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9 players who came to the Premier League too late in their careers

Roberto Mancini Leicester

The Premier League has been blessed with some world-class players, often in the prime of their careers. Unfortunately, it’s also featured some once-wonderful footballers well past their sell-by date.

Here are nine of the most infamous...

Paulo Futre

Futre initially refused to play for Harry Redknapp’s West Ham after being handed the No.16 shirt rather than his trademark No.10. "Eddie Gillam, our trainer, had given him the No.16 shirt and got it thrown back in his face," Redknapp revealed in one of his autiobiographies. "Next thing, Paulo was in my face too. ‘Futre 10, not 16,’ he said. ‘Eusebio 10, Maradona 10, Pele 10; Futre 10, not fucking 16’."

A deal was eventually struck whereby the incumbent John Moncur exchanged it for a fortnight at Futre’s luxury Algarve villa.

When he finally got on the pitch, it became clear that chronic injuries had taken their toll. Futre made just nine appearances before heading to sunnier climes.

Mario Jardel

Jardel scored an astonishing 269 goals in 275 games across spells with Porto, Galatasaray and Sporting CP prior to joining Bolton under Sam Allardyce. The Brazilian was a bloated shadow of his former self by then, however, battling depression, injury and substance abuse.

Though he scored in the League Cup against Walsall and Liverpool, he was soon loaned out to Serie A side Ancona – where he earned himself the unfortunate nickname of ‘Lardel’.



Maicon never quite recovered from the one-man demolition job Gareth Bale performed on the Brazilian in Tottenham’s famous 3-1 Champions League win over Inter Milan. However, his old Inter boss Roberto Mancini still saw fit to bring him to Manchester City as cover and competition for Pablo Zabaleta.

Maicon provided neither, limping through an underwhelming and injury-hit season in the Premier League before moving on to Roma with similarly disappointing results.

Diego Lugano

After being part of the Uruguay side that reached the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup and won the 2011 Copa America, Lugano arrived at West Brom with a reputation as one of South America’s best defenders. But that was the Lugano of old at Fenerbahce.

The centre-back's legs had begun to creak in the interim, and he looked decidedly off the pace during his stint at The Hawthorns – where he left only a year into his two-year deal.

Roberto Mancini

In January 2001, the Sampdoria and Lazio legend swapped Rome for a short stint in the East Midlands with Peter Taylor's Leicester City. Already 36, Mancini made five goalless appearances for the Foxes but failed to complete a full 90 minutes.

He made an impact on team-mate Robbie Savage, though, introducing the Welshman to the culinary delights of pasta and more. "When Roberto walked through the door I still couldn't believe it," the ex-midfielder recalled. "I was used to watching him on Italian football on TV. To just get changed in the same dressing room as him was an unbelievable feeling and an honour." 

Sadly, Mancini’s time at Leicester was cut short after he was offered the job of Fiorentina manager. Still, fun (and weird) while it lasted...

Hidetoshi Nakata

Hidetoshi Nakata

Nakata made his name as the midfield maestro who pulled the strings for Perugia in the late '90s, going on to win silverware with Roma and Parma. A skilful, understated attacker, he was only 29 when he arrived at Bolton on loan from cash-strapped Fiorentina in 2005.

But something had changed. Nakata scored once in 21 appearances but had fallen out of love with football and retired that summer. "I decided half a year ago that I would retire from the world of professional soccer after the World Cup in Germany," said the Japan icon, after the Blue Samurai finished bottom of their group with a point. 

Thomas Helmer

A serial winner with Bayern Munich, Helmer joined Sunderland on a free in 1999 after turning down an approach from Liverpool. Peter Reid wasn’t convinced, though, and after just two appearances loaned the defender to Hertha Berlin – where he featured in Champions League victories over Chelsea and Milan.

Helmer was eventually bought out of his Sunderland contract, with Reid declaring that “his legs had gone”. He retired soon after.

Laurent Blanc

Laurent Blanc

Blanc had the unenviable task of filling the void left by Jaap Stam at Manchester United. Arriving off the back of an Indian summer at Inter, the 35-year-old fell short of the required standards at United, struggling through a run of five league defeats and an early FA Cup exit.

Though he helped United win the title a year later, it was scant consolation for the loss of Stam.

Diego Tristan

Tristan famously led the line for a Deportivo La Coruna side shaking things up among European football’s established elites in the early 2000s. But a love of the nightlife led to him falling out of favour at Depor; first he moved back to former club Mallorca and then Livorno, before rocking up at West Ham under Gianfranco Zola.

It was a largely forgettable stay, save for one sensational free-kick against Stoke.

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