The Premier League Strikers who Burst onto the Scene but Disappeared without a Trace
With Mohamed Salah’s record breaking season in the Premier League confirmed with an unbelievable goal scoring return of 32 in 38, overtaking the likes of Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez in the process, he has become the top scoring oversees player in a single season. Of course the level of consistency is astonishing, managing to score against 17 different teams throughout the campaign and in 23 different matches in all which is also a record, making this one of the best bits of transfer business in English football history. There’s no indication that this is a one off either, he scored plenty of goals for Roma last season and with 33 goals in 57 internationals for Egypt, Salah looks like a player who’s simply improving season on season. There have however been many notable players that have turned up in the Premier League and taken it by storm before completely disappearing off the radar and with that in mind and with the transfer window set begin with reckless abandon, we decided to take a look at those players that briefly tore up the English football.
First up ironically is another Egyptian footballer, Amr Zaki, who at one stage was being linked with a move to one of the big boys, including most notably Liverpool, off the back of his impressive showing for Steve Bruce’s Wigan Athletic. The burly striker who was being likened to a certain Alan Shearer due to his physical presence and keen eye for goal, was initially signed on loan from El Zamalek, and boy did he hit the ground running. By February (2009) Zaki had notched 10 goals and helped Wigan to 7th spot in the Premier League, he was being linked with Real Madrid and was nominated for the African Footballer of the Year. Unfortunately that’s pretty much where the story ends, off the field controversy never seemed far away and his failure to return from international duty on more than one occasion spelt the end of what looked set to be a glittering Premier League career. A series of failed moves to clubs in Turkey, Kuwait, Morocco and Lebanon followed, but it was that spell at Wigan when he last showed his true potential.
By Christmas 2012 Michu was the Premier League’s top scorer, and so impressive were his performances Vicente Del Bosque gave him his first international call up for the much feted World and European Champions Spain. Signed by Swansea City from Rayo Vallecano for £2 million to replace the Spurs bound Gylfi Sigurðsson, nobody could quite have expected the impact he would go on to have. Having scored a brace on his debut in a 5-0 drubbing of Queens Park Rangers, Michu would go on to score a further 17 times in that debut season, which culminated in a fantastic League Cup triumph for Swansea. After those dizzying heights for both the club and player, it was a spectacular fall from grace. A loan move to Napoli ended in injury before returning to Swansea and agreeing a settlement for his release, after that Michu bizarrely rocked up at Spanish fourth tier amateur side UP Langreo. Injuries undoubtedly curtailed his career, but all the same it was a bizarre ending for a man who looked destined to light up the big leagues for years to come.
Roque Santa Cruz
Paraguay’s prodigal son Roque Santa Cruz arrived on these shores in a £3.5 million move from Bayern Munich, so let’s have it right, he was no mug. However all the potential he clearly possessed had never really come to fruition, that was of course until he crossed the whitewash at Ewood Park. In a dazzling debut season he scored 19 goals that included strikes against, Liverpool, Arsenal, Man City and Man Utd, while also picking up a player of the month award and Blackburn’s player of the year. Transfer speculation inevitably followed and he quickly became one of the hottest striking properties in the Premier League, which like for the many others on the list is a career ending curse. The newly acquired billions on the blue half of Manchester came calling, and a £17.5 million move in the summer of 2009 was sealed, which was in typical fashion the beginning of the end. A series of loan moves were next, which culminated in a return to Blackburn but to no avail. A nomadic venture across Europe has since followed, but he has never recaptured the sparkling form of that debut Premier League campaign.
Colombian Ricard was signed for Middlesbrough by then manager Bryan Robson in a £2 million deal that received little fanfare, but came at a time when the Boro showed a knack for unearthing gems from the further reaches of the footballing globe. With Middlesbrough promoted back to the Premier League at the first time of asking following their relegation, Ricard took to top level football like the proverbial duck to water. In that first campaign he smashed 15 goals in a season that saw Middlesbrough finish a more than respectable ninth, they were also the only team to inflict a home defeat on treble winners Man Utd. Unlike the others we’ve mentioned he had a solid second season and remains Middlesbrough’s top Premier League scorer to this day. However the appointment of Steve McClaren signalled the end of Ricard’s time in England and to say he had a career nosedive would be an understatement. 12 different clubs followed in the next ten years bringing new meaning to the word journeyman, however things turned sour when he caused the death of a 17 year old boy through dangerous driving, he was eventually sentenced to three years in prison, time which he still hasn’t served.
The epitome of a cult hero, absolutely revered by the Leeds faithful after an 18 month spell in English football that was littered with wonder goals. Tony Yeboah will best be remembered for two sublime strikes against Liverpool and Wimbledon, that had kids the length and breadth of the country desperately trying to rifle a strike in off the under side of the crossbar at the local playing fields. But there was more to this sprightly Ghanaian than the odd thirty yard thunderbolt, in his time at Elland Road he scored 32 goals in 59 games which is impressive by any standards. Having signed for a modest £3.4 million from Eintracht Frankfurt, it appeared Leeds had a player who would go onto become a Premier League all time great, but it wasn’t to be. Towards the back end of 1996 George Graham had taken over as manager, but his relationship with Yeboah was fractious to say the least. Things came to a head after he was substituted with Leeds 1-0 down against Spurs and replaced by defender Ian Harte, and that was the end of that. In the current footballing climate, Yeboah would probably be looking at a £90 million transfer to Real Madrid, but times have changed.
To be fair to Asamoah Gyan who’s still plying his trade in Turkey, his international goal scoring record is quite remarkable, having netted 51 times for Ghana, thus making him their highest all time goalscorer, he also holds the distinction of being the highest scoring African at a World Cup with 6 goals. So it’s little surprise that such a precocious talent would come under the beady eye of Steve Bruce, who shelled out a club record £13 million while managing Sunderland back in 2010. And after a blistering first few months it looked like being a seriously good bit of business. Two goals on his Premier League debut against Stoke were followed up by goals against Spurs and more significantly a superb 3-0 victory at Stamford Bridge before cementing his place in the hearts of the faithful with a last minute equaliser against bitter rivals Newcastle in the Tyne-Wear derby. All in all Gyan scored 10 goals and helped Sunderland to a top ten finish, and there was no reason to think this was to be a one off, but when the riches of Al Ain and the UAE Super League come knocking, what would you do?
Okay Papiss Cisse spent four years with Newcastle United so hardly a brief stint in the Premier League, but it was his initial exploits in the black and white shirt that really caught the eye. Having signed for Newcastle for around £10 million in the 2012 January transfer window, Cisse slotted straight into the team alongside fellow countryman Demba Ba. In the months that followed Cisse lit up the Premier League and looked like a superstar in the making. His debut as a substitute against Aston Villa saw him net the winning goal with a stunning half volley into the roof of the net, which was the springboard for a remarkable goal scoring run. By the season close Cisse had hit 13 goals and made 2 assists in 14 Premier League games, that saw Alan Pardew’s Newcastle finish fifth in the final standings. It wasn’t just the rate at which he was scoring there were some wonderful strikes including the most audacious effort against Chelsea that was voted goal of the season. He also put two past West Brom, Liverpool and Swansea in consecutive games, that had the Toon army thinking they might just have another legendary No.9. It wasn’t to be, in the seasons that followed Cisse never got close to replicating that early form and eventually wound up chasing the big bucks in the Chinese Super League.
Another January signing who had made quite a name for himself with his goal scoring exploits North of the border at Rangers, was the Croatian Nikica Jelavic. The question was could he repeat the feat in the Premier League? Oh yes he could, if only briefly. Signed on deadline day in 2012, Jelavic would have to wait until March to get his first start for the club and he responded by scoring the winner against Spurs in a 1-0 victory. Over the next 12 games Jelavic scored 10 goals, including strikes against Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final, and a brace against Manchester United in a 4-4 draw at Old Trafford, that put a serious dent in their title hopes. It was a remarkable end to the season, and Everton fans rightly felt they had a found a new hero that could emulate some of the Goodison greats for years to come. However as quickly as Jelavic had burst onto the Premier League scene, his form deserted him in the most dramatic fashion. A move to Hull City saw glimpses of his predatory instinct before a brief stint at West Ham United yielded a measly one goal. Where do you go when the Premier League no longer needs you? Why China’s second division of course.