12 players who've won the Champions League – and been relegated from the Premier League

Fabrizio Ravanelli

It’s rare for such contrasts to be contained within the career of a footballer – but it does happen. Each of the 12 players on this list played for the winning side in a Champions League final, and have also also been relegated from the Premier League – so sadly there’s no room for Euro benchwarmers like Jonathan Greening, Bojan or Darren Fletcher.

It could have been worse, too: Edgar Davids holds the distinction of winning the Champions League with Ajax and being relegated from the entire Football League with Barnet. So at least there’s that...

Nwankwo Kanu (Ajax 1995/West Brom 2006)

‘King Kanu’ was integral to Ajax’s 1995 Champions League success. He scored a spectacular diving header to open the scoring in the Dutch side’s quarter-final win over Dinamo Zagreb, and came off the bench in the final to help the Amsterdam giants to a famous 1-0 win over Milan.

Eleven years later, however, it was an altogether different story. The Nigerian’s wastefulness in front of goal contributed to a miserable season for West Brom, who were relegated with two games to spare. The highs and lows continued at Kanu’s next club Portsmouth where, incredibly, he won the FA Cup before suffering back-to-back relegations from the Premier League and Championship.

Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United 2008/QPR 2015)

Rio Ferdinand

Harry Redknapp looked to have pulled off a wheeler-dealer bargain in 2014 after convincing Ferdinand to join newly-promoted QPR. The former Manchester United man had won 14 trophies during his 12 years at Old Trafford, including the 2008 Champions League, and was seen as the ideal man to marshal Rangers' ramshackle defence.

But Ferdinand was a shadow of his former self, battling the personal tragedy of losing his wife Rebecca to cancer. Redknapp tried out a variety of formations to try to accommodate Ferdinand’s fading talents, but to no avail. The ex-West Ham chief resigned that season and QPR finished bottom, shipping 10 more goals than any other side that term. Ferdinand retired that summer.

Nicky Butt (Manchester United 1999/Newcastle 2009)

Butt was a dependable squad player under Sir Alex Ferguson, but Roy Keane’s suspension meant he started Manchester United’s memorable 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League Final. Butt won 10 major trophies during his time at Old Trafford, but left for Newcastle in 2004 in search of first-team football.

It proved to be a difficult transition, though, with injury and the sudden sacking of manager Sir Bobby Robson curtailing Butt’s initial impact on Tyneside. Newcastle were in terminal decline by the time he returned to contention, culminating in their relegation from the Premier League in 2009. Butt played on for another season, though, helping the Magpies return to the top flight before hanging up his boots.

Fabrizio Ravanelli (Juventus 1996/Middlesbrough 1997, Derby 2002)

Ravanelli Juve

Ravanelli scored five goals for Juventus en route to Champions League glory in 1996, including one in the final against Ajax. But that summer he swapped Turin for Teesside and mid-table Middlesbrough, in a move few saw coming.

The fact Boro were paying Ravanelli a reported £42,000-a-week helped, of course, but the White Feather was no freeloader and scored 31 goals in all competitions that season. Boro reached the League Cup and FA Cup finals but ended up losing both and, to make matters worse, were relegated on the final day. Though Ravanelli initially vowed to stay and gain promotion from the First Division, he left two games into the season for the significantly sunnier Marseille.

The not-so-Fab Ravanelli curse struck again when he signed for Derby in 2001, and the Rams were relegated at the end of his first season.

SEE ALSO Middlesbrough 1996/97: rucks, relegation, cup finals… and training at a prison

Michele Padovano (Juventus 1996/Crystal Palace 1999)

Padovano had carved out a journeyman striker's career before Marcelo Lippi plucked him from obscurity to back up Ravanelli and Gianluca Vialli at Juventus. He certainly proved his worth, netting the decisive goal in Juve’s quarter-final win over Real Madrid as well as a penalty in the Bianconeri’s 1996 Champions League Final shootout victory over Ajax.

The Italian’s European pedigree was enough to convince newly-promoted Crystal Palace that they should shell out £1.7m to bring him to Selhurst Park in the summer of 1998. Padovano struggled to adjust to the demands of the English top flight, though, scoring once in 12 outings for a Palace side that ended the season bottom and on the brink of administration. He left for Metz the following summer.

Steve Finnan (Liverpool 2005/Portsmouth 2010)

Steve Finnan

Finnan holds the remarkable record of having played in the World Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup, Intertoto Cup, all four levels of the English league football and the Conference – but that’s only the half of it.

The Irishman is also among the select few to experience the joy of Champions League success and Premier League relegation. Finnan was part of the Liverpool side that lifted the famous Champions League trophy in 2005, and also in the Reds' starting XI for the 2007 final they lost to Milan.

After a short spell in Spain with Espanyol, he returned to England with Portsmouth in 2010. They were relegated that season, though, with Finnan’s final game as a professional coming in that season’s FA Cup final against Chelsea.

NEXT:A three-time winner goes down – and someone finally does it in the right order

Denis Irwin (Manchester United 1999/Wolves 2004)

Irwin won 13 major trophies during his time with Manchester United, including the 1999 Champions League. When Sir Alex Ferguson opted against renewing his contract in 2002, when he was 36, the Irishman could and probably should have called it a day there.

But Irwin wanted more, and duly signed for Wolves in the second tier that summer. Initially, it went well: Wolves won promotion to the Premier League in his first season, ending a 19-year stint away from the top flight. Irwin’s final season proved much harder, though, and Wolves suffered the drop alongside Leicester and Leeds. A 5-1 defeat to Blackburn on the opening day set the tone for a season where Wanderers failed to win away from home.

Victor Valdes (Barcelona 2006, 2009, 2011/Middlesbrough 2017)

Victor Valdes

A serial Champions League winner with Barcelona, Valdes was also custodian for one of the worst Premier League teams in recent memory. He was once one of the best goalkeepers in the world, but a cruciate ligament injury – followed by an extended spell as back-up to David de Gea – meant the Spaniard was somewhat rusty by the time he joined Middlesbrough in 2016.

But despite the appeal of working under compatriot Aitor Karanka, who'd got Boro promoted with a distinctive style of football, the club struggled for identity in the Premier League. Karanka was eventually sacked and Boro finished bottom after winning just five games all season. Valdes opted to leave the Riverside that summer and later retired.

Finidi George (Ajax 1995/Ipswich 2002)

As part of the Ajax side that won the Champions League in 1995, Finidi’s main contribution came in the semi-final against Bayern Munich, where he scored an absolute screamer as part of a 5-2 win for the Eredivisie side. Six years later after a successful stint in Spain, the Nigerian rocked up at Ipswich Town with fans hopeful that the new £1.3 million signing would help them build on the previous season’s fifth-place finish.

But despite two goals in a 3-1 win over Derby early in the campaign, George looked out of sorts. He started matches sporadically while Ipswich struggled for goals and creativity, and the end result was relegation from the Premier League. He was released on a free and later rejoined former club Mallorca to see out his career.  

Michael Carrick (Manchester United 2008/West Ham 2003)

Michael Carrick

Carrick pulled off this particular trick in the preferable order. Part of a West Ham team that really was too good to go down but nevertheless did in 2003, he played a season in the Championship before moving on to Tottenham and eventually Manchester United in 2006.

After several years of trial and error, Sir Alex Ferguson saw Carrick as the Roy Keane replacement his United team was crying out for. He lived up to the billing too, winning five Premier League titles, an FA Cup, three League Cups, the Europa League and Champions League in 2008 – scoring in United’s penalty shootout win over Chelsea in the final.

Ibrahim Afellay (Barcelona 2011/Stoke 2018)

Signed from PSV Eindhoven in January 2011, Afellay enjoyed several notable cameos for Barcelona in the Champions League that season, setting up Lionel Messi for a goal in the semi-finals against Real Madrid and coming on in the final itself against Manchester United. An anterior cruciate ligament injury sidelined him for much of the following season, though, and the Dutchman ultimately struggling to rekindle the kind of form that made him a Barça player in the first place. 

He ended up at Stoke in 2015, where injuries and attitude problems further curtailed his impact. With the Potters facing a battle to stay up in 2018, Afellay found himself banished from the club for the remainder of the campaign, after his focus was once again called into question. Stoke eventually went down and the player's contract was terminated the following January.

Jose Bosingwa (Chelsea 2012/QPR 2015)

Jose Bosingwa

Bosingwa has felt the emotional extremes of Champions League success and Premier League failure more than most. He was part of the Chelsea team that defied logic to win the Champions League under Roberto Di Matteo; the unsung hero of that campaign too, stepping up in John Terry's red-card absence following the Chelsea captain's early dismissal against Barcelona in the semi-final, and keeping Franck Ribery quiet in the final against Bayern.

Still only 30 when he moved to QPR on a free the following summer, Bosingwa's signing should have been a coup for Rangers. It was anything but. The Portuguese half-arsed it and soon fell out with manager Harry Redknapp after refusing to sit on the bench for a game against Fulham. Booed by his own fans and criticised by team-mates like Joey Barton, Bosingwa emerged as a scapegoat for QPR's big-spending, under-performing side.

They were relegated with games to spare and he didn’t stay where he wasn't wanted, cancelling the remaining two years of his contract to join Trabzonspor in Turkey later that summer.


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