Shock and awe: which now-retired players surprised us the most in EPL history?

The English Premier League is one of the top professional football leagues in the world. As we begin to get ready for the coming season, it is always fun to look back to the past.

Over the years, the EPL has given us some awesome teams and fabulous players to admire. Not all the players who made a big impact were expected to do so though! Some players who have gone down in EPL history actually seemed to come out of nowhere to succeed.

This is not unique to the EPL or even football. As the Sportsbet.io ice hockey news portal shows, there are many teams in the NHL hoping that this will happen in the new season! In much the same vein, the EPL also relies on teams and players coming out of nowhere to make us take notice.

But which retired players from EPL history have done this best?

Patrick Vieira

This may seem a strange inclusion as Vieira has rightfully gone down as an Arsenal legend. With over 300 appearances for the club, his work rate and skill in midfield was a major reason for their success during his time there.

However, when he arrived, he was not a big-name player at all and not someone who many people had even heard of. This is what made his impact on the Premier League so astounding. Combining leadership with guts, flair and a great engine, Vieira surprised everyone with how outstanding he was.

Finishing with three league titles and four FA Cups, he also had a very successful international career. Retiring in 2011, this French genius really did catch everyone by surprise.

Nemanja Vidić

 
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Another legendary Premier League hero who surprised many with his talents over the years was Nemanja Vidić. Signing for Manchester United from Spartak Moscow in 2006 for an unknown fee, not much fanfare accompanied his arrival to Old Trafford. Many thought that he may be a squad player or another foreign name who was there to make up the numbers. Vidić soon proved people wrong though by forming a formidable partnership in central defence with Rio Ferdinand.

A tough, uncompromising player with great heading skills, Vidić was also a real leader. In all, he played 211 games for United and won major honours, including the EPL title numerous times and the Champions League. Retiring in 2016, it is thought that he now lives a quiet life in Italy with his family.

Michael Owen

Liverpool have produced some great youngsters in EPL history that have gone on to shock us with their brilliance – Robbie Fowler and Steven Gerrard to name but two. However, the one that really burst onto the scene with real excitement was Michael Owen.

With blistering pace, superb finishing and great awareness, Owen was a goal-scoring machine. Making his debut when just a teenager in 1996 for Liverpool, he soon went on to become their number one striker before departing for Real Madrid in 2004. By the time he had gone, Owen had played over 300 Premier League games for the Reds and scored 150 goals.

Frank Lampard

 
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As with the other players on this list, Frank Lampard went from being relatively unknown to surprising us all with his talents in the EPL. In truth, he was a name that some had on their radar, as the £11m Chelsea paid to West Ham for him in 2001 showed. He was still a youngster with potential then though and no-one really thought that he would go on to reach the heights that he did.

A mobile central midfielder with an eye for goal, he was a key part of the Chelsea teams he played in. As well as winning three league titles, he also scooped a Champions League medal. Retiring in 2017, he is now back managing his old club!

It’s a funny old game

The above shows just how surprising and unpredictable football can be. Signings who you know nothing about, or expect nothing from, suddenly go on over the years to become legends.

On the other hand, big-money moves that look set to be really exciting peter out (yes, that is you Juan Sebastian Veron). For the heights they hit compared to where they started and what we expected of them, the above players are hard to beat.