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Inside the hire: How Keegan Bradley landed the Ryder Cup captaincy

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Inside the hire: How Keegan Bradley landed the Ryder Cup captaincy

NEW YORK — The Google Meet call lasted an hour and a half but was decidedly wrapped within five minutes.

Now that Tiger Woods was officially bowing out — after months, if not years, of being the frontrunner — who would captain the 2025 U.S. Ryder Cup team at Bethpage Black?

A five-point loss at Marco Simone in Rome stained the U.S. team’s memory. European team captain Luke Donald had been reappointed in his role only eight weeks after the stomping. Suddenly, with Woods finally deciding that the captaincy was too much to handle on top of the PGA Tour-PIF negotiations, the Americans were tasked with ideating a backup plan. The clock ticked. Thirteen months remain until the 45th Ryder Cup.

Outgoing PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, PGA of America president John Lindert, vice president Don Rea and U.S. team manager John Wood sat down for a video call during the Travelers Championship last month to decide on the next U.S. captain.

The leftover candidates all stemmed from the Ryder Cup “task force” pipeline — a system the U.S. team implemented in 2014 that shuffles PGA Tour players through assistant captain roles en route to the captaincy. The list, which included Ryder Cup stalwarts like Fred Couples, Stewart Cink and two-time captain Davis Love III, boasted unmatched experience in the biennial event. But none struck a chord in the way the Americans needed. After a crushing loss in Rome, the U.S. team had to think outside the box. Zach Johnson, who has been critiqued extensively for his poor leadership at Marco Simone, was not a candidate.

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Woods’ decision to decline the 2025 captaincy opened the door for a “generational change,” according to a source directly involved in the decision, who was granted anonymity in order to speak freely. It was time for the Americans to “rip the Band-Aid off” and take a risk.

Waugh — days away from announcing he would be stepping down from his PGA role — was the first to raise Keegan Bradley’s name during the Ryder Cup Committee call, per the source. Based on a list of names compiled by Waugh, the group sifted through possibilities. Some were expected, others seemingly came out of left field. A name was floated who had never played in a Ryder Cup.

But only one individual prompted a 10-second pause from all six people in the meeting: Bradley.

“When we landed on Keegan, everyone’s ears perked up and we were like, yeah, this is the guy,” said Wood, who has caddied in six Ryder Cups. “It was a pretty expansive list. We didn’t want to leave anyone out, certainly. When we got to Keegan, it was a unanimous, quick decision.”

Bradley had immense passion for the Ryder Cup, won a PGA Championship, played college golf at St. John’s University, and once practiced weekly at Bethpage Black with his teammates. Spieth quickly voiced his excitement. “There are some choices that don’t sound like a lot of fun,” the three-time major champion said, according to the same source. “Playing for Keegan sounds like fun.” Minutes later, the committee reached their final decision.

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Bradley — a 38-year-old who was snubbed from the 2023 team and hasn’t played in the event since 2014 — was going to be the next Ryder Cup captain.

He had no idea he was even in the running.


The U.S. Ryder Cup organization needed to change.

Initially, the Ryder Cup “task force” was created to facilitate a transformation in the U.S. structure, which had long-appointed captains based on career accomplishments. It built out a plan to introduce familiar faces to the U.S. team room and create continuity from event to event, including at the Presidents Cup. But each time a captain leaned on those who had been in the big chair before him instead of new voices as vice-captains, it created the same problem Woods and Phil Mickelson had been against a decade ago — leaders that were more familiar with the Champions Tour than the modern-day PGA Tour.

As Waugh told the group, according to the source, the task force “was done to change and now it’s become an agent of non-change.”

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Johnson’s leadership during the 2023 Ryder Cup represented the problem to its core. He chose Love, Couples, Cink, Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker as his vice-captains, creating a significant generational gap between players (average age of 30.33) and leadership (55.6). Then Johnson used his captain’s picks to select Spieth, Thomas and Rickie Fowler, players he was known to hang out with on the PGA Tour. Thomas had the worst season of his career and Spieth’s wife birthed their second child two weeks prior. Johnson still leaned on familiar pairings (like Thomas and Spieth), going against certain team members’ wishes but listening to others. The plan backfired, and Johnson was accused of favoritism and perpetuating a “boys club.” At least one former U.S. Ryder Cup team member said that he hopes that Bradley can provide a reset.


A disastrous loss in Rome stained Zach Johnson’s reputation and created a conversation about change within the U.S. team. (Paul Ellis/AFP via Getty Images)

There wasn’t a crisis meeting after the team’s crushing loss in Rome, but there was a concerted effort to escape an “echo chamber of sameness.” The view from the Ryder Cup Committee was that the U.S. team needed to modernize, and Bradley’s captaincy would be the first big step in the right direction.

Woods’ decision to remove himself from the running made the move possible. Since turning down the opportunity to captain the 2023 squad in Rome, Woods has been slated to lead the U.S. squad at Bethpage Black. For months Woods communicated with the PGA of America, pushing back the deadline for his decision while he contemplated whether taking on the role was possible. When Woods takes on a task, he is known to give it 100 percent of his dedication. While serving as a player director on the PGA Tour Policy Board, helping to reunite the currently divided pro game, he couldn’t make that commitment to the Ryder Cup. Shortly after the U.S. Open, Woods officially turned down the captaincy.

“That does not mean I wouldn’t want to captain a team in the future. If and when I feel it is the right time, I will put my hat in the ring for this committee to decide,” Woods said in a statement.

There were signs of change before the 15-time major champion’s decision.

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A brand new role, the U.S. team “manager,” was created and filled by Wood, the caddie-turned-NBC Sports analyst. Task force members were excluded from the conversations around the plan-B captain list. “I’m officially out of the loop now,” Love III said prior to Bradley’s official announcement. “I haven’t heard anything from anybody, not even Zach.” Phil Mickelson removed himself from the Ryder Cup picture when he took on a ring-leader role in the rise of LIV Golf.

There were a variety of factors that led the group to Bradley. But Woods stepping away allowed for something dramatic.


As a Golf Channel broadcast countdown commenced, Bradley sat next to the PGA of America president and the glistening Ryder Cup trophy at the Nasdaq building in Times Square. Eyes wide, he collected himself before answering questions about a job opportunity that he never interviewed for.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be more surprised by anything in my entire life,” Bradley said on Tuesday. “I had no idea. It took a while for it to sink in. I wasn’t fully comfortable with some of the people who were passed over. So that was a heavy thought and moment.”

Bradley was first alerted of the Ryder Cup Committee’s decision during a phone call on June 23, the Sunday evening after the final round of the Travelers Championship in Hartford, Conn. Waugh, Johnson and Lindert contacted the Vermont native and delivered the news.

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Days prior, the group had mentioned Bradley in the conversation for Ryder Cup captain for the very first time. They waited until the tournament was complete to reveal their decision.

A year ago, Bradley was left off the U.S. Ryder Cup team. In a year, he’ll lead it and will be the youngest since Arnold Palmer in 1963. Several days went by before Bradley could officially accept the position. At first, he didn’t think he was deserving — and he still can’t quite explain why he was chosen.

“I don’t know, I’m still figuring that out,” Bradley said. “But I know that I can do this job.”


The U.S. Ryder Cup team will depend on Bradley’s enthusiasm for the event as part of his leadership strategy. (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

Before signing off, Bradley spoke to Woods extensively about the responsibilities — he even called up the 82-time tour winner the morning of his press conference. He had frequent conversations with Waugh over three days. Bradley didn’t waver in his acceptance of the captaincy, but he needed some additional support. He reminded himself that he wasn’t just selected by board members in suits. He was picked by two of his peers: Thomas and Spieth.

“As a player myself, the opinions of the players are the most important,” Bradley said. “That’s what meant the most to me.”

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Bradley’s close alignment with his team members will mark a refresh in U.S. Ryder Cup leadership strategy. On Tuesday, the six-time PGA Tour winner expressed his desire to appoint younger vice-captains. He was honest in saying that he’ll still work to qualify for the team via the Ryder Cup points list (the top six players in the standings make the team currently, though as captain he indicated he may want to add more automatic qualifiers). He denounced any biases against LIV players in his future selections.

“I’m going to have the 12 best players on the team,” Bradley said. “I don’t care where they play… I’m not worried about the LIV stuff.”

Youth. Analytics. A personal connection to Bethpage Black. Bradley might have been a shocking choice for the Ryder Cup captaincy, but he wasn’t a nonsensical one.

He has become the latest avatar for change, and the U.S. team is staking its reputation — and its pursuit of the Ryder Cup trophy — on his success.

(Top photo: Seth Wenig / AP)

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USWNT defender Tierna Davidson on 'difficult situation' created by Korbin Albert's previous posts

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USWNT defender Tierna Davidson on 'difficult situation' created by Korbin Albert's previous posts

U.S. women’s national team defender Tierna Davidson has described anti-LGBTQ social media posts previously shared by teammate Korbin Albert as creating “a difficult situation that has obviously affected me personally given what she was speaking on.”

Davidson, who is openly queer, went on Sarah Spain’s podcast, “Good Game with Sarah Spain”, and talked about her feelings regarding Albert’s actions, which included a repost of a sermon given in a Christian worship space talking about how being gay and “feeling transgender” is wrong.

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Albert apologized for the post on her Instagram, which recirculated in March 2024. Since then USWNT head coach Emma Hayes has publicly backed Albert, saying in a June press conference, “There’s no denying there’s been a lot of work that’s been going on in the background to work with Korbin.”

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On Spain’s podcast, Davidson said, “I think that it’s difficult, because as a team we have always wanted to be very welcoming to all of our fans, to all players that walk through the locker room, and so to have that in our space is very difficult.”

The USWNT has previously used its platform to support trans rights, among other topics, both individually and collectively. In 2022 during the SheBelieves Cup, players wore wrist tape bearing the message “Protect Trans Kids.” The gesture came during a game in Texas, where, at the time, Texas governor Greg Abbott referred to children transitioning as “child abuse” and directed licensed professionals who work with children to report the parents of trans children to state authorities.

“Whether or not it’s something that you grew up with, or it was instilled upon you from a young age and you might not know better, it is something that can hurt other people,” Davidson said.

“It was difficult for me when it first happened, and it’s been hard to hear how fans have been taking it because I feel like I want to be able to represent the queer community really well on this team. I want to have fans feel really welcome and feel like they can see themselves on this field in this team. I don’t want there to be any sort of feeling that they’re not welcome here.”

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Davidson also said she thought Albert had “gone through a lot of learning,” in accord with Hayes’ statements about any possible private conversations being held within the team.

“We have to learn from what we do in our lives and how people react to it, and understand the hurt that we can cause,” said Davidson. “I have always believed in the ability for people to learn and for people to change and to evolve and that sometimes requires a very difficult experience, and I think this is that moment for her…. It’s up to her. But I think she’s continuing to do that education and it’s important she expresses that as she learns. So I think the ball’s kind of in her court for that.”

Davidson also spoke to Spain about Hayes’ work with the team in the short time they’ve had to prepare for the Olympics, including trying to instill more tactical flexibility into the team and being able to adjust to various opposition tactics on the field.

Davidson said, “I really feel like we’re playing a chess match… You might notice some differences. Certainly you might notice players in different positions, but also how we’re moving the ball, the spaces we want to get into or how we get there.”

Davidson’s comment on Albert can be heard in full at the 26:44 mark in Spain’s podcast.

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(Photo: Harry How, Getty Images)

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Coco Gauff to be flag bearer for Team USA at Paris Olympics

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Coco Gauff to be flag bearer for Team USA at Paris Olympics

Coco Gauff will become the first tennis player in history to act as Team USA flag bearer when she joins LeBron James at the opening ceremony for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

Gauff, 20, is the world No. 2 and defending U.S. Open champion. She will also become the youngest American flag bearer in Olympic history, overtaking Cindy Nelson, who fulfilled the role at the 1976 Innsbruck Winter Games in Austria.

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Gauff is representing Team USA in the women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles, joining world No. 6 Jessica Pegula in the women’s doubles and men’s No. 11 Taylor Fritz in the mixed event.

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She had initially been selected to play in the Tokyo Games, but a COVID-19 diagnosis forced her to sit out in 2021.

The favorite for the singles title is world No. 1 Iga Swiatek, who has won the last three French Open titles at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, the venue for the Olympic tennis events. Swiatek has an 11-1 head-to-head record against Gauff, including a recent victory in the semifinals of this year’s French Open in June.

Gauff, who won the women’s doubles title at that tournament with partner Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, will hope to defeat her during the Games, where Siniakova will play with Wimbledon champion and 10-time doubles Grand Slam winner Barbora Krejcikova.

The draws for the tennis events will take place Thursday at 11 a.m. in Paris/5 a.m. ET.

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'Bleak', 'Gutting', 'Disastrous': What was your Premier League club's worst transfer window and why?

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'Bleak', 'Gutting', 'Disastrous': What was your Premier League club's worst transfer window and why?

When transfer windows go right, they can set a manager and a team up for a successful season or kick off a new era.

When they go wrong, however, they can go very wrong.

From the early departures of managers after a disappointing summer to relegations or even financial turmoil, a disappointing transfer window can prove disastrous for clubs.

Having already brought you our selection of the best transfer windows for each club last week, now it’s time to look at those that didn’t quite work out so well.


Get the latest transfer news on The Athletic¬

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Worst window: Summer 2015

If there was a window to sum up the frustrations with Arsenal’s passivity in the market it was summer 2015, when their only signing was a 33-year-old goalkeeper.

Though that goalkeeper was Petr Cech — who later kept 16 clean sheets to win the Golden Glove — the 2015-16 campaign was one of opportunity. Arsenal’s traditional rivals faltered and they finished second, 10 points behind Leicester City and there has always been a thought of ‘what if’ had they invested in even one outfield player that summer.

A close runner-up is the summer window of 2011. Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy — all entering their mid-20s — left despite being vital parts of Arsene Wenger’s side. Arsenal then signed Gervinho and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, and although their deadline-day dash brought Mikel Arteta and Per Mertesacker, it was a scattergun end to a gutting summer.

Art de Roché

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Should Arsenal have gone stronger in summer 2015? (Ian Kington/AFP via Getty Images)

Worst window: Summer 2015

The summer of 2015 was when everything went wrong. The season started — and basically ended — in Bournemouth on the opening day, where new signing Rudy Gestede scored the only goal to give Villa three points and the only sense of optimism in an altogether horrendous campaign, finishing rank bottom with 17 points.

That opening-day win served as a false dawn, with Micah Richards captain and one of 12 new signings that joined. Gestede came and went, the three Jordans — Ayew, Veretout and Amavi — became annoyingly good once they left Villa, as did a young Adama Traore.

Scott Sinclair was already on the slide and Joleon Lescott’s time at Villa would be known for his apparent accidental tweeting of a new car immediately after relegation was sealed. Idrissa Gueye was the only solid buy. A bleak summer.

Jacob Tanswell

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Worst window: Summer 2022

Bournemouth’s hit rate since their first promotion to the Premier League in 2015 has been good, based on recruiting unearthed gems and, recently, young talent from abroad.

Still, Scott Parker’s brief top-flight stay in 2022 was littered with in-fighting and squabbles over recruitment, exacerbated by the ownership flux, with incoming owner Bill Foley waiting to be rubber-stamped.

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It meant Parker had what he viewed as little support in the market, claiming his side were “under-equipped”. Goalkeeper Neto and midfielder Joe Rothwell signed for free, while resources stretched to sign Marcus Tavernier and Marcos Senesi — two good players who are flourishing under Andoni Iraola, but not who Parker wanted.

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Jacob Tanswell


Worst window: Summer 2022

Fans thought the 2020 window had been a disaster after Brentford lost the Championship play-off final to their west London rivals Fulham and then sold Ollie Watkins and Said Benrahma. But Ivan Toney and Vitaly Janelt arrived and Brentford finished the season by winning the play-offs so it looks far better in hindsight.

The reverse logic could be applied to 2022. Keane Lewis-Potter, Aaron Hickey and Mikkel Damsgaard were signed for around £45million ($58.1m at today’s conversion rates) combined but injuries and dips in form mean they have not shown their best. Thomas Strakosha arrived as competition for David Raya but left after two years having made more appearances for Albania (12) than Brentford during that time (six). Ben Mee joined for free but Christian Eriksen turned down a contract to join Manchester United.

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It may be too soon to definitively call this their worst window in history but it certainly stands out as being below par by Brentford’s lofty standards over the last decade.

Jay Harris


Worst window: January 2018

Brighton’s business has not always been as good as it has been in the majority of recent windows.

The outcomes were sketchy when they were still finding their feet as a Premier League club after promotion in 2017.

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In January 2018, they splashed out around £14million on Jurgen Locadia, a club-record outlay at that time. The forward proved a big disappointment, playing only 46 games and scoring six goals. Brighton make big annual profits now, but they were still incurring substantial losses back then, so it was a costly mistake.


Jurgen Locadia was a club-record signing at the time (Steve Bardens/Getty Images)

The same was true of Alireza Jahanbakhsh in the summer of 2018 for £17million from AZ Alkmaar, but fans still fondly recall the Iran winger’s overhead kick against Chelsea. Also, his arrival was accompanied by Yves Bissouma and Jason Steele.

Andy Naylor


Chelsea

Worst window: Summer 2017

The disastrous summer of 2017 still sparks shudders in Chelsea supporters.

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Fresh from winning the Premier League title, Antonio Conte felt he had earned a big voice in Chelsea’s recruitment. He submitted a list of high-profile targets that included Romelu Lukaku, Virgil van Dijk, Alex Sandro, Radja Nainggolan and Kyle Walker.

Chelsea tried to bring Lukaku back from Everton but were outflanked by Jose Mourinho and Manchester United, before pivoting to Alvaro Morata of Real Madrid. Conte also had to settle for Davide Zappacosta (Torino), Tiemoue Bakayoko (Monaco) and Danny Drinkwater (Leicester City), with the latter pair becoming liabilities long before they were released as free agents.


Danny Drinkwater was among Chelsea’s 2017 signings (Ben Stansall/AFP via Getty Images)

The sale of Nemanja Matic to United for £40million aged well but deprived Conte of vital midfield experience. The club also took a loss on sending Juan Cuadrado back to Serie A and sold Nathan Ake to Bournemouth for £20million — much less than his peak transfer value.

Liam Twomey


Worst window: Summer 2017

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A memorable window for all the wrong reasons with Palace’s new manager Frank de Boer sacked 10 days after it closed, just four games into the Premier League season — all of which his team lost, all without scoring.

Mamadou Sakho joined from Liverpool for £26million after an excellent loan spell in the second half of 2016-17 but was unable to reach those same levels again. Jairo Riedewald arrived from Ajax for £8m, and although he proved to be an excellent mentor for the club’s younger players, his contribution on the pitch was limited. He did, however, spend seven seasons at Palace covering various positions and made 106 appearances in all competitions.

Midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek impressed to such an extent on a season’s loan from Chelsea that he made the England squad for the following summer’s World Cup, but Timothy Fosu-Mensah struggled at right-back after being loaned from Manchester United.

The squad had been insufficiently strengthened in this window but De Boer’s replacement Roy Hodgson was still able to guide them to an 11th-place finish.

Matt Woosnam

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Everton

Worst window: Summer 2017

There is an obvious answer here for anyone who follows Everton; one that shines a light on the glaring dysfunction of the Farhad Moshiri years.

Let’s go back to the summer of 2017 and the arrival of not one, not two… not even three… but four No 10s in the form of Wayne Rooney, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Davy Klaassen and Nikola Vlasic.

Mad, right? Well, that’s what happens when so many different people are feeding into the recruitment process — owners, board members, managers and other staff — and each one gets a pick. The bizarre splurge left Ronald Koeman’s side lacking balance — particularly out wide — and also led to financial problems later on.

A case study on how not to do your recruitment.

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Patrick Boyland


Davy Klaassen failed to impress (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Fulham

Worst window: Summer 2012

There have been some bad windows at Craven Cottage in recent years.

The summer of 2015 did bring Tim Ream, Tom Cairney and Ryan Fredericks, but it also brought nine other new players, the most notable of which was Jamie O’Hara. January 2014, meanwhile, saw a record fee spent on a striker, Kostas Mitroglou, who would play only 151 minutes (three appearances, zero goals) in the club’s unsuccessful fight against relegation.

But the winner here is the one at the start of the 2012-13 season.

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It set in motion a tricky decade, as Fulham sold Clint Dempsey and Mousa Dembele, their crown jewels at that time, to Tottenham Hotspur and their only signing that paid off was Dimitar Berbatov. The Bulgarian striker was a popular addition, but on his own couldn’t stem the tide.

This window marked the start of a downward spiral which would end in relegation the following season, and then four years in the Championship.

Peter Rutzler


Worst window: Summer 2020

Both of Ipswich’s summer windows pre-relegation featured costly mistakes: in 2001, destabilising a unified squad, and in 2018, replacing Championship players on the cheap with those of predominantly League One quality.

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But for the sheer volume of underwhelming signings, the 2020 summer transfer window takes it.

After ending the previous season 11th in League One — the club’s lowest finish since 1953 — just three permanent signings were made. David Cornell, Oliver Hawkins and Stephen Ward on free transfers in a feeble attempt to escape the third tier.

Only Ward became a regular and striker Hawkins managed just a single goal. All three left the club after one season.

Ali Rampling


Leicester City

Worst window: Summer 2021

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After just missing out on Champions League qualification in the previous two seasons, Leicester were looking to push to the next level as 2021-22 approached.

The business they did that summer may not have set the wheels in motion for a decline which brought relegation less than two years later, but it certainly was a factor. A total of £55million went on Patson Daka, Jannik Vestergaard and Boubakary Soumare, while Ryan Bertrand joined on a free.

Besides a few promising moments, striker Daka has not had the impact expected, and midfielder Soumare has also been a disappointment. Denmark international centre-back Vestergaard looked at first to be a disaster of a signing until his performances in the Championship last season earned him a new contract. Champions League winner and former England international Bertrand’s spell at Leicester was a mishap, due mostly to injuries, and he retired this summer aged 34.

The reality for clubs of Leicester’s stature is they must be prudent in recruitment and reinvest after selling a major asset. They cannot afford to get it wrong.

In summer 2021, when they didn’t sell a major asset, that’s exactly what happened.

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Rob Tanner


Worst window: Summer 2010

Rewind 14 years to the 2010-11 pre-season, and Liverpool were in a mess. Rafael Benitez’s reign had just ended, debts were piling up under the hated ownership of Tom Hicks and George Gillett, and fan protests were gathering pace.

Liverpool appointed Roy Hodgson as manager at the start of July and, with money tight, what followed proved to be a dreadful transfer window.

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The hype that surrounded signing Joe Cole on a free transfer from Chelsea proved misplaced, as the England midfielder flopped badly. Milan Jovanovic was another free-agent arrival that summer who ended up costing Liverpool a fortune in wages.

The names Christian Poulsen (£4.5million from Juventus) and Paul Konchesky (a reported £3.5m from Fulham) still send a shiver down a Kopite’s spine as they struggled badly and looked completely out of their depth.

Raul Meireles (£11.5million from Porto) was the only one of the new arrivals to give the club any kind of return on their investment.

It was all too much for star midfielder Javier Mascherano as he pushed through a move to Barcelona before the deadline. You could hardly blame him.

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James Pearce


Paul Konchesky was one of Liverpool’s stranger signings (Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Worst window: Summer 2012

City famously built on their 2011-12 Premier League title by bringing in Javi Garcia, Jack Rodwell, Matija Nastasic, Scott Sinclair and Maicon.

In fairness to them, this was the same summer they also tried to sign both Robin van Persie from Arsenal, losing out to Manchester United, and Eden Hazard of Lille, who chose new European champions Chelsea instead.

City were clearly trying to put the hammer down and cement their place at the top of English football (not to mention the fact that a few months later they were pushing hard to bring in Pep Guardiola from Barcelona as manager, not long after Roberto Mancini’s finest hour).

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They obviously felt the signings they did make in that window, including two young English players seen as having bags of potential, would be able to take the club forward, but none of the moves worked out and summer 2012 has gone down in history as a missed opportunity.

Sam Lee


Jack Rodwell’s move to City did not work out (Paul Thomas/Getty Images)

Manchester United

Worst window: Summer 2013

It’s the obvious answer. Sir Alex Ferguson and David Gill, the chief executive, had both departed at the end of the 2012-13 title-winning season. David Moyes had arrived from Everton as the new manager. Thiago Alcantara, Leighton Baines and Ander Herrera (who they did sign a year later) were pursued but eventually fumbled before Marouane Fellaini arrived on deadline day… for £4million more than the £23m release clause which ran out a month earlier.

A special mention to the summer(ish) window of 2020-21.

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Disrupted by Covid-19 and a mere 35-day gap between completing one season and beginning another, United pushed and pushed and pushed for Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, but to no avail. Instead, Edinson Cavani, Donny van de Beek, Alex Telles and Facundo Pellistri arrived in an assorted grab-bag.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer did well in the season that followed, with United runners-up in the Premier League and Europa League, League Cup semi-finalists and reaching the last eight of the FA Cup, but the club missed a crucial opportunity to back their manager while rivals were in a mild state of flux.

Carl Anka


Worst window: Summer 1997

John Barnes. Stuart Pearce. Ian Rush. How is that a bad window? Because this was 1997, not 1990. Barnes was 33, Pearce was 35 and Rush was 35.

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Far worse windows (summer and winter windows were introduced in 2002) were to come in terms of talent, but this was the tipping point for the next two decades: the Kevin Keegan bubble had burst, replaced by Kenny Dalglish’s stultifying pragmatism. Jon Dahl Tomasson and Shay Given also arrived, but out went David Ginola and Les Ferdinand, and Alan Shearer had a long-term injury.

The boom was over, contraction taking hold, a club being deflated like a soiled airbed after a festival.


John Barnes joined Newcastle at the wrong end of the 1990s (Clive Brunskill /Allsport via Getty Images)

Pearce was fine, and Barnes played in all but one of Newcastle’s Champions League matches, including the 3-2 win against Barcelona. Barnes was also Newcastle’s top scorer in the league, but with just six goals — the Entertainers had been thoroughly dismantled.

The Champions League run ended at the group stage and Newcastle finished 13th in the Premier League. Joylessness loomed. The sad cherry on top? Signing Paul Dalglish. Nice work if you can get it, which you can if your dad’s the manager.

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Worst window: January 2020

Before Cooper, there was Sabri Lamouchi. The old line about being able to cope with the despair but it’s the hope you can’t stand, was perfectly encapsulated for Forest fans by the 2019-20 season.

Under Lamouchi, Forest enjoyed a brilliant first half of that season. There were a few dips here and there but, by the end of January, they were not just ensconced in the unfamiliar surrounds of the play-off places, but knocking on the door of the automatics too. The first XI was good, but the thing that might have pushed them over the line was a few quality additions that January.

It would be unfair to blame the players who did arrive for the eventual collapse that would see them miss out on the play-offs in that Covid-interrupted season. But it did feel fitting that one of them, the striker Nuno da Costa, scored an own goal in the 4-1 home defeat to Stoke on the final day, which drove a stake through the already pretty dead heart of Forest’s promotion hopes.

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Nick Miller


Worst window: January 2018

Six words from January 2018 that are enough to bring back nightmares: Southampton sign Guido Carrillo for £19million.

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Guido Carrillo: The £19m striker chosen over Jimenez despite staff’s concerns

A few years on from the dreamy days of beating Inter Milan in the Europa League and Southampton’s infamous black box seemed to be faltering. Locked in a relegation battle under Mauricio Pellegrino — remember him? (Sorry for the reminder, these were desperate times.)

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Needless to say, striker Carrillo, the only arrival in that window despite the sale of Virgil van Dijk, was not the answer. He scored zero goals at a cost of £1.9million per appearance.

Nancy Froston


Tottenham

Worst window: Summer 2013

Supporters had to deal with the pain of waving goodbye to Gareth Bale in 2013 and, to make matters worse, Tottenham wasted the £85million they received from Real Madrid. Roberto Soldado scored 24 times for Valencia in La Liga during the 2012-13 season, which is more than he managed (16) across 76 appearances for Spurs in all competitions.

Erik Lamela is a cult hero but never truly fulfilled his potential following a £30million move from Roma. Paulinho lasted two years before he moved to China after barely making an impact. Nacer Chadli was a useful option from the bench but Etienne Capoue and Vlad Chiriches struggled.

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Apart from Lamela, the only other signing who qualified as a success was Christian Eriksen. He spent seven distinguished years with Spurs and was part of the team that came close to winning the Champions League in 2019.

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Jay Harris


Worst window: Summer 2022

In the summer of 2022, West Ham spent £165million on Gianluca Scamacca, Lucas Paqueta, Emerson Palmieri, Thilo Kehrer, Maxwel Cornet, Flynn Downes, Alphonse Areola and Nayef Aguerd — the most they had spent in a window.

But integrating eight players into the team proved difficult for manager David Moyes, which led to West Ham losing five of their first seven league games.

Scamacca and Kehrer have since joined Atalanta and Monaco respectively, Cornet has been an underwhelming signing, while West Ham are open to offers for Aguerd and Downes could rejoin Southampton having returned from his season-long loan. Only Paqueta, Palmieri and Areola have improved the side.

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Roshane Thomas


Worst window: Summer 2011

It may seem difficult to beat the summer of 2022, when Wolves spent a combined £80million on Matheus Nunes, Goncalo Guedes and Nathan Collins. But at least that side avoided relegation.

Eleven years earlier came a window just as poor but with worse consequences as Wolves broke up the limited but spirited squad Mick McCarthy had built and signed the higher-profile duo of Roger Johnson and Jamie O’Hara.

It was supposed to take the club to the next level — but the next level was down. Two relegations in two seasons were the result of disturbing the dressing-room dynamic.

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Steve Madeley

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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