10 Premier League flops who excelled outside England
“Yeah he’s good, but can he do it in the Premier League?”
It’s a line we hear all too often and a benchmark that is, truth be told, rather biased in deciding how good a footballer really is.
While the Premier League is arguably the biggest league in world football, players can reach dizzying heights of success without setting foot in the English top flight. Shocking, we know.
And while it would be nice to see how the Lionel Messis and Neymars of football would hold up in the Premier League, their exploits elsewhere are good enough to certify them as ballers in their own right, without having to be fired to death by the Craig Dawson and Jonjo Shelvey of the football world.
Granted, there are many who come to England with a reputation and face humiliating culture shock before leaving with their tails between their legs, but there is also the other side of the fence that is overlooked. Some players are just square pegs in a Premier League-shaped round hole.
A move abroad can make a good player look like a top player again and leave onlookers scratching their heads as to where it was in previous years. It happens a lot more than we realize, and it’s a reality that has been the case for a number of very recognizable stars over the years.
So, in order to play down the concept that a player has to be good in the Premier League to earn their flowers, we at GIVEMESPORT have collected 10 examples of players who weren’t able to hack it in England, but unlocked new levels by walking away.
10. Alexander Sorloth
Crystal Palace parted ways with some £9m to sign Sorloth in January 2018, a player few had heard of. He soon looked like a fish out of water, not scoring his first goal for the club until August of the same year.
He left on a two-year loan at Trabzonspor just over a year after signing for the Eagles. And while the Turkish Super Lig is where Premier League flops go to hide, the Norwegian striker flourished and found a prolific upside that prompted RB Leipzig to sign him in 2020.
9. Iago Aspas
Liverpool fans are most remembered by Liverpool fans for taking the corner against Chelsea which led to a goal in a game that cost them the 2013/14 Premier League, Aspas’ stock hit rock bottom very quickly in England.
Since his departure and his return to La Liga in 2015, the delicate Spaniard has built a fine career. Aspas became Celta Vigo’s all-time leading goalscorer and managed to score 100 La Liga goals in 209 games; only four players since the Spanish Civil War have achieved the feat faster than him.
8. Moise Kean
Everton shelled out a total of £27.5m to land a 19-year-old Kean away from Juventus after emerging as one of Europe’s next best strikers, but it soon became apparent that leading the line for the Toffees was a task too heavy for him.
He looked like a complete waste of time for Everton but immediately looked like a top-notch prospect during a loan spell at Paris Saint-Germain in 2020/21. Everton sent him back to Juventus in 2021 on loan with an option to buy, and the Italian appears to have found his groove.
7. Kieran Trippier
It’s strange, it’s Trippier. Highly regarded as an ‘almost’ man in the Premier League, he showed signs of being world class for Tottenham but Mauricio Pochettino was never fully trusted despite his scintillating form for England.
A move to Atletico Madrid in 2019 saw the right-back rewrite the script as he became an integral piece of the puzzle alongside Diego Simeone and won La Liga in 2020/21, before returning to England with Newcastle in 2022.
6. Juan Cuadrado
Signing for Chelsea in January 2015 after an extraordinary performance at the 2014 World Cup with Colombia, Cuadrado never seemed to start in England and was sent off before he could find a rhythm.
He was back in Serie A after half a season at Stamford Bridge, this time with Juventus, and immediately looked like a world beater. The move became permanent in 2017, and the full-back has been a good servant to the Old Lady ever since, winning five Scudetti.
5. Memphis Depay
The hype was real when Depay signed for United ahead of the 2015/16 season. However, the hype died down very quickly when too much was expected from the Dutchman, who was still just a youngster at the time.
Two ill-fated years in Manchester ended in 2017 with Depay taking with him a blemished reputation at Lyon. It was there, however, that we saw exactly what United wanted from him. The winger looked unstoppable, prompting a move to Barcelona in 2021.
Fabrizio Romano provides De Jong’s update at Man Utd (Football Terrace)
4. Diego Forlan
Forlan achieved cult hero status among Manchester United fans when he won a brace at Anfield to ensure United beat Liverpool in 2002, but his fate was otherwise disappointing.
He left Old Trafford in 2004 and rebuilt his reputation from there, first with Villarreal but most importantly with Atletico Madrid, where he unlocked true world-class levels and scored the winner of the Champions League final. the 2010 Europa League.
3. Chris Smalling
It’s hard to call Smalling a ‘flop’ considering he represented Manchester United for 10 years and won the Premier League, among other honours. But beyond those early seasons as a youngster, the Englishman very quickly started to dull and absolutely overstayed his welcome.
Regularly subjected to criticism and often the butt of jokes in England, Smalling has appeared to be a completely different player since leaving for Serie A in 2020 and becoming Roma’s experienced leader at full-back. He looks a lot more confident in Italy and receives a lot more respect, and recently won the inaugural Europa Conference League.
2. Jerome Boateng
Boateng only spent one season with Manchester City after moving from Hamburg in 2010, where it soon became clear he was not ready for the English top flight as he struggled to become a regular .
The opportunity to move to Bayern Munich presented itself the following summer and the German defender got his wish. Following that move, he became one of the best defenders in the world and an integral part of Bayern’s domestic dominance, also winning two Champions Leagues during an incredible tenure.
1. Serge Gnabry
A talented young winger thriving in Arsenal’s academy, everyone remembers Gnabry’s failed loan spell at West Brom in 2015/16, where Tony Pulis sadly declared he was not one step ahead. level good enough to play for the Baggies.
As a result, Gnabry left Arsenal and England altogether, returning to Germany with Wolfsburg in 2016. A season later he had been snapped up by Bayern Munich and, after a loan spell at Hoffenheim, Gnabry became a mainstay in the first. Bayern team. Now 26, he is one of Europe’s most talented wingers, a three-time winner and capped 34 times by Germany. It’s fair to say that Pulis was wrong.
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