The Premier League is widely regarded as one of the toughest leagues in the world. Unlike other strong league's such as La Liga or the Bundesliga, there are no gimmes in the English top flight. Even the teams at the bottom have players capable of hurting you, and shock results are far more common place. As such, the Premier League tends to tell the weak from the strong, and those who aren't up to it are quickly found out.
There are though, as always, exceptions to the rule. Some players look to be world beaters for just a single season before fading into obscurity. For foreign players coming into the Premier League, they may make a blistering start in their first season before falling away. There can be a number of reasons for a one-season wonder. Some players are simply 'confidence' players, with it they are outstanding, without it they are poor. Others pick up nasty injuries or have fitness problems while some can be 'figured out'.
It should come as no surprise that there are a large number of forwards on this list. Strikers and attacking players tend to be the most prone to highs and lows and having their form dictated by confidence. Some players people often remember as being one-season wonders such as Andy Johnson or Tony Yeboah actually had a couple of impressive seasons, hence their omissions. Bizarrely, six of this list played for Manchester City at some stage in their careers. Here are the top 15 one-season wonders in Premier League history.
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Egyptian forward Mido arrived in the Premier League with plenty of experience of European football. The big man had already played in the top flights in Belgium, Holland, Spain, France and Italy, and was still only 21 when he joined Tottenham in 2004. He didn't feature much in his first season at Spurs, but his second would prove to be his one impressive season. Strong, tall, good at holding the ball up and capable of bringing other players into the game, Mido bagged 11 goals in 27 games aged 22, and looked to be the future of Tottenham's attack. In his next five seasons in the Premier League he scored just eight goals with Tottenham and West Ham, cementing him as a one-season wonder.
14 Michael Johnson
The demise of Michael Johnson's career is one of the saddest in recent football history. The talented midfielder was touted as the future of English football at one stage, as he rose through the ranks at Manchester City as a youngster. Unlike most, Johnson actually had his best season at the age of 19. In the 2007-08 campaign, the teenager played 23 league games for Man City and impressed. He began the next season brightly but got injured early on, he never recovered. He struggled with mental health and weight problems and retired aged 24.
13 Mikael Forssell
Finnish forward Mikael Forssell joined Chelsea at the age of 17, but scored only five goals in his seven years at the club, most of which was spent out on loan. It was his 2003-04 season loan to Birmingham City which proved to be Forssell's season of wonder in the Premier League. A real old fashioned poacher, Forssell hit 17 goals in 33 games, finishing as one of the division's top scorers, with only Alan Shearer, Thierry Henry, Louis Saha and Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring more. Yet he scored just 12 goals in his next three seasons in the Premier League. Now 34, Forssell is currently a free agent.
12 Michael Turner
Commanding center-back Michael Turner has had an unusual career. After looking great for Brentford he signed for Hull City, where he started terribly but quickly became an integral part of the team which won promotion to the Premier League for the first time in the club's history. In the top flight, he was Hull's best player, and was heavily linked with Liverpool and Man City before being snapped up by Sunderland. At Sunderland, he looked a little clumsy, eventually joining Norwich where he looked a little error-prone once more. After an exceptional season at Hull City, Turner has never found those levels since and is currently on-loan at Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
11 Georgi Kinkladze
One of the most naturally gifted players on this list, Georgi Kinkladze was a delight to watch. He was excellent on the ball, had an impressive turn of pace and was capable of creating and scoring goals. Even in their recent times of high-spending and trophies, City have had few players as naturally gifted as the Georgian. Man City may have been relegated in his first season at the club, but Kinkladze was still superb, and stuck by the team when they went down. He later returned to the Premier League spending four seasons with Derby but never found the form he showed in Manchester.
10 Michael Ricketts
Michael Ricketts had been the star of Bolton's promotion season to the Premier League, and he took to the top flight with ease. It was the 2001-02 season, aged just 23, Ricketts made an explosive start to life in the Premier League. By February he had 15 goals, even earning himself a call-up to the England squad that month. He played just 45 minutes for England, and didn't score again for Bolton that season. He hit six for Bolton in the next campaign before a big money move to Middlesbrough, where he flopped. Three goals in 32 games put an end to his time in the top flight, as he spent the rest of his career in the second and third tiers.
9 Habib Beye
The second and last defender to make this list, Habib Beye joined Newcastle United in 2007, and in the 2007-08 season he was fantastic. He appeared strong, athletic and a real nightmare for opposing forwards. He won Newcastle's 2008 Player of the Year Award with ease, and was fast becoming a cult hero in the North East. Beye also inspired one of the best Premier League chants; "Monday, Tuesday, Habib Beye", sang to the tune of Happy Days. Things quickly took a turn for the worse though, as he began the 2008-09 season injured and was sent off in his first game back. His next three seasons in the Premier League were blighted with errors, and Beye retired in 2012 after being released by Doncaster Rovers.
8 Michael Bridges
Leeds United paid a figure in the region of $10 million to prize a 21-year-old Michael Bridges from Sunderland too Elland Road in 2001. The youngster began justifying that price tag immediately though, scoring 19 goals in his first season at Leeds, helping the club to a third place finish in the Premier League. However, in the next four seasons at Leeds, Bridges was plagued by injuries, playing just 10 games and failing to score a single goal. Spells at Bolton and Sunderland produced just one goal and Bridges never played in the Premier League again, and now plays for Lambton Jaffas in the Australian second tier.
7 Marcus Stewart
Ipswich Town's 2000-01 is still one of the most famous in Premier League history, and Stewart is the best remembered player of that squad. Newly promoted, Ipswich shocked many by finishing in a remarkable fifth place. Stewart led the club's scoring charts and was the second top scorer in the league with 19 goals, only Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink scoring more that season, leading to calls for Stewart to be called up to the England squad. The following season Ipswich were relegated. Stewart moved to Sunderland but couldn't replicate his 2000-01 form.
6 Stephen Ireland
Another Manchester City midfielder and another Manchester City youth prospect, Stephen Ireland seemed to have the world at his feet as a 21-year-old. In the 2008-09 season he was nothing short of superb. Playing in a more attacking role as a playmaker, Ireland scored nine league goals and 13 in all competitions, as well as topping the club's assist chart. He was named the club's Player of the Year and handed a new five-year contract, but when Roberto Mancini arrived, Ireland was made a sub. He headed to Aston Villa but injuries and a reported lack of application saw Ireland never hit the heights of that 2008-09 season. Currently at Stoke, aged 29, Ireland could have been so much more.
Zimbabwean Benjani had all the attributes to become a very good Premier League striker, and he appeared to have found the right mix in the 2007-08 season, when he was exceptional. He first came to England in 2005, but looked a little raw. In the 2007-08 season everything came together for the Portsmouth striker though. He looked quick and powerful and couldn't stop scoring, as he hit 15 goals in only 23 games. He was snapped up by Man City where he spent three years, and scored four goals. A single season at each of Sunderland, Blackburn and back at Portsmouth saw a return of just four goals.
At one time the most highly regarded youngster on the planet, Robinho was the first signing Manchester City made under their billionaire owners, and was supposed to send out a signal of intent to the rest of the Premier League when he arrived on Deadline Day in 2005. The $50 million fee appeared reasonable in the Brazilians first season, as he scored 14 goals in 31 games and made nine assists, making him one of the top players in the division that season. In his second season, Pele's supposed heir apparent looked out of sorts, he played only 10 games and failed to score a single goal. After spells in Italy and Brazil, Robinho now plays for Guangzhou in China.
3 Amr Zaki
Amr Zaki is more remarkable than most in that you could argue the Egyptian was not even a one-season wonder, he was a half-season wonder. He joined Wigan Athletic from Egyptian giants Zamalek and made an instant impression few could have anticipated in the Premier League. It was the 2008-09 season and Zaki was electric, looking like one of the most natural goal scorers in the division.
His performances led to comparisons with the division's all-time leading scorer, Alan Shearer, as Zaki led the league's scoring charts early in the season. His goal at Anfield against Liverpool, an acrobatic volley, earning particular praise as one of the goals of the season. By the half way point he had 10 goals, but he didn't return from an international break and Steve Bruce called him the most unprofessional player he'd ever worked with. Zaki never scored again for Wigan or in his time in the Premier League at Hull City. He retired aged 32 in 2015, having only played 17 games in the last five years.
2 Roque Santa Cruz
Roque Santa Cruz joined Blackburn Rovers from Bayern Munich in 2007, and had an emphatic start to life in the Premier League, appearing one of the bargains of the century after commanding just a $5 million fee. The Paraguayan had an outstanding opening season in 2007-08, scoring 19 goals in 37 games, with only Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernando Torres and Emmanuel Adebayor scoring more in the Premier League.
He made a slower start to his second season, scoring only four in 20 for Blackburn, but that didn't stop Man City coming in with a massive $25 million bid for the striker. New Man City manager Mark Hughes was looking to reunite with his former striker, and he joined City in 2009. In four years at Manchester City he scored three goals and was loaned out for three of those seasons, making him one of the greatest one-season wonders in history.
In the top spot, when it comes to Premier League one-season wonders, no one rivals Swansea City player Michu. The Spaniard appeared the real deal when he arrived from La Liga. Playing in an advanced midfield role, he appeared to have the physical attributes required to play in the Premier League, as well as having the technical prowess one expects of a top Spanish player. His intelligent movement from midfield saw him outscore most of the division's top strikers, despite playing for a less fancied club.
Michu scored 18 goals in 35 games in his debut season in the Premier League, which was the 2012-13 season, when only Robin van Persie, Luis Suarez, Gareth Bale and Christian Benteke scored more. He started the 2013-14 season less impressively, scoring twice in 17, before picking up a nasty injury. He hasn't played for Swansea since, and played only five times while on-loan at Napoli. The 29-year-old's future remains up in the air.
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