Hero to zero
Football can be a game of highs and lows, as the following 15 players know only too well.
Edgar Davids set the bar lower than most, though. After winning European football’s top prize with Ajax, the Dutchman later dropped out of the Football League altogether with Barnet. So at least there's some consolation for the following names…
Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United 2008/QPR 2015)
QPR boss Harry Redknapp appeared to have landed a bargain when he convinced Ferdinand to join his newly-promoted team.
The decorated defender had a 2008 Champions League winners’ medal in his glittering trophy cabinet, but he failed to replicate his Old Trafford form in London as he struggled with the personal tragedy of losing his wife Rebecca to cancer.
Redknapp tinkered with numerous systems to try and get the best out of his centre-back but without success, and the manager later resigned before Rangers finished on the bottom of the pile. Ferdinand retired at the end of the campaign.
Steve Finnan (Liverpool 2005/Portsmouth 2010)
In a remarkable career, the Irishman starred in the World Cup, Champions League, UEFA Cup, Intertoto Cup, all four tiers of English league football and the Conference – but that’s only the half of it.
Finnan also features on this exclusive list, having helped Liverpool to their famous Champions League final triumph over Milan in Istanbul in 2005, before starting two years later when they failed to repeat the feat in another final against the Italian side.
He returned to English football with Portsmouth in 2010 after a brief spell with Spanish side Espanyol but suffered relegation, and the right-back played his final professional game in Pompey’s FA Cup final defeat to Chelsea.
Nwankwo Kanu (Ajax 1995/West Brom 2006)
The Nigerian played a key role in Ajax’s 1995 European triumph, scoring a superb diving header during a quarter-final victory over Dinamo Zagreb before coming on as a substitute in the final against Milan to help his side clinch a 1-0 win.
Eleven years on, though, ‘King Kanu’ was squandering chances for a miserable West Brom side who went down with two games still to play.
His unpredictable exploits then continued at Portsmouth, where the striker won the FA Cup before suffering consecutive demotions from the Premier League and the Championship.
Michele Padovano (Juventus 1996/Crystal Palace 1999)
Playing a backup role to Fabrizio Ravanelli and Gianluca Vialli at Juventus, Padovano proved to be a valuable asset as he scored the crucial goal in the Italian side’s quarter-final win over Real Madrid before netting a penalty in their shoot-out victory against Ajax in the 1996 final.
Crystal Palace snapped him up for £1.7 million after returning to the top flight in 1998, but the Italian struggled to adapt to English football.
He scored just one goal in 12 appearances for the Eagles, who finished bottom of the pile and on the brink of administration. Padvovano departed for Metz after just one season in London.
Nicky Butt (Manchester United 1999/Newcastle 2009)
Normally a reliable squad player in Fergie’s United team, Butt profited from Roy Keane’s suspension by stepping in from the start as the Red Devils stunned Bayern Munich with a late comeback 2-1 win in the 1999 Champions League final.
By the time the midfielder packed his bags for Newcastle in 2003, he had won 10 major trophies, but his impact at St James’ Park was curtailed by injuries and the sudden sacking of Sir Bobby Robson.
When Butt returned, the Magpies were already in a downward spiral and they were relegated in 2009. The former England midfielder stayed for another season to help them achieve an instant return to the top flight before calling it a day.
Finidi George (Ajax 1995/Ipswich 2002)
Finidi’s semi-final screamer against Bayern Munich helped Ajax on the road to Champions League glory in 1995 and the Nigerian appeared on English shores six years later after a successful spell in Spain.
Ipswich supporters hoped that their new £1.3 million signing could help them improve on the previous season’s fifth-place finish, but George struggled at the club.
Two goals in an early-season win over Derby was a good start, but he failed to build on that performance and started games sporadically, ultimately ending with relegation and his release on a free transfer.
Denis Irwin (Manchester United 1999/Wolves 2004)
The 1999 Champions League was one of 13 major honours Irwin secured at Old Trafford, but he nevertheless decided he still wasn’t done when Sir Alex Ferguson decided not to renew the 36-year-old defender’s contract in 2002.
The Irishman joined Wolves in the second tier, won promotion in his first season but then struggled in his second campaign at Molineux.
Wolves went down, with a 5-1 opening day loss to Blackburn setting the tone for what was to come as they failed to win a single away game all season.
Victor Valdes (Barcelona 2006, 2009, 2011/Middlesbrough 2017)
After guarding the net for one of the greatest European sides of all time at Barcelona, Valdes ended up as the number one for one of the worst Premier League sides in recent memory.
A cruciate ligament injury and time spent as a reserve to David de Gea left the Spaniard a little rusty by the time he reached the Riverside in 2016.
Boro struggled to assert an identity in the top flight and manager Aitor Karanka, who had led them to promotion in style, was sacked as the Teesiders finished bottom with just five wins all season. Valdes decided it was time to leave and later retired.
Michael Carrick (Manchester United 2008/West Ham 2003)
Carrick actually managed to do things the right way round, starting off at a West Ham team that looked far too good to be relegated, but nevertheless was, in 2003.
After a season in the Championship and a spell with Tottenham Hotspur the midfielder arrived at Manchester United in 2006.
At Old Trafford he clinched five Premier League titles, an FA Cup, three League Cups, the Europa League and Champions League in 2008 – scoring in United’s penalty shootout win over Chelsea in the final.
Georginio Wijnaldum (Newcastle 2016/Liverpool 2019)
Despite Wijnaldum's best efforts, Newcastle suffered relegation to the Championship in 2015/16. The Dutch midfielder still did enough to earn a move to Liverpool, though, ensuring he didn't drop down to the second tier with the Magpies.
After two solid seasons at Anfield in 2016/17 and 2017/18, Wijnaldum emerged as one of Liverpool's most important players last time out. The midfielder missed only one of the Reds' 13 continental clashes and was one of the heroes of the incredible semi-final comeback against Barcelona, scoring twice in a 4-0 win at Anfield.
Ibrahim Afellay (Barcelona 2011/Stoke 2018)
Afellay contributed to Barcelona’s 2011 Champions League triumph with an assist for Lionel Messi in a semi-final win over Real Madrid and a substitute appearance in the final victory against Manchester United.
However, he was struck by an anterior cruciate ligament injury and faced a lengthy spell on the sidelines, after which he struggled to return to the level that had originally earned him a move to Catalunya from PSV.
In 2015, the Dutchman landed at Stoke where his progress was stalled by injuries and attitude problems. Afellay was even banished from the club for the rest of the season as they battled the drop last year, but it didn’t stop the Potters going down and the winger’s contract was terminated the following January.
Fabrizio Ravanelli (Juventus 1996/Middlesbrough 1997, Derby 2002)
It’s fair to say Ravanelli caught many people off guard in the summer of 1996 when he departed Juventus for Middlesbrough just months after scoring a goal in the Champions League final against Ajax to lift Europe’s biggest trophy with the Turin club.
The Italian had scored five goals on that European run and his sparkling form continued in England, where he scored 31 goals in all competitions in his debut season to pay back some of his reported £42,000-per-week wages.
However, Boro lost in the finals of both the League Cup and FA Cup and were relegated on the final day of the league season to add insult to injury. Ravanelli joined Marseille two games into the following season before signing for Derby in 2001, where he again suffered the drop.
Jose Bosingwa (Chelsea 2012/QPR 2015)
Bosingwa acutely felt the emotions of success and failure during his spells at Chelsea and QPR.
He played a big role in the Blues’ stunning European triumph, marshalling Franck Ribery in the final against Bayern Munich and stepping up when John Terry was sent off in the semi-final against Barcelona.
The Portuguese was only 30 when he headed to QPR, but he fell out with manager Harry Redknapp after refusing to sit on the bench for a game against Fulham, earning him boos from his own fans and criticism from team-mates like Joey Barton. Rangers went down with games to spare, with Bosingwa proving to be something of a scapegoat, and the defender cancelled the remaining two years of his contract to join Trabzonspor in Turkey.
Geremi (Real Madrid 2000/Newcastle 2009)
Turkish outfit Genclerbirligi don't supply too many players to Real Madrid these days, but Geremi moved between the two clubs in 1999. The versatile Cameroonian was more useful cog than essential component in Florentino Perez's burgeoning galactico project, but he still chipped in to help los Blancos to European glory in his debut campaign in Spain.
After a season at Middlesbrough and four more at Chelsea, Geremi joined Newcastle in 2007. A 12th-place finish followed, before the Magpies dropped down to the Championship the following year.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern Munich 2013/Stoke 2018/Liverpool 2019)
Many players on this list won the Champions League early in their career and were then relegated close to the end of it. Shaqiri, though, went through both experiences in the space of 12 months, going down with Stoke in 2018 before scooping the biggest prize in club football in June.
Liverpool's victory over Tottenham last term wasn't Shaqiri's first taste of Champions League glory, however: the Switzerland international was also part of the Bayern Munich squad that triumphed in 2013.
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