Saul Niguez is enduring a nightmarish loan spell at Chelsea this season.
There was understandable excitement around Stamford Bridge when the talented Atletico Madrid midfielder signed a loan deal in the summer, but things haven’t exactly turned out as planned.
The dizzying fantasies of Saul cutting midfielders in half with an array of gorgeous passes and penetrative dribbles have been sent crashing down to the ground with repeated stints on the bench.
Saul’s torrid time at Chelsea
Astonishingly, the Spaniard has played just 48 minutes of Premier League action this season and is currently ranked by WhoScored data as the division’s worst-performing midfielder in 2021/22 so far.
Marry that to Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek having usurped him in Thomas Tuchel’s pecking order and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Saul’s switch is fast turning into a disaster.
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However, if there is one way in which the 26-year-old could possibly reassure himself it’s with the fact that he wouldn’t be the first top-class player to have flopped on loan in the Premier League.
With the likes of Radamel Falcao and Roque Júnior having suffered similar fates, we wanted to look into the most disastrous loan spells that the English top-flight has seen since the 1992 rebranding.
XI of the Premier League’s worst loan spells
And with countless bizarre, bewildering and boggling examples immediately coming to mind, we’ve constructed a head-scratching XI of the worst Premier League loan spells ever for you to peruse.
GK: Andy Goram (Manchester United)
An emergency recruit, Goram made just two appearances for United – getting substituted in both and picking up a Jaap Stam back-pass – having been on the brink of being released by Motherwell.
‘The Goalie’ told Sir Alex Ferguson to ‘f*** off’ over the phone when he was first offered the move and claimed that Roy Keane ‘hated the sight’ of him with the pair regularly clashing in training.
DF: Steven Caulker (Liverpool)
An infinitely-bewildering move that largely saw Caulker featuring as an auxiliary striker in the final minutes of games, Caulker is regularly ranked as Jurgen Klopp’s worst signing on Merseyside.
DF: Eliaquim Mangala (Everton)
Battered 5-1 on his debut against Arsenal, Mangala never played for Everton nor Manchester City ever again after his second game for the Toffees ended at half-time with a serious knee injury.
DF: Roque Júnior (Leeds United)
You’d think that signing a World Cup-winning defender fresh from winning the Champions League could only end well for Leeds, but Roque Junior wouldn’t be in our XI if that was the case.
The Brazilian’s debut ended in a 4-0 defeat to Leicester, his second game saw him concede a penalty and pick up a red card and his final Premier League game was a 6-1 loss to Portsmouth.
MF: Denis Suarez (Arsenal)
Signed from Barcelona amongst quiet excitement, Suarez quickly disappointed Arsenal fans as he looked comfortably shy of match fitness and registered zero goal contributions from his six matches.
MF: Ricardo Alvarez (Sunderland)
Have there been worse signings in terms of performances? Absolutely, but Alvarez’s time in the north-east might be the most costly loan disaster that the Premier League has ever seen.
Sunderland tried to pull out of an obligation-to-buy clause after Alvarez’s injury-riddled loan spell, but the Court of Arbitration for Sport ordered that Sunderland had to pay £9 million to Inter Milan.
And that’s despite the fact that Alvarez would never play for the club again. Oh, and the Black Cats were also ordered to pay him £4,770,000 over loss of earnings in a December 2020 ruling. Chaos.
MF: Renato Sanches (Swansea City)
What more can we say other than the fact Sanches’ loan spell is best remembered for a pass to an advertising board? His current form makes it all the more baffling that he nose-dived in England.
MF: Saul Niguez (Chelsea)
Ah, the reason we’re all here. There is still time for Saul to turn things around, sure, but his Premier League legacy is currently set to be remembered for a catastrophic debut against Aston Villa.
MF: Kim Kallstrom (Arsenal)
Give or take scoring a penalty in an FA Cup semi-final, Kallstrom effectively did little to nothing on the pitch for Arsenal across four appearances having astonishingly been signed with a back injury.
FW: Radamel Falcao (Manchester United and Chelsea)
Poor Falcao has the unlucky distinction of making the line-up twice over because both his spells with United and Chelsea were nothing short of disastrous despite his undoubted world-class talent.
‘El Tigre’ notched just four goals in 29 outings for the Red Devils and things went from bad to worse with Chelsea as he registered only one strike from 12 appearances. Yikes.
FW: Alexandre Pato (Chelsea)
Yes, this really happened. It’s easy to forget Pato’s inexplicable stint with the Blues and it speaks volumes that his only goal for the club came from the penalty spot against rock-bottom Aston Villa.
You’re not alone, Saul
Well, that turned out to be quite the rollercoaster, didn’t it?
From incurring the wrath of Ferguson and Keane to linking up with advertising boards, Saul can at least sleep soundly at night knowing that far more disastrous loan spells have preceded his.
And even if the disheartening murmuring that Saul might be returning to Atletico in January come true, there is still time for the Spain international to make the most of his time in west London.
After all, there’s no denying that Saul is a much better player than a lot of the loan flops in our line-up, so we wouldn’t be surprised to see him grab his next opportunity under Tuchel with both hands.