Sometimes footballers can come and go without leaving any kind of impression. Even world-class players. Which is certainly the case with some famous names in the Premier League era.
English football has seen a number of exceptional footballers fail to quite leave their mark on these shores over the past 30 years.
Arranged in a 4-3-3 formation, we’ve put together a full XI of notable players that enjoyed wonderful peaks elsewhere but were entirely forgettable in the Premier League.
GK: Julio Cesar
“In 2012, after seven and a half years at Inter, I never thought I’d play for another club,” the Brazilian wrote in a 2021 career retrospective for the Players Tribune.
“I definitely never thought I’d end up at Queens Park Rangers.”
Neither did anyone else. The Inter treble-winner’s one full season at Loftus Road saw him in a dressing room alongside the likes of Jose Bosingwa, Fabio, Park Ji-sung, Esteban Granero and Loic Remy.
Shockingly, they finished bottom of the table under Harry Redknapp. Cesar stuck around for another six months but was frozen out and never made an appearance in the Championship.
Another key member of Jose Mourinho’s iconic 2009-10 Inter side, it seems Man City’s scouts only looked at clips from that season and conveniently ignored the Brazilian getting roasted by Gareth Bale the following year.
A world-class right-back on his day, Maicon looked a busted flush by the time he arrived at reigning Premier League champions Man City in the summer of 2012.
His one season in England was rocked by injury and he made just four Premier League starts as Roberto Mancini’s side mounted a limp challenge to retain their title.
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CB: Jerome Boateng
One of the most decorated centre-backs of the modern era, Boateng won nine successive Bundesliga titles and two trebles with Bayern Munich, not to mention the World Cup with Germany.
So his early, so-so days at Manchester City are little more than a footnote on a glittering career. Boateng featured in the early rounds of Man City’s 2010-11 FA Cup triumph, but a knee injury left him sidelined from the quarters onwards.
A right-back in those days, we reckon you’re lying if you can remember a single thing from his 16 Premier League appearances.
CB: Marco Materazzi
A World Cup winner. A treble-winner. One of Jose Mourinho’s favourite sons and one of the all-time great sh*thouses.
Few could have predicted the career Materazzi would go on to have after his low-key, forgettable 1998-99 season spent with Everton.
LB: Giovanni Van Bronckhorst
We’re possibly pushing things a bit with this one. Van Bronckhorst spent two seasons with Arsenal and notched up 41 Premier League appearances. He won the league title in 2001-02 and the FA Cup in both years.
And yet, when you picture Van Bronckhorst it’s not in an Arsenal shirt. The Netherlands? Sure. Barca? Absolutely. Feyenoord or Rangers at a push. Yet there’s somehow something about the Dutchman’s time at Highbury that always makes us double-check Wikipedia and ask ‘are you sure?’.
DM: Didier Deschamps
Deschamps’ CV has so many highlights that it’s no wonder his FA Cup-winning 1999-00 campaign with Chelsea – impressive as it was – inevitably features some way down the page in a smaller font.
This was the man who captained and coached France to their two World Cup wins. Won two Ligue 1 titles with Marseille and three Serie A titles with Juventus. Won Champions Leagues with two different clubs and finished as a runner-up three times as a player and once as a manager.
No wonder that year he spent playing alongside Jody Morris and Chris Sutton gets forgotten.
CM: Borja Valero
We’re potentially stretching the definition of “great” here, but seasoned Serie A and La Liga watchers will remember the midfielder as a lovely footballer for Mallorca, Villarreal, Fiorentina and Inter.
Valero was named the ‘Spanish Player of the Year’ in 2010 – the year La Roja won the World Cup – and was included in the 2012-13 Serie A Team of the Year.
Less impressive was his 2008-09 stint at West Brom. Tony Mowbray’s Baggies finished bottom of the table and Vallero quietly returned to Spain.
CM: Ricardo Quaresma
The very definition of mercurial, Quaresma was never consistent or reliable enough to enjoy the elite career his early days promised, but he nevertheless blessed us with one of the most entertaining highlight reels of any player of the past 20 years.
Yet watch any beautiful Quaresma compilation and you’re unlikely to spot him in a Chelsea shirt.
The Portuguese enigma spent a half-season on loan at Chelsea in 2008-09 but made just four Premier League appearances under Guus Hiddink and made next to no impact.
Ricardo Quaresma – Chelsea loan from Inter Milan (2009) pic.twitter.com/k4koOwtq4X
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FW: George Weah
Andriy Shevchenko, Ruud Gullit and Cristiano Ronaldo (on his return) are part of a very small club of Ballon d’Or winners to sign for English clubs in the Premier League era.
There’s also George Weah, Africa’s only Ballon d’Or winner who spent short and not particularly sweet spells with Chelsea and Man City five years after picking up his Golden Ball.
Lining up alongside Danny Granville, Kevin Horlock and Tony Grant probably features quite low down the current president of Liberia’s most treasured memories.
FW: Roberto Mancini
“I can’t praise Roberto enough for what he did while he was with us,” former Leicester City manager Peter Taylor said of Mancini’s four-appearance stint with the Foxes back in 2001.
FW: Alexandre Pato
Beating competition from fellow entirely forgettable Chelsea loanees Falcao and Gonzalo Higuain, Pato completes our forward line.
A once prodigiously talented youngster that was deservedly being talked us at the next Kaka, the Brazilian’s career peaked in his early twenties.
Pato rocked up at Stamford Bridge in Spring 2016 as a 27-year-old looking to rekindle that spark, but he only made two appearances under Hiddink.
“I thought that Chelsea would loan me for six months and then I’d sign for three years,” he later recalled of his time at Stamford Bridge.
“I didn’t realise that they could say no after the loan. Had I known? I would have gone elsewhere. It was a pity, because I was training really well, and the coach only played me twice. I never understood why.”