Ranking Newcastle United’s 33 weirdest Premier League signings

Quick Reads

If there’s one thing you can say about Newcastle United, it’s that they live at football’s extremes.

They’ve flirted with the Premier League’s upper reaches, making it into the Champions League on multiple occasions, but have also been relegated from the division twice.

They’ve hired a Champions League-winning manager but also given the job to a former player with no managerial experience, a former player with no managerial experience outside Canada, and Alan Pardew.

The same applies to the club’s transfer policy, with one season seeing the Magpies bring in 20 players and another seeing just two arrive at St James’ Park.

There was also a period in which the club would seemingly only sign French or Francophone players, but just one has arrived since the club’s top-flight return in 2017.

It was tough to condense this list to just 33 names, but here are Newcastle’s weirdest Premier League signings, ranked not by quality but by weirdness.

33. Curtis Good

Part of the dubious nominative determinism crowd along with Rodrigo Defendi and Danny Invincibile, Good’s six years and no league games at Newcastle were enough for him to return to his former club Melbourne Heart only to find they’d changed their name.

It’s football’s equivalent of coming home from holiday to find someone has moved all your furniture around and also you’re suddenly in your mid-20s when you were barely of legal drinking age when you left.

32. Stephen Ireland

If you’re going to sign a player on a four-month loan, it helps if he’s not going to be injured for three of those months.

Ireland was the closest thing Newcastle had to Arsenal’s Kim Källstrom, except instead of scoring a penalty in an FA Cup semi-final he posed with his shirt lifted up at the Tup Tup Palace.

31. Franck Dumas

Back in 1999, Newcastle spent a good chunk of their transfer budget on new centre-backs Marcelino and Alain Goma. They already had Nikos Dabizas and Steve Howey, while youngster Aaron Hughes (yes, Aaron Hughes was once young) was pushing for a first-team spot.

Why they needed to also bring in Franck Dumas is anyone’s guess, but the Frenchman played just seven times before leaving less than a year later.

Incidentally, the half a million he cost is roughly what he was later ruled to owe the French authorities in unpaid taxes.

30. Romain Amalfitano

We’re not saying Newcastle meant to sign Romain’s brother Morgan, who played for Marseille and made his French debut a couple of months earlier, but that would make a lot of sense.

29. Kevin Mbabu

A lot of Newcastle’s weirder signings are those which never looked like making sense and then didn’t, so it’s refreshing to find one which sort of worked, only for the club to mess things up anyway.

Mbabu starred on his debut against Chelsea, only to be then loaned out twice and sold. He’s now a key member of the Swiss national team which beat Belgium 5-2 to make the UEFA Nations League semi-finals.

28. Ivan Toney

Having been let down in the past by signings from footballing giants such as Barcelona and Real Madrid, the club decided in 2015 to turn towards that other sporting behemoth, Northampton Town.

Toney came on for his debut with Newcastle 2-1 up against Chelsea – one minute later it was 2-2. He left the club after three years, four games and no goals.

27. Jean-Alain Boumsong

Newcastle chose not to sign free agent Jean-Alain Boumsong in the summer of 2004, opting instead to pay £8million for him the following January.

This might have still paid off over time if the Frenchman had enjoyed a long and fruitful career in the north-east but instead he was sold at a near-£5million loss just 18 months later. Well done everyone.

26 and 25. Sylvain Distin and Louis Saha

Newcastle United have rarely been the sort of club to hold fire on extravagant deals out of a fear they might not work out, and this makes the reluctance to secure permanent deals for future Premier League regulars Distin and Saha all the more weird.

The Saha loan might have been easier to explain away if the club hadn’t been prepared to fork out nearly £30million that season on players including Silvio Marić, Laurent Charvet and Garry Brady. Who’s Garry Brady, I hear you ask…

24. Garry Brady

Nine league appearances for Spurs, the longest of them lasting half an hour. Nine league appearances for Newcastle too – at least he was consistent.

23. Stephane Guivarc’h

In the summer of 1998, Kenny Dalglish was given funds to sign a hero of France’s victorious 1998 World Cup squad, but he presumably wasn’t given a choice when it came to which one.

Guivarc’h stuck around until November, which is still longer than Dalglish, and as of 2016 he sold swimming pools for a living.

22 and 21. Ian Rush and John Barnes

When Newcastle lost David Ginola and Les Ferdinand to Tottenham, they needed to move quickly to sign replacements. That is the only instance of the phrase ‘move quickly’ you’ll hear about either Barnes or Rush in a Newcastle United shirt.

Barnes was 33 when he arrived and Rush was 35. The former actually top-scored for the club that season, which sounds impressive before you learn he top-scored with six goals in 26 games.

20. Daniel Cordone

Considering pretty much every eligible striker gets a chance to play for Argentina at some point in their career (honestly, Diego Maradona called up one guy after seeing him win the World Cup in a dream), it says a lot that Daniel Cordone never got the chance.

Newcastle signed him when he was 26, uncapped, and the proud wearer of this haircut, so they’re not the only ones who should have known better.

19. Seydou Doumbia

When you make a panic-signing in an effort to stave off relegation, it helps if you then put him on the pitch for more than 29 minutes. What was the plan here?

18. Brian Pinas

We can only imagine Newcastle looked at those stories about Alan Shearer playing in goal during a trial and decided they wouldn’t make the same mistake twice with converted keeper Pinas.

He played zero games for the club, either in goal or on his new position on the wing, and didn’t even give a single commentator a chance to make a dick joke on live TV.

17. Des Hamilton

In the 1996-97 season , Newcastle United broke the world transfer record to bring in Alan Shearer from Blackburn. They also spent £2.5million on Des Hamlton, whose most notable characteristic is not actually being named Desmond.

He somehow played one of his 18 Newcastle games in a Champions League tie at Camp Nou in what we assume must have been a clerical error or bizarre practical joke.

16. Siem de Jong

When you sign a player who was previously laid low with a collapsed lung, you’re taking a risk: a risk that he will again be laid low with a collapsed lung. You can probably guess where we’re going with this.

That’s right, he missed part of his second season when a broken contact lens went into his eye and almost blinded him. Oh, and he also suffered a second collapsed lung.

At times it felt as though his freak injuries were part of a promotional campaign for a sixth Final Destination film, but it turns out he was just really, really unlucky.

15. Michael Bridges

Speaking of predictable runs, Michael Bridges’ spell at St James’ Park was one of those gambles that’s more sticking your money on green rather than on red or black.

The striker had been a phenomenal talent for Sunderland and in his debut season at Leeds, but a horrible run with injuries meant he had gone more than three years without a goal when he joined up with Bobby Robson’s squad.

Obviously he didn’t score, but he would at least end up having a happier time of things with Carlisle not too long after.

14. Xisco

Kevin Keegan wanted to sign Thierry Henry in 2008. Xisco wasn’t Thierry Henry.

He did score on his Premier League debut, which is pretty impressive considering we still can’t be 100% sure he even ever existed.

13. Fumaça

Is it weird that Newcastle signed a player on loan from a lower-league team in Brazil? Only a little. Is it weird that they were the fifth English club to do so? Extremely.

Looking through the midfielder’s career path, it’s hard to tell whether he was a real footballer or a one-man conspiracy à la Kaiser. Frankly, we’re not sure we even want to know.

12. Lionel Pérez

If you’re going to sign a player from your fiercest rivals, it’s best not to go after the one who makes it look like they’ve played a practical joke on you.

Pérez is best known among Sunderland fans as the keeper on the receiving end of that Eric Cantona chip. He’s also best known among Newcastle fans as the keeper on the receiving end of that Eric Cantona chip, because he never actually made an appearance for the Magpies.

11. Ronny Johnsen

Signing a defender with well-renowned injury troubles is almost forgivable if you sign him direct from the big club where he enjoyed his proudest moments. What you don’t want to do is sign him from his next club after it became clear he was more injury than man.

Johnsen played five times for Newcastle. They won only one of those games.

10. Shefki Kuqi

When you’ve just sold your top scorer for £35million, you’re going to need to go big on his replacement if you want to placate the fans.

Newcastle, for some reason, interpreted ‘going big’ as a reference to the size of Andy Carroll’s replacement rather than his cost.

Kuqi arrived on a free after being released by Swansea in the division below, and contributed exactly zero goals. He was more or less the same height as Carroll, but that’s where the like-for-like comparisons end.

9. Lamine Diatta

Newcastle clearly saw something we didn’t in Besiktas’ 8-0 defeat at Anfield because they moved to snap up the Turkish side’s central defender Lamine Diatta in the wake of the game.

We say ‘in the wake’ – Diatta had gone months without a game when he moved to England, but that all changed at St James’ Park. That’s right, he played nine minutes.

The most surprising thing about the Senegal international is that he was signed two months after Sam Allardyce left the club.

8. Olivier Bernard

Olivier Bernard was a steal when he moved to Newcastle in 2000. Sadly, they didn’t heed the warnings to never return to the scene of the crime.

Bernard managed a grand total of zero minutes in his second spell, because what were people expecting?

7. Pavel Srniček

Re-signing a 26-year-old former player is one thing. Re-signing a 36-year-old former player a year later, after that 26-year-old failed to make an appearance might be considered foolish.

Srniček did at least make it onto the pitch after his return, and he remains a much-loved player in the north-east with tributes paid by fans following his tragic death in 2015, but there was a sense in 2006 that the powers-that-be temporarily forgot you were allowed to sign players who hadn’t played for you before.

6. Michael Richardson

“Who’s Michael Richardson?” I hear you ask. Well, he’s that electrician who Newcastle signed from non-league football in 2010 in the hope that he’d turn into a Premier League striker.

How did it turn out? Let me refer you to the first sentence of this entry.

5. Paul Dalglish

Sure, Kenny Dalglish signed a frankly ridiculous 20 players in the 1997-98 season, but at least none of them were his own son, right?

*Checks notes* oh no, that’s not good.

4. John Burridge

When we did the equivalent piece for West Ham, we implied no one born in the 1940s could have possibly made a Premier League squad.

We were right, but only just – Burridge, born in 1951, enjoyed a Shiltonesque renaissance when Newcastle brought him in as back-up to Srniček in 1994.

Obviously he didn’t actually play for them, but he did play in the top-flight for Manchester City after leaving Newcastle.

3. Nacho González

Kevin Keegan wanted to sign Bastian Schweinsteiger in 2008. Nacho González wasn’t Bastian Schweinsteiger, and who can be certain if he was even Nacho González?

I’ve got a joke for you: Q: What do you call a Spanish-speaking midfielder who doesn’t belong to you and forces your much-loved manager to quit in protest at the club going behind his back to bring in a player they’d only ever watched on YouTube? A: You call him loan signing.

2. Facundo Ferreyra

Newcastle must have accidentally signed the wrong Facundo Ferreyra – that’s the only explanation we can think of for a guy with goals everywhere he’s played not even doing enough to get on the pitch in a competitive game after signing on loan in 2014.

Even worse, that same window saw Newcastle bring in the right Emmanuel Rivière.

1. Sol Campbell

When we had a look back at Sol Campbell’s arrival at Newcastle from Arsenal in 2010 I was confused. Had Campbell really stuck around at the Emirates that long?

Of course, we were forgetting the centre-back had a second spell with the Gunners, not just after his Portsmouth stint but also after that bizarre one-game-and-out run at Notts County.

Newcastle signed him after all of this, presumably because all the red flags waved in their direction got mixed up with the ones telling Leon Best he was offside.

By Tom Victor


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