Arguably one of the most competitive and entertaining leagues in the world, the English Premier League attracts some of the world’s biggest and best players with the offer of huge financial rewards.
To date, the English Premier League has welcomed 1,612 foreign footballers from over 100 countries including Oman and even the Seychelles but not all of them have turned out to be a resounding success.
We have seen on countless occasions a “world-class” player, highly regarded on the continent move to an English Premier League club only to pack their bags and leave shortly after.
Why is this?
There could be a number of reasons as to why this happens but if you factor in the change of climate, lack of a winter break and bouts of homesickness you could be left with a very unhappy player who is out of form and desperate to go home.
Could it be down to the “shop window” effect of a major tournament such as a World Cup, a European Championships or an African Nations Cup?
With the eyes of the world upon them, a handful of great performances from a player on a stage like this can make an English Premier League club’s chairman reach for the cheque book.
The player arrives at his new club into a media circus touted as the next big thing, only to make a hasty exit back to easier, less competitive leagues after a handful of uninspiring appearances.
A bad experience for the player but a lucrative one nonetheless. It is a risk many are willing to take.
Of course, this isn’t always the case. Some players come to the English Premier League for a last hurrah – one final opportunity to test themselves in one of the toughest leagues in the world.
Money is no longer the driving factor for these players as they have made millions over the course of their careers. They are just seeking a final challenge and the chance to get their hands on an English trophy.
We have compiled a list which not only includes foreign players that you could genuinely say added value to their clubs but also those that didn’t live up to expectations on the pitch and returned home with their tail between their legs.
Henrik Larsson – Manchester United
7 Premier League Appearances, 1 Goal
Joining Manchester United on loan from Helsingborg during the Swedish off-season in 2007, Larsson was hailed by fans and Alex Ferguson alike for his professionalism and attitude.
Larsson was held in such high regard by Manchester United that when they won the English Premier League title in 2007 the club managed to get special dispensation from the Premier League to get a winner’s medal for him even though he hadn’t made the required 10 league appearances.
Hakan Sukur – Blackburn Rovers
9 Premier League Appearances, 2 Goals
Legendary Turkish striker Hakan Sukur was signed by Graeme Souness for Blackburn Rovers in 2002 having worked with him before when the Scot was manager of Galatasaray.
Unfortunately a training ground accident left Sukur out of action for the first two months of his six month deal which meant that he only ended up making nine appearances for the club before returning to Galatasary.
Taribo West – Derby County
18 Premier League Appearances, 0 Goals
The Nigerian defender with the crazy hairstyles was a massive success for Derby County when he signed for them from AC Milan in 2000.
A team that was struggling at the bottom of the league with only seven points from 13 goals were transformed upon the Nigerian’s arrival.
With his defensive skills and experience, Derby won five of their next nine games with six clean sheets which ultimately led to Premier League survival.
West left Derby County at the end of the season because of his high wages and his international team commitments which would have resulted in him missing important games throughout the forthcoming new season.
Roque Junior – Leeds United
6 Premier League Appearances, 0 Goals
Brought into Leeds United on loan from AC Milan in 2003, Roque Junior’s time at the club was disastrous.
During the seven games he played in all competitions his Leeds United team conceded 24 goals which has led to him being widely regarded by many of the club’s fans as one of their all-time worse signings.
Thomas Helveg – Norwich City
20 Premier League Appearances, 0 Goals
Having amassed over 100 appearances for AC Milan including a Champions League winner’s medal and approaching 100 Danish international caps, Helveg was a huge coup for newly promoted Norwich City in 2004.
Unfortunately Helveg was unable to replicate the form he had shown in Italy and on the international scene and he ended up drifting in and out of the squad in various positions throughout the season.
Having shown few examples of his class, Helveg left Norwich City when they were relegated at the end of the 2004-05 season.
Dino Baggio – Blackburn Rovers
9 Premier League Appearances, 1 Goal
The 32-year-old Italian midfielder joined Blackburn Rovers at the start of the 2003-04 season on a season loan from Lazio.
A defensive midfielder by trade, Baggio was utilised in an unfamiliar forward role from the substitutes bench by manager Graeme Souness in each of his nine English Premier League appearances.
Blackburn won only three of the 13 games that Baggio featured in and his uninspiring displays led to the club terminating his loan spell early.
Christian Karembeu – Middlesbrough
33 Premier League Appearances, 4 Goals
The French World Cup winning midfielder was signed by Middlesbrough from Real Madrid in 2000 as a player with proven quality.
Karembeu had a slow start to his Premier League career and rarely showed the class that he had exhibited at Madrid and for France in a struggling Middlesbrough team.
Karembeu did improve as the season progressed and chipped in with a couple of vital goals in their relegation battle. However, his long-term commitment was always questionable and he was sold on to Olympiakos at the end of the season.
Robert Mancini – Leicester City
4 Premier League Appearances, 0 Goals
Moving to Leicester City on loan from Lazio in 2001 at the age of 36, Mancini was keen to experience the English game before hanging up his boots.
He only made four forgettable appearances for the club before returning to Italy when he was offered the Fiorentina manager’s job.
Mancini cites his experience in England at Leicester City was where he fell in love with the English game and played a huge part in his decision to join Manchester City as manager.
Bernard Lama – West Ham United
12 Premier League Appearances, 0 Goals
Arriving at West Ham United at the start 1998 on a short-term deal after a ban from Paris St Germain for consumption of cannabis, Lama impressed enough for West Ham to offer him a permanent contract.
Unfortunately for West Ham United, after France won the 1998 FIFA World Cup in which Lama was a squad member he returned to Paris.
Winston Bogarde – Chelsea
9 Premier League Appearances, 0 Goals
Signing for Chelsea after success across Europe with Ajax, Milan and Barcelona, Bogarde’s time at the club is mostly remembered for his refusal to leave the club even though he wasn’t getting selected to play.
Reportedly earning £40,000 a week, Bogarde honoured his contract to the letter and turned up to training every day and played for both the reserve and youth teams. Once his contract expired, Bogarde retired from playing.
Michael Reiziger – Middlesbrough
22 Premier League Appearances, 1 Goal
Arriving at Middlesbrough in 2004 after a seven-year spell at Barcelona, Reiziger’s time at the club was ravaged by injuries and poor form.
Unable to replicate the form he showed at Barcelona, Reiziger ended up returning to Holland with PSV after making only 22 Premier League appearances over two seasons.
George Weah – Chelsea
18 Premier League Appearances, 4 Goals
Former World Player of the year and 90s footballing superstar George Weah arrived at Chelsea in 2000 on loan from AC Milan.
At 33 he was arguably past his best but he revitalised a Chelsea team struggling to find the net with a goal on his debut against Tottenham Hotspur.
Adored by the Chelsea fans, the love affair ended at the end of the season after he helped them to win the 2000 FA Cup.
Pierluigi Casiraghi – Chelsea
10 Premier League Appearances, 1 Goal
The Italian striker arrived at Chelsea in 1998 for £5.4 million but was desperately unfortunate to sustain a cruciate ligament in only his 10th appearance for the club.
After 10 operations over the course of the next four years Casiraghi was forced to retire from playing professionally.
Didier Deschamps – Chelsea
27 Premier League Appearances, 0 Goals
One of the most decorated players in the game, Deschamps moved to Chelsea in 1999 on a free transfer from Juventus.
Although many, including Deschamps, thought his playing style didn’t suit the English game, his Chelsea team still managed a fifth place finish and the FA Cup in 2001 in his only season at the club.
Marco Materazzi – Everton
27 Premier League Appearances, 1 Goal
Long before he gained notoriety for winding up Zinedine Zidane in the 2006 World Cup Final, Marco Materazzi played in the Premier League for Everton during the 1998-99 season.
His one season at Goodison Park will mostly be remembered for his poor discipline although he did show the odd glimpse of class with a magnificent goal from a free kick against Middlesbrough.
Patrick Kluivert – Newcastle United
25 Premier League Appearances, 6 Goals
Former Ajax, Milan and Barcelona striker Kluivert arrived at Newcastle United in 2004 with a fantastic scoring record. A strike partnership with Alan Shearer was a mouth-watering prospect for the club’s fans.
Unfortunately, Kluivert was unable to hold down a regular place in the team and was critical of manager Graeme Souness’ reluctance to drop Shearer, even if he was out of form.
Kluivert left Newcastle United for Valencia after only one season after the club decided against invoking an option to sign him for a further two years.
Landon Donovan – Everton
17 Premier League Appearances, 2 Goals
Widely regarded as one of the best players to have come out of the US, Donovan joined Everton on loan during the MLS break in both 2009-10 and 2011-12.
Both loan periods were considered a success with Donovan winning Everton’s Player of the Month award in his first spell and chipping in with seven assists in his second spell.
Viorel Moldovan – Coventry City
10 Premier League Appearances, 1 Goal
Coventry City made Romanian international striker Moldovan the club’s record signing when he arrived from Grasshoppers of Zurich in 1998.
Unfortunately his time at the club was peppered with some less than impressive displays which led to many wondering whether he was playing with too much caution so as not to get injured in a World Cup year.
Fortunately for Coventry City they sold him on a year later to Fenerbahce for a £750,000 profit,
Fredi Bobic – Bolton Wanderers
16 Premier League Appearances, 4 Goals
A prolific scorer at every club he played for, German international Bobic arrived at Bolton Wanderers on loan from Borussia Dortmund in 2002.
Bobic was a huge success at the club and his goals, including a hat-trick, ensured Premier League survival that season.
Unfortunately for Bolton they were unable to tempt Bobic back to the club after his loan spell expired and he returned back to Germany.
Albert Luque – Newcastle United
21 Premier League Appearances, 1 Goal
Arriving at Newcastle United from Deportivo de La Coruna for a £9 million fee in 2005, Luque failed to live up to his large price tag during his two-year stay at St James Park.
A mixture of injuries and poor form led to Luque falling down the pecking order and he was never able to regain a first team place under any of the three managers that were in charge of the club during his time there.
Newcastle United ended up selling Luque to Dutch giants Ajax for £2 million resulting in a £7 million loss for the club.
Adrian Mutu – Chelsea
27 Premier League Appearances, 6 Goals
One of Roman Abramovich’s first purchases when he took over ownership of Chelsea in 2003, Mutu had a flying start to his Premier League career with four goals in his first three games.
This was arguably the highlight of his time at Chelsea because a year later he was out of the club after a fallout with Jose Mourinho and a failed drugs test which ultimately led to a seven month ban.
Christian Panucci – Chelsea
8 Premier League Appearances, 0 Goals
Signed on a years loan by Chelsea from Inter Milan in 2000, Panucci had a pretty unremarkable time during his time at Stamford Bridge.
The sacking of Gianluca Vialli from Chelsea coincided with the appointment of Marco Tardelli at Inter Milan and Panucci returned to his parent club after only 10 appearances.
Jorge Costa – Charlton Athletic
21 Premier League Appearances 0 Goals
After a fallout with his manager at Porto, Costa made a surprise loan move to London to join Charlton Athletic in 2002.
Costa’s main motive for the move was to prove he was still worth a place in the Portuguese World Cup squad and excelled in the English Premier League prompting Charlton manager Alan Curbishley to try to sign him on a permanent deal.
Unfortunately for Charlton, Costa returned to Porto when the manager he had fallen out with had been sacked and replaced with Jose Mourinho who immediately reinstated him as captain.
For more information on what your favourite ex Premier League players are doing now, visit www.premierleagueheroes.com