Analysis

5 big-name players who stepped down a level and failed spectacularly

John Terry Aston Villa
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4. Sol Campbell (Portsmouth to Notts County, 2009)

Sol Campbell

Sol Campbell not really feeling it against Morecambe

Only a year before director of football Sven-Goran Eriksson unexpectedly lured him to Notts County, Campbell was the Portsmouth captain who had lifted the FA Cup.

During his time on the south coast he'd also earned a recall to the England squad, and remained central to their team. Had Portsmouth not fallen into such a fiscal struggle, he would likely have remained a regular with them in the Premier League.

Upon his arrival in League Two, the club's manager Ian McParland dismissed suggestions he could struggle with such a step down, but after signing a five-year contract the 35-year-old left three days later having played in only a 2-1 defeat at Morecambe.

If a solitary game is too soon to judge any player, he was also unconvincing when he then returned to Arsenal. A further transfer to newly promoted Newcastle followed, but Mike Williamson and Steven Taylor were among those manager Chris Hughton preferred ahead of Campbell.

5. Joey Barton (Burnley to Rangers, 2016)

Joey Barton

Barton claps his hands, but his face is like thunder

It was Barton's arrival in Glasgow, almost as much as Rangers' return to the Scottish Premiership, that generated more interest in the division than anything else since the club's demotion to League Two in 2012.

If Scott Brown was one of the few consistent figures from a time when the Old Firm rivalry defined Scottish football, Barton was seen as the successor to Barry Ferguson with the ability to challenge Brown in central midfield. He dismissed the Celtic captain as “nowhere near my level”.

While Barton had remained below the elite when box-to-box midfielders dominated the Premier League, he had been a superb player in the Championship. The similarly passionate but supposedly inferior Scottish Premiership was considered an ideal environment; one where his status would finally match his ego.

Instead, like Rangers, Barton struggled to impose himself, and when playing against Brown in a 5-1 defeat to Celtic, he completed fewer passes and tackles and lost each head-to-head with his rival before falling out with manager Mark Warburton and team-mate Andy Halliday post-game. Shortly after he left the club, memorably with the coffee machine he had bought his team-mates under his arm.

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