Otamendi's Benfica shocker, and the worst EVER football debuts

If Nicolas Otamendi’s debut this week was a nightmare, were these even worse? Remember Woodgate’s bow for Real Madrid, ‘Weah’s cousin’ Ali Dia and Iwelumo’s open-goal gaffe for Scotland?

  • Nicolas Otamendi had a shocker on his Benfica debut against Farense on Sunday
  • Otamendi gifted two goals to the opposition and gave away a penalty
  • Jonathan Woodgate and Ali Dia spring to mind after having horror debuts 
  • Here, Sportsmail takes a look at 10 other debuts to forget within football 

Two goals gifted and a penalty conceded: it is fair to say that Nicolas Otamendi’s Benfica bow is up there with the very worst debuts in football. 

The Argentine defender joined Benfica from Manchester City in a £13.7million deal with Ruben Dias going the other way in a £64m move, but the Portuguese side’s fans might be questioning the wisdom of that exchange already.

And the worst part about it is that Otamendi – who promised to ‘help Benfica grow’ when he completed his move – produced his horror display against Primeira Liga’s bottom side Farense, of all teams.

Nicolas Otamendi endured a debut to forget for Benfica despite his new side winning 3-2

Despite Benfica edging past their opponents 3-2, Otamendi infuriated supporters by giving away a penalty for a foul on Serbian striker Nikola Stojiljkovic.

The 32-year-old was shown a yellow card for his challenge, but much to his delight midfielder Ryan Gauld missed his opportunity to convert from the spot for Farense.

In addition, Otamendi was blamed for Jonatan Lucca’s equaliser after he lost an aerial battle to see the 26-year-old slot one past Odysseas Vlachodimos. He was also criticised for handing the visitors their second of the evening, with his indecisiveness seeing Farense striker Patrick rob him of the ball in the middle of the pitch and go on to score on the counter.  

Following Otamendi’s stinker, Sportsmail takes a look at 10 other horror debut displays, and trust us, there are some absolute shockers… 


REAL MADRID vs Athletic Bilbao – September 22, 2005

There is only one place to start really. There were certainly few raised eyebrows when Real Madrid added the notoriously injury-prone Newcastle defender Jonathan Woodgate to their roster of Galacticos in the summer of 2004, paying £13.4m for his signature.

Unsurprisingly, his fitness troubles continued and it took over a year for Woodgate to make his debut – but at least it was a memorable one.

First, he scored a spectacular own goal on 24 minutes, sending a perfectly-executed diving header past his goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

And to make things worse, he was sent off in the 66th minute for a second yellow card.

At least Woodgate saw the funny side, saying afterwards: ‘F*** me, what a debut!’

Jonathan Woodgate had a shocker on his Real Madrid debut against Athletic Bilbao in 2005

He scored a spectacular own goal and was sent off after 66 minutes during his Madrid debut



LEEDS vs Leicester – December 2, 2000

The £18m signing of Rio Ferdinand was meant as a real statement by Leeds United and their ambitious chairman Peter Ridsdale – at that time, he was the most expensive defender in the world.

But his debut at Filbert Street suggested they had made a terrible mistake.

The Leicester fans were gleefully singing ‘what a waste of money’ after coasting into a three-goal lead inside half-an-hour with Ferdinand having a shocker.

Manager David O’Leary, remarkably, refused to blame Ferdinand afterwards, saying: ‘I was delighted with Rio, but he didn’t get a lot of help from those around him.’

Luckily, things would get better for Ferdinand, who became a rock solid presence for Leeds, England and later Manchester United.

Leicester coasted into a 3-0 lead vs Leeds inside half an hour during Rio Ferdinand’s debut


ARSENAL vs Birmingham – October 14, 1997

With Lee Dixon locking down the right-back spot, it was always going to be difficult for the up-and-coming Jason Crowe to break into the Arsenal team.

So when he replaced Dixon for extra time in a League Cup tie with Birmingham in October 1997, he would have wanted to impress.

Thirty three seconds later, he was heading for an early bath after a high tackle on Martin O’Connor led to Uriah Rennie brandishing the red card.

It was the fastest debut sending off in English football history and Crowe would only make two more appearances for the Gunners.

Uriah Rennie brandishes a red card to Jason Crowe after a high tackle on Martin O’Connor


SOUTHAMPTON vs Leeds – November 23, 1996

The most bizarre and short-lived career in the history of the Premier League.

In November 1996, Southampton were struggling for goals and manager Graeme Souness thought he’d found the answer to his prayers when AC Milan legend George Weah phoned him and offered a tip-off about his cousin Ali Dia.

According to Weah, Dia had played for Paris Saint-Germain and had won 13 caps for his country Senegal. He was languishing in the German second tier but apparently deserved a shot at the big time.

In reality, ‘George Weah’ was a complete chancer and Dia was a fake who actually played for Blyth Spartans in the Unibond League.

But this was only discovered once Souness had handed Dia a Premier League debut, bringing him on for Matthew Le Tissier against Leeds.

Remarkably, he played 22 minutes before the realisation dawned and Souness took him off again.

‘He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice; it was very embarrassing to watch,’ Le Tissier said.

Matt Le Tissier said Ali Dia ran around the pitch on his debut against Leeds like ‘Bambi on ice’



BARNSLEY vs Sheffield Wednesday – February 1, 2014 

It is fair to say that Emmanuel Frimpong did his absolute best to anger Barnsley supporters straight away after signing for the club in January six years ago.

After joining from Arsenal, Frimpong wore the expression of a condemned man as he held up the red shirt of his new team after moving to Oakwell for an undisclosed fee. 

And within hours of sealing his move, he immediately got off on the wrong foot by tweeting: ‘How am I gonna draw girls now’ while speaking about his move.

But things got a whole lot worse on his debut against Sheffield Wednesday after receiving his marching orders early on.

Booked in the 24th minute following a succession of fouls, he then clumsily tackled Chris Maguire from behind five minutes later and was sent for an early bath.

Barnsley went on to lose the match 1-0, leaving them second bottom in the Championship. Nightmare start for Frimpong. 

Emmanuel Frimpong immediately got off on the wrong foot with Barnsley supporters


SCOTLAND vs Norway – October 11, 2008

At the age of 30, Chris Iwelumo must have thought his international dream would never come true.

But when he replaced James McFadden to win his first Scotland cap with 35 minutes to play in a crucial World Cup qualifier with Norway, he suddenly had the chance to be a national hero.

In a moment that has since been replayed a million times, Iwelumo somehow managed to shoot wide of an open goal from just a few yards out and the match ended up goalless.

Reflecting on the torrid moment afterwards, he said: ‘I was confident, put my foot out and it hit the heel. I’m gutted but I’m a big character and I’ll take that one on the chin and move on.’

Iwelumo would play for Scotland just three more times, and never scored.

Chris Iwelumo missed a horror open goal during his Scotland debut against Norway in 2008



ARSENAL vs Newcastle – August 13, 2011

Gervinho’s career at Arsenal never really got going and if his debut at Newcastle in the Premier League was anything to go by, then it was quickly going to go downhill.

After joining the Gunners in July 2011, Gervinho would go on to net twice in a pre-season friendly against Cologne, with both goals coming inside the first 15 minutes.

But his competitive debut at St James’ Park just a few weeks later didn’t go to plan whatsoever.

After a solid start on his Arsenal bow, things soon took a turn for the worst after he became embroiled in an altercation with Newcastle midfielder Joey Barton.

The Ivorian winger raised his hands in frustration and ended up picking up a red card and a three-match suspension for violent conduct.

Gervinho receives his marching orders on his debut following a tussle with Joey Barton


CELTIC vs Hibernian – August 3, 1997

Henrik Larsson is a bonafide Celtic legend but it wasn’t all plain sailing for the Swedish striker in Glasgow after making the move from Feyenoord.

When he came on as a substitute for the Scottish giants on his debut, he promptly gifted Hibernian a 2-1 victory much to the agony of Celtic supporters.

Having entered the fray for Celtic as a late substitute, Larsson’s first contribution to the Celtic cause was to misplace a pass to Hibernian midfielder Chic Charnley.

And Charnley did the rest, scoring a screamer from 20 yards to condemn Celtic to defeat.

To make matters worse for Larsson, he then would put through his own net during his European bow for Celtic. 

Swedish star Henrik Larsson made a costly error during his Celtic debut against Hibernian


EVERTON vs Liverpool – November 6, 1982

Defender Glenn Keeley spent the majority of his career at Blackburn, but in 1982 he made the move on loan to fellow English side Everton.

But any chance of making a permanent move to Merseyside was scuppered on his debut against Everton’s bitter rivals Liverpool.

With the scoreline at 1-0 to Liverpool, Keeley received his marching orders in the 32nd minute for a straight red after pulling back Kenny Dalglish, who was through on goal. 

And from there on in, things turned extremely sour for Everton as they ended up being humiliated 5-0 by their rivals at Goodison Park. 

Glenn Keeley pulls back Kenny Dalglish in the 32nd minute during the Merseyside derby

Keeley is given his marching orders by the referee after denying Dalglish a scoring opportunity



BLACKBURN vs Everton – March 31, 1996

Garry Flitcroft featured over 250 times for Blackburn between the years of 1996 to 2006 but the former club captain got off to a woeful start with his side.

During his debut for Blackburn against Everton during the 1995-96 campaign, he was already back in the changing room after just three minutes following a straight red.

Flitcroft, a £3m signing, was sent for an early bath after getting involved in a scrap and elbowing Everton’s Duncan Ferguson, of all people!

The following morning’s match reports were quick to highlight that he had cost his side £1m for every minute he’d been on the pitch, but that was quickly forgotten as he went onto captain Blackburn.

Garry Flitcroft, who played over 250 times for Blackburn, had a debut to forget for the club

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