Europe’s 10 Most Expensive Benchwarmers of 2007-08

Shevchenko, Podolski, Crouch, Chevantón, Riquelme: these are just a few of the quality players which have been reduced to a benchwarming role in their clubs, as the new season continues. It wouldn’t be surprising to see some of them decide it’s time for a change, and travel to greener pastures during the January transfer window.

Spending too much time sitting down on the subs bench can be bad for your health: it’s uncomfortable, you’re bound to get hernia problems since there’s no back rest, and on top of it your morale goes down. As an universal truth in soccer, those that don’t play become unsettled, and eventually may want to try their luck elsewhere. With the January transfer window slowly approaching, Gazzetta dello Sport takes a look at the ‘Top 10’ of Europe’s biggest benchwarmers, who in two month’s time may very will find themselves on a new team.

Note that Serie A players are not included, and the players are ranked by league & transfer fee of their last club change.

Andriy Shevchenko
With Sheva’s biggest ‘enemy’ gone from Chelsea, the Ukrainian striker’s been complaining a lot less lately. However, despite the departure of José Mourinho, it doesn’t seem that the Blues’ new coach Avrum Grant is putting a lot of faith in Sheva either. Roman Abramovich bought the ex-Milan star for €42m, but given the Ukrainian’s shaky match-form the price has now dropped by more than half. One has to wonder in the end, if Shevchenko won’t decide it’s time to breathe some new air.
Peter Crouch
The Liverpool striking force has gotten pretty crowded this season: Dirk Kuyt remained at the club, and the new arrivals of Fernando Torres, Andriy Voronin, Yosi Benayoun and Ryan Babel don’t leave much space for outsiders. As a result, Peter Crouch’s playing time has decreased drastically, and team manager Rafa Benitez has given the striker a starting role in only one game so far. Liverpool bought the ex-Southampton player for €12m… for any club interested, the price hasn’t changed.
Eidur Gudjohnsen
He’s just scored two goals with Iceland, but his team had to concede a 4-2 defeat at the hands of Latvia. Not very good for morale, but even worse if upon your return home, there’s already 5-6 strikers in line ready to play at your club. With Eto’o, Messi, Ronaldinho, Henry, and now Giovani Dos Santos, the space at Barcelona is very very limited. With the addition of young prodigy Bojan Krkic, good Eidur might be having a real problem getting any playing time at all. The Blaugranas spent €12m to buy him from Chelsea, but with Gudjohnsen recently turning 29 his price tag just got considerably cheaper.
Juan Román Riquelme
“El Mudo” is currently involved in a very complicated situation: he’s almost a ‘prisoner’ at Villareal because manager Manuel Pellegrini hasn’t utilized him once. It seems that both men are still in bad terms after a pretty animated discussion that took place over a year ago. Riquelme is still shining with the Albiceleste (he just recently scored 2 free-kick goals in Argentina’s World Cup 2010 qualifier vs. Chile), and dreams of returning to Boca Juniors (where he played the past season, providing boatloads of assists and game-winning goals). However, any destination would do if it means getting away from Villareal and Pellegrini.
Ernesto Javier Chevantón
In August 2006, he transferred from AS Monaco to Sevilla for €8m. Since then, the Uruguayan scored 4 in La Liga and 4 in the UEFA Cup. Pretty average, but not too bad considering the competition for a striker role at the club. Since then however, Chevantón and Sevilla’s relationship got sour: he wanted to go to Recreativo Huelva, the clubs couldn’t agree on a price, and the transfer failed. Such a shame, because the ex-Lecce player was in absolutely storming form while playing in the Serie A. Given his current situation, he could make his return to Italy quite soon.
Miguel Ángel Mista
Atletico Madrid
When the name “Mista” gets mentioned, one immediately thinks about the La Liga topscorer of 2004 (19 goals that year), but even with that resumé a 29-year old will have a hard time finding space, especially in a team who already has Sergio Aguëro, Diego Forlán, Simão, and José Antonio Reyes. He cost Atletico €4m to be transferred from Valencia, and his price tag has varied very little since then.
Andrés D’Alessandro
Only €3.5m: that’s how much Zaragoza paid German club Wolfsburg to obtain the services of ‘El Mandrake’ (or ‘El Cabezon’ if you prefer), who had a brief spell at Pompey in the meantime. Once compared as a Diego Maradona successor (a title hastily bestowed way too many times in this past decade), D’Alessandro’s playing time is currently limited by the good form of Pablo Aimar, offensive midfielder behind Ricardo Oliveira and Diego Milito. He’s had a regular role as a substitute so far, so it’ll be surprising to see him leave in January. He’s definitely not on the ‘unavailable’ list however.
Lukas Podolski
Bayern Munich
The transfer from FC Köln cost Bayern Munich €10m, and it seemed money well invested after his promising performance at the 2006 World Cup. However, his first season at his new club was punctuated by highs and lows, and this season he’s been effectively relegated to a bench role. The reason? Best summarized with 3 names: Ribéry, Toni, Klose. Luck isn’t on Poldi’s side either: Klose’s recent injury took place precisely at the time of the international break, so when the Bundesliga resumes it’ll be Miroslav’s turn once again.
Daniel Van Buyten
Bayern Munich
Last Spring he was scoring against AC Milan in the Champions League, now the Belgian central back has lost his place in the Bayern team: manager Ottmar Hitzfeld is relying more and more on the Lucio-Demichelis tandem, so Van Buyten is forced to watch his teammates from the sidelines. His transfer from FC Hamburg cost Bayern €8m, but it’s unlikely the German giants will let him go, unless a substantial offer comes through.
Marcelo Gallardo
Paris SG
Another one of those Argentines getting labelled ‘New Maradona’ at some point or another. With now 31 years of age, Gallardo is not even a regular starter in Paris St.Germain, a record-beating team which year to year succeeds in getting from bad to worse. Only 1 full 90 minutes match, 5 games as a substitute, but the little Argentine is worth a lot more, despite the age factor. €5m should be sufficient to start negotiations with the Parisian club.

Our ‘Top 10 List’ ends here, but there’s several other names that could be added to that list.

For example Roberto Soldado (the ex-Osasuna star which is struggling really hard to find playing time among the Real Madrid galacticos) or Mohamed Kallon (who lost the confidence of AS Monaco coach Ricardo Gomes, and is trying to find a transfer to the Premiership). There are also names such as Nuno Valente (Everton), Patrick Müller (Lyon), or Georgios Samaras (Man City).

In light of the January transfer window, there’s some real bargains to be made…

Marco Pantanella writes on the mCalcio blog

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