Football Features

The Premier League’s top 10 one-season wonders

By Squawka News

Published: 16:30, 2 June 2020 | Updated: 11:21, 4 June 2020

Goals. It only takes a second to score a goal. Goals win you games.

Any football manager who’s worth their salt – and also the owner of a shiny new copy of footballing clichés – will tell you all of the above.

Unfortunately, not everyone manages to provide the consistency that we all crave. Players arrive but then leave as quickly as they came. Having promised so much, they ultimately drift into obscurity.

However, they still hold a fond place in our heart. For once upon a time – yes, a short time – they were among the most feared strikers in the Premier League.

So with that in mind, here are 10 of the best one-season wonders the Premier League has ever known. These fellas don’t hang around for an encore. The big teases.

1. Roque Santa Cruz

The Paraguayan seems like a reasonable place to start. He managed a huge 19 goals for Blackburn Rovers in the 2007/08 campaign and never looked back. Wait, yes he did because he’s been pretty rubbish ever since.

He still pulled out a great finish at Old Trafford though; zing! Then he signed for Manchester City. They just used to love spending recklessly didn’t they!?

Santa Cruz enjoyed a decent spell at Malaga before signing for Mexican outfit Cruz Azul in 2015. He now plays for Paraguayan team Club Olimpia whom he joined in 2016.

2. Amr Zaki

The bulky Egyptian’s season in England’s top tier was a memorable one. Although he only arrived at Wigan Athletic on loan, his impact was instant.

He smashed in five goals in his first six games, which was promptly followed by a ridiculous volley at Anfield. Yet his displays proved short-lived and he even refused to return to Steve Bruce’s side following a spell back in his homeland on international duty.

Well, he was a bit of a lunatic. He hasn’t got a club now having retired in 2015, with his last team being Arab Contractors.

3. Andy Johnson

The Crystal Palace legend netted 21 goals in the top flight during the 2004/05 campaign. Only a certain Thierry Henry managed more than old AJ. Only he wasn’t that old. Yes, his bald bonce made him look older than he was, but he still did enough to make it into the England squad. Briefly.

He had spells with Everton, Fulham and Queens Park Rangers, but Selhurst Park will always define his career.

Eleven of his goals for the Eagles in ‘that’ season were penalties, but let’s not ruin his moment. He returned to Palace in 2014 and is now retired, and works as an ambassador for the club.

4. Marcus Stewart

Ipswich Town legend Stewart chipped in with a healthy 19 goals in the 2000/01 season. He was undoubtedly unfortunate not to receive an England call-up, but he can take solace in the fact that he took his side into the UEFA Cup, back when it was a competition clubs actually wanted to play in.

A decent spell with Sunderland followed, but the magic at the Tractor Boys was never replicated. When he ended his career with Exeter in 2011 he looked a completely different player, and not in a good way.

5. Michu

Swansea City probably wish they took the £20 million fee that was bandied about after the Spaniard’s debut season right about now.

Michu scored 18 goals in his debut campaign with the Swans in 2012/2013, and just two the year after, mainly due to a chronic ankle injury which ended up hampering the remainder of his playing career beyond his Premier League days.

The forward, who confirmed his retirement in 2017, went off the boil as quickly as he came to it. He was at Real Oviedo before retiring, after spending his penultimate season as a player with UP Langreo, a Spanish club in the third tier with whom he served as director of football until becoming technical secretary of Oviedo.

6. Papiss Cisse

It was a bit awkward when Newcastle United unearthed the ‘next’ Demba Ba in 2012, only for him to get better than the original rather quickly.

Instinctive and ruthless in front of goal, Cisse was unstoppable in his first half-campaign on these shores. Yet he’s flattered to deceive ever since. He always seems to promise a resurgence, but such lofty heights are unlikely to be managed ever again.

He left the Toon for Chinese side Shandong Luneng in 2016, spending two years at the club before joining Alanyaspor in Turkey in 2018, where he is once again among the goals.

7. Asamoah Gyan

No one could quite believe it when Sunderland managed to sign one of the stars of the 2010 World Cup, but they did.

The Ghana international burst on to the scene but then got cold feet and promptly ran away to Al Ain, where he surely earned a shed load of cash before joining Chinese Super League club Shanghai SIPG last year. He returned to European football with Kayserispor but in September 2019, joined Indian Super League side NorthEast United. A season-ending injury saw him released in January, with NorthEast United bringing in ex-Leeds and Millwall forward Andy Keogh as a replacement.

8. Benni McCarthy

Picture him now. What image does your mind’s eye muster up? A rather smug looking rotund chap, we imagine. However, it wasn’t always so.

The former South African international once gobbled up the goals for Blackburn Rovers – 18 to be precise. One more than a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in 2006/07.

Things went downhill from thereon in and he struggled to repeat the feat for the rest of his career. Not even ‘swansongs’ with West Ham United or the Orlando Pirates could reverse the decline.

He was most recently manager of Cape Town City FC but was dismissed after just two wins from 18 games.

9. Michael Ricketts

When Ricketts banged in 13 goals before February for Bolton in the 2001/02 campaign, it didn’t look anything could stop him. Ironically, a place in the England squad proved to be his undoing.

A move to Middlesbrough followed but Ricketts never rediscovered his goalscoring touch, putting away a few efforts here and there for the remainder of his career.

10. Benjani

He had a cracking celebration; you can’t argue with that. Unfortunately, the Zimbabwean didn’t have much else going on after his impressive campaign with Portsmouth, which earned him a move to Manchester City.

To be fair, Benjani didn’t even really want to move to City, at least according to then-Portsmouth boss Harry Redknapp, and it showed in the striker’s performances for the club.