10 Premier League flops who were actually quite good
From La Liga sensations to a world champion, these are the players who couldn't hack a cold Wednesday night in Stoke, but flourished elsewhere.
Cristhian Stuani (Middlesbrough)
In August 2016, Stuani marked his Middlesbrough and Premier League debut with an excellent brace against Sunderland.
That, sadly, was about as good as it got for the Uruguayan, who scored just twice more in 22 appearance as Boro were relegated.
After he was quietly moved on to Girona, it seemed that Stuani’s Goal of the Season contender at the Stadium of Light was likely to be his last major contribution to top-tier football.
Instead, the Uruguayan has plundered more than a goal every two games in La Liga, despite his team being so poor that they were relegated last season.
An unexpected rise could be crowned by a summer move to Barcelona.
Ricky van Wolfswinkel (Norwich City)
Fantasy Football managers rushed to select Van Wolfswinkel – whose 15-goal season for Sporting Lisbon resulted in a £9m move – when he scored on his Premier League debut in August 2013, but the shrewdest were those who realised that the goal was the exception rather than the rule.
The Dutchman failed to score again all season, and only managed six in two subsequent loan spells at St-Etienne and Real Betis.
Fantasy Eredivisie managers were rewarded for their faith, though, after a move back to his homeland saw him hit 20 goals at Vitesse Arnheim in the 2016/17 season. Van Wolfswinkel can now be found making life look easy for Basel in the Swiss Super League.
Memphis Depay (Manchester United)
Gary Neville called him “hopeless”, while Depay himself has has since admitted that “I was not good enough” for United, after he netted twice in 33 appearances and famously turned up to play in a reserve match in a Rolls Royce.
But a rate of 0.73 goals or assists per game since signing for Lyon in January 2018 suggests that United were probably wrong to give up on the Dutchman so soon, especially since the player who replaced him, both in position and squad number, is named Alexis Sanchez.
The Telegraph’s James Ducker wrote at the time “that something extraordinary would have to happen for Depay to be back playing for the club one day”. Now, they could do much worse.
Florian Thauvin (Newcastle United)
Twelve months after leaving Newcastle permanently in 2017, Thauvin was a world champion.
But rather than associating him with N’Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe, Newcastle fans lump him in with Remy Cabella, Emmanuel Riviere and Henri Saivet.
The Magpies seemed to sign Frenchmen for the sake of it in 2014 and 2015, so Thauvin – who is actually really good – was given short shrift by disgruntled supporters. Thauvin did little to alter that perception – he failed to score in 13 appearances and was packed off back to Marseille on loan after just six months, where he has netted over 50 goals.
Iago Aspas (Liverpool)
After a season at Liverpool that consisted of no goals and lots of watching Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge from the bench, Aspas seemed consigned to a career as the brunt of Twitter banter when he left permanently – via a loan spell at Sevilla – in 2015.
But the Spaniard has been unbelievably good since. Eighteen goals in his first season at Celta Vigo – his hometown club – looks like underachievement, considering he has followed it up with 27, 23 and 21.
The key to his success, though: keeping him off corners (there’s the banter).
Wahbi Khazri (Sunderland)
Khazri is not among the biggest flops on this list, but the success of his Ligue 1 career reveals his untapped potential.
He scored big goals against Manchester United and Chelsea within months of arriving in January 2016, but they were two of just three in an 18-month career on Wearside that resulted in the club’s relegation to the Championship.
Since then, he has been the best attacker at Rennes, who finished fifth in the 2017/18 Ligue 1 season, and St-Etienne, who finished fourth in 2018/19.
Anthony Modeste (Blackburn Rovers)
Much like that schoolmate you bump into at the pub on Christmas Eve, Anthony Modeste’s Premier League career has probably not crossed your mind once in seven years.
But Blackburn always did have an eye for a striker. Robert Lewandowski was supposedly an ash cloud away from a move to Ewood Park, while Roque Santa Cruz really did rock up for a couple of seasons.
Modeste might not have gone on to hit those heights, but his pace and eye for goal meant that for a while he was hot property in Germany – he netted 27 goals in the 2016/17 season – before he made himself rich in China.
Kostas Mitroglou (Fulham)
Fulham fan site Cottagers Confidential wrote a piece in January 2016 entitled: “Kostas Mitroglou: The worst transfer in Fulham history”.
“By all accounts it was an impressive signing,” the piece said. “It appeared Fulham acquired the services of a world-class striker. But the transfer exemplified how Fulham had descended into an organisation riddled with amateur mismanagement mistakes.”
It’s good that supporters apportion some blame elsewhere, because Mitroglou’s subsequent record of 52 goals in 84 appearances for Olympiakos and Benfica suggests that signing him should have been nowhere near as disastrous as it transpired.
Andrej Kramaric (Leicester City)
What Kramaric has become must be a source of huge regret not just for Leicester, but also for Chelsea.
The Croatian international had an agreement to join the latter for £7m, but, realising he was going to be sent straight on loan to Vitesse Arnheim, opted to sign for the Foxes, where he scored twice in 12 months.
Three-and-a-half years on, he has developed into one of the best players in the Bundesliga – he has netted 22 goals for Hoffenheim last season – and would walk into both clubs’ starting XIs. So one of them will probably pay £70m for him soon.
Diego Forlan (Manchester United)
Forlan is the epitome of the genre: a player still ridiculed by exclusively Premier League supporters, and revered by fans of the European game.
The Uruguayan – a brace at Anfield aside – never fitted in at Manchester United, quite literally, and even made a hash of things when he scored winning goals.
Despite showing glimpses of ability, the idea that a player who didn’t score from open play until his 34th game for the club would go on to become one of the leading all-time goalscorers for another top European club – only bettered by Antoine Griezmann, Fernando Torres and Sergio Aguero at Atletico Madrid – was as laughable as when he played 30 seconds of Premier League football topless.
Market values courtesy of Transfermarkt.
Visit Betway's football betting page.