Saul, Silva, Torres: What is the worst debut in Premier League history?

Worst ever Premier League debuts

Saul Niguez has already enjoyed a better career than most players. 

Indeed, at the age of 26, the midfielder has lifted two La Liga titles, the Europa League and formed part of the Spanish national squad for the 2018 World Cup. On an individual basis, Guillem Balague claimed Spain had ‘never a midfielder this like this’ back in 2018 thanks to his stunning form for both club and country. 

His maiden voyage into Premier League football, however, was a day to forget. 

While it would be foolish to write off a player with such pedigree this early into his time in England, Saul was substituted at half-time by Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel when making his debut on Saturday. 

The Atletico Madrid loanee appeared to struggle with the intensity of the occasion and, though that is of course understandable at this early stage, it was certainly an early concern in what has otherwise been a brilliant opening few weeks for the club. 

With his dismal performance in mind, GIVEMESPORT have looked at some of the other debut nightmares strewn across Premier League history, in no particular order. 

Fernando Torres – CHELSEA vs Liverpool (2011)

Fernando Torres vs Liverpool

After breaking Liverpool fans’ hearts in January 2011, it seemed fitting that £50m striker Fernando Torres would make his debut for Chelsea against his former side at Stamford Bridge only weeks after what was then a record move. 

As would be the case throughout his career for the west London side, Torres looked a shadow of his former self. 

Patrice Evra – MANCHESTER UNITED vs Manchester City (2006)

Patrice Evra Manchester United vs Manchester City

Patrice Evra would go on to establish himself as a Manchester United legend but his first game was one to forget. Arriving mid-season is never easy and especially not when thrown into a raucous Manchester derby. 

Trailing by two goals at half-time in an eventual 3-1 loss to their bitter rivals, the Frenchman was hauled off at the interval. 

Joe Cole – LIVERPOOL vs Arsenal (2010)

Joe Cole Liverpool vs Arsenal

After so long a Chelsea, a free transfer to Liverpool in 2010 made perfect sense for Joe Cole, a proven winner at Premier League level with the kind of flair to light Anfield up, it looked like a match made in heaven. 

Unfortunately, injuries had caught up with the England international and his time at the club got off to the worst possible start after he was sent off against Arsenal on his debut. 

Ali Dia – SOUTHAMPTON, vs Leeds United (1996)

One of the most iconic stories in Premier League history. 

Then Southampton manager Graeme Souness was tricked into signing Ali Dia, who had been plying his trade for non-league outfit Blyth Spartans, by a hoax phone call in which the caller pretended to be the legendary George Weah. 

It was claimed that Dia was the AC Milan icon’s cousin who had been playing for Paris Saint-Germain, prompting Southampton to swoop. 

Brought on against Leeds United in 1996 for the injured Matt Le Tissier, Dia lasted only 53 minutes before the jig was up. 

Thiago Silva – CHELSEA, vs West Brom (2020) 

Here’s where Saul can take solace. 

Despite establishing himself as one of the best defenders in Europe for the best part of 10 years after spells with AC Milan and PSG, West Brom gave Thiago Silva the runaround when he was introduced to life in the Premier League. 

Frank Lampard’s side were 3-0 down to a team only just promoted from the Championship,  he was at fault for one of the Baggies’ goals before his side launched their comeback. 

He’s not looked back since. 

Alex Jankewitz, SOUTHAMPTON vs Manchester United (2021) 

Handed his first Premier League start at Old Trafford, the Southampton youngster’s early red card helped the home side smash the Saints 8-0. 

Rio Ferdinand – LEEDS UNITED vs Leicester City (2000) 

Rio Ferdinand Leeds vs Leicester

The most expensive British player of all-time when making his Leeds debut in 2000, Rio Ferdinand looked like a duck out of water as Leicester City tore through the Yorkshire giants in a 3-1 win. 

While the home fans chanted about how Leeds had wasted their money, Ferdinand was no doubt planning his stunning rise to the top of the game. 

Gervinho – ARSENAL vs Newcastle United (2011) 

Gervinho Joey Barton Newcastle

Somewhat of a cult hero amongst Arsenal supporters, Gervinho’s life in England got off to the worst possible start: being wound up by Joey Barton. 

After a collision in what turned out to be a 0-0 draw at St James’ Park, the forward slapped Barton and was duly banned for three games. 

Teddy Sheringham – MANCHESTER UNITED vs Tottenham Hotspur (1997) 

Manchester United Teddy Sheringham Tottenham Hotspur

As if filling the shoes of one Eric Cantona was not a big enough ask, making your debut for your new club away at your previous employers makes it much worse. 

Jeered and booed by the Spurs fans, Sheringham missed a penalty to put United ahead and delighted the crowd at White Hart lane, albeit the away team would go on to win. 

Danny Drinkwater – ASTON VILLA vs Manchester City, (2020)

Less than five years after winning the Premier League title in the most extraordinary of circumstances with Leicester City, Danny Drinkwater’s career had fallen off a cliff. 

While he did get a big move to Chelsea in 2017, the former England midfielder had struggled to convince on loan at Burnley, and his temporary stint at Aston Villa wasn’t much better. 

At fault for two of Manchester City’s six goals on his debut, Drinkwater looked almost unrecognisable to the player who starred under Claudio Ranieri. 

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