Suarez, Bale, Henderson: 12 Premier League heroes who flopped in their first season


The Premier League can be an unforgiving battleground for even the finest of players.

Everyone from Andriy Shevchenko to Radamel Falcao and Angel Di Maria to Robinho are living proof that being a world-class football player doesn't guarantee success in England's top-flight.

However, there are some exceptionally determined and tenacious players that prove themselves in the Premier League by battling through a tough transitional phase to become bona fide heroes.

First season flops, second season stars

And here at GIVEMESPORT, we have come to realise that the specific brand of players who struggled during their first season only to become a club hero is more common than you'd think.

As such, we have decided to name 11 players that we believe fit into this category by way of going on to become well regarded at whichever English club it was that they endured a tough start.

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And yes, of course, whether or not that they eventually became a hero and whether or not they truly 'flopped' in their first season is ultimately subjective, so this is very much based on my opinion.

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Nevertheless, let's dive right into the group of players that superbly overcame adversity down below:

1. David de Gea (Manchester United)

A hodgepodge of remarkable saves and dreadful clangers saw De Gea relegated to rotation with Anders Lindegaard during a debut season that saw him struggle with English football's physicality.

Since then, however, De Gea has proven himself as one of the greatest shot-stoppers in Premier League history and won the Sir Matt Busby Player of the Year award four times in five years.


2. Jordan Henderson (Liverpool)

A signing that was deemed so catastrophic during the 2011/12 season that ex-Liverpool director Damien Comolli claimed he was sacked because of it with the club deeming it 'a waste of money'.

Fast-forward ten years and the imperious Henderson has captained Liverpool to Champions League, Premier League, UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup success. Incredible scenes.


3. Joao Cancelo (Manchester City)

There's no two ways about it, Cancelo looked like a huge waste of money at €65 million during a debut season in which Pep Guardiola barely trusted the inconsistent Portuguese in league games.

However, you wouldn't have known that was the case last season as Cancelo produced whatever the opposite of second-season-syndrome is by standing out as one of the world's best full-backs.


4. Son Heung-min (Tottenham Hotspur)

With a miserable record of just eight goals in 40 appearances across his debut season in north London, rumours were abound that Son would be leaving the club after just one year.

However, Spurs fans must be eternally grateful that he never left because the South Korean bagged 21 goals in his sophomore campaign and helped himself to 17 Premier League strikers last season.


5. Patrice Evra (Manchester United)

Evra was so terrible during his United debut against Manchester City that Sir Alex Ferguson gave him the infamous 'hairdryer treatment' and he later missed out on France's 2006 World Cup squad.

But we don't need to tell you how Evra's career at Old Trafford turned out from there because the Frenchman soon established himself as one of the greatest left-backs in Premier League history.


6. Victor Moses (Chelsea)

This is one of our harsher selections, sure, but Moses' lukewarm debut season - albeit one that reaped 10 goals - saw him swiftly loaned out to Liverpool, West Ham United and Stoke City.

But that simply makes it all the more incredible that Moses went on to play such a crucial role during Antonio Conte's Stamford Bridge tenure, helping them to win the Premier League in 2016/17.


7. Robert Pires (Arsenal)

Although 10 goals from 51 games doesn't look all that awful at first glance, Pires' debut-season inconsistency saw him playing like a shadow of the Arsenal legend that he went on to become.

Besides, to say that Pires kicked on his second season would be an understatement; winning the the FWA Footballer of the Year award and topping the Premier League assist charts. The rest, as they say, is history.


8. Michael Essien (Chelsea)

Essien initially looked out of his depth alongside Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele in their primes, prompting Jose Mourinho to sign Michael Ballack, but rest assured that it was overkill.

And we say that because Essien went on to establish himself as one of the Premier League's finest midfielders once he'd settled and made more than 250 appearances for the west London club.


9. Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Ok, maybe 'flopped' is putting things a little too strongly, but lest we forget that Suarez netted just four goals in his first six months and only followed that up with 11 league goals next time out.

And when you compare that to the Suarez who equalled the Premier League goalscoring record for a 38-game season to earn a move to Barcelona, it certainly looks subpar by comparison.


10. Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)

I know the stat, you know the stat, your nan probably knows the stat, too: Bale failed to win any of his first 24 Premier League games as a Spurs player to make a truly dreadful start at the club.

However, you also know the rest of the story because Bale went on to be crowned PFA Player of the Year twice in three seasons to earn himself a world-record move to Real Madrid in 2013. 


11. Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal)

From being sent off on his Premier League debut to costing Arsenal the 2011 League Cup final, it's fair to say that Koscielny looked like a fish out of water when he first moved to England.

And while his reputation with the Gunners might have soured since he left, make no mistake that Koscileny eventually pulled though as one of the club's finest defenders of the post-'Invincibles' era.


Patience is a virtue

Have you ever heard of the phrase: 'If at first you don't succeed, try, try again'? Yeh, that.

We take for granted that players like Henderson, Evra and Suarez are Premier League heroes, but it's easy to forget some of the challenges, doubt and criticism that they overcame early doors.

And frankly, when you recall all those world-class players who never made the cut in England's top-flight, you could easily have forgiven them for failing to turn things around in the way that they did.



So, power to all the Premier League heroes who dug deep and picked up their form because it goes to show that even in the fast-moving world of football that patience truly is a virtue.

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