9 Premier League rejects who went on to thrive in Europe
Jerome Boateng (Manchester City)
It’s easy to forget that Boateng ever played for Manchester City. Arguably one of the best centre-backs in the world for the past few seasons, the German joined City for £10m as a 22-year-old from Hamburg on a five-year deal in 2010.
His spell in Manchester started badly, however: a week before kick-off for the 2010/11 season he injured his knee on international duty, and make it worse after a collision with an airline drinks trolley on the way home.
Boateng found entry into the team difficult following his return. The youngster was rarely trusted ahead of Joleon Lescott, Micah Richards and Vincent Kompany at centre-back, and was often deployed by Roberto Mancini at either right- or left-back.
After one year and just 24 appearances, he joined Bayern Munich for €13.5m – profit for City, on a player who wasn’t automatic first choice. "It was important to me that Bayern had me marked in for a specific position,” said Boateng. “I believe it will end up with me playing at centre-back for the national team more often."
Turns out he was quite right.
Nikola Kalinic (Blackburn)
Kalinic arrived at Ewood Park with a burgeoning reputation from Hajduk Split, having netted 30 goals for the Croatian side before his 20th birthday. He was a regular for the U21s too, for whom he ended up with four goals in nine caps.
But the young striker found life difficult in the Premier League after his £6m move. Steve Kean showed Kalinic the door after two seasons and just seven league goals, when he was moved on to Ukrainian club Dnipro.
It was here where the targetman really pulled it together. Kalinic was a key component of the side that reached the 2015 Europa League Final, having netted six times on their road to Warsaw. He opened their scoring in the final against Sevilla, before Dnipro went down 3-2.
Kalinic signed for Fiorentina in a €5m deal that summer, and the Croatian has since delivered the kind of form he always promised. A hat-trick at the San Siro against Inter in his first season was a particular highlight, among 27 league goals he netted over two fruitful seasons that led to his loan (and eventual €25m transfer) to Milan this summer.
Borja Valero (West Brom)
Valero joined promoted West Brom in 2008, having been signed by Tony Mowbray for €7m. His time in English football was odd, however, and the Spaniard found himself relegated to the Championship after his first season at The Hawthorns.
Initially the midfielder suggested that he would remain loyal to the Baggies, declaring: “I still have a three-year contract here and would like to be true to that. For sure playing in the second division is not ideal. But if I have to put up with it then I’m going to put up with it.”
Yet, by the new season, that promise had gone out of the window and Valero had rejoined his old club on loan. “I prefer to play in Mallorca and not to be in the second division in England,” he shrugged.
Another loan followed at Villarreal in 2010/11, where he won the Don Balon – the award for La Liga’s best Spanish player. Valero eventually joined Fiorentina, from whom he has just signed for his biggest club yet in Inter. Boing boing.
Marco Materazzi (Everton)
The man who helped win Italy a World Cup by getting nutted by Zinedine Zidane. Materazzi spent a year at Everton during the 1998/99 season, signed by Walter Smith – the Scot’s first arrival no less – from Perugia for £2.8m.
In this solitary year at Goodison Park, though, the hardened Italian amassed three red cards in 33 appearances (and another eight yellows on top). After his final sending-off against Coventry, following what Materazzi described as a “dive” by Darren Huckerby, he sat on the advertising hoardings and cried.
The stopper returned to Perugia for two more seasons, before joining Inter in 2011 to begin the most successful stint of his colourful career. He was loved by the Nerazzurri for a decade, winning Serie A’s Defender of the Year award in 2006/07, the Champions League in 2010 and amassing over 300 appearances for the club.
Diego Forlan (Man United)
“Diego, wooaoh, Diego, wooaoh; he came from Uruguay, he made the Scousers cry.” It’s a song still sung in the Stretford End to this day. The game in question was a 2-1 win for Manchester United at Anfield in 2002, when Forlan bagged a brace against the flappy hands of Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.
Although a cult hero to many, the man signed from Independiente only managed 17 goals in three years and 98 appearances at Old Trafford (one 2003 miss in a friendly against Juventus will live long in the memory). Forlan often played second fiddle to Ruud van Nistelrooy, and was eventually sold to Villarreal by Alex Ferguson in 2004.
He then proceeded to tear up La Liga with the Yellow Submarine and then Atletico Madrid, who he joined in 2007 and formed a brilliant partnership with Sergio Aguero. Forlan won the Pichichi trophy for his 32 goals in 2008/09, then claimed the Golden Ball at World Cup 2010 as Uruguay reached the semi-finals. These days you’ll find him at Mumbai City in India.