Ranked! The 50 worst players in Premier League history
30. Mario Jardel
This must be how MLS fans used to feel when tired, semi-retired players limped over to their league after their primes.
And what a prime Jardel had. The late ’90s was a time before blanket television coverage of the European game, so most of his goalscoring feats occurred in the dark, but in four of his six Primeira Liga seasons, he averaged a goal per game or more. Think about that. To English supporters, he’s a standing joke, but back in Portugal the Brazilian was and remains an immortal.
The Porto hero was similarly prolific in Turkish football with Galatasaray. Then, just short of his 30th birthday in 2003, he became another unlikely addition to the Sam Allardyce movement at Bolton. That’s when, abruptly, the fun stopped. Seven Premier League appearances and nothing but a couple of cup goals, a lack of mobility and a mighty waistline to show for it.
29. Ade Akinbiyi
Yes, we admit it: this has plenty to do with that game for Leicester against Liverpool. Some 20 years later, it’s still hard to watch: the wild shanks, the miscued headers, his sad little face.
It would be remiss not to point out that Akinbiyi had a thoroughly respectable career outside the Premier League. Burnley, Wolves and Bristol City fans will all remember him fondly(ish), but the memory of that day at Filbert Street is just too vivid. Top-tier spells either side of his two seasons at the Leicester – at Norwich and Sheffield United – yielded no goals in 18 appearances, suggesting the display wasn't entirely a one-off;
28. Istvan Kozma
The mistake Graeme Souness made as Liverpool manager was trying to change too much, too soon. Revolution rather than evolution. There’s no more vivid symbol of that and of Liverpool’s demise at the time than Istvan Kozma, the Hungarian signed on the basis of his displays for Dunfermline.
At first glance, Kozma was a passable winger. He owned some pace and had a few step-overs in his locker. The trouble, as with many others on this list, was that English football was still a rugged environment in the early 1990s and Kozma - despite his time in Scotland - didn’t have much appetite for that style of play. He was brittle, out of his depth and his brief appearances are recalled only for how startlingly inept he looked in a Liverpool shirt.
Newcastle certainly had a thing for dodgy centre-backs. To be fair to Marcelino, he had been a big part of Mallorca’s late-90s resurgence before being signed by Ruud Gullit in 1999 (for all of £5.8m) and there was no reason to believe that he would one day end up on a list like this.
The facts surrounding his time at the club remain unclear. Depending on who you ask, he was either a layabout permacrock who would do anything to avoid actually playing, or a prisoner to his own contract whose career was sabotaged from within the organisation itself.
Whatever the truth, the 17 calamitous Premier League appearances he did make over four years virtually ended the Spanish international’s career and damaged his reputation permanently.
26. Leon Cort
In 2017, FourFourTwo asked fans of every league club in England to vote for their worst ever player. Cort’s entry, for Burnley, is worth a re-airing: “Lacking mobility to the extent of looking like Bambi’s slow cousin on ice.”
The English defender also played for Stoke, Crystal Palace and Hull, and compliments are rather thin on the ground. His best days were at Southend United, perhaps suggesting that he was merely an over-promoted player rather than an outright affront to the sport itself.
Nobody really knows where he came from, nobody knows what happened to him.
Gilberto was signed by Tottenham on the final day of the January 2008 window (hello, Daniel Levy) from Hertha Berlin and was representative of all the bad transfer habits which the club had developed. Doubtless a combination of Levy’s love of a late deal and director of football Damien Comolli’s flawed science, the left-sided Brazilian never really had a definitive purpose at Tottenham - other than becoming a target for supporter dissatisfaction during Juande Ramos’s increasingly chaotic time at the club.
Naturally, Harry Redknapp took one look at Gilberto and decided he wasn’t fit even for Europa League purposes. As far as anyone is aware, he was substituted at half-time against Shakhtar Donetsk and then immediately put into a taxi, disappearing into the north London night.
24. Corrado Grabbi
This is actually quite a sad story. Grabbi, who had hitherto been a nondescript player in the Italian leagues, was signed on the basis of a prolific run of form at Ternana, where he scored 20 goals in 34 games.
That was apparently enough for Blackburn to part with £6.75m for him. It was not a good fit. Alongside the normal complaints about the British weather, Grabbi would also claim years later that he was ostracised by many of his fellow players.
Two goals in 30 league games certainly suggests that any unease bled into his form, but more likely this was a case of flawed scouting. Blackburn evidently saw a player at the peak of his form and signed him without considering whether it was reflective of his ability at a higher level.
23. Grzegorz Rasiak
There’s definitely something David Nugent-esque about Rasiak’s career. The Polish striker wasn’t quite as prolific in the Football League – and he didn’t produce his form over such a long period – but he was very clearly not good enough to play at the highest level. As Tottenham quickly found out when they signed him in 2005.
Even then, before the club’s renaissance had truly begun, he was way short of being the player the supporters wanted him to be. Rasiak worked hard, but the all-round package he represented - size and strength - never looked remarkable away from Derby County.
The player might argue that, having made just eight Premier League appearances, he was never given a proper opportunity at White Hart Lane. His career since, however, suggests he should never have been there at all.
22. Kostas Mitroglou
A bit of an outlier, because Mitroglou wasn’t bad a player; he just wasn’t anything at all. Fulham lunged after a goalscorer in the January 2014 transfer window, spent a club-record £12.4m on the Greek striker, and expected an instant dividend on a player with no experience in this country.
What they got was three instantly forgettable appearances, two of them from the substitutes’ bench. It’s actually the only spell of Mitroglou’s career which hasn’t been successful – he’s provided a steady flow of goals for the likes of Benfica and Olympiacos since – meaning that this costly failure is probably more on the club’s shoulders than his.
21. Bruno Cheyrou
One of the advantages of Gerard Houllier’s appointment - and one of the reasons why Liverpool were convinced to create that unworkable manager-share with Roy Evans - was Houllier’s past as a technical director of the French Football Federation. The logic being that it would give the club a pipeline into the country which had just won its first World Cup and was a hotbed of talent.
Cheyrou, signed in 2002 for £4.5m, was lumbered with the title of the “new Zidane” by Houllier. Not quite. The midfielder struggled during his first season and although he’d actually score one or two important goals for the club (his first league goal was in a 1-0 win over Chelsea), he's also emblematic of Liverpool’s wayward transfer dealings.
Houllier brought relative success and silverware to Anfield, but he also drove some dreadful recruiting. While Cheyrou wasn’t quite Sean Dundee, it was telling that he was loaned away the moment Rafael Benitez was appointed as manager.