11 great players you probably never knew suffered relegation
Gabriel Batistuta (Fiorentina, 1992/93)
The early 1990s were a painful time for Fiorentina. Still smarting from the perceived skullduggery that handed the Serie A title to Juventus at their expense in 1982, fans of the Viola were left heartbroken when star man Roberto Baggio swapped Tuscany for Turin in 1990, joining the Old Lady for a world-record fee.
Still, the signing of Batistuta from Boca Juniors in 1991 eased much of that agony. The Argentine was unable to prevent Fiorentina’s demotion to Serie B, although he gave it a fine effort by scoring 16 goals in 32 Serie A games in 1992/93.
However, his decision to stay at the Artemio Franchi and fire the club back into the top flight at the first time of asking contributed to the hero status he still enjoys to this day. A return of 207 goals in 332 appearances across nine seasons also helped.
Willian (Corinthians, 2007)
When Jose Mourinho was sacked for overseeing – and perhaps inducing – Chelsea’s implosion in the first half of last season, Willian was the only player on the Blues’ books who could hold his head up high.
As the defending champions hovered precariously above the relegation zone, the Brazil international may well have used his experience with Corinthians as motivation: Willian featured in 15 league matches in 2007, when the Sao Paulo-based outfit - arguably Brazil’s biggest club - went down on the final day.
That summer he signed a five-year contract at Shakhtar Donetsk for €14m.
George Weah (Manchester City, 2000/01)
League titles in France and Italy, an FA Cup with Chelsea, the Ballon d’Or in 1995: it’s fair to say that three-time African Footballer of the Year Weah had a tremendous career.
Yet even a figure as illustrious as the Liberian could not avoid succumbing to City-itis during a short spell in the north west in 2000/01. Weah scored just one goal in his seven Premier League appearances for Joe Royle’s men, who fell through the trapdoor after finishing eight points adrift of 17th-placed Derby. Oh, the ignominy.
Roberto Ayala (Napoli 1997/98)
In the summer of 1986, Napoli were still awaiting their maiden Scudetto. Twelve years later, they had two to their name – thanks largely to a man named Diego Maradona – but were preparing for life in Serie B rather than the Champions League.
The Partenopei were abysmal throughout the 1997/98 campaign, amassing just 14 points and winning only two matches in the league. A backline which included Ayala, who won 115 caps for Argentina before retiring from international duty in 2007, was breached on 76 occasions, while Napoli managed only 25 goals at the other end.
Una ricetta per il disastro, you might say. Or not.