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Sunderland’s 20 Most Bizarre Signings: Part 2, ft. Messi’s ex-captain & Zimbabwe’s favourite son

There’s been quite a few, hasn’t there? With a list as long as Costel Pantilimon’s arm, we have a look through Sunderland’s most bizarre purchases - continuing with number fifteen through to eleven.

Sunderland AFC

15. Andrea Dossena

Paolo Di Canio and Roberto De Fanti loved an completely random signing, didn’t they? Celustka, Moberg-Karlsson and Roberge were as odd as they were poor, but none of them were quite as awful as Andrea Dossena.

After protracted moves for Gino Peruzzi and Bernard Mendy had broken down, De Fanti and co. took it upon themselves to head to the dressing room, promptly blind fold each other and proceed to stick pins in the map to find our plan B. Unfortunately for us, one of them landed in Naples... and Andrea Dossena moved to Wearside on a free transfer.

The Italian left-back actually had a great debut as we beat Newcastle 2-1 with a Fabio Borini screamer. That game aside, though, he stunk the place out a bit.

Sunderland v Carlilse United - FA Cup Third Round
Andrea Dossena - overpriced even on a free transfer.
Photo by Nigel Roddis Getty Images

14: Benjani

On a horrendous winless run? Yup! Want competition for Kenwyne Jones? Oh please! Want a big, burly striker to rough up defenders when the Trinidadian is not quite doing the business? Sure!

Step forward Benjani Mwaruwari!

Actually... please don’t Benny, mate.

From the minute the Bulawayo-born striker stepped into the club, he looked every bit as poor as we all feared he might be. Unable to challenge in the air the way Kenwyne could, he barely managed to get a touch of the ball in the eight games he appeared in and when he did, it seemed to balloon off his pink boots or go straight to the opposition.

Why Steve Bruce felt a man who hadn’t notched a Premier League goal in over a year would suddenly convert magically into a goal-getter on Wearside is something we’ll never truly understand.

Blackburn Rovers v Sunderland - Premier League
Benjani - not very good.
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

13: Tal Ben-Haim

Maybe it was a mistake? A momentary loss of concentration? Ricky Sbragia’s one and only transfer window was as poor as his short stint in charge of the club.

Hovering above the drop zone in fifteenth, the rookie manager decided the best way to stop the oncoming rot was to load his team full of on-loan has-been centre backs - rather unsurprisingly, it didn’t really help any, if at all.

The Israeli appeared only five times for the club - two draws and three defeats - and quickly lost his place in the squad as Sbragia discovered the new defenders he brought in actually weren’t any better than the ones he had.

Arsenal v Sunderland - Premier League
Wanting to stave off the threat of relegation? Sign loads of crap, on-loan defenders.
Photo by Phil Cole/Getty Images

12: Nacho Scocco

Sharing his name with a snack you’d expect Max Power to tuck into during a suspension induced X-Factor marathon is our number twelve. Moving to Gus Poyet’s Sunderland, he came with a good reputation and a fairly hefty transfer fee of £3 million.

The Argentinian had been free-scoring throughout the previous decade, hitting home 15+ goals from the likes of Newell’s Old Boys and AEK Athens, but was going through a little bit of a dry spell with his new club Internacional when Poyet pounced.

We were promised “penalty area presence and movement outside the area with fluidity and intelligence,” yet come the end of the season, the striker hadn’t been given the chance to showcase any of these alleged talents, seemingly unfancied by the man who brought him to the club. Subsequently, Scocco was packing his bags come the following transfer window without a 90 minute performance to his name.

One of the most bizarre, pointless and underwhelming SAFC transfers of all time.

Tottenham Hotspur v Sunderland - Premier League
Nacho Scocco was actually on the bench during our Cup Final in 2014. Bet you didn’t know that, did you?
Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

11: Arnau Riera

I once had a trial shift at a job that meant I had to go door-to-door bothering strangers in the hope they’d change their gas to a new supplier. On that shift I knocked on the door of a Spanish youngster - Arnau - and despite being unable to convince him to change his energy supplier, I did manage to wish him luck on his career at SAFC. It was a rather short conversation, but one that probably lasted longer than his Sunderland debut.

A former Barcelona B captain, the Spanish midfielder had previously skippered the world’s greatest ever player, Lionel Messi, but had failed to break into the team at the Nou Camp and came to Sunderland for a trial.

That trial led to a permanent deal and a eventually a starting berth away to Bury in the League Cup. Three minutes into his debut and a stray elbow later, he was sent off and was never seen again, despite sitting on a two year contract.

Giving a two year contract to an untested Spanish youngster when we didn’t even have a manager wasn’t Niall Quinn’s most intelligent move.
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