The biggest names aren't always able to bring in the best results.
In the professional League of Legends scene, top-tier teams must always adapt and change with the competitive tide to keep up with the strongest organizations in the world. Although coaching staff changes and improvements to infrastructure help a ton, the biggest impact usually comes from the players who are signed before the following season begins.
There are always equal amounts of risk and reward when picking up big-name free agents or buying out star players. Some teams find out that the player they gambled on was exactly what they needed to succeed, while others come to a horrible realization that their leap of faith has ended in a faceplant.
Prior to this past year, we saw multiple teams make huge splashes in the offseason. Many high-profile acquisitions, however, didn’t pan out the way some of these teams hoped they would.
Here are the most disappointing League signings of last year’s offseason.
Coming off of a Worlds finals appearance with Suning Gaming, veteran star SwordArt was one of the biggest acquisitions in North America heading into the new year, both in impact and in salary. The 24-year old signed a record-breaking two-year, $6 million contract to try to help push TSM back into the conversation when it came to Worlds contention.
For a moment, things looked hopeful for fans of the perennial regional champions. But a year later, it’s clear that things didn’t work out the way TSM planned. They failed to win the LCS trophy in both splits of 2021 and ultimately missed Worlds for the third time out of the last four years.
Now that SwordArt has left TSM, it’s safe to say that this pick-up fell miles short of its intended destination. They wanted to attend Iceland but instead were sent straight back to the drawing board for next year.
In a similar vein, Team Liquid completed its own superteam by acquiring former Origen top laner Alphari to round out a star-studded squad with Santorin, Jensen, Tactical, and CoreJJ. Things even started out perfectly with a victory at the 2021 LCS Lock-In tournament. But as the year continued on, the roster began to fall apart due to circumstances off of Summoner’s Rift.
Although Alphari was a beast in-game for Liquid, he was also the subject of controversy within his team’s camp. One game into the 2021 Summer Split, the 22-year-old was benched by the team due to “performance and attitude issues.” He didn’t return to the roster until June 27. Combined with Santorin’s health issues and the resignation of head coach Jatt, Liquid faltered considerably.
With no LCS championships and a lackluster Worlds run to show for 2021, this season and signing was one of the most disappointing for NA fans.
Nuguri was one of the hottest free agents on the market after he left DAMWON Gaming at the end of their dominant championship run at Worlds 2020. When fans found out he joined another championship-caliber roster in FunPlus Phoenix, most people thought it was a foregone conclusion that the LPL’s infernal 2019 champions were headed back to the top of the mountain.
The lack of regional titles aside, this disappointment of a signing stung the most when FPX attended Worlds 2021. Before the tournament began, FPX were heralded as a definite contender for the crown alongside DWG KIA due to their aggressive playstyle and absolute firepower at almost every role. But after the first round robin in Group A, this furious phoenix failed to get off the ground at all.
On paper, they had one of the most stacked rosters in the world, but their execution looked off-sync and disoriented every time they took the stage. After finishing last in what was supposed to be a “gimme” group with Rogue and Cloud9, FPX has rebuilt its roster for 2022 from the ground up.
European League fans are used to hearing about blockbuster moves from G2 Esports. But when the organization revealed last year that it was signing Fnatic’s franchise man Rekkles, the community collectively stopped and stared at the fireworks. That’s all that this acquisition ended up being, though: a lot of flair and no substance.
G2 didn’t get to any of the 2021 LEC finals, they failed to reach MSI, and they ultimately fell against Fnatic in one of the most poetic endings in League history. Rekkles left his legacy and his perpetual home behind in search of greater success and that same team eliminated him from Worlds contention in the 2021 Summer Split playoffs.
With other members underperforming heavily during the year, Rekkles couldn’t carry hard enough when some of his teammates dissipated. Like FPX adding Nuguri, Rekkles’ addition to G2’s roster was supposed to bring glory back to the samurais. Instead, it was one of their worst seasons in recent memory and another year to forget for the best ADC in Europe.
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