8 Premier League flops who looked great in pre-season

Yaya Sanogo Arsenal Benfica

It can be a dangerously deceptive time of year…

We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

For players and managers, it’s about getting in shape for the season ahead – but for fans and the media, these warm-up games serve as a glimpse of what may lie ahead.

But all that glitters in pre-season is not necessarily Premier League gold...

Darren Bent (Tottenham)

Bent managed an impressive haul of 12 goals for Tottenham during 2008/09 pre-season, alleviating concerns about the departures of Robbie Keane and Dimitar Berbatov that summer.

It didn’t continue into the season, though, with Bent struggling under Juande Ramos and eventual replacement Harry Redknapp. Twelve goals doubled his haul from 2007/08, but a limp Spurs side finished eighth behind Fulham and Aston Villa. One open-goal miss against Portsmouth even led to Redknapp exclaiming: “My missus could have scored that.”

Yaya Sanogo (Arsenal)

As a member of the France team that lifted the Under-20 World Cup in 2013 – alongside the likes of Paul Pogba, Geoffrey Kondogbia, Florian Thauvin and Lucas Digne – Sanogo was tipped for good things after a season in which he’d scored 10 goals in 13 Ligue 1 outings for Auxerre. 

It might not have quite worked out that way at Arsenal (or anything close to it), but for one sunny August afternoon, Sanogo was on fire. He thumped four goals in a 5-1 2014 Emirates Cup demolition of Benfica – then played his last three Premier League games for the Gunners that season without scoring. 

Jon Dahl Tomasson (Newcastle)

Jon Dahl Tomasson Newcastle

Signed as a second striker to play off Alan Shearer, Tomasson scored twice and generally impressed on his Newcastle debut in a pre-season friendly against PSV Eindhoven in Ireland.

Two more followed in the off-season, but any hopes of an effective partnership were crushed when Shearer suffered a long-term injury. Forced to lead the line, a 21-year-old Tomasson crumbled under the pressure and went on to score just four goals all season before departing for Feyenoord.

David Bellion (Manchester United)

Bellion arrived at Manchester United after a protracted transfer saga in the summer of 2003, with Sir Alex Ferguson hopeful that the 20-year-old winger-turned-striker could emulate the success of Thierry Henry at Arsenal.

A goal in a 4-0 pre-season drubbing of Celtic suggested Fergie had unearthed a gem to rival one of Arsene Wenger’s best, but a subsequent return of four goals in 24 largely frustrating appearances proved otherwise.

Iago Aspas (Liverpool)

Regrettably remembered as the architect of one of the worst corners in Premier League history, Aspas’s happiest times at Liverpool came before the 2013/14 season even started.

The Spaniard scored four times in a pre-season campaign where the Reds won seven of eight games. It was a good omen for the season ahead under Brendan Rodgers – just not a good one for Aspas. 

Life has proved much kinder to the striker back in Spain, however, where he is bona fide legend at Celta Vigo. The ground of local amateurs CD Moaña – in his hometown – is being renamed Campo Iago Aspas.

Franco Di Santo (Chelsea)

Franco Di Santo Chelsea

After impressing with 12 goals in eight reserve team appearances, Di Santo was included Chelsea’s pre-season tour of China in 2008. The young Argentine looked sharp in the Far East, too, scoring twice on the tour. Eight anonymous league appearances without a goal the following season, however, suggested he was less Maradona and more Carlos Marinelli.

His final Premier League record across spells with the Blues, Blackburn and Wigan read 14 goals in 122 appearances. Ouch. 

Jerome Boateng (Manchester City)

Signed for £10.4 million in summer 2010, Boateng was some way off the Champions League winner he became at Bayern Munich, but still showed flashes of brilliance at City.

The most notable display came during a pre-season friendly against Valencia where the versatile stopper combined effectively with Micah Richards in defence, switching effortlessly between centre-back and right-back and even crossing for Gareth Barry to score. What might have been…

Simon Davies (Everton)

David Moyes celebrated Champions League qualification in style: with the £4 million acquisition of Simon Davies from Tottenham. But while not exactly a marquee signing, the winger looked sharp in pre-season, scoring the winner in a man-of-the-match display against Udinese.

It was all downhill from there. The Toffees exited Europe early and struggled domestically, while Davies flopped hard and left for Fulham two years later – with whom he went on to start in the 2010 Europa League Final. 

While you're here, why not take advantage of our brilliant subscribers' offer? Get 5 issues of the world's greatest football magazine for £5 – the game's greatest stories and finest journalism direct to your door for less than a pint in London. Cheers!


RANKED! The 101 greatest football players of the last 25 years

QUIZ Can you name the 50 African players with the most Premier League appearances?

ADVICE 27 essential Fantasy Premier League tips from old winners and experts

New features you’d love on