Life after England: 11 former Premier League forwards thriving across Europe

Greg Lea casts an eye over the attacking players lighting up the continent after mixed spells in the English top flight...

1) Hatem Ben Arfa (Nice)

The former Newcastle United forward has scored as many goals as the Paris Saint-Germain pair Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ben Arfa left the Premier League with his reputation dented after barely playing for a Hull City side that were relegated in 2014/15. While nobody ever doubted the Frenchman’s outstanding natural talent, his attitude and mentality were frequently questioned during his four-year stint in English football, and there were few tears shed when he opted to move back to his homeland in the summer.

Ben Arfa, though, has been in superb form since joining Nice: the former Newcastle United forward has scored as many goals as the PSG pair Edinson Cavani and Zlatan Ibrahimovic (seven), with Marseille’s Michy Batshuayi the only man to beat Ligue 1 goalkeepers more regularly than the 28-year-old this term.

2) Javier Hernandez (Bayer Leverkusen)

Many Manchester United fans questioned the wisdom of their club sanctioning Hernandez’s departure to Bayer Leverkusen in the summer, particularly as it left the Red Devils with just two senior strikers on the books (although Anthony Martial was subsequently signed from Monaco on deadline day to add to the shallow pool of Wayne Rooney and James Wilson).

Hernandez looks to be a good fit for Roger Schmidt's Leverkusen side

Hernandez has already scored seven goals in all competitions for his new side, including a brace against Roma in a thrilling 4-4 draw in last week’s crunch Champions League clash. The Mexico international, still only 27, has proved himself a good fit for Leverkusen’s dynamic and high-tempo style of play, and will be hoping to hit double figures before the winter break.

3) Stevan Jovetic (Inter)

An injury-hit two years in England meant Manchester City supporters never really saw the best of Jovetic, who is thriving back in Italy with Inter.

Roberto Mancini’s side have been functional so far this season, grinding out victories without much flair or creativity. Jovetic has proved the exception to that rather workmanlike approach, however, offering guile and invention behind Mauro Icardi in an old-fashioned creator-finisher strike partnership.

4) Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo)

Celta Vigo have been one of the surprise packages in La Liga this term, with Aspas playing a key role in the Galicians’ rise to fourth place after nine matches. The Spaniard has hit the back of the net four times since leaving Liverpool, including a brace in Celta’s magnificent 4-1 thrashing of last season’s treble-winners Barcelona.

5) Anthony Modeste (Cologne)

Only Lewandowski, Aubameyang and Muller have scored more goals in the Bundesliga

Blackburn Rovers fans will be surprised to learn that only Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Thomas Muller have scored more goals in the Bundesliga than Modeste, who endured a miserable short-term loan spell at Ewood Park three years ago. The Frenchman looks to have recovered from that setback, though, having hit six in 10 for Peter Stoger’s Cologne outfit since joining from Hoffenheim in the summer.

6) Dirk Kuyt (Feyenoord)

The widely shared video of Kuyt informing his young children that he would be returning to Feyenoord for the 2015/16 campaign warmed hearts a few months back, with the 35-year-old’s homecoming seeming like the perfect end to a popular player’s career.

Any suggestions that Kuyt would be quietly winding down back in the Netherlands have been emphatically blown away by the former Liverpool favourite in recent weeks, however: his 10 goals in 10 outings – including back-to-back hat-tricks against Heerenveen and AZ Alkmaar – have helped Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s charges climb to second place in the Eredivisie and left Feyenoord fans celebrating Kuyt’s prolificacy like it’s 2004.

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7) Salomon Kalou (Hertha Berlin)

Bayern Munich’s brilliance – the Bavarians have won all 10 of their top-flight matches in 2015/16 – means that this year’s Bundesliga title race is essentially over in October, but the rest of the league remains one of the most competitive on the continent.

That is evidenced by Hertha Berlin’s lofty status, with the capital club unexpectedly flying high in fifth place as the campaign enters its second quarter. Chelsea old boy Kalou has been essential to Hertha’s success, scoring four times and putting in some excellent all-round displays, particularly in games against Hamburg and Augsburg.  

8) Roberto Soldado (Villarreal)

Soldado is back scoring goals in Spain after a disappointing time at Tottenham

Soldado was a relatively popular figure at White Hart Lane despite his lack of goals, so Tottenham fans will be pleased to see him performing well back in Spain with Villarreal. The 30-year-old’s recent form suggests that stylistic incompatibility was one of the reasons behind his failure in north London: now playing in a side whose approach better suits his individual skill set, Soldado is impressing once more.

9) Mohamed Salah (Roma)

Alongside Gervinho and Edin Dzeko – fellow Premier League alumni – Salah forms part of an exciting front three

The winger only managed 10 starts for Chelsea in an ill-fated 18 months at Stamford Bridge, but has since shown his worth at Roma as the Giallorossi aim to finish top of the pile in Italy for the first time since 2001. Alongside Gervinho and Edin Dzeko – fellow Premier League alumni – Salah forms part of an exciting front three; with five goals to his name already, the Egyptian has been one of the standout players in the Serie A season so far.

10) Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray)

Podolski’s Arsenal career tailed off dramatically, with the Poland-born Germany international failing to make a single Premier League start in 2014/15 before being shipped off on loan to Inter. The forward didn't impress in Milan but is now back to his best in Istanbul, finding the back of the net four times as Gala seek to retain the Super Lig title they won last year.

11) Nikola Kalinic (Fiorentina)

Kalinic is another ex-Blackburn frontman currently excelling in one of Europe’s major leagues. Signed by Rovers from Hajduk Split for £6 million in 2009, the Croatian – who scored 13 goals in 53 appearances before moving to Dnipro ahead of the 2011/12 campaign – has been on fire since joining Fiorentina in the summer.

A return of six strikes in 10 top-flight appearances has propelled Kalinic into the upper echelons of the Serie A scoring charts; clever with his movement and adept at linking the play, the 27-year-old would have even more goals to his name but for some occasionally wayward finishing.

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