6 Premier League signings who bounced back to star in their second season
Patrice Evra (Manchester United)
Evra unquestionably became one of Sir Alex Ferguson's finest signings when Manchester United paid £5.5m to recruit him from Monaco in 2006. He may have been past his peak by the time of his 2014 departure, but for several seasons the Frenchman was widely regarded as one of the world's leading left-backs.
It wasn't until the 2006/07 campaign when that became the case. A traumatic debut in a derby defeat by Manchester City, when Evra was repeatedly exposed as United lost 3-1, shattered whatever belief he may have had upon his arrival. He’d gone from playing in front of home crowds of 7,000 to around 76,000, and his form was so disappointing that he was dropped ahead of a fixture with Liverpool and missed out on the 2006 World Cup. Mikael Silvestre was recalled at full-back after several seasons playing in central defence.
During the following season, that all changed. Ahead of Gabriel Heinze, John O'Shea and Silvestre, Evra deservedly established himself as Ferguson's first-choice left-back and even outlasted the manager, eventually departing for Serie A behemoths Juventus.
Michael Essien (Chelsea)
Essien became Chelsea's club-record signing – in an already free-spending era – when he joined them from Lyon in 2005 for £24.4m. But the form that made him one of the world's finest midfielders in the late 2000s wasn't displayed during at least his first 12 months at Stamford Bridge.
To accommodate Essien, Mourinho dropped the fluid Eidur Gudjohnsen from a robust team. The quality of Chelsea's football (if not the results) also suffered when, with Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele still at their peak, there was little need for another box-to-box midfielder. Michael Ballack's arrival the following summer appeared to put Essien's place at greater risk, but the Ghanaian responded with consistently exceptional form thereafter and became arguably Chelsea's most important player until two serious knee injuries forced a premature decline.
Javier Mascherano (West Ham/Liverpool)
That West Ham lost eight and drew one of their first nine fixtures following the joint arrivals of Mascherano and Carlos Tevez in August 2006 says much about the midfielder's time at the club. He became an elite player, but in London the Argentine made just seven appearances when Nigel Reo-Coker and Hayden Mullins were preferred.
The fact of the matter is, however, that Mascherano simply didn't impress at Upton Park. Had he done so, such a struggling team (they avoided relegation on the final day of the season) wouldn't have been able to drop him.
West Ham made little attempt to retain the Argentine when he joined Liverpool later that season and, alongside Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso, his form improved. He gradually became a significant figure at Anfield, but for those first few months his best football came in the Champions League – only during the following season did he consistently impress domestically. Thereafter, until his 2010 transfer to Barcelona, he was the finest defensive midfielder in England.
“In a football club like this you need time to adapt,” Mascherano said at the time. “Maybe the first year is just about getting to know it... It’s not right for a player to spend just a year in one country.”
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