The Premier League is the most watched and most lucrative sports league in the world. It is big business, and for many clubs, relegation from the division can be catastrophic due to the decrease in revenue. The average Premier League club makes around $115 million a year in TV money, compared to less than $5 million in the Championship, and while parachute payments ease the fall, many still struggle with the drop.
Each season the three teams with the fewest points are relegated from the Premier League. While injuries and misfortune may play a part, by and large, it is the worst teams who go down, who naturally tend to have less gifted players than the more successful teams. Every year though, there are some gems among the relegated teams, and they're often snapped up by teams still in the Premier League.
The players on this list though are a rare breed, including Ballon d'Or, Champions League, Premier League, La Liga and World Cup winners. Some were youngsters on-loan at lesser sides, while others were veterans of the game in the swan song years of their careers. Both the players' overall ability, achievements and ability at the time have been accounted for.
The current Premier League season is the 24th since the league's inception, meaning almost 600 players have been relegated to date. Inevitably, a number of them were very talented footballers, and narrowing down to just 15 was not easy. Some of the quality players who missed out include Charlie Austin, Joe Cole, Loic Remy, Emerson, Michael Dawson, Lucas Radebe, Nick Barmby, James Milner and more. Here are the top 15 best players to have been relegated from the Premier League:
15 Nwankwu Kanu
14 Jermain Defoe
13 Kevin-Prince Boateng
12 Mark Viduka
11 Georgi Kinkladze
Georgi Kinkladze was an extremely gifted footballer who, with the right training, could have gone on to become world class. Although he never quite nailed down his potential, he certainly showed glimpses of just how good he was in his three years with Manchester City. Kinkladze won Manchester City Player of the Year in both of their Premier League seasons and stuck with the club following relegation, but after a second relegation to the third tier he had no option but to leave the club.
10 Michael Carrick
9 Michel Salgado
8 Paolo Di Canio
7 Les Ferdinand
6 Julio Cesar
5 Fabrizio Ravanelli
4 Rio Ferdinand
3 Michael Owen
2 Juninho Paulista
1 Roy Keane
Arguably the greatest player to ever be relegated from the Premier League is Manchester United legend Roy Keane. Not always the most popular of characters, there was a dark side to Keane's game, but he was ultimately a winner. He always went out to win and was a major influence within the Manchester United dressing room, serving as club captain for eight years and ensuring ever player in the squad had the same desire and will to win that he did. It worked, and Manchester United won 17 trophies in Keane's 12 years at the club, including seven Premier League titles and one Champions League.
A combative, uncompromising midfielder who was also athletic and technically very capable, Keane had some awe-inspiring matches in a Manchester United shirt. The greatest of all was perhaps in Turin, up against Juventus in the Champions League semi-final, when Keane dominated the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Edgar Davids, despite knowing he was suspended for the final. He was relegated under Brian Clough with Nottingham Forest in 1993, but was still named in the PFA Team of the Year that season.
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