Liverpool and Man Utd stars feature in 12 players to thrive after flopping in their first season


Manchester United fans had to keep the faith when it came to Fred.

The summer of 2018 marked a frustrating few months in the transfer market as Jose Mourinho was left relatively empty-handed in his quest to improve the squad to overhaul Manchester City.

However, despite the United board proving stubborn, the Red Devils did get one up on their city rivals in one respect as they won the battle for Fred's signature.

Fred's tough start at United

The Brazilian midfielder arrived from Shakhtar Donetsk in a deal totalling approximately £52 million and two years on, it looks to have been an incredibly shrewd purchase from the Old Trafford club.

But you wouldn't have known that if you took Fred's debut season in isolation with a series of dubious performances that must have had Pep Guardiola thanking his lucky stars.

Fred was one of the weak links in a United side that crashed and burned so dramatically that Mourinho's head rolled and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's debut season ended amidst rotten form.


Renaissance at Old Trafford

It's perhaps the finest example yet of giving a player who is new to the Premier League time to settle in with Fred looking like twice the player that first struggled to find his feet in the famous red jersey.

Now, the 27-year-old can hold his head high as one of United's best players this season, dropping bonafide masterclasses during the Champions League wins over PSG and RB Leipzig.

It's a positive trend that got us wondering here at GIVEMESPORT: are there any other players who flopped during their first season of a move, only to eventually become a star for the very same club?


Flop at first, star the next

The answer is most positively 'yes' and we've drawn up at least 12 examples with varying degrees of first-season flopping and latter-season performing - check them out down below:

1. David de Gea (Manchester United)

De Gea was never far away from a clanger during his first season in the Premier League, so much so that, despite a few flashes of brilliance, he was forced to rotate with Anders Lindegaard at times.

However, once De Gea adapted to English football, there was no turning back, becoming one of the world's best goalkeepers and winning the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award four times in five years.


2. Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)

Rumours were swirling around that Son would be moved on after a disappointing first season at Tottenham in 2015/16 that reaped just eight goals from 40 appearances.

But Spurs were thoroughly rewarded for their patience with Son smashing home 21 strikes for his sophomore effort - still his highest tally for the club - and is currently the Premier League's leading goalscorer.


3. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)

Vardy struggled so much with the step up from Fleetwood Town to Leicester that it took then-assistant Craig Shakespeare to persuade him to stay as opposed to becoming a holiday rep in Ibiza.

It proved to be an inspired decision with Vardy winning the Premier League title, bagging a Golden Boot, attracting interest from Arsenal and playing in both the Champions League and a World Cup.


4. Luka Modric (Real Madrid)

It's simply mind-blowing to think that Modric was named 'The Worst Signing in La Liga' during a debut campaign that saw him negatively compared to Barcelona's doomed Alexandre Song purchase.

But once Jose Mourinho was out the door, Modric began to thrive in a Real jersey, winning four Champions League titles in five years and ending the Messi-Ronaldo duopoly with Ballon d'Or glory.


5. Patrice Evra (Manchester United)

Evra has been open about the fact Sir Alex Ferguson gave him the hairdryer treatment after a catastrophic debut, before seeing his form decline so terribly that he missed out on the 2006 World Cup.

But fast-forward over a decade and Evra is rightfully considered as one of the Premier League's greatest ever players, winning five league crowns and the Champions League with the Red Devils.


6. Victor Moses (Chelsea)

Ok, this is admittedly one of our harsher selections, but despite scoring a not-too-shabby 10 goals in his debut year at Chelsea, the Nigerian was ultimately exiled on three back-to-back loan spells.

Nevertheless, once Antonio Conte reinvented him as a wing-back, Moses became an invaluable member of the Blues squad that romped to Premier League and FA Cup glory under the Italian.


7. Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Borussia Dortmund)

This selection is unique for being two-fold because many BVB fans were calling for Mkhitaryan to be sold after his debut season, while his second campaign saw him branded as 'flop of the year' by ESPN.

Yet his final year in Germany couldn't have been better with the Armenian earning a United move with no less than 23 goals from midfield, winning the Bundesliga Players’ Player of the Season gong.


8. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)

Henderson's first year at Anfield was so underwhelming that former Liverpool director Damien Comolli claims he was sacked for making the deal with the club calling it 'a waste of money'.

However, Comolli was proven right for seeing a future Liverpool captain in Henderson with the galavanting midfielder leading the Reds to the Champions League and Premier League titles.


9. Robert Pires (Arsenal)

While a record of 10 goals in 51 games might make you shrug your shoulders, make no mistake that Pires was saddled with inconsistently in his first year after leaving Marseille in a £5.3-million deal.

Pires' second season, however, saw him win the FWA Footballer of the Year with the most assists in the Premier League, winning his first of two titles with the second seeing Arsenal go 49 games unbeaten.


10. Michael Essien (Chelsea)

Truth be told, Essien looked completely out of his depth alongside a prime Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele during his first 12 months, prompting the Blues to sign Michael Ballack.

However, just as Essien's Chelsea move looked doomed, he transformed into one of the Premier League's finest midfielders, making over 250 appearances before serious knee injures accelerated his decline.


11. Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Ok, 'flopped' might be a tad strong for Suarez, but his first 18 months at Anfield paled in comparison to his stunning two seasons under Brendan Rodgers that reaped an insane 61 goals in 81 games.

The Barcelona legend notched a mere four strikes during his debut season and after starting the following campaign with one of the worst penalties in Premier League history, finished with just 11 league goals.


12. Fred (Manchester United)

Here we are, the man who inspired the list: Fred. It seems crazy that I ranked the Brazilian as the worst transfer over £50 million in football history, below Luka Jovic, as recently as 11 months ago.

Credit to the United enforcer, though, because he's proven himself to be one of the most invaluable cogs in the Solskjaer engine and always seems to thrive on the right side of a diamond in the biggest games.


Don't sell too soon...

Power to the phrase: if at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

It's easy to view professional footballers as superhuman and dismiss the comments about overseas players needing time to adapt as cliché, but frankly, the proof is in the pudding here.

Football is such a fickle and fast-moving industry that it's often easy to lose patience with a player taking their time to settle, but these 12 stars really go to show that patience is a virtue.

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