Ranked! The 50 worst players in Premier League history
20 Thomas Brolin
Was brilliant. Put on weight. Stopped being brilliant. Started selling shoes.
Brolin appears on these lists, his career arc faithfully retold, and, while he certainly belongs, sometimes he’s placed slightly higher than he should be. He was - was - brilliant. Anyone who caught Parma on Football Italia will know that; so too those old enough to remember Euro 1992 or the 1994 World Cup. An excellent finisher and good in the air despite his size, the transfer to Leeds made sense at the time.
In hindsight, manager Howard Wilkinson might have wanted to look deeper. An injury disrupted his Serie A career and, before being sold, he never regained his form, fitness or ultimately his place in the side. The player who arrived at Leeds - overweight, lazy, apathetic towards defensive responsibility - was already a pale imitation of what had come before. His twisty, jumping goal-celebration was seldom seen on these shores.
19. Ricky van Wolfswinkel
Van Wolfswinkel actually scored on his Norwich debut in 2013 which, at the time, seemed to indicate that the fine form he’d shown in the Eredivisie and the Primeira Liga could be reproduced in England. In fact, the £8.5m Dutch striker would never score another goal in 24 further Premier League matches.
Maybe the most obvious point to make about him concerned his body shape; he just didn’t look like a player suited to British football. Neat enough on the ball but frail and willowy, he had natural red flags which Norwich would have done well to recognise. Maybe there’s a case for saying that he might have been better in a superior side, or at least one built vaguely around his strengths, but that seems awfully generous.
18. Albert Luque
One to chalk up to transitional difficulties, because Luque certainly passed the eye test. Quick, skilful and the embodiment of all sorts of pleasing Iberian cliches, the Spanish international was actually a highly capable player who had scored some stunning goals for Deportivo La Coruna. Watch his bicycle kick if you haven’t seen it.
To this day, it’s difficult to know why it went so badly wrong. The fee was large (£9m back in 2005) and Newcastle, still struggling to recapture what had been lost, certainly wasn’t the easiest club to play for. But Luque appeared to lose all his self-belief on the flight over and left little impression at all on the Premier League.
17. Jean-Alain Boumsong
Boumsong was an example of a player who couldn’t cope with the Premier League. Signed in 2005 on the basis of an impressive but brief spell at Rangers - and for a significant £8m - a strong initial impression at Newcastle descended into a slew of problems, red cards, costly slips and miscalculations.
The own goal against Middlesbrough, the forlorn expression after being sent off against Liverpool; these are moments which make an iron-clad comedic legacy for a defender. Juventus would eventually rescue him from England and the Frenchman’s career did recover, but the Premier League was a stage he should never have been on.
16. Marco Boogers
First of all, the story that he fled west London to live on a caravan site isn’t true; an urban myth. However, this was a time when West Ham were willing to roll the dice in search of their next great forward, and a £1m offer was made to Sparta Rotterdam without manager Harry Redknapp ever having seen him play.
The only impression Boogers left on English football was felt by Gary Neville, who was halved by the Dutchman’s wild challenge at Upton Park. It was a clear red in the 1990s; now it might lead to a custodial sentence.
Following his suspension, circumstances conspired against Boogers. A knee injury worsened and, having had surgery, West Ham allowed the forward to return home to rehabilitate - during which time they signed Iain Dowie and promptly ended Boogers’ brief Premier League career.