10 Premier League cast-offs who went on to win the Champions League elsewhere
There are plenty of folk out there who'll tell you that the Premier League is the best in the world – but this motley crew might disagree.
Each was cut adrift by some of England’s biggest clubs (and Charlton). Sometimes it was down to timing. Occasionally, club politics played a part. A few of them were just a bit rubbish. In any case, each found a new home and then Champions League success with a different club...
10. Jorge Costa (Charlton)
The defender nicknamed ‘The Tank’ by Porto fans rolled into the Valley in December 2001 after falling out with coach Octavio Machado in Portugal. Signed as part of a bizarre season-saving loan double act alongside Chris Bart-Williams from Nottingham Forest, the pair helped Charlton avoid the drop.
However, Alan Curbishley didn't make his move permanent and Costa returned to Porto that summer, by which time Machado had been sacked and replaced by Jose Mourinho. Within two years, the stopper was captaining Porto to Champions League glory. Not so much a cast-off, then, but a peculiar turn of events.
9. Claudio Pizarro (Chelsea)
Mourinho looked to have pulled off a blinding bit of Bosman business when Pizarro arrived in the summer of 2007. The Peruvian had bagged 100 goals in 256 games for Bayern Munich and signed for Chelsea after failing to secure a bumper pay rise with the Bavarians.
It was a costly mistake. Pizarro spent much of that season on the bench, watching on as first Mourinho was sacked, and then Nicolas Anelka was signed. After just two goals in 32 games at Chelsea, he returned to Germany the following year with Werder Bremen. Eventually, Pizarro rejoined Bayern and helped the club win the 2013 Champions League, scoring against Juventus in the quarter-finals.
8. Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Arsenal)
Versatile Holland international Van Bronckhorst was supposed to fill the gap in midfield left by Emmanuel Petit when he arrived at Arsenal in the summer of 2001, signed from Rangers for £8m. Unfortunately, halfway through his debut season, Gio suffered a cruciate ligament injury during a routine 4-1 win over Fulham that ruled him out for nine months.
Fellow newcomer Edu stepped up in his place and the Dutchman never truly regained his starting spot. He moved to Barcelona in 2003 – first on loan, before a cut-price €2m fee was agreed. At the Camp Nou he was successfully converted into a left-back, the position he played as Barça won the Champions League in 2006 – at the expense of Arsenal.
7. Marco Materazzi (Everton)
‘The Matrix’ suffered a serious malfunction in his one and only season in England, racking up three red cards and 11 bookings in just 33 games throughout 1998/99. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Italian was soon back on his way to Perugia, the club Everton had signed him from.
There, Materazzi went on to break Daniel Passarella’s record for the most goals by a defender in a single Serie A season (12). That was enough to attract Inter, where Materazzi’s overly physical approach made him a fan favourite. Eventually, under Mourinho, he became a Champions League winner during Inter's remarkable Treble season of 2009/10.
6. Gerard Pique (Manchester United)
An anomaly here in that everybody realised what a fine footballer he was. The 2007/08 campaign was supposed to be the one in which the 20-year-old Pique completed his transition from youth prospect to Manchester United regular. But the Spaniard was soon in the firing line after a defensive lapse let Nicolas Anelka in for a goal during a shock 1-0 loss to Bolton.
Pique dropped out of contention once more, citing homesickness, and handed in a transfer request in the summer of 2008 which Sir Alex Ferguson reluctantly accepted. Remember too, that he was contending with Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Matic at this point.
Pique returned to Barcelona and has since celebrated three Champions League titles – two of which came via wins over United in the final.