De Ligt, Maguire, Pépé: The summer market's biggest disappointments so far
From Matthijs De Ligt to João Cancelo, we review some of the biggest transfer market disappointments so far this season.
This summer’s transfer market saw plenty of big mover and shakers. But well over two months into the season, and some of those highlight signings have so far been underwhelming for their new clubs, where some have been unable to hold down a regular starting position, either because of injury or plainly down to coaching decisions. Here AS reviews some of the biggest transfer market disappointments so far this season.
Matthijs de Ligt (Juventus)
Hailed as one of the next great central defenders, De Ligt signed with Juventus from Ajax for 85.5 million euros after an intense summer bidding war which included PSG, Barcelona and Manchester United. Following his phenomenal season last year with Ajax, it was always going to be difficult to maintain that level. But many doubts hang over the 20-year-old, whose Juve career began with an own goal in his pre-season debut against Inter Milan. He has played five Serie A and two Champions League fixtures, during which he has been substituted twice and picked up two yellow cards. The young Dutch defender – who finds himself under pressure despite his age – has still some convincing to do in Turin.
Harry Maguire (Manchester United)
Maguire has so far failed to stamp his authority at Old Trafford and demonstrate the level that prompted United to make him the most expensive defender in history in the summer (87 million euros). The ex-Leicester player has been an indisputable starter in a United team that has consigned the club to its worst league start in 30 years – currently sitting 12th in the table. The 26-year-old defender has also yet to score a goal from a set piece for United, which was another of his great strengths. He has also remained an undisputable starter for England during the international break, where the Three Lions lost their first qualifying game in a decade, falling 2-1 to Czech Republic with Maguire and Mings in central defence.
Nicolas Pépé (Arsenal)
Lille let their star man Pépé go for 80 million euros this summer but he has yet to show his best form for Arsenal coach Unai Emery, following a rather underwhelming performance at the African Cup of Nations in July. The 24-year-old winger has only managed to score one goal for the Gunners – a penalty against Aston Villa – and has been taken off in two games, one of which was the crunch tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford. He is still very far off the player who scored 22 goals for Lille last season.
Adrien Rabiot (Juventus)
Rabiot arrived on a free from PSG after he had been heavily linked with Barcelona last season. Having fallen out with the Parisian club, the promising 24-year-old hoped he could find a place for himself in Turin, but has yet to given sufficient game time by Juve coach Maurizio Sarri. He has so had just three Serie A appearances – two as a starter – and a 12-minute cameo in the Champions League.
Tanguy Ndombélé (Tottenham)
The 60 million euros that Tottenham paid Lyon for Ndombélé has yet to be proven a sound investment. Spurs are currently going through their worst streak of the Pochettino era and several of the problems lie in the team’s spine where Ndombélé has not been able to impose himself. He was substituted at half time in the London club’s last game against Brighton and was also taken off during the critical moment of the Champions League clash with Bayern Munich.
Malcom (Zenit St. Petersburg)
Malcom failed to impress at Barcelona after making the 41-million-euro move to Camp Nou in the summer of 2018, prompting to club to unload him to Zenit after just one season in Spain. And his fortunes have so far not looked much brighter at the Russian club, where, after playing two games, he has been side-lined with a hip injury since mid-August. And to make matters worse for the Brazilian winger, he was also subjected to racist abuse by a section of Zenit’s own fans in his debut against Krosnodar, which prompted speculation that the ex-Barcelona player would leave the club in January.
João Cancelo (Manchester City)
Since making the 65-million euro switch to City from Juve, Cancelo has found himself as an unused substitute in five games and started just once for Pep Guardiola in the Premier League. And that start unfortunately came in the City’s last fixture against Wolves, where they suffered a shocking 2-0 defeat at home. Cancelo put in a poor display at left back and, as it stands, the Portuguese international is going to struggle to find his way into Guardiola’s starting XI.