Nine players who flopped at Spurs but shone after leaving: Paulinho, Boateng…

Quick Reads

Tottenham have had a high turnover of players in the Premier League, so it’s only natural that some only hit their peak after leaving the club.

That isn’t to say Spurs were wrong to get rid of them, of course, and there is an argument that some of those who’ve enjoyed their best spells after leaving still wouldn’t have been good enough for the Lilywhites.

Nevertheless, the north Londoners have had a fair few players who were simply the wrong player at the wrong time for the club, including the nine below.

Darren Bent

Bent didn’t have the worst time of it at White Hart Lane by most people’s standards, but his time there will forever be associated with one miss.

That chance, late on in a 1-1 draw with Portsmouth, prompted Harry Redknapp’s infamous claim that his wife could have scored it.

Bent netted twice in the next game, but the damage had been done. He left at the end of the season with a not-terrible 12 league goals. The next season, though, he scored double that for Sunderland.

In the nine seasons since, only seven players have scored more than his 24 in a 38-game campaign.


READ: The rise and fall of Darren Bent at Spurs: ‘The hardest two years of my life’

Kevin-Prince Boateng

Boateng was seen as one of European football’s next big stars when he chose Tottenham in 2007, but he only managed 14 league games for the club.

Since then, the German-born Ghana international has played at three World Cups and represented some of the world’s biggest clubs, even if that loan stint at Barcelona doesn’t really count as a highlight.

In 2019, the idea of a player struggling at Spurs but thriving at AC Milan sounds normal. Back when KPB did it, though, it felt like a big deal.

Iago Falque

Another player who found his feet in Serie A after struggling in north London, Falque played just one league game in his Spurs spell after joining from Juventus as a 20-year-old.

The Spaniard wasted no time hitting his stride back in Italy, though, joining Genoa in 2014 and finishing his first season there as the club’s top scorer with 13 league goals.

After a slight hiccup in Rome, he joined Torino (initially on loan) and produced two double-figure seasons supporting Andrea Belotti. It turns out Spurs genuinely had an eye for talent after all.

Mounir El Hamdaoui

El Hamdaoui is another who was expected to kick on after joining Spurs as a youngster. In a way he did kick on, but he had to leave the club first.

After a hot 18 months with Excelsior, he moved to Tottenham with a view to, well, at least playing more than the 0 games he managed. A few years later, though, he tore through the Eredivisie with Louis van Gaal’s AZ as they won a shock title off the back of his 23 league goals.

Another 20-goal season followed the next year, while the one after saw him win a second Dutch title with Ajax, again finishing as his team’s top scorer. If only Spurs had been more patient.

Danny Murphy

Murphy was barely at Spurs, with his sole season so unmemorable you could be forgiven for not even noticing it had happened.

He started just seven league games, and his most notable goal – a 39-second strike against Portsmouth – was overshadowed by an almost admirable Didier Zokora dive in the same game.

He left for Fulham at the end of the season, proceeding to score the goal which kept the Cottagers in the Premier League and later playing his part in their run to the Europa League final.


Paulinho wasn’t the only flop from Spurs’ dismal 2013-14 campaign, but he’s the one who most people point to when demonstrating how the club squandered the Gareth Bale fee.

The Brazilian scored a winner against Cardiff early in his stint, but the red card in André Villas-Boas’ final game is the moment that sticks out.

Since being sent to Guangzhou Evergrande, though, he did enough for two Chinese Super League titles, a World Cup goal for Brazil, and even a surprisingly productive move to Barcelona.

Hélder Postiga

Remember when Tottenham fans were convinced Postiga would solve all their problems. Remember when they laughed years later when he stepped up to take a penalty for Portugal against England. Yeah, they were wrong twice.

Not only did the Portuguese striker fail horribly at Spurs, scoring just once in the league, but he missed out on Porto’s Champions League victory by moving to White Hart Lane for the 2003-04 season.

He never replicated the 13-goal season which brought him to England, but he did add another Portuguese title after returning to Porto. Then there’s the small matter of not one but two shoot-out goals against the Three Lions.

Gylfi Sigurdsson

Mauricio Pochettino admitted he didn’t want Sigurdsson to leave in 2014, but the Icelander was fairly ordinary at Spurs with the exception of one stunning goal against Hull.

Of course, since returning to Swansea in 2014 he has refound his mojo, culminating in a big-money switch to Everton in 2017.

Sigurdsson scored 13 league goals in the 2018-19 season – his best-ever top-flight return, and five more than he managed in two full seasons in London.

Bobby Zamora

Zamora famously scored just once for Spurs after hitting 70 in three seasons to help Brighton climb the league pyramid: that sole strike was an extra-time winner against West Ham in the League Cup, and he was used as a makeweight when manager David Pleat brought in Jermain Defoe from the same club.

He made his name as a scorer of important goals for West Ham, sending the club back into the Premier League in 2005 and notching two huge winners as the Hammers clung on to their top-flight status in 2006-07.

It even got better after that, with England caps and four knockout round goals at Fulham made the 2010 Europa League final. Of course, Defoe didn’t do too badly at Spurs in the meantime.

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