9 players who couldn't hack the culture shock in a new league
1. Nolito (Manchester City)
My daughter’s face has changed colour – it looks like she’s been living in a cave
The start of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City brought the signing of Celta Vigo forward Nolito in July 2016. Unfortunately, the Spaniard started just nine league matches and appeared more concerned with the lack of light in his new home.
“I have learnt very, very little English – it’s very hard. Just ‘tomorrow’, ‘good morning’, ‘good afternoon’ and a little more," he admitted to Spanish radio station El Transistor. "My daughter’s face has changed colour – it looks like she’s been living in a cave."
When spotted in an ice cream parlour with Sevilla’s sporting director this summer, Nolito denied there was a move on the cards, claiming he was only there to look for clothes for his wife. A few weeks later, he signed a three-year contract with the La Liga club. The ice cream must have been good.
2. Darius Vassell (Ankaragucu)
People want money, people want goals, they want me to stay but I'm missing my home
Ambitiously dubbed the “English Kaka” by Ankaragucu chairman Cengiz Topel Yildirim, Vassell was mobbed by 3,000 Turks at Ankara airport in 2009 as a procession of 50 buses and 250 cars welcomed the club’s latest signing.
But the former England international's time in Turkey turned hellish when the cash-strapped Super Lig team failed to pay his bill at a hotel and he was evicted. It was then that the striker began to pour his heart out to the world with blogs that went viral: "People want money, people want goals, they want me to stay but I'm missing my home," he electronically emoted.
The blog detailing the daily happenings of the former Aston Villa man’s life in Turkey, which included incidents such as the club sacrificing a goat at the training ground. He also made it clear that he was missing a good old Midlands cuppa. "My favourite sentence is "Bier cay lutfen?" [one tea please] but there is only so much Turkish tea that I can drink before the novelty wears off," Vassell wrote.
Eventually, he parted company with the club after scoring four goals in 22 appearances, insisting: “My love for Turkey has not been affected.” Phew.
3. Lars Leese (Barnsley)
He became the hero of the famous 1-0 victory at Anfield as the famous chant of "Lars Leese, as tall as trees" bellowed out of the away end
In 1997, Barnsley boss Danny Wilson purchased Leese, Bayer Leverkusen's third-choice goalkeeper, without having seen him play. The German was catapulted into the Premiership, becoming the hero of the famous 1-0 victory at Anfield as the famous chant of "Lars Leese, as tall as trees" bellowed out of the away end.
Despite some impressive showings between the sticks, Leese was left bemused by Yorkshire dressing room culture. "How do they do that?" he mused on the size of English bladders at a beer-swilling bonding session; he then glanced under the table to see the home players relieving themselves horizontally. At Barnsley's Christmas party, one team-mate dressed up as Adolf Hitler and greeted Leese with a shrill "Heil Hitler", which the keeper explained was an arrestable offence in his home country.
“England is a special place with its own culture," Leese said. "In Germany, the image I had was of a London gentleman wearing a bowler hat, but when I got to Barnsley and saw it at night I thought, 'Jesus, this is like Mallorca.'" He's probably the first person to have thought that.
4. Mauro Boselli (Wigan)
The forward missed a penalty against the Hammers just minutes after coming on
Former Estudiantes striker Boselli boldly declared he wanted to become a part of Wigan's history when he signed for £6m in 2010, while insisting there was nothing he missed about Argentina.
"Everything else can be managed," Boselli boldly declared on his arrival. Everything except a chilly evening at Upton Park, that is. The forward missed a penalty against the Hammers just minutes after coming on, before complaining: "That day, I’d just come onto the pitch and couldn’t feel my feet it was so cold."
Boselli eventually left the Latics for the subtropical temperature of Club Leon in Mexico. In March 2012, Wigan fans ranked him as the club’s worst ever foreign player.
5. Jimmy Greaves (Milan)
Rossoneri manager Nereo Rocco was particularly austere, ensuring the former Stamford Bridge hero didn’t smoke more than two cigarettes a day
Greaves left an ailing Chelsea for a cash-rich Milan in 1961, but his heart wasn't really in it. Rossoneri manager Nereo Rocco was particularly austere, ensuring the former Stamford Bridge hero didn’t smoke more than two cigarettes a day or escape the city limits. "He once locked me into my room, so I escaped out of a window, across a ledge, in a hallway window and out to freedom via the main reception," the England striker later recalled.
The player's saviour was Tottenham boss Bill Nicholson at Tottenham, who paid £99,999 for the striker in December. Greaves' nine Serie A goals helped Milan to the title, but he didn't play enough games to claim a winner's medal.