Ranked! The 20 best players ever to be relegated from the Premier League
Some of the top flight stars who really weren't too good to go down
Often, players get relegated from the Premier League that leave you scratching your head, asking how has a player of their undeniable quality not managed to save their club from dropping to the second tier of English football.
Unfortunately, though, it happens, and it's inevitable. Teams can have poor seasons with their star men underperforming, or, if you navigate further down this list, their star men actually overperform and earn awards, yet their team-mates can't match anywhere near the requisite levels.
One thing to bear in mind with this list is that players from across the division's 30-year history have been included, rather than simply plucking all of Leicester City's high-profile stars from the 2022/23 season.
So, without further ado, here are FourFourTwo's 20 best players to be relegated from the Premier League...
20. Gareth Southgate (Crystal Palace 1994/95)
The current England manager's playing days are - unfairly - largely remembered for a certain penalty shoot-out in 1996. He was in fact a dependable centre-back who rarely put a foot wrong, and the young captain of a good Palace side that would have survived were it not for the fact that four teams were required to be relegated that year in order to reduce the Premier League from 22 clubs to 20.
There can't be many happy memories for Southgate from this period, as this was also the season when Roy Keane attempted a stamp a hole in his chest. Ouch.
19. Jan Age Fjortoft (Swindon Town, 1993/94)
The cult hero Norwegian striker was a skilful and dynamic player who bagged 13 goals for the Robins in his first season in England – although didn't get his first until January 22. Fjortoft's iconic aeroplane celebration was soon replicated in school playgrounds across the country, but he couldn't quite keep Swindon up.
He suffered the same fate four years later, this time with Barnsley.
18. Jostein Flo (Sheffield United, 1993/94)
The 1993/94 campaign wasn't a good season for Norwegian strikers: joining Fjortoft in suffering relegation to the second tier was Flo, whose 10 goals weren’t enough to save the Blades.
Brighter days were thankfully ahead, though, as the 6ft 4in frontman went on to score 110 goals in 161 league games for Strømsgodset, as well as being a thorn in the side of Brazil when Norway ran out 2-1 winners against the Seleção at France 98.
17. Julio Cesar (QPR, 2012/13)
When Julio Cesar pitched up in west London in 2012, QPR fans were ecstatic that a highly-rated goalkeeper would be minding net at Loftus Road for the season. What transpired, though, was a fairly dismal season, with QPR relegated with just 25 points.
The Brazilian did manage to prevent any major losses, conceding just 60 over the course of a season - not too bad considering the complete lack of quality in the squad. Three years earlier he had just become a treble winner with Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan, and was still the Brazil No.1.
16. Aaron Ramsdale (Bournemouth, 2019/20 & Sheffield United 2020/21)
Ramsdale suffered two relegations in consecutive seasons with Bournemouth and then Sheffield United, leading people to question his ability as a goalkeeper. However, the England international won both clubs' Player of the Season award during those campaigns, proving his worth to the squad on each occasion.
Since moving to Arsenal he has since proven many critics wrong with his strong performances, though they clearly weren't enough to stave the aforementioned sides from dropping into the Championship.
15. James Ward-Prowse (Southampton, 2022/23)
A leading light in a lowly Southampton side, Ward-Prowse led a young side as best he could with some mesmeric displays - and free-kicks. Only David Beckham boasts a better free-kick goalscoring record in the Premier League history, with Ward-Prowse getting closer to with three strikes during the course of the 2022/23 season.
Still, it wasn't enough for the midfielder to stop Saints dropping into the Championship.
14. Xherdan Shaqiri (Stoke City, 2017/18)
A treble winner with Bayern Munich in 2013, Shaqiri arrived in Stoke to much fanfare, of which he largely lived up to. Eight goals and seven assists from the wing isn't a poor return either, highlighting his importance to the side, though it still wasn't enough to stop Stoke from being relegated.
His subsequent transfer to Liverpool showed his quality, proving it wasn't his fault Stoke were relegated at the end of the 2010s.
13. Charlie Adam (Blackpool, 2010/11)
It's easy to forget that Blackpool were an entertaining Premier League side at the beginning of the 2010s. Adam was their talisman, with the Scot having spearheaded the Tangerines' rise to the top flight with a magnificent array of long-range strikes.
Adam took his game to another level in the Premier League and was even mentioned as a possible contender for the PFA Player of the Year award after being directly involved in 22 goals across all competitions. Sadly, Blackpool went down on the final day – but he got his big move to Liverpool.
12. Gilles De Bilde (Sheffield Wednesday, 1999/2000)
Acquiring De Bilde from PSV was seen as a major coup for Wednesday in 1999, but the Belgium international was unfortunately one of few positives at Hillsborough that season. The Owls looked doomed as early as September, when they were thrashed 8-0 by Newcastle, although 10-goal De Bilde did his best to try to keep their heads above water.
11. Craig Bellamy (Coventry City, 2000/01)
After 34 years in the top flight, Coventry's luck finally ran out in 2001. The only solace they could take from their final season at the top table were the performances of Bellamy, who tried his best to keep the Midlanders in the Premier League.
The Welshman later admitted that he didn't enjoy his time at the club, however, which was hardly surprising after a six-goal campaign. Then again, Bellamy was never prolific: after joining Coventry for this season, he only ever got to double figures in a league season three times (one of those in the second tier) – and never scored more than 13 (at Blackburn in 2005/06).
10. Georgi Kinkladze (Manchester City, 1995/96)
Before David Silva and Sergio Aguero pitched up in the north-west, Kinkladze was one of the most exciting players that Manchester City fans had ever witnessed. The wiggle-hipped Georgian wizard, who was capable of dribbling past virtually any opponent, scored some tremendous goals for the Citizens, although homesickness prevented him from realising his full potential at Maine Road.
9. Muzzy Izzet (Leicester City, 2003/04)
If every retired Leicester legend made a claim to get in the Foxes' current side, Izzet would have one of the best chances. In 2003/04, the Turkey international got a Premier League-high 14 assists ahead of Ryan Giggs, despite the Foxes' miserable relegation to the second tier. Having stayed put upon their first relegation in 2002, Izzet finally left for Birmingham on a free transfer after eight successful years in the East Midlands.
8. Mark Viduka (Leeds United, 2003/04)
Much like West Ham the year before, Leeds suffered relegation despite possessing a squad brimming with talent. Future stars like James Milner and Aaron Lennon were still cutting their teeth at that stage, while club stalwarts Alan Smith, Ian Harte, Lee Bowyer and Lucas Radebe should really have been good enough to keep the Yorkshiremen up.
Of them all, though, Viduka was least deserving of the humiliation: the Australian brought his otherwise-impeccable Leeds career to an end with a respectable 11 league goals.
7. Andrew Johnson (Crystal Palace, 2004/05)
Scoring 21 Premier League goals would be enough for the Golden Boot in some seasons, but Johnson was pipped to the award by Thierry Henry in 2004/05. The speedy striker was on fire for the Eagles upon their return to the top tier, scoring more than half of Iain Dowie's men's overall tally - even if 11 were penalties.
His exploits in front of goal earned him an England call-up, but Palace were victims of West Brom's great escape on the final day.
6. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City, 2022/23)
Granted, Vardy's paltry three goals and four assists in the 2022/23 season is a far cry from his once scintillating form for the Foxes, but Vardy's quality over his decade in the Premier League certainly seems too good to go down. He is 15th on the list of all-time Premier League top scorers, highlighting how clinical he is in front of goal, while his tireless work-rate never showed signs of slowing down.
However, only Michael Owen from the 14 players above him in the all-time goalscoring charts has been relegated, making him one of the most prolific goalscorer in the Premier League to face the drop.
5. Charlie Austin (QPR, 2014/15)
QPR were a shambles in 2014/15, winning just eight matches and conceding 73 goals. They did find the net 42 times, though, with Austin reponsible for 18 of them.
The former Swindon striker was a rare bright spot in a dismal year for the west Londoners, finishing the season as the division's fourth-highest goalscorer - one place above a certain Alexis Sanchez.
4. Scott Parker (West Ham, 2010/11)
England midfielder Parker was a man possessed for the Hammers, scoring seven goals and delivering many more inspiring team talks in a year where he rarely put a foot wrong.
Despite his team finishing 20th, Parker's lung-busting displays earned him the FWA Footballer of the Year award – remarkable for a campaign that ended in such collective ignominy.
3. Juninho (Middlesbrough, 1996/97)
It's hard to find anyone who doesn't have a soft spot for Juninho. The diminutive Brazil international helped Middlesbrough to both the League and FA Cup finals in his second season on Teesside, but the three points they were deducted for cancelling a game in December proved to be fatal.
A 1-1 draw with Leeds on the final day wasn't enough to keep them up and reduced Juninho to tears, securing his place in the hearts of Boro fans forever.
2. Paolo Di Canio (West Ham United, 2002/03)
Nowadays, 42 points would probably guarantee a comfortable mid-table finish. In 2003, it meant relegation for West Ham.
In a team chock-full of talent (think Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Joe Cole), it was Di Canio who stood out as a true superstar. The enigmatic Italian had fallen out with manager Glenn Roeder earlier in the season, but rediscovered some form under caretaker Trevor Brooking towards the end of the campaign. Even then, nine goals in 18 matches weren't enough to save West Ham.
1. Roy Keane (Nottingham Forest 1992/93)
Younger readers may only recognise as Keane as that terrifying pundit on Sky Sports, but once upon a time he was one of the most promising youngsters in world football. His efforts in the inaugural Premier League season for Forest attracted attention from the division's top sides, but he was unable to drag Brian Clough's side out of danger despite earning a spot in the PFA Team of the Year.
Keane joined Manchester United that summer – a move that worked out rather well for both player and club.
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