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Remco Evenepoel: The Tour de France contender who might have played for Belgium at Euro 2024

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Remco Evenepoel: The Tour de France contender who might have played for Belgium at Euro 2024

Two storylines have been dominating Belgium’s back pages.

First, the make-up of Domenico Tedesco’s team for these European Championships — and in particular, a problem position at left-back, where Rennes centre-back Arthur Theate is expected to fill in.

Second? The physical condition of cyclist Remco Evenepoel, one of the three favourites to win the Tour de France, which begins on June 29. A victory for him there would be Belgium’s first in the race for 48 years.

The connection? In another world, Evenepoel as the Belgian left-back at Euro 2024 was a very real possibility.

The 24-year-old played for the academies of both Anderlecht and PSV Eindhoven, captaining Belgium up until under-16 level, and played with two of Belgium’s current squad: forwards Jeremy Doku and Lois Openda.

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Other past team-mates included Arsenal pair Jakub Kiwior and Albert Sambi Lokonga, while he shared a private training coach with Youri Tielemans and Michy Batshuayi, who were older but from the same area of Brussels.

“He was at the highest level,” Bob Browaeys, Evenepoel’s coach with Belgium Under-16s, tells The Athletic. “I never had a player with such a high-performance mindset. That was unbelievable.”

This is the story of how football helped create one of the world’s biggest cycling stars.


(Stuart Franklin/Getty Images,)

Eden Hazard’s mouth is open and the mirrored sunglasses cannot hide the pain etched on his face.

The ex-Chelsea and Belgium superstar, famously averse to physical conditioning during his playing career, is cycling up the lunar slopes of Mont Ventoux, one of the sport’s most iconic climbs.

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Clad in the kit of minor Belgian cycling team Intermarche-Wanty — the equivalent of turning up to five-a-side in a Leyton Orient shirt — his Instagram post is flooded with impressed messages. Thibaut Courtois, the Tour de France, and Evenepoel himself all have their say. “Fenomeno,” says Evenepoel.

Hazard’s post shows that, in Belgium, there are two sports of importance — cycling and football — and Evenepoel has lived them both. And despite Belgium’s golden football generation, the cyclists are invariably more beloved.

Eddy Merckx, widely considered the greatest cyclist of all time and another to comment on Hazard’s post, is Belgium’s greatest sporting son. In modernity, Evenepoel has won back-to-back Sportsman of the Year awards, despite the achievements and popularity of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku. Wout van Aert, another cyclist, won the previous two.


Evenepoel with cycling legend Eddy Merckx at an Anderlecht game in 2022 (Virginie Lefour/BELGA MAG/AFP via Getty Images)

Evenepoel’s father Patrick was a cyclist; not a major talent but still good enough to win the 1993 Fleche Wallone, a high-profile race in Belgium, before being forced into retirement with a heart condition. A great-grandfather, Frans Van Eeckhout, was also a professional. Remco, born in 2000, picked up their genes.

“At five years old, he accompanied me to the Gordel (a cycling tour around Brussels),” said Evenepoel’s grandfather Eduard in 2022. “He insisted on riding the 50 kilometers. He barely stopped twice. We had only removed the two stabilisers from his bike for a month.”

But Evenepoel’s first love was football, where he was a left-footed midfielder who amazed coaches with his ability to run. Diminutive and with a mop of shaggy hair, his first coaches nicknamed him “Smurf”.

“His gloves were bigger than his face,” former Anderlecht youth coach Marc Van Ransbeeck told Belgian newspaper DH. “He wanted to become a goalkeeper when he first joined and dreamed of being Daniel Zitka, the starter at that time.

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“But he already ran very well and had incredible endurance — I always compared it to a moped.”

Evenepoel was quickly moved outfield, where he formed a midfield partnership with Sambi Lokonga, now at Arsenal. The cyclist is an Arsenal fan and was at the Emirates Stadium for their 5-0 win over Chelsea on April 23.

“Lokonga is actually in the team I dreamed of being in, so he’s actually made my dream come true,” Evenepoel said two years ago.

Lokonga himself is similarly impressed at his former team-mate’s exploits. Evenepoel won the Vuelta a Espana in 2022, one of cycling’s three Grand Tours, and would likely have won the Giro d’Italia the following year, which he was leading, if not for a Covid-19 diagnosis.

“He was one year below me but sometimes the 1999 and 2000 players trained together, and so he trained with me,” Lokonga tells The Athletic “It’s crazy what he’s done. I know that when he was young, when we had to run up and down, he was already one of the best so that maybe helped with the distances you ride when you are a cyclist.”

When Evenepoel was in the under-10s, his father showed Anderlecht coaches a document. It was his son’s stress test results. The doctor had left a comment in the margins: “Never seen that in my career”. His coaches’ response was that Evenepoel was displaying triathlete numbers — and they were not far wrong.

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From an early age, Evenepoel was aware of some of the technical limitations in his game. He worked hard to improve his right foot, doing post-training ‘extras’ before he reached double-digits.

Nevertheless, his best attributes were always those where he didn’t need the ball at his feet: fitness and mentality.

“My style of play was a bit similar to how I ride a bike,” he has described. “I had a big engine and tried to cover every blade of grass.”

From 11 until 14, Evenepoel moved to the Netherlands to play in the academy of Dutch side PSV Eindhoven. His competitiveness was evident, frequently entering pitched table tennis battles with the father of his host family. However, in 2014, he moved back to Anderlecht for family reasons: his mother was ill in Brussels.

The same year, Evenepoel was called up to the Belgium Under-15s, which was the first time that Belgium Under-16 head coach Browaeys saw him play. The next year, when Evenepoel graduated, Brouwaeys kept him as captain.

“I spoke to him often in that role,” Browaeys tells The Athletic. “And I was always puzzled. He was so professional at such a young age; just 15, talking about his preparations for games, for his careers. He was special. Uncommon.”

“In the older age groups, you’re the right hand of the coach but that’s not always easy with the youth teams because they’re so young,” agrees Anderlecht coach Stephane Stassin, speaking to Cycling Weekly. “Remco, however, was the exception: he was effectively the right hand of the coach and he talked to his team-mates. When I asked him to do something, sometimes he would say that he had already talked with his team-mates and arranged what was needed.”

Though Browaeys kept Evenepoel as captain, he did make one major change: with more technical players in the midfield, he moved him to left-back, where his charge could bomb metronomically up and down the wing.

At Anderlecht, coaches had been wary of controlling his running ability, describing him as inventing a new position: a player who attacked as a No 10 and defended in front of the back four. He would run 12km each game as a young teenager — a huge amount at that age. His biggest rival in endurance tests was defender Hannes Delcroix, one year older, now at Burnley.

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“You would see Remco, on the beep tests, continuing to run while everybody else had stopped,” says Stassin. “He always wanted to know before how well Delcroix had done. They had a little competition — and we considered Delcroix a physical machine. That defines Remco. He would never let go if he was not the best.”


Evenepoel in the leader’s pink jersey at the 2023 Giro D’Italia (Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

In his later years at Anderlecht’s academy, coaches say he even beat the conditioning results of first-team defensive midfielder Lucas Biglia, a starter for Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final after moving to Lazio.

One real-life story — improbable enough to sound like legend — came during the Brussels half-marathon when Evenepoel was just 16.

“I started the race a bit earlier because I was running with a disability association,” says Stassin. “At one moment, I heard a whole group of really fast runners come by, some Kenyans, and then there was one guy who said ‘Hey coach, how are you doing?’.

“He (Evenepoel) was running like crazy again — the morning after playing a game on the Saturday. He finished eighth, I think, in 87 minutes.”

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Everybody has a similar story. Sebastiaan Bornauw is a Belgium international centre-back, now at Wolfsburg, who played with Evenepoel at Anderlecht.

“It was a big coincidence that we were once both staying in the same hotel in Lanzarote,” he told Cycling Weekly. “It was a sports hotel with all the facilities, so we were playing some football and doing some pre-season together.

“One day, he asked me to join him cycling. I love cycling — I’m typically Belgian in that I love the classics in Flanders. He asked me to go on a bike tour with him and I said yes. I thought it would be 50km.

“He said, ‘Ah, yeah, the tour is between 160 and 180km’. I said, ‘Remco, good luck!’. I didn’t join him.”


Cycling is a dangerous sport. Last year, Swiss climber Gino Mader died during a descent in the Tour de Suisse; there have been dozens of other tragedies in recent decades.

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In August 2020, Evenepoel endured his own terrifying crash during an Italian race: Il Lombardia. He ran wide at a narrow turn over a bridge and his handlebars caught the stonework, sending the rider, just two years into his professional career, over the edge and into a ravine.

Evenepoel fractured his pelvis and punctured his lung — but if branches had not cushioned his fall or a small ledge had not stopped him from falling further into the ravine, the consequences could have been far worse. Nevertheless, the recovery was long and arduous, with Evenepoel open about the psychological distress it caused him. However, he had come through dark times before.


Paying tribute to the late Gino Mader during the 2023 Tour de Suisse (Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Bornauw — alongside other former team-mates such as Alexis Saelemaekers, Lokonga, Openda, and Doku — all became professional footballers. Evenepoel did not.

“I was captain of the national team, then they put me on the bench and I started to ask myself questions: ‘Is it worth continuing?’” he told The Lanterne Rouge cycling podcast last year. “Then, I wasn’t even on the bench anymore. I just wasn’t in the top 15 players. Then I really started to hate the sport.”

Browaeys, his national manager at the time, thinks that as coaches, Belgium’s management team could have collectively improved other parts of his game.

“His football was based on his physical skill and mentality — but we missed the tactical progression a little,” he remembers. “He maybe played too much with his heart and not enough with his brain‚ but that’s logical when you’re 15 years old. From March 2016, Anderlecht began to leave him on the bench and it was very difficult for me to select him after that — especially difficult because he was my captain.

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“He was often poorly placed on the pitch,” Koen Boghe, a coach at KV Mechelen, where Evenepoel played for six months after his eventual release from Anderlecht, told DH Sports. “Especially when losing the ball. We played him as a left-back and he had difficulty correcting himself tactically.

“I had the impression that he was always going full throttle, like on his bike, except that sometimes, you have to hold back from riding so as not to get caught in the back. I wonder if he could have made up for his shortcomings.”

Another view was that while Evenepoel’s fitness was good, he lacked short-distance explosiveness. When his boyhood club released him in January 2017, Evenepoel was distraught. He has never gone into detail about his final months at Anderlecht but spoke of getting “a disgust of football simply because of everything that happens inside the clubs”.

One former team-mate, Vince Colpaert, told the Belgian website VP that “Mechelen wanted him but Anderlecht was childish… they did not want to release him and he was only allowed to play practice matches, while we had competitions every weekend. Then he played twice in six months.”

“I was close to depression,” Evenepoel has said. “I’m a very sociable person, but I didn’t talk to anyone anymore.”

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Evenepoel is one of the biggest stars in professional cycling and is hugely popular in Belgium (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Close to the end of his time at Mechelen, Evenepoel sat in the woods on his bike. He had always used mountain biking as a form of off-season training — but the trails had brought him to a crossroads. He was even considering stopping elite sport himself and becoming a physio.

“I said to myself: ‘Either you do your training and you go for it, or you take your bike, go back home, and change sports, your whole life’,” he told the Lanterne Rouge podcast. “This was at 17. I was a very good student but that year, I was just trash at school. It was an up-and-down year. I just lost my mind.”

That day, he made the decision to quit football and, based on his raw biometric data, pursue cycling.

“He still had a nice profile for a wing-back,” remembers Browaeys. “I was surprised when I heard he had become a cyclist because honestly, for me, it was still possible to become a professional player.”

But stubbornness has always been part of Evenepoel’s make-up and on this day, he was resolved. As he tells it, he snuck into the family garage and took his father’s road bicycle, which was far too large for him.

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“My parents didn’t know I was changing sports. Only my personal physical coach,” Evenepoel remembers.

From his home, he rode up the famed Mur de Grammont (more widely known in Flemish as the Muur van Geraardsbergen), completing the 117km in three and a half hours — and at a startling average speed of 34kph. It was his first time using a road bike outside.

As soon as his father saw the data, Evenepoel no longer needed to keep his riding secret. He immediately competed in his first races as an unaffiliated rider in a black jersey — coming 10th in a local time-trial with an ordinary bike with road handlebars, 50 seconds off the winner.


Evenepoel is the current time trial world champion (Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

In cycling-mad Belgium, even local races are closely watched by teams — and Evenepoel was immediately picked up by a junior club. His rise to the top of his new sport is another story entirely, but here are some highlights.

He won 34 of his first 44 races. At the 2018 European Junior Road Cycling Championships, just 14 months into his new career, he won both the road race and time trial — finishing nine minutes ahead of the second-place finisher in the former. Both titles in the Junior World Championships followed later that year.

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The crash at Il Lombardia in 2020 set him back but Evenepoel is now entrenched as a Grand Tour winner and one of the world’s best all-round riders, a half-step back from the current big two: Slovenia’s Tadej Pogacar and Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard.

What role did his football career play? Relatively few players reach such a high level of football before successfully switching sports, owing to football’s onus for early specialisation. British sprinter Adam Gemili is a rare counterpart. Evenepoel’s raw fitness, in a sense, has always been there but football fostered his competitiveness — and though some coaches deemed him tactically naive, Evenepoel still thinks it provided his strategic outlook.

“I think football maybe helped me with the mind games during the race,” he told reporters in April. “In football, you have to try to crack your opponents mentally by putting your foot a bit harder on their toe than you should do.

“Stuff like that helps me, in a race, to go over the limit a bit and try to have different tactics than other teams would. Maybe physically, football didn’t help me a lot to come into cycling but more the mental games and the other games going in the bunch during the race. Nothing negative but sometimes, when you are suffering, you have to make it look like you are not suffering. Stuff like that is what I learned more from football.”

His tactics were good enough to win the complex 21-stage Vuelta a Espana in 2022, while victory in the following year’s Giro was cruelly prevented by Covid-19. The peloton is agreed that Evenepoel is a rider with the potential to win all three Grand Tours over the course of his career.

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The Tour de France is next — and though he sustained a nasty crash in the Tour of the Basque Country two months ago, fracturing his collarbone, he recovered enough to win the time trial at the Criterium du Dauphine in June, the Tour’s main warm-up race.

Back in lockdown, Evenepoel returned to Anderlecht to train. When crowds returned, a parade finally gave him the opportunity to wear purple in front of a capacity Lotto Park. But an interview during training allowed him to explain how he really felt.

“I spent 11 years here,” he told reporters. “To be honest, the last few years were the toughest. They broke me a bit mentally.

“But when I look back on it now, it has made me stronger as a person and in life. Thanks for trying to break me. Frankly, I am more proud to wear (my cycling) jersey. And now I have more fun.”

(Top photo: Getty Images; design: Dan Goldfarb)

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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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Andrew Hankinson


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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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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