The Premier League can be a tough environment for even the world’s finest players.
World-class players moving to England
While it might seem cliché to pretend that England’s top-flight makes for an entirely different sport, there are countless examples that go to show that making the transition can be far from easy.
Some world-class players effortlessly transition to the rigours of Premier League life such as Jurgen Klinsmann, Alexis Sanchez and Sergio Aguero, but not every world-class footballer is so lucky.
As such, today, we’re honing in on some of the curious instances where players with undoubtedly top-level ability just haven’t been able to translate that talent and quality to success in England.
The rigours of the Premier League
Or to put things simply, they proved themselves at the very upper echelons of the beautiful game either before or after their move to England, but the Premier League proved to be their kryptonite.
It’s an exercise that we conducted last year with 18 players making the cut and now we’re broadening the spectrum of positions to draw up a starting XI of world-class Premier League flops.
The bigger the disparity between their dizzying success elsewhere and their disappointing displays in the Premier League, the likelier they are to make our gut-wrenching line-up.
Oh, and it’s also worth noting that the reason for the players flopping might not necessarily be on their heads with managers, tactics, timing and everything in between being at fault in certain cases.
World-class players who flopped in the Premier League
Got it? If so, then let’s put the disclaimers to one side and jump into a starting XI of players who we were delighted to see on English shores, even if they never really grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
GK: Claudio Bravo
A world-renowned shot-stopper with Chile and Barcelona, Bravo lost Manchester City’s number one jersey to Ederson within a year after flopping in a debut season that saw him make countless errors.
Maicon’s decline from the world’s best right-back to an average defender was incredibly jarring and the fact he only ever made nine Premier League appearances for the Citizens spoke volumes.
CB: Jerome Boateng
Abandoned at right-back and limited to just 24 games, Boateng’s underwhelming collaboration with City is made all the more painful by his subsequent Champions League and World Cup triumphs.
CB: Gerard Pique
Arguably our most controversial pick of all considering that Pique was a young player at Manchester United and only made 23 appearances, but look at how his career has progressed since leaving.
Bearing in mind that Pique immediately proceeded to play 45 times in a treble-winning season for Barcelona and you’d be forgiven for thinking that English football at least played a bit-role in his initial struggles.
LB: Filipe Luis
By no means one of the XI’s biggest flops, but it was bitterly disappointing that Luis only lasted 15 league games at Stamford Bridge given his superb form for Atletico Madrid either side of his move.
RM: Angel Di Maria
Ten league assists and stresses away from the pitch mean it’s important to cut Di Maria some slack here, but lest we forget just quite how vocal him and his loved ones have been against Manchester.
Marry that to his performances dropping off a cliff after New Year and United flogging him for a loss just a season into a British transfer record move and it’s fair to say Di Maria didn’t enjoy the Premier League.
CM: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Even before the days of Jose Mourinho exiling him from the squad, Schweinsteiger looked a shadow of his World Cup-winning self after a transfer deal that always seemed too good to be true.
CM: Juan Sebastian Veron
Nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe, but Veron certainly didn’t justify his British-record fee either and is commonly regarded as one of United’s worst ever Premier League buys.
However, what truly tips him over the edge and into our starting XI over contenders like Deco is the fact that he then moved to Chelsea in a transfer that was even more disastrous than its precursor.
While, yes, 15 goals in his debut season was no mean feat, lest we forget that we’re talking about a player who went from shining for Real Madrid and Brazil to making cameos at Scunthorpe United.
ST: Radamel Falcao
Just four goals for United and a solitary Chelsea strike makes Falcao the prime example of a player who couldn’t cut it in England despite arriving just two years after finishing fifth in the Ballon d’Or.
And along with Di Maria, Schweinsteiger and Di Maria, ‘El Tigre’ completes an unwanted quartet of what can only be described as transfer errors for the Red Devils.
ST: Andriy Shevchenko
For a Ballon d’Or winner to only notch nine Premier League goals in 48 games just a shade beyond his prime makes Shevchenko one of the competition’s biggest ever ‘what could have been?’ arrivals.