£11 million had secured the signing of the man who was even better than the Andrei Shevchenko who had scored 24 league goals in his first season for AC Milan – the man who outscored Shevchenko as part of their dynamic partnership for Dynamo Kiev. The deadly Ukrainian Sergei Rebrov had played up front or just behind a lone frontman for Dynamo and had scored 93 league goals for the club which had led to a lot of interest in him and an imminent move to a bigger league. It occurred in 2000 when he made his move to Tottenham and expectations were high for the club’s new record signing.
Rebrov had looked clinical at Dynamo – scoring all sorts of goals. Great in the air for a short man and deadly when heading towards goal, Rebrov was meant to be the man who took Tottenham to the next level and prove their star striker. It didn’t happen as Rebrov failed to make any impact at all at Spurs. The 26-year-old looked like he might get a few goals when he first joined the club but he struggled to adapt to English football and was then frozen out of the club by new manager Glenn Hoddle after his arrival in March 2001. Rebrov played now and again but continually failed to find the net and quickly became a laughing stock at White Hart Lane. Three years at the Lane brought 10 goals in 60 games which isn’t a terrible record for some strikers but is atrocious for an £11 million signing. He was subsequently loaned out Fenerbahce before being allowed to leave for Premiership rivals West Ham where he continued to fail – getting just 1 goal for the Hammers over a whole season.
It seemed Spurs had taken a risk too far to sign Rebrov – the Ukrainian had scored lots of goals in Ukraine but better scorers were signed to bigger leagues before they got to 26. Clubs had showed an interest but nobody had taken a chance on Rebrov which had to say something about him. Too small to be any sort of a target man – Rebrov had only actually scored over 20 goals twice in the Ukrainian league which, being a much easier league than the Premiership, proves a rather insignificant feat.
Rebrov did well when he returned to Dynamo Kiev in 2005 but failed to impress whenever he was abroad – failing to score many goals in England, Turkey or Russia. His international record of 15 goals from 75 games suggests that Rebrov was out of his depth anywhere aside from his homeland and he was unable to adapt to any other division. Whilst Shevchenko was hailed as a hero at Milan, Rebrov’s career stagnated and never became anywhere near what Spurs fans had expected.
Rebrov is a hero in Kiev and is still working for Dynamo but he is seen much more negatively here in England as he is resented by many Spurs fans for proving such an incompetent striker despite being gambled on as a big money buy. Spurs have always been happy to throw money out to secure players but it is notable that a lot of Spurs signings since then have focused on getting British talent rather than paying big money for foreigners with Dimitar Berbatov and Luka Modric proving a couple of exceptions. Unlike Rebrov, they adapted, his failure to do so made him a big money flop.
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