The January transfer window saw big money spent and full international players join the Premier League relegation battle. While star names typically ensure survival, plenty of the division’s biggest stars have suffered the humiliation the division can offer. Here, we explore and countdown the best:
Honorable Mentions: Nicky Butt, Peter Crouch, Jermain Defoe, Damien Duff, Jack Grealish, David James, James Milner, Scott Parker, Stuart Pearce, Matheus Pereira, Kevin Phillips, Aaron Ramsdale, Paul Robinson, Xherdan Shaqiri, Gareth Southgate.
12. Rio Ferdinand (2015)
Ferdinand won the last of his six Premier League titles as Sir Alex Ferguson rode off into the sunset in 2013. A year later, following United’s dramatic fall from grace, a 35-year old Ferdinand found himself surplus to requirements and was snapped up by his former West Ham boss Harry Redknapp for newly promoted QPR. It was clear from the outset Ferdinand was a shadow of his former self, as QPR lost six of their first eight games, including a 4-0 hammering on Ferdinand’s return to Old Trafford. In all, he made just 12 appearances for the Loftus Road club as QPR sank without trace and Ferdinand hung up his boots.
11. Chris Sutton (1999)
A prolific 1993-94 season saw the Norwich City striker secure a British record £5 million move to big spending Blackburn Rovers. Sutton quickly formed a deadly strike partnership with Alan Shearer as the duo powered Blackburn to the Premier League title in 1995. However, after the title win, injuries blighted Sutton’s time at Ewood Park and Shearer’s departure in 1996 ushered in a more frugal era at Blackburn. Despite the problems, Sutton’s goals anchored Rovers into the UEFA Cup in 1998, but again, injuries ruined the 1998-99 season and few of Blackburn’s stars remained as Roy Hodgson struggled to keep the team afloat. The arrival of Brian Kidd did little to correct matters and Sutton made just 17 appearances and scored just three goals as Blackburn went down just four years on from winning the title.
10. Georgi Kinkladze (1996)
The early Premier League teams were often characterized as 10 homegrown players and one exotically-talented import in attack, a typical example was Manchester City’s Georgi Kinkladze. City signed Kinkladze in the summer of 1995, his jinking runs and eye for the goal made him an instant cult hero. City, however, were in free fall under the management of Alan Ball, failing to win any of the first 11 games of the season. His magic threatened to mount a revival with some brilliant solo goals and turning provider for Uwe Rosler and Niall Quinn to give City hope. Despite picking up seven points from the last nine, City went down on goal difference. There was interest from several European heavyweights, but Kinkladze stayed at Maine Road. Most of the magic in City continued to plummet, and by 1998, they were in the third tier and ‘Kinky’ was headed to Ajax.
9. Fabrizio Ravanelli (1997)
In the mid-1990’s, Middlesbrough’s ambition knew no bounds. Few could believe it when recent Champions League winner and Italian international Fabrizio Ravanelli was unveiled in the summer of 1996. The deadeye marksman was quick to make an impact, bagging a debut hat-trick against Liverpool. The scoring continued to flow for the Italian national side. However, Middlesbrough’s blend of international superstars and humdrum football league players soon faltered and Ravanelli’s unflattering comments about the club and city didn’t help. The cups provided a welcome distraction and when Ravenelli grabbed a 95th-minute goal at Wembley, the League Cup was within grasp. However, Leicester City grabbed an equalizer to force a replay and ten days later broke Middlesbrough’s hearts again. Meanwhile, Ravanelli picked up a late season injury and missed the relegation run-in. A half-fit Ravanelli did play in the FA Cup Final, but was soon subbed off and headed to France.
7. Michael Carrick & Joe Cole (2003)
In the late 1990’s, West Ham lived up to their Academy of Football heritage by developing a string of homegrown talents in Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Joe Cole. Carrick quickly established himself as a silky passer in midfield, while Cole proved to be a box of tricks on the wing. However, by 2002, Ferdinand and Lampard had been sold and Glenn Roeder was struggling to keep West Ham’s ship afloat. The young midfield duo fought to keep them up, but Roeder’s falling out with Paulo Di Canio was a fatal blow, and despite the Italian’s late season reappearance, West Ham went down. Carrick and Cole were sold and went on to win a combined eight Premier League titles and three FA Cups. They eventually faced each other in the 2008 Champions League Final.
6. Mark Viduka (2004, 2009)
The Australian striker arrived at Leeds in 2000 after they qualified for the Champions League. Viduka proved an immediate hit at Elland Road, scoring four against Liverpool to cement his place in the hearts of fans. Leeds reached the Champions League Semifinal as Viduka was the top scorer. He also led the team in scoring during the 2002 season. However, the overspending of Chairman Peter Ridsdale had Leeds in a downward spiral and they narrowly avoided relegation in 2003 thanks to Viduka’s late winner at Arsenal. Viduka stayed as other star names were sold that summer, but quickly fell out with manager Peter Reid. When Reid was sacked, Viduka was brought back into the fold. Despite being the top scorer for a fourth straight season, he couldn’t keep Leeds up. Viduka continued his career with a memorable UEFA cup run at Middlesbrough and finished his career in England with a stint at Newcastle. By then, his powers were waning and after playing a minimal part in the 2008-09 season, he suffered a second relegation.
5. Georgino Wijnaldum (2016)
One of the few moments of real ambition in Mike Ashley’s ownership of Newcastle United came in the summer of 2015 when Steve McClaren unveiled PSV midfielder Georgino Wijnladum. The Dutch international responded with a goal in his debut, but Newcastle failed to win any of their first eight games. A 3-0 derby hiding at Sunderland had the Toon Army fearing the worst. Wijnaldum continued to chip in with goals, but McClaren looked lost. By the time he was replaced with Rafa Benitez, the dye was cast. Newcastle were relegated and although Rafa’s late-season revival offered hope for the future, it was too late to prevent the inevitable and Wijnaldum was soon heading to Merseyside.
4. Paulo Di Canio (2003)
The combustible Italian arrived at West Ham in 1999 after his infamous push on referee Paul Alcock. Many predicted disaster, but Di Canio was an instant hit at Upton Park. Under Harry Redknapp’s stewardship, Di Canio was the talisman and West Ham established themselves in midtable with an entertaining brand of football. However, by 2002, Redknapp had been replaced by Glenn Roeder and results began to slide. The long predicted bust up occurred and Roeder dropped Di Canio, who only returned when the stricken manager was replaced by Trevor Brooking. Di Canio was restored and got back amongst the goals to rekindle hope, but it was too little too late, as West Ham’s best player of the Premier League era headed to Charlton.
3. Michael Owen (2009)
A Ballon d’Or winner during a legendary career with Liverpool and England, Owen found himself in a dilemma in 2005. Unwanted by Real Madrid and with a third World Cup to prepare for, Owen needed a move back to England and had his heart set on a return to Liverpool. However, new Reds boss Rafa Benitez wasn’t keen, so it was Newcastle who paid a club record £17 million for his services and Owen reluctantly went to Tyneside. His first two seasons at Newcastle were thwarted by injury, but Owen returned with a strong campaign in 2007-08 and the return of Kevin Keegan as manager seemed to promise better days to come. However, a disappointing 2008-09 season started with Keegan walking away and Newcastle plummeted. Owen did play a full part, adding eight goals across 24 appearances as captain, but Alan Shearer’s return as manager proved the last roll of the dice and Newcastle went down. Owen then surprised everyone by moving to Manchester United and two years later, collected his only Premier League winner’s medal.
2. Juninho (1997)
Bryan Robson pulled a rabbit out of the hat when he unveiled Brazil international Juninho for Middlesbrough in October of 1995. The midfield maestro quickly settled in on Teesside while his vision and creativity marked him out as a hero at the Riverside Stadium. However, despite another spending spree in the summer of 1996, Robson’s shortcomings became evident in the 1996-97 season and a controversial fixture postponement saw Middlesbrough hit with a crucial points deduction. Despite their problems, Middlesbrough’s talisman kept them going as the team made it to two Cup Finals. They needed a win on the final day of the season to stay up, but despite a brilliant solo goal, Juninho alone couldn’t save them and Middlesbrough went down. Juninho left that summer for Atletico Madrid, but his love of the club saw him return in 1999 and again in 2002, with a World Cup winner’s medal in his kitbag.
1. Roy Keane (1993)
Proof that nobody is too good to down, the best central midfielder in the Premier League’s first decade began life in the newly-formed division by being relegated from it. Keane established himself as a regular for Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in 1991 and quickly established a formidable reputation in midfield. Forest finished a respectable eighth place in the final season of the first division, however, they plummeted when the Premier League launched. The early season sale of Teddy Sheringham, struggles with the new back pass rule and the visible decline of Clough all took their toll. Keane battled away playing 40 out of 42 league games and scoring six goals, but Forest were cut adrift by the end and finished rock bottom. That summer, he joined Manchester United and won 12 major trophies. Interestingly, Keane still refers to Clough as the best manager he ever played for.