Angel Di Maria's move from Real Madrid to Manchester United in the summer of 2014 tops the list of biggest transfer failures in the last three campaigns, according to a study measuring the number of minutes played. Arsenal star Alexis Sanchez, in contrast, is considered the most profitable signing, after the Chilean international enjoyed an impressive debut campaign in the Premier League following his arrival from Barcelona.
Di Maria moved to Old Trafford for a club record £59.7m ($92.5m, €81.7m) deal after leading Real Madrid to the Champions League crown in the previous campaign. But the Argentina international failed to replicate that form under Louis van Gaal, playing just 2,004 minutes all season before the Dutch boss opted to sell him to Paris Saint Germain for around £44.3m.
Meanwhile, Sanchez, who joined Arsenal from Barcelona in a deal worth £32m, played 4,310 minutes in his first season for the Gunners, scoring 25 goals in 52 appearances and leading his side to the FA Cup.
The latest Soccerex Transfer Review by Prime Time Sport found Di Maria's former teamate Marouane Fellaini, bought from Everton by Van Gaal's predecessor David Moyes, was the second-worst piece of business, while an Everton purchase, striker Romelu Lukaku, was ranked just behind Sanchez at the top end.
"Former Manchester United midfielder Ángel Di María tops the list as the biggest disappointment of the last three seasons while Marouane Fellaini sits second," the study revealed. "Alexis Sanchez was the most profitable signing last season in Europe (playing 86% of minutes), followed by Lukaku, David Luiz and James Rodríguez. Herrera, Di Maria and Shaw (injured) played just 55%, 48% and 33% of the minutes respectively."
The Soccerex Transfer Review also points out that Tottenham are, alongside United, the squad with the most unsuccessful signings in recent years after the failed overhaul following the departure of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid in the summer of 2013.
The study added, "€650m worth of players signed by Premier League sides over the last three seasons were only used in 50% or less of the total minutes of their club's season. Manchester United (€161m) and Tottenham (€138m) topped the list of players that failed to succeed, spending a combined €300m on 12 players. Manchester City (€73m), Liverpool (€69m), Arsenal (€47m) and Chelsea (€45m) also spent highly on players who failed to deliver."