/11 great international players who couldnt hack it in the Premier League

11 great international players who couldnt hack it in the Premier League

Diego Forlan

Forlan retired from international football in 2015 as Uruguay’s second most-capped player of all time (112) and their third-highest scorer (36 goals). He was the 2010 World Cup’s joint-top marksman with five goals, and was presented with the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player – yet he couldn’t perform at anything close to that standard in the Premier League.

He signed for Manchester United from Argentina’s Independiente as a promising 22-year-old in 2002. Forlan spent just over two-and-a-half years at Old Trafford, but in 63 Premier League games managed just 10 goals – and his first top-flight net-rippler didn’t come until his 24th appearance.

What makes his unsuccessful stint in England so surprising is that he scored regularly in every other country where he played: Argentina, Spain, Italy, Brazil, Japan, Uruguay, India and, finally, Hong Kong. A simple case of arriving too early? 


Manchester City paid Real Madrid £32.5m for the Brazilian superstar in 2008, but he struggled to justify his monumental fee or replicate the form that has helped him earn 100 caps, score 28 goals and appear at two World Cups for the Seleção.

In 41 Premier League games for the club, he scored just 14 times – all of which came in his first, promising season of 2008/09. He didn’t last a full second season, though, falling down the pecking order after injury and subsequently being loaned to first club Santos in the second half of the campaign.

“I started well, but unfortunately there weren’t as many great names as there are these days,” the Brazilian lamented to FourFourTwo. “Manchester City are the only side I’ve left without winning a title.”

He’s now 35 and plays for Istanbul Basaksehir – surprise leaders at the top of the Turkish Super Lig.

BIG INTERVIEW Robinho on why David Beckham was always a winner with Brazilians

Andriy Shevchenko

The word ‘legend’ is thrown around a lot these days, especially in football, but Shevchenko is one player who earned that tag. The Ukrainian icon is his country’s highest-scoring player of all time (48 goals) and garnered the second-highest number of caps (111). He won the Champions League with Milan and only one player has ever scored more goals for the Italian giants.

In 2006, he joined Chelsea for £30.8m from Milan. Even for a Ballon d’Or winner of Shevchenko’s stature, that was an enormous fee back then – and it proved to be a massive overpayment.

He scored just nine goals in 48 Premier League appearances and was such a flop that he was deemed surplus to requirements and loaned back to Milan for the entirety of the 2008/09 season. He returned to first club Dynamo Kiev on a permanent basis in 2009, where he regained the goalscoring form that saw Milan purchase him from there in the first place.

Shevchenko retired in 2012 as one of European football’s greatest strikers. His colossal failure to shine at Chelsea will forever remain one of the Premier League’s – and indeed football’s – biggest mysteries. He’s now manager of Ukraine. 

Sergei Rebrov

Only three men have ever scored more goals for Dynamo Kiev than Shevchenko – and one of them was the other half of the iconic strike partnership he helped form.

Rebrov also performed excellently for the Ukrainian national team alongside Sheva, scoring 15 goals in 75 appearances as the more prolific striker’s support man. Yet he was a complete flop for Spurs and West Ham in the Premier League.

Rebrov signed on at White Hart Lane in 2000 at a cost of £11m, but he only scored 10 times in 59 games over the course of two seasons. He was loaned out to Fenerbahce during his time in north London and ultimately left the club on a free transfer to sign for then-Championship West Ham (record: 27 league appearances, one goal).

He finished his career at Rubin Kazan in Russia in 2009 and the 42-years-old now bosses Ferencvaros after stints at Al-Ahli and Dynamo Kiev.