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16 Premier League stars you won't believe played in a World Cup

Gilberto World Cup 2006

From disastrous flops to limited cult heroes, few fans who watched this lot in the Premier League could make sense of their World Cup selection, as Jack Beresford explains

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Agustin Delgado (Ecuador)

Most Southampton fans would struggle to recall much from Delgado’s underwhelming time at St Mary’s – but Sol Campbell might. He played an instrumental role in Delgado’s only standout performance for the Saints against Arsenal, hauling the Ecuadorian down as he was through on goal and receiving a red card for his troubles.

Delgado went on to score in a 3-2 Southampton win but that was as good as it got. Often injured and isolated by a refusal to learn any English, Delgado surprised many Saints fans as he turned up at the 2002 World Cup... where he scored against Mexico. Not least manager Gordon Strachan: Delgado was supposed to be injured.

Bernard Diomede (France)

World Cup winner Diomede almost made the perfect start to life at Liverpool after arriving from Auxerre for £3m in 2002. Facing Sunderland on his debut, the supposedly-tricky winger appeared to have opened his account with an audacious overhead kick – but the referee and linesman had failed to spot his strike crossing the line. Diomede was denied his ideal beginning and it was all downhill from there.

Injuries and poor form restricted the Frenchman to just five appearances in two years. It suddenly seemed astonishing, in retrospect, that Diomede had played eight times for France in the space of a single year – including three games at the 1998 World Cup.

Andreas Andersson (Sweden)

Andersson was signed from Milan by Kenny Dalglish as a replacement for cult hero Tino Asprilla, but Newcastle fans didn’t take to the Swede. He pitched up for an ineffective Premier League debut against Aston Villa, and the attacker – resplendent with his long, flowing locks – earned the nickname 'Pamela' among the Toon faithful.

It took Andersson nine games to score his first goal for the club, and though he added three more that season, he returned to Sweden with AIK after a year in the north-east. Fast-forward to 2002 and Andersson’s AIK form earned him a call-up to Sweden’s World Cup squad, where he featured as a substitute in four games – including an ineffectual cameo against England.

Philipp Degen (Switzerland)

Liverpool fans must have been bewildered by Degen playing every minute of Switzerland’s 2006 World Cup campaign. Then again, most were shocked when he even managed to get on the pitch at Liverpool.

When Rafa Benitez brought the full-back/winger to Anfield on a free transfer in 2008, he told fans they would be getting “an offensive player with great energy and a winning mentality”. In the reality, the only offensive thing about Degen was the fact he managed seven risible league appearances in two injury-hit seasons at the club, with two separate metatarsal injuries sidelining him for long spells.

Frank Sinclair (Jamaica)

Sinclair’s top-flight career featured many memorable moments, good and bad. There was the time he celebrated scoring against Coventry in 1997 by dropping his shorts, his incredible knack for scoring own goals at Leicester, and a winning strike in the 1998 League Cup Final against Middlesborough.

Few could have predicted his career highlights would also include a World Cup with Jamaica, though, particularly as Sinclair had already been called up for England by Terry Venables in 1995. He wasn’t brought on for the Three Lions, though, and when the Reggae Boyz came calling three years later, the defender was happy to oblige.

Jean Makoun (Cameroon)

Makoun actually made the cut for Cameroon at two World Cup finals. Mind you, the Indomitable Lions put in a tame showing at both the 2010 and 2014 tournaments, losing six out of six group games. 

Makoun, signed by Gerard Houllier from Lyon for £6m in January 2011, was red-carded in only his second game for the club. His tackle on Blackpool’s DJ Campbell was so bad, in fact, that it earned him a three-game ban. After nine appearances at Villa Park he was shipped out on loan, never to return.

Gilberto (Brazil)

Far and away the worst signing of Damien Comolli’s three-year spell in charge of recruitment at Spurs, Gilberto arrived from Hertha Berlin in January 2008 and wasted little time in making a bad impression. Already 31, the Brazilian’s experience counted for nothing on his debut against PSV Eindhoven in the UEFA Cup, where he was guilty of a major blunder that handed the tie to the Dutch side. 

All told, the left-back made six starts and three substitute appearances for Tottenham and was taken off at half-time on three separate occasions. Sold just over a year later, he regularly stars on lists charting Tottenham’s worst ever player – but Brazil manager Carlos Alberto Parreira had clearly seen something in him. He gave Gilberto a squad spot at the 2006 World Cup, where the full-back played twice and even scored – the fourth against Japan in the last group stage game with Brazil already qualified. Goooool!

Brett Holman (Australia)

Holman's summer 2012 arrival at Villa Park from AZ Alkmaar garnered a lukewarm response from fans, and it soon became easy to see why. The Villans needed goalscoring reinforcements under Alex McLeish and the Australian didn’t exactly fit the bill, having netted just seven goals in 42 games during his final season in Holland.

Holman's chances of making an impression were hardly helped when McLeish was sacked just a few days into his time at the club, but a return of two goals in 29 stop-start appearances said it all. All of which made the fact that Holmann had already scored twice for the Socceroos at the 2010 World Cup more bizarre.