6 signings who bounced back to star in their second season
As inevitable as further controversy surrounding the offside rule or an undeserving manager getting the sack is the fact that numerous new signings will struggle to adapt to the surroundings of the Premier League and depart the following summer, regarded as disappointments.
Whether it’s the physicality or culture of English football which they struggle to adapt to, some of the world’s finest can find the Premier League overwhelming. Here are six players who prove that a second season, rather than a return home, can be the solution.
1. Patrice Evra (Man United)
Evra unquestionably became one of Sir Alex Ferguson's finest signings when Manchester United paid £5.5 million 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 Evra was widely regarded as one of the world's leading left-backs.
It wasn't until the 2006/07 season when that became the case. A traumatic debut in a traumatic derby defeat by Manchester City, when Evra was repeatedly exposed as United lost 3-1, shattered whatever belief the Frenchman may have had upon his arrival.
A traumatic debut in a traumatic derby defeat by Manchester City, when Evra was repeatedly exposed as United lost 3-1, shattered whatever belief the Frenchman 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, while 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.
2. 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.
Essien became arguably Chelsea's most important player until two serious knee injuries forced a premature decline
To accommodate Essien, Mourinho dropped the fluid Eidur Gudjohnsen from a robust team, meaning 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.