An XI of legends that did f*ck all in the Premier League: Di Maria, Veron…
The Premier League has been graced by plenty of legendary players over the years – but not all of them have lived up to their reputation.
Some players, who have thrived in other major leagues or at international tournaments, have failed to cut the mustard in England, making fans question the decision to bring them in.
We’ve compiled a line-up of modern-day legends who failed to make an impact on the Premier League, lining up in a 4-3-3 formation.
GK: Victor Valdes
Barcelona’s finest didn’t leave much of an imprint at Manchester United during the 2010s. Or Middlesbrough, which was even stranger…
— Matt Coatney (@Coatman1) March 19, 2017
Winning 76 caps for Brazil, at a time when he had Dani Alves to compete with, proves that Maicon was the perfect modern full-back.
An integral part of Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan side which won the treble in 2010, he joined Manchester City two years later. Sadly, injuries had robbed Maicon of his fitness and Gareth Bale had already robbed him of his soul.
He made only four starts during a disappointing title defence for City before returning to Serie A.
CB: Jerome Boateng
In the summer of 2011, City allowed Boateng to join Bayern Munich for a fee in the region of £15million after only one season and 24 appearances in England.
City went on to spend huge amounts of money on the likes of Eliaquim Mangala – arguably the worst value signing in their history – while Boateng won every available honour for Bayern and also lifted the 2014 World Cup with Germany.
Pep Guardiola’s side will hope that selling the likes of Leroy Sane and Ferran Torres doesn’t come back to bite them in the derriere in quite the same fashion.
CB: Gerard Pique
Pique was only 21 when he left Manchester United but Sir Alex Ferguson had seen enough of the defender to deem he was not suitable to English football – most infamously being given the runaround by Nicolas Anelka during a defeat at Bolton in 2007.
Rejoining his boyhood club Barcelona, the Spain international has gone on to win pretty much every available honour for club and country and cemented his status as one of the greatest defenders of his generation.
United should probably have been more patient…
"Bolton away more of less finished Gerard Pique's career at United" 😬
Wayne Rooney opened up on Pique's time in Manchester 👇 pic.twitter.com/rrgy60E2Vb
— Soccer AM (@SoccerAM) May 18, 2020
LB: Giovanni van Bronckhorst
Van Bronckhorst was signed as a midfielder by Arsenal in 2001. For £8million. No wonder it never really happened for him at Highbury.
Happily, he proved himself to be an excellent full-back with Barcelona and the Netherlands national team – for whom he scored one of the best goals in World Cup history against Uruguay in 2010.
On this day in 2010, this strike from Gio van Bronckhorst in the semifinal of the World Cup 🚀
— B/R Football (@brfootball) July 6, 2021
CM: Bastian Schweinsteiger
A classy operator with Bayern Munich and Germany, Schweinsteiger was slower than an asthmatic ant by the time Manchester United signed him in 2015.
After an underwhelming year under Louis van Gaal, Mourinho told the midfielder to stay away from Old Trafford, omitted him from the club’s Europa League squad and wrote him off as an asset in the club’s published accounts.
But Schweinsteiger eventually earnt a recall and Mourinho admitted he was wrong to ostracise him.
“We had a huge squad in the beginning but after knowing him as a person and a professional and the way he was respecting my decisions as a manager, yes I regret it and there is no problem for me to admit it because I have told him,” Mourinho said after granting Schweinsteiger a free transfer to Chicago Fire.
We imagine getting an apology from Mourinho ranks alongside winning the World Cup among Schweinsteiger’s career achievements.
CM: Juan Sebastian Veron
“He’s a f*cking great player. And you’re all f*cking idiots.”
Fergie may have been correct on both counts yet Veron never settled at either United or Chelsea during the early-2000s – despite flickers of his undoubted talent.
“Games were intense for 90 minutes,” Veron told United’s official website in 2016.
“In Italy, it was more tactical and about closing down the games. In England, the games were more open, the ball came back and forward. It was more physical too.
“The difference between, say United and Aston Villa and Lazio and a smaller team, was smaller.”
Plenty of eyebrows were raised in north London when Barcelona announced the €40million signing of Paulinho from Guangzhou Evergrande in 2016.
Paulinho arrived at Tottenham in 2013 with an impressive reputation but failed to impress at White Hart Lane and was jettisoned at a loss two years later.
But the midfielder impressed in China, scored a hat-trick for Brazil against Uruguay in 2017 and was a first-team regular during his only season with Barcelona.
He was even praised by the great Ronaldinho: “Everyone in Brazil already knew [what he could do] due to the excellent work he did at Corinthians. He really stood out. Everyone knows about his quality, and he’s showing that once again.”
Look, we’re pushing it by labelling him as a ‘legend’ but Paulinho wasn’t as bad as your average Anglophile will have you believe.
RW: Angel Di Maria
“Talented, but a complete fanny,” was the view of one former Manchester United team-mate and most of the Stretford End to boot.
After scoring just four goals in his one and only season at United, Di Maria was grabbing the bags he’d packed for months and hauling them to Paris.
He was the best player on the pitch in the Champions League final when Real Madrid won La Decima in 2014 and has gone on to register over a hundred assists in his time at PSG. Let’s just forget about that bit in between, that goal against Leicester aside.
ST: Diego Forlan
Despite scoring twice at Anfield in 2002, Forlan is generally remembered as a Manchester United flop that took months to locate a cow’s backside with a banjo.
Yet the Uruguayan proved his class on the continent, sharing the European Golden Boot with Thierry Henry in 2005, winning the Europa League and UEFA Super Cup at Atletico Madrid, and being named the best player at the 2010 World Cup.
Perhaps this was simply a case of the wrong player at the wrong club.
World Cup 2010 Golden Ball 🇺🇾
Diego Forlan won the Player of the Tournament award at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and was also joint top goal scorer.
This goal in the semi-final was the pick of the bunch. A long range curler with his left foot.pic.twitter.com/0V2sIZCycc
— Classic Football Shirts (@classicshirts) January 30, 2021
LW: Andriy Shevchenko
Jose Mourinho wanted Samuel Eto’o in the summer of 2006. Roman Abramovich gave him Shevchenko instead and the scene was set for the most underwhelming ‘legend’ of the Premier League era.
Shevchenko was over the hill by the time he arrived in England and was quickly upstaged by Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge. After scoring just 22 goals for the club in two seasons, he was flogged back to Milan.
Upon leaving Chelsea in 2007, Mourinho explained how the Shevchenko signing came about and why the Ukraine striker struggled.
“He was like a prince in Milan and at Chelsea our philosophy was different, we had no princes,” Mourinho said. “Everybody needs to work like everybody else and everybody needs to prove he deserves to play.
“I think maybe he lost some self-confidence. Step by step a player goes in the wrong direction. He was not my first option but the club gave him to me as a second option.
“I believe in the future he will again be a player of high quality. The truth is I never had a single personal problem with him and I wish him well for the future.”