Lists

Ranked! The 50 worst players in Premier League history

Worst Premier League players
We are part of The Trust Project What is it?

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.

INTERVIEW Tomas Brolin – "I was bullied at Leeds, but I don't regret joining them"

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.

15. Antonio Nunez

The Spaniard arrived at Liverpool from Real Madrid as part of the deal that took Michael Owen to the Spanish capital in 2004. Winger Nunez set the tone for things to come by getting injured on day one of training and missing the first three months of the season (a perfect replacement for Owen in some respects).

Nunez managed to make 27 appearances in his solitary season at Anfield, despite a reputation for sending crosses into the stands, and remarkably came away with a Champions League winners' medal before leaving to join Celta Vigo.

14. Claude Davis

When Derby County were promoted to the Premier League in 2007, manager Billy Davis sought to strengthen the defence for the rigours of top-flight football. He spent £3m on centre-back Claude Davis, who had played under him at Preston North End.

Yet Davis proved wholly unsuited to Premier League football. He played just 19 times as the Rams slumped to a record low points total of 11, while earning himself the nickname 'Calamity Claude'.

13. Sean Dundee

The South African striker joined Liverpool with a healthy record in the Bundesliga when Roy Evans signed him for £2m in 1998. Dundee was supposed to provide cover for the injured Robbie Fowler. As it turned out, the Reds had signed another dud – one in a long line of strikers who failed to cut it in front of the Kop, as Dundee couldn’t displace Owen or Karl-Heinz Riedle. Almost mesmerically slow, he made just five first-team appearances and failed to score.

"One player I do regret signing was Sean Dundee,” said Evans later. "He was terrible on and off the pitch. He didn't take any notice of me, did what he wanted and lacked discipline. He certainly shouldn't have joined Liverpool."

12. Eric Djemba-Djemba

Alex Ferguson made a number of bizarre signings in the years after winning the Treble, with midfielder Djemba-Djemba sitting high on the list. The Cameroon international was plucked from Nantes in 2003 and earmarked as a potential successor to Roy Keane.

While he certainly had the unchecked aggression, he had little of the Irishman’s passing ability. Djemba-Djemba spent 18 months being largely awful at Old Trafford, didn’t do any better at Aston Villa and is now playing in the Swiss fifth division.

11. Andrea Silenzi

In the mid-1990s, Football Italia had been captivating audiences with the skill of European players, but the first Italian to play on these shored had the opposite effect.

Silenzi, signed for £1.8m from Torino in 1995, horrified Nottingham Forest supporters with his leaden touch and laid-back approach. He managed just a handful of appearances and two goals in the FA Cup before Forest cut their losses and loaned him back to Italy, with Venezia. When Forest boss Dave Bassett tried to recall him, Silenzi refused to come back.