender was initially intended to be a cost-efficient method of strengthening.
Chelsea were in need of a replacement at centre-back and the opportunity to sign Bogarde – a Champions League-winning Dutch international with experience at clubs such as Ajax, Milan and Barcelona – on a free transfer looked too good to turn down.
Bogarde had seen his contract cancelled at Barcelona due to injury problems but Chelsea were willing to gamble on the talents of the 29-year-old, offering him a salary of £50,000-a-week to ward off competition from Newcastle at the turn of the millennium.
However, Gianluca Vialli – the man who signed him – was sacked just days after his arrival and Bogarde would make just a handful of appearances under successor Claudio Ranieri before finding himself on the periphery.
It’s the 20th anniversary of Winston Bogarde joining Chelsea.
📅 4 year deal
💰£50k p/ week
🥅 12 games played
🎰 £10m wages
Now there’s a man who knows the importance of a work/life balance. pic.twitter.com/1Cdt9NBhTK
— It’s A Funny Old Game (@sid_lambert) August 31, 2020
Despite falling out-of-favour, he remained a Chelsea player for some four years, a time period which accounted for just 12 appearances – priced at around £15,000 per minute of action.
Rumours that he commuted from Amsterdam for training each day are believed to be wide of the mark, though Bogarde was undoubtedly portrayed as one of football’s biggest mercenaries, a player happy to take home his sizeable pay-packet despite no real hopes of actually stepping onto the pitch.
Chelsea’s ‘free transfer’ capture of Bogarde ultimately cost the west London side around £8.3m, their return just four underwhelming starts from a player who quickly became an outcast.
It’s little wonder the club ran into dire financial straights before the arrival of a certain Roman Abramovich.
The rise and fall of Leeds United is one of the Premier League’s most notorious – and bizarre – tales, and perhaps no player best symbolised the excess of chairman Peter Ridsdale better than Seth Johnson.
Leeds were in the midst of what would prove a disastrous spendthrift era as they desperately bid to close the gap to the division’s best sides, Ridsdale demonstrating exactly how not to run a football club, spending borrowed money on a host of marquee names in a bold gamble to reach the Champions League.
Seth Johnson was one of those purchases with the young midfielder having won plenty of plaudits for his performances at Crewe and later Derby, Leeds securing the signing of the one-cap England international in a £7m deal.
Whilst not an insignificant fee during that time, it is the contract negotiations involving Johnson’s deal that would become the stuff of legend and shine an unwanted spotlight on Risdale’s regime.
It’s Seth Johnson’s birthday, and to celebrate, here is his first goal for Leeds. Against a West Ham team managed by a sombre Glen Roeder. With a Leeds team managed by El Tel. With a Strongbow sponsor. And a David James cat-save. And a Freddie Kanouté sending off.
Breathe it in. pic.twitter.com/i1RjkXbFM0
— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) March 12, 2018
Speculation widely circled that the agent of Johnson – earning £5,000-a-week at Derby – had headed into negotiations with a view to doubling his salary, only to be left stunned by Ridsdale placing an offer of £30,000-a-week on the table – before raising that figure by a further £7,000-per-week.
Ridsdale claims that story is untrue, but there is no smoke without fire and Johnson was handed a bumper pay-packet upon arriving at Leeds, a move that would fail to work out as the midfielder’s body continued to fail him, making just 59 appearances across a four-year spell before being released.
Such was the financial mess that became Leeds’ ownership of that time, the club were unable to play Johnson upon his return from one injury with the Whites unable to afford an appearance-related fee owed to Derby had he fulfilled one more fixture.
Wayne Rooney departed Manchester United with his status as a club icon secured, becoming the Red Devils’ greatest ever goalscorer during a record-breaking career that delivered five league titles and the Champions League amongst his wealth of honours.
Rooney’s status as one of the finest players of his generation is undisputed but the club’s decision to hand him one final mega-money deal is perhaps a choice the club’s hierarchy came to regret.
Rooney had previously threatened to leave the club in 2010 before reversing his decision and penning a new five-and-a-half-year deal just a matter of days later, and three years later the star was once again making noise about a potential Old Trafford exit.
Sir Alex Ferguson revealed that the forward had asked to leave the Red Devils for a second time in just three years in 2013, though money would once again talk as Rooney signed another contract to remain a part of the club as they embarked on a new era under David Moyes.
The deal was believed to be worth a staggering £300,000-a-week, an investment that perhaps failed to pay dividends as both player and club suffered a sharp decline in fortunes.
Rooney was no longer the whirlwind of energy and competitive spirit that had starred as one of the Premier League’s best, but a player whose legs were beginning to show the strain of playing football at the highest level since bursting onto the scene at just 16.
His goal return and status were quickly diminishing and he was allowed to leave for Everton on a free transfer in 2017, the former England captain having managed just 25 league goals over three seasons since signing the deal.
Arsenal are a side well versed in the pitfalls of mega-money contracts and will hope Aubameyang does not follow the path set by Ozil, a player whose situation has become farcical for all those involved at the Emirates.
The powers that be at the north London side have been no strangers to contract cock-ups, allowing the likes of Robin van Persie and Samir Nasri to wind down their deals before departing over the past decade.
Desperate to avoid a similar situation with marquee names in Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez heading towards the conclusions of their contacts, Arsenal threw the proverbial kitchen sink at negotiations with the former to secure the German on a new deal.
Ozil became the highest-paid player in Arsenal’s history when he signed a deal worth around £350,000-a-week in January 2018, a staggering total for a 29-year-old player and one that has since straddled the Gunners with an immovable, unwanted asset.
Mesut Ozil WON’T give up his Arsenal salary to help a move to Fenerbahce, according to Bild ❌
Reports had claimed he would forego his wages to leave the Gunners but it now seems the clubs will have to find an agreement if the move will go ahead 🤑 pic.twitter.com/Z5pJ6PWgKH
— Goal (@goal) January 15, 2021
The retirement of Arsene Wenger later that year saw Ozil become an increasingly peripheral figure, featuring intermittently under Unai Emery before being outcast entirely by current boss Mikel Arteta.
Ozil was left out of the Arsenal squad for the Premier League and Europa League this season, the World Cup winner firmly out-of-favour but lacking suitors given his extraordinary salary in north London.
There appears to be, at long last, a resolution nearing for the star with talks surrounding a potential move to Fenerbahce this month, Ozil having just months remaining on a contract he previously vowed to see out in its entirety.
In the three years since inking his record-breaking contract, Ozil has scored just six goals and provided just six assists in the Premier League for Arsenal.
Ozil’s situation leads us nicely onto the final offering on this list, Alexis Sanchez’s departure having freed up the funds for the midfielder’s record-breaking Arsenal deal.
Sanchez had established himself as one of the Premier League’s finest footballers during a sensational three-and-a-half year spell in north London before engineering himself an exit as his contract wound down, both Manchester sides interested in signing the prolific Chile international.
Manchester United won the race ahead of their cross-town rivals and the arrival of Sanchez – in a swap deal for Henrikh Mkhitaryan – was seen as a huge coup, the star signing handed a deal that made him the highest-paid player in the Premier League.
What occurred was arguably the most dramatic fall from grace the division has seen, Sanchez looking a different player entirely after swapping the red of Arsenal for United.
The signature spark the Chilean had brought to the Gunners was replaced by a player who tried but toiled, scoring just three league goals across an 18-month spell which is reported to have cost the Red Devils around £66m when accounting signing on fees, agent fees and wages – a huge portion of which were paid after shipping the underperforming forward out on loan to Inter Milan.
Huge expenditure with very little tangible return, Sanchez must rank amongst the worst purchases the Premier League has ever seen.