Premier League clubs have something of a mixed record in the transfer window.
For every inspired pluck from obscurity, it seems as though a Champions League-chasing club will splash £50 million on an absolute flop and things get particularly interesting if it’s a panic buy.
Every fan from every club can relate to the feeling of one of their top players leaving, whether that be Philippe Coutinho from Liverpool or Gareth Bale from Tottenham Hotspur, but the anxiety doesn’t end with their departure.
It’s always fascinating and nerve-wracking in equal measure to see how the club goes about signing a replacement with the transfer money, no matter how big or small, they’ve been able to accrue.
And even in a world where incomprehensible effort goes into each and every transfer, big clubs don’t get it right every time and that can lead to some embarrassing downgrades.
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Premier League downgrades
Presenter ‘The Irish Guy’ has done his best to pick the finest example at each club where they’ve sold a player and have completely failed to replace them either in the transfer window or not.
You can check out the full video down below, but keep scrolling for our breakdown and analysis of the 20 replacements that have completely backfired.
Thomas Vermaelen to Callum Chambers
Despite the sheer number of players that Arsenal sold under Arsene Wenger, their replacement strategies have been pretty sound, but the Gunners have badly missed a fit Vermaelen in their back line.
Chambers arrived at a time where every Southampton purchase seemed to be a serious coup, but two relegations on loan with Middlesbrough and Fulham as well as little progress in 101 Arsenal games makes him a bona fide downgrade.
Tammy Abraham to Wesley
In Villa’s defence, Chelsea were always going to recall Abraham after he smashed home 25 goals in the Championship and their transfer ban prevented them from solving their number nine crisis.
That being said, it would be fair to say that Wesley has flattered to deceive in the Midlands, scoring just five league goals in 21 games and suffering a season-ending knee injury in January.
Matt Ritchie to Jordon Ibe
After inspiring them to the Championship title and making the step up to the Premier League, it seemed ludicrous that Ritchie dropped back to the second tier with Newcastle and the Cherries have struggled to replace him ever since.
And Ibe has struggled to make any sort of impression at the Vitality Stadium, scoring just five goals in 92 appearances and only featuring in two Premier League fixtures this season.
Brighton & Hove Albion
Glenn Murray to Neal Maupay
This seems a little harsh because, considering Brighton’s relegation fight, Maupay has been pretty decent compared to other strikers graduating from the Championship with seven goals in 22 games.
But he can’t hold a candle to Murray who, despite creeping every closer to retirement, somehow managed to smash 15 goals last season during an arguably tougher battle to dodge the drop.
Michael Keane to Ben Gibson
Keane hasn’t exactly been the success many predicted of him at Everton, but winning promotion at Turf Moor and thriving upon his return to the Premier League remains the zenith of his career.
And Burnley’s attempt to cover for his absence by signing Gibson has completely blown up in their face with the former Middlesbrough man – their club-record buy – playing just one game in two years.
Thibaut Courtois to Kepa Arrizabalaga
Chelsea fans seemed distinctly nonchalant when Courtois jumped ship for Real Madrid and in their defence, Arrizabalaga essentially maintained the standard of his predecessor during his debut season.
However, the cracks that first reared their head in the 2019 League Cup final are beginning to yawn amidst a terrible year under Frank Lampard and the Spaniard is now rumoured to be on the club’s transfer list.
Aaron Wan-Bissaka to Martin Kelly
This is one of those examples where Palace’s hand was forced. At the point they’re losing a player of Wan-Bissaka’s quality, their mid-table status means near enough anybody they can afford would be a downgrade.
Crucially, Roy Hodgson didn’t dip his hand in the transfer market, instead promoting Kelly back into the starting XI and the former Liverpool man has done a solid job, albeit not up to Wan-Bisska’s standards.
Romelu Lukaku to Cenk Tosun
Again, Everton were getting away with daylight robbery by having a striker of Lukaku’s quality in their side and near enough all of their attempted replacements have failed to replicate his form.
Arriving for a club-record fee six months after Lukaku’s departure, Tosun’s performances were branded by The Irish Guy as ‘utterly hopeless’ and 10 goals in 51 games isn’t exactly a strong counterargument.
N’Golo Kante to Nampalys Mendy
The Foxes could be forgiven for thinking that they could replicate the success of Kante by again signing a diminutive French midfielder from their home country. If only things were that easy.
Mendy can’t hold a candle to his predecessor, who now has a World Cup to his name, having spent the 2017/18 campaign out on loan with Nice and being limited to just six appearances in Brendan Rodgers’ first full season.
Steven Gerrard to Jordan Henderson
Woof. This seems brutal.
The Irish Guy is the first person to clarify that he thinks Henderson is a PFA Player of the Year contender and a brilliant captain for Liverpool, but reiterates that he’s still a downgrade when compared to Gerrard.
Naby Keita ‘replacing’ Coutinho is brushed away because of their differing positions and Henderson should hardly take this as an insult. Besides, being called worse than Gerrard is like slagging off a Porsche for not being a Ferrari.
Joe Hart to Claudio Bravo
Pep Guardiola has been completely vindicated in his decision to replace Hart with a ball-playing goalkeeper, but he well and truly dropped the ball with his first attempt in the 2016/17 season.
Bravo was about as useful as a chocolate teapot between the sticks for City and the fact Hart had been world-class during the seasons prior only highlighted it further. Unfortunately for the Englishman, though, Guardiola found his man in 2017.
Jonny Evans to Eric Bailly
Considering Evans’ career at Old Trafford had been tapering off since Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement, this seems a strange choice, even if we agree that Bailly has failed to live up to his hype.
The Ivorian made a strong start under Jose Mourinho, but it’s been downhill from there with a combination of long-term injuries and a reckless playing style robbing him of any consistency.
Salomon Rondon to Joelinton
Rondon was an absolute dream of a target man for Rafa Benitez’s system in north-east, scoring 12 goals in 32 games, but Newcastle dreamed a little too big in his absence by splashing out £40 million on Joelinton.
A Brazilian with a name like his seems to be a prerequisite for success in the beautiful game, yet the club-record signing has completed tanked at St. James’ Park and hasn’t scored a league goal since August.
James Maddison to Todd Cantwell
Sheesh. It’s another Porsche-Ferrari situation here because Cantwell has been Norwich’s best player this season and just because he’s no Maddison, it doesn’t mean that a top Premier League club won’t snap him up.
That being said, we can see how he’s technically a downgrade on Maddison, who ‘spanked home 15 goals’ during his final season at Carrow Road and is now attracting interest from Manchester United.
Harry Maguire to Chris Basham
It’s pretty hard to find a downgrade at Bramall Lane considering their success in the Premier League, so picking whoever replaced the most expensive defender in history is the safest way to go.
Basham has played over 200 times for the Blades and contributed to multiple promotions, so the only reason he winds up on the list is because he isn’t England or United quality. Again, hardly an insult.
Sadio Mane to Nathan Redmond
Poor Redmond had some impossibly large boots to fill when he arrived at St. Mary’s, never mind when you consider Mane is now a Champions League winner, Premier League champion in waiting and Ballon d’Or winner.
So, yes, Redmond is an unlucky downgrade for the fact his record of 22 goals in 155 games doesn’t compare flatteringly with the 77 goals that Mane has scored at Liverpool in a similar timeframe.
Kieran Trippier to Serge Aurier
The fact Trippier had such a poor final season at Spurs has made the realisation of this downgrade a slow process, but his strong start with Atletico Madrid has really hammered home the point.
Aurier has been nothing short of a loose cannon for Tottenham during some of their weakest moments this season and cost them dearly in crucial Champions League ties under Mourinho.
Odion Ighalo to Isaac Success
Yes, we are going to make the joke that Success hasn’t been a success at replacing Ighalo, especially when the Nigerian has been signed not once, but twice to come in for his departing compatriot.
It wasn’t something that worked for Granada in 2014 nor has his pitiful four goals with the Hornets done anything to change that in England, while Ighalo is casually playing for the country’s biggest club.
West Ham United
Dimitri Payet to Manuel Lanzini
You could probably count on one hand how many players could have arrived to replace Payet at West Ham and possibly have the same indelible impact that he made during the 2015/16 season.
In truth, Lanzini has been a phenomenal player for the Hammers amidst some of their lowest moments, but injuries have kneecapped his chances of gaining any sort of consistency in the side.
Carl Ikeme to John Ruddy
Much like Sheffield United, there aren’t many downgrades you can point to at Wolves, so The Irish Guy has plumped rather loosely for Ruddy taking over from a club legend in the form of Ikeme.
And even he can’t give much in the way of an explanation so, errmm, yeh, moving on…
The biggest downgrade?
It goes to show that being a ‘downgrade’ can take on many forms and variations.
Players like Henderson and Cantwell should feel no embarrassment in making the list, rather they should bemoan the fact that their predecessors were players who are just so hard to match.
But then again, there are also examples such as Gibson, Bravo and Ibe where Premier League clubs have blatantly dropped an expensive clanger in their mission to replace a departing star.
As many of these cases show, there’s no such thing as a true like-for-like replacement in football.