10 Premier League cast-offs who went on to win the Champions League elsewhere

Jerome Boateng

There are plenty of folk out there who'll tell you that the Premier League is the best in the world – but this motley crew might disagree. 

Each was cut adrift by some of England’s biggest clubs (and Charlton). Sometimes it was down to timing. Occasionally, club politics played a part. A few of them were just a bit rubbish. In any case, each found a new home and then Champions League success with a different club. 

Sometimes, flopping in England's top tier isn't necessarily the worst thing - as these ten players will testify...

10. Jorge Costa (Charlton)

The defender nicknamed ‘The Tank’ by Porto fans rolled into the Valley in December 2001 after falling out with coach Octavio Machado in Portugal. Signed as part of a bizarre season-saving loan double act alongside Chris Bart-Williams from Nottingham Forest, the pair helped Charlton avoid the drop.

However, Alan Curbishley didn't make his move permanent and Costa returned to Porto that summer, by which time Machado had been sacked and replaced by Jose Mourinho. Within two years, the stopper was captaining Porto to Champions League glory. Not so much a cast-off, then, but a peculiar turn of events.

9. Claudio Pizarro (Chelsea)

Mourinho looked to have pulled off a blinding bit of Bosman business when Pizarro arrived in the summer of 2007. The Peruvian had bagged 100 goals in 256 games for Bayern Munich and signed for Chelsea after failing to secure a bumper pay rise with the Bavarians.

It was a costly mistake. Pizarro spent much of that season on the bench, watching on as first Mourinho was sacked, and then Nicolas Anelka was signed. After just two goals in 32 games at Chelsea, he returned to Germany the following year with Werder Bremen. Eventually, Pizarro rejoined Bayern and helped the club win the 2013 Champions League, scoring against Juventus in the quarter-finals.

8. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Arsenal)

Versatile Holland international Van Bronckhorst was supposed to fill the gap in midfield left by Emmanuel Petit when he arrived at Arsenal in the summer of 2001, signed from Rangers for £8m. Unfortunately, halfway through his debut season, Gio suffered a cruciate ligament injury during a routine 4-1 win over Fulham that ruled him out for nine months.

Fellow newcomer Edu stepped up in his place and the Dutchman never truly regained his starting spot. He moved to Barcelona in 2003 – first on loan, before a cut-price €2m fee was agreed. At the Camp Nou he was successfully converted into a left-back, the position he played as Barça won the Champions League in 2006 – at the expense of Arsenal.

7. Marco Materazzi (Everton)

‘The Matrix’ suffered a serious malfunction in his one and only season in England, racking up three red cards and 11 bookings in just 33 games throughout 1998/99. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Italian was soon back on his way to Perugia, the club Everton had signed him from.

There, Materazzi went on to break Daniel Passarella’s record for the most goals by a defender in a single Serie A season (12). That was enough to attract Inter, where Materazzi’s overly physical approach made him a fan favourite. Eventually, under Mourinho, he became a Champions League winner during Inter's remarkable Treble season of 2009/10.

6. Gerard Pique (Manchester United)

An anomaly here in that everybody realised what a fine footballer he was. The 2007/08 campaign was supposed to be the one in which the 20-year-old Pique completed his transition from youth prospect to Manchester United regular. But the Spaniard was soon in the firing line after a defensive lapse let Nicolas Anelka in for a goal during a shock 1-0 loss to Bolton.

Pique dropped out of contention once more, citing homesickness, and handed in a transfer request in the summer of 2008 which Sir Alex Ferguson reluctantly accepted. Remember too, that he was contending with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic at this point.

Pique returned to Barcelona and has since celebrated three Champions League titles – two of which came via wins over United in the final.

5. Jerome Boateng (Manchester City)

A combination of bad luck and poor management put paid to Boateng’s Manchester City career. Signed after the 2010 World Cup, the Germany international had to wait more than a month to make his debut after aggravating an injury following a collision with an aeroplane drinks trolley.

When the stopper was finally fit, Robert Mancini insisted on playing Boateng at full-back rather than in central defence. The German was omitted from City's squad for the 2011 FA Cup Final, then left for Bayern Munich that summer – where he went on to lift the Champions League in 2013, before winning the World Cup in 2014. We’re betting he stayed seated on the flight home.

4. Sylvinho (Arsenal)

Arsenal beat off stiff competition from Spurs to sign Sylvinho, who was earmarked as the long-term successor to left-back Nigel Winterburn at the time. The first Brazilian to play for Arsenal, he enjoyed a fine first year at the club (opens in new tab) which included some memorable goals – including a particularly memorable screamer against Chelsea.

In the end, a combination of injuries, passport issues and the emergence of Ashley Cole ended his Arsenal career. He was sold to Celta Vigo in 2001, left there for Barcelona three years later and, in 2009, started the Champions League final as Barça completed their Treble under Pep Guardiola.

3. Gary Cahill (Aston Villa)

Aston Villa fans must rue the day that academy product Cahill was allowed to join Bolton for £5m back in 2008 – especially as manager Martin O’Neill had just forked out around double that to retain the on-loan Curtis Davies.

In four years at the Macron, Cahill did enough to earn an England call-up and, eventually, a move to Chelsea (who got an absolute bargain themselves for just £7m in January 2012). He went on to win both the FA Cup and Champions League in his first season with the Blues. Villa and Davies, meanwhile, have not.

2. Arjen Robben (Chelsea)

Although the Dutchman was happy enough to swap Chelsea for Real Madrid in 2007, the truth was that Jose Mourinho had lost patience with his player. Robben was often sidelined with a variety of minor injuries, and his Portuguese coach was glad to sell him to los Blancos and facilitate his swoop for replacement Florent Malouda.

The Spanish giants, meanwhile, had only signed him after a move for Michael Ballack collapsed (a winger for a central midfielder – Madrid logic). Robben had the last laugh, though: after two years at the Bernabeu, he joined Bayern Munich and made up for the disappointment of missing a penalty against Chelsea in the 2012 Champions League Final by scoring the winning goal 12 months later against Borussia Dortmund.

1. Patrik Andersson (Blackburn)

Andersson earned legendary status among Bayern Munich fans for a stoppage-time goal that won the Bavarians a shocking 2001 Bundesliga title (opens in new tab) from rivals Schalke. It was his only goal for Bayern.

A lot of Blackburn fans might have forgotten he was even at Ewood Park almost a decade before that.

Andersson was among the first foreigners to hit the Premier League in 1992/93, but played just 12 league games before joining Borussia Monchengladbach. Six impressive seasons there earned him his Bayern switch, and the Swede experienced European glory in 2001 by playing all 120 minutes in the German giants' Champions League final penalty shootout triumph over Valencia.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1