One-season wonders: the players who lit up the Premier League – then burned out

Michael Bridges, Leeds, One season wonders
(Image credit: Getty Images)

They came, they scored, they conquered... then blew up spectacularly. These are the stars who shone brightly for a few months, then disappeared without a trace. Welcome to the Premier League’s one-season wonders.

Michu (Swansea, 2012/13)

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 12: Miguel Michu of Swansea City celebrates scoring his team's first goal to make the score 1-1 during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Swansea City at Old Trafford on May 12, 2013 in Manchester, England.

(Image credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

So good was Swansea’s attacking midfielder when scoring 18 goals in his debut Premier League season, that his £2m fee has become a currency against which other bargains are compared. N’Golo Kanté to Leicester? Good value, but still 2.8 Michus. “I should have a word with my scouting department,” joked Sir Alex Ferguson, after the Spaniard struck in a draw with Manchester United. “Just £2m, and I’d not heard of him.” The 2013 League Cup winner quickly returned to obscurity, an ankle injury curtailing his top-flight career.

Jonatan Johansson (Charlton, 2000/01)

30 Dec 2000: Jonatan Johansson of Charlton Athletic celebrates his second goal during the FA Carling Premiership match against Manchester City played at Maine Road, in Manchester, England. Charlton Athletic won the match 4-1.

(Image credit: Alex Livesey/Allsport via Getty Images)

When Johansson towered over Arsenal’s Sylvinho and Igors Stepanovs to head home his 13th goal of the season on New Year’s Day 2001, the Finnish frontman must have wondered what all the Premier League fuss was about. Newly-promoted Charlton were eighth in the table and the £3.5m attacker’s noggin had just delivered league goal No.10 of a stellar six months. The former Rangers man managed a mere 17 over the next five years, however, before a six-month loan at Championship Norwich in January 2006, er, Finnished his spell in English football. Sorry! 

Robinho (Manchester City, 2008/09)

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 28: Robinho of Manchester City looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Newcastle United at The City of Manchester Stadium on January 28, 2009 in Manchester, England.

(Image credit: Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

The jelly-legged winger may have thought he was joining a different team in August 2008 – “Chelsea made a great proposal and I accepted,” he cheered at his City unveiling – but that didn’t stop the Brazilian firing 14 goals in his first campaign. Gradually, though, Robinho’s extra-curricular activities caught up with him and he was sent back to Santos on loan in 2010, after 10 goalless games in his second league season. In 2013, he was convicted of sexual assault while at Milan. 

Amr Zaki (Wigan, 2008/09)

Wigan Athletic's Egyptian forward Amr Zaki (R) is congratulated by Wigan Athletic's Austrian midfielder Paul Scharner after scoring against Liverpool during their English Premier League football match at Anfield in Liverpool, north west England on October 18, 2008. Liverpool won the game 3-2.

(Image credit: PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

At 3.45pm on October 18, 2008, the world was at Zaki’s feet. The Latics were 2-1 up at half-time at Anfield, the ‘Egyptian Gladiator’ having recently notched his seventh goal – a stunning scissor volley from the edge of the penalty area – in eight Premier League games on loan from Zamalek. Liverpool were reportedly interested in signing him, as were Real Madrid, but it was Zaki’s last goal from open play that season. Wigan gaffer Steve Bruce called him “the most unprofessional player I’ve worked with” after Zaki returned late from international duty for a fourth time. His next move was instead to Hull in 2010 – six appearances, no goals.

Michael Bridges (Leeds, 1999/2000)

16 Oct 1999: Michael Bridges of Leeds United (left) challenges Danny Sonner of Sheffield Wednesday during the FA Carling Premiership match at Elland Road, England. Leeds won the game 2-0.

(Image credit: Michael Steele/Allsport via Getty Images)

Sure, Leeds fans still wang on about Bridges as if he’s the second coming of Allan Clarke, but the forward’s impact at Elland Road was almost entirely limited to his first season. The £5m arrival from Sunderland plundered 19 Premier League goals in 1999-2000, but didn’t score again for the club after a serious ankle problem left him barely able to walk. File under ‘what might have been’. 

Jon Stead (Blackburn, 2003/04)

BLACKBURN, ENGLAND - MAY 1: Jonathan Stead of Blackburn Rovers celebrates scoring their winning goal during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United at Ewood Park on May 1, 2004 in Blackburn, England.

(Image credit: Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

Part centre-forward, part pipe cleaner, Stead joined Rovers from Huddersfield in February 2004 for a cool £1m. The 20-year-old scored on his debut in a 1-0 win at Middlesbrough – the first of six goals during Blackburn’s great escape, including winners against Fulham, Manchester United and Everton. He hit only eight more in two and a half Premier League seasons representing Rovers, Sunderland and Sheffield United – though the goals returned further down the pyramid in stints at Ipswich, Bristol City and Notts County. 

Benjani (Portsmouth, 2007/08)

Portsmouth's Benjani Mwaruwari (C) takes a shot at goal past a tackle from Fulham's Aaron Hughes (L) during the Premiership football match at Craven Cottage in London 07 October 2007. Portsmouth won the game 2-0.

(Image credit: ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

An instant Fratton Park cult hero for his work rate, despite beginning life at Pompey with 14 goalless appearances. Benjani fired 12 in 23 during 2007-08, including a hat-trick in a ludicrous 7-4 win over Reading. His switch to Manchester City nearly fell apart because the Zimbabwean fell asleep at the airport and missed two flights. City probably wished they hadn’t bothered – Benjani scored four goals in two and a half seasons at the Etihad.

Michael Ricketts (Bolton, 2001/02)

27 Aug 2001: Michael Ricketts of Bolton scores during the match between Bolton Wanderers and Liverpool in the Barclaycard Premiership at Reekok Stadium, Bolton.

(Image credit: Michael Steeled/ALLSPORT via Getty Images)

Ricketts found the net a dozen times in his first top-flight season by mid-January 2002 – including efforts to see off Liverpool and Manchester United and draw at Arsenal. It earned him an England cap, but the striker stumbled around for 45 goalless minutes in the Netherlands. Ricketts then repeated that trick for the rest of the domestic campaign, mustering only nine goals over the following three Premier League terms for Bolton and Middlesbrough. He never quite recovered, slowly descending the divisions at Southend, Oldham, Walsall and Tranmere.

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