11 world-class Premier League footballers who suddenly fell from grace

Manchester United’s Casemiro is not the first once-great player to endure a stark and sudden drop-off in the Premier League – with big names at Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham among those who’ve failed to live up to the lofty expectations they set of themselves.

“I always remember something when I retired. It was a saying I always remember as a footballer: ‘Leave the football before the football leaves you,” Jamie Carragher mused after watching Casemiro’s performance in United’s shocking 4-0 defeat away to Crystal Palace.

We’ve compiled 10 other Premier League players who might’ve done well to listen to that advice.


Carragher just eviscerated Casemiro on live television.

“I know he’s got kids on the bench but I think Casemiro – I am being deadly serious – should know himself tonight, as an experienced player, that he should only have another three games at the top level, the next three league games and the FA Cup final, and thinking ‘I need to go the MLS or Saudi [Pro League]’.

“I am nowhere near the level of what that man achieved, but I always remember something when I retired. It was a saying I always remember as a footballer.

“Leave the football before the football leaves you. The football has left him at the top level. He needs to call it a day at this level of football and move.”

Brutal. But hard to disagree with.

The five-time Champions League winner actually made an instant impact at Old Trafford.

He was largely great in his debut season, prompting us to include him in a Premier League XI of transformative signings, writing: “Quite possibly the club’s best and most important signing of the post-Ferguson era.”

We hold our hands up – that take has not aged well. Casemiro has looked five yards off the pace in his second season. He’s surely done.


Another great Brazilian defensive midfielder of the past few years. Prior to the rise of Rodri, Fabinho gave his compatriot Fernandinho serious competition as the best player in that position in the Premier League.

Having played a starring role in Monaco’s surprise 2015-16 Ligue 1 title triumph, and memorable run to the Champions League semi-finals, he then went to Liverpool and won everything there is to win at the heart of Jurgen Klopp’s industrious midfield.

A precursor to Casemiro in the “legs have gone” category, Fabinho wasn’t even yet 30 when he suffered his sharp and sudden decline, a major reason for the Reds enduring the worst full season of Klopp’s reign.

Fortunately for Liverpool, Saudi Arabia came calling and they were able to offload Fabinho to the tune of £40million. Manchester United can only dream of the same outcome for Casemiro.

Andriy Shevchenko

Prior to Cristiano Ronaldo’s ill-fated return to Manchester United, Shevchenko was the last Ballon d’Or winner to sign for a Premier League club.

Footballing royalty, Shevchenko won every piece of silverware going as the spearhead of Carlo Ancelotti’s great AC Milan side, scoring over 150 goals in the process.

He was only 29 when he signed for Chelsea, but for whatever reason it just didn’t click for him at Stamford Bridge – 22 goals in 77 appearances is proof of that.

Sheva later returned to AC Milan and then boyhood club Dynamo Kyiv, but he couldn’t quite recapture the magic of his younger years – though he did enjoy a fairytale swansong for Ukraine when they hosted Euro 2012.

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Dele Alli

It’s all too easy to forget now that Dele was one of the most exciting youngsters to ever break through at a Premier League club – 37 goals and 26 assists across his first three seasons with Tottenham are the kind of numbers that even Bukayo Saka can’t hold a candle to.

You can make the argument that Dele’s decline was gradual rather than sharp, having notched dwindling returns every season since his peak 2016-17 campaign.

But come 2020-21 under Jose Mourinho, the former England international looked unrecognisable to the talent he was when first breaking through.

“I have a reminder at 11 o’clock every day that says, ‘World Cup 2026’,” Dele revealed in a recent Sky Sports appearance.

”That’s my aim for now. I think that people will be like, “he hasn’t played in a year” but I don’t care, I know my level.”

After everything he’s been through, we’d love to see it.

Alexis Sanchez

One of the most exciting attackers in the league on his day, and undoubtedly one of Arsenal’s best players of Arsene Wenger’s latter years, Sanchez’s drop-off seemed to coincide with his move to Manchester United.

In truth, he hadn’t looked quite at his sharpest during his final half-season at the Emirates, but few could have predicted what a disappointment he’d prove to be at Old Trafford.

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Fernando Torres

We still find it weird that Torres ended up making more appearances for Chelsea than he ever did for Liverpool. One of those football stats that just doesn’t sound right.

But from the ruthless tormentor of Nemanja Vidic, El Nino just seemed to lose something when he moved to Stamford Bridge for a record £50million fee in January 2o11. In hindsight, Chelsea would’ve been wise to take his underwhelming final half-season at Anfield as a warning – as with Sanchez to United seven years later.

Frederik Ljungberg

A fan favourite at Arsenal and one of the poster boys of their unforgettable Invincibles campaign, there was understandably great excitement at West Ham when a 30-year-old Ljungberg arrived in the summer of 2007.

But you get the sense that Wenger knew what he was doing, allowing one of his star players to sign a lucrative deal with another Premier League club. The Swede lasted one very underwhelming season at Upton Park before ripping up his contract.

Bastian Schweinsteiger

One to be filed alongside alongside Shevchenko as an undeniably world-class player that failed to demonstrate their quality in English football.

You only need to look at the role Schweinsteiger player in Bayern Munich’s unforgettable 2012-13 treble, or his gargantuan performance in Germany’s 2014 World Cup final victory over Argentina, to see that.

But having scaled those heights with club and country, the midfielder – only 30 at the time – looked like he didn’t have a great deal more to give. He struggled with injuries and failed to convince under Louis van Gaal before getting shunted out by Jose Mourinho.

You might consider this one a lesson not learned when it came to signing a 30-year-old Casemiro.

Bastian Schweinsteiger Manchester United.

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Branislav Ivanovic

You probably remember the Serbian as a proper warhorse across his nine years with Chelsea, giving everything to the cause while collecting three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, a Champions League and a Europa League.

You might not remember him returning to the Premier League after four years in Russia, seeing out his career with a short and sad stint with relegation-doomed West Brom.

Ivanovic only made 13 for the hapless Baggies under Slaven Bilic and Sam Allardyce and hung up his boots after they dropped down to the Championship.

Mesut Ozil

The playmaker was arguably never better than he was at Jose Mourinho’s Real Madrid, one of the leading lights of a side that notched a hundred points with over a hundred goals scored in 2011-12. Ozil averaged an assist every other game for Los Blancos.

But he was still pretty special in his early years at Arsenal, underlined by going off to win the World Cup alongside Schweinsteiger in 2014.

He was particularly good for the Gunners alongside Sanchez in 2015-16 campaign, when they finished runners-up to Leicester City, but struggled to ever reach those heights under Wenger’s successors Unai Emery and Mikel Arteta.

Ozil was only 32 when his falling out with Arteta led to him being shown the door in January 2021. Subsequent stints in the Turkish Super Lig with Fenerbahce and Istanbul Basaksehir failed to reignite his career and he decided to hang up his boots last year.

Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang

Twelve months after Ozil getting unceremoniously binned off by Arteta, Aubameyang suffered the same fate after being stripped of the captaincy.

One of the most prolific goalscorers of the 21st century across Europe’s major leagues, Aubameyang then went to Barcelona and immediately started banging them in for Xavi’s side – 11 goals in 18 La Liga appearances was a superb return.

So there was a certain logic in Chelsea bringing the Gabon international back to English football later that year. Proven in the Premier League and in fine form. Just

Unfortunately, things didn’t work out, and he cut a miserable figure at Stamford Bridge, scoring just one Premier League goal for an ailing Blues side that ended up 12th. Unrecognisable to the big game player he was at his best at Arsenal.