They often say consistency is the one attribute that separates the good players from the truly great ones.
A handful of goals here and there, a small string of solid performances is all well and good, but if you can’t take that up a notch and do it week after week, season after season, you’ve no hope of making it to the top.
Sounds horrible, but simply not everybody can make it to the top. And truthfully, football would be a much more boring sport if everybody did. The beautiful game needs those cult heroes, and the best ones are born out of one above average, sometimes world class season, before fading into complete obscurity.
Gather around your mates and dig out the nostalgia goggles, GIVEMESPORT has compiled a list of 11 of the biggest one season wonders in football during the 21st century
1. Clint Dempsey (Fulham, 2011/12)
Having made the jump to the Premier League and Fulham in 2007, nobody would’ve thought that Dempsey had it in him to elevate to such a high level after several seasons of fairly average scoring rates. But alas, the 2011/12 campaign rolled around and, suddenly, Fulham’s American forward became a man possessed, hitting 17 goals and seven assists in the Premier League as the Cottagers finished ninth. He never scored that many league goals in a single season once again, hitting 15 in the 2014 MLS season.
2. Sandro Ramirez (Malaga, 2016/17)
A product of Barcelona’s famed academy, Ramirez made a brave decision to depart La Blaugrana for Malaga in 2016, which paid off. The young striker scored 14 La Liga goals and assisted five times from 30 games in his debut campaign and first real season as a regular first team striker. That was enough to tempt Everton into paying £5.2 million to sign him the following summer. He scored one goal all season, and left for free in 2020 after becoming a completely forgotten man.
3. Roque Santa Cruz (Blackburn, 2007/08)
One of the strangest early career paths ever, Santa Cruz swapped Bayern for Blackburn for 2007 and instantly found his feet with the Rovers. Looking every bit of a world class player in the making, his debut campaign saw him bag 19 goals and seven assists, lighting up the Premier League. He was a cult hero after that, despite never recapturing such a level ever again, until more recent years, where he’s strangely found a prolific vein once more as a veteran striker in his native Paraguay.
4. Saido Berahino (West Brom, 2014/15)
Coming out of nowhere like a prime Randy Orton RKO, Berahino was electric as he burst onto the scene at West Brom as a youngster. After emerging in 2013/14, his first full season with the seniors in 2014/15 saw him hit a 20-goal campaign. The form saw just about everybody queuing up to acquire his services, but as the Baggies dragged out a transfer saga, seeing Berahino miss out on a move to Tottenham and resulting in his form completely plummeting.
5. Grafite (Wolfsburg, 2008/09)
The streets won’t forget Wolfsburg’s Bundesliga-winning side of 2008/09. While Edin Dzeko was the man to emerge from that team and take European football by storm, his Brazilian strike partner Grafite was just as influential in winning the title. 28 goals from 25 games saw Grafite pick up the German Footballer of the Year award in 2009. His next move after Wolfsburg, though, was to Emirati outfit Al-Ahli, which tells you all you need to know about his career path after one world class season.
6. Vincent Janssen (AZ Alkmaar, 2015/16)
One season with AZ Alkmaar was all Janssen needed to announce himself to European football as, potentially, the game’s next top striker. Or so Spurs thought, anyway. Janssen bagged 27 goals in his only season with Alkmaar, finishing up as Eredivisie top scorer and the winner of the Johan Cruyff Trophy. The Dutchman bagged two hat-tricks throughout the campaign, tempting Spurs to snap him up for £17m in 2016. He was on loan in Turkey a year later.
7. Carlos Alberto (Porto, 2003/04)
Given the Jose Mourinho seal of approval as he headed to Porto in the second half of their incredible 2003/04 season, Carlos Alberto’s impact upon arriving from Brazil was rather instant. No, he didn’t rip up the goal scoring charts, but he featured regularly for Mourinho throughout the Champions League stages and Portuguese Cup, notably scoring the opener in the Champions League final as Porto lifted the trophy. He was back in Brazil by 2005, though, and endured a journeyman career after that.
8. Lucas Perez (Deportivo La Coruna, 2015/16)
One excellent season was all it took for Perez to get noticed by Arsenal, and it’s understandable to see why. Plying his trade in Spain with Deportivo La Coruna, the striker had found 11 goals from 15 games by December, and finished up the 2015/16 season with 17 goals and ten assists in a side fighting for relegation. He cost Arsenal some £17.1m the following summer, but never delivered on the promise of that one season.
9. Stephen Ireland (Man City, 2008/09)
An attacking midfielder by trade, Ireland’s 2008/09 campaign felt like a true coming of age season for a young, exciting talent waiting to burst. Nine goals and nine assists in the Premier League, along with an impressive return in the UEFA Cup, Ireland was named Manchester City‘s 2008/09 Player of the Year and looked destined to thrive in their new era of ownership. He never found that level of consistent performance again, though, and was gone by 2010.
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10. Michu (Swansea, 2012/13)
One of the pillars of any ‘the streets won’t forget’ discussion, everybody knows about Michu’s iconic one season of glory. Signing for Swansea for £2m in 2012, the Spaniard led the line in their 2012/13 campaign, tearing apart Premier League defences like it was nobody’s business and finishing up with 18 Premier League goals in his debut season, as well as helping Swansea to the League Cup. His form literally fell off a cliff after that, though, and he was released in 2015, before retiring altogether in 2017 aged 31.
11. Afonso Alves (Middlesbrough, 2006/07)
A Brazilian who rose to prominence in Sweden and found his form in the Netherlands, Alves had a strange but strong start to his career. Joining Heerenveen in 2006, he finished up his maiden season with the club with an astounding 34 goals from 31 games, becoming the third Brazilian to finish as the top scorer in the Dutch top flight, alongside Romario and Ronaldo. But upon joining Middlesbrough in January 2008, Alves couldn’t have looked any less like the two Brazilians mentioned above. Boro’s record signing flopped as they were relegated, and Alves never played in Europe’s top five again.