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5 Premier League stars who failed at new clubs after free transfers

Liverpool v Bolton Wanderers - Premier League
Liverpool v Bolton Wanderers - Premier League
Arka "Biasedguy" Sarkar

Premier League clubs employ varied strategies for player recruitment, and signing free agents is also part of an efficient strategy. It may seem ironic that clubs from the richest league will have to resort to acquiring players without the requirement of a transfer fee.

However, several good footballers, time and again, decide to see out their contracts. Hence, clubs in the Premier League are always on the lookout to bring these footballers to their clubs.

Some proven Premier League stars failed as free agents at their new clubs

There are many factors why a player becomes a free agent in the first place. While a common reason is that the player is pushing for a far more lucrative contract, other reasons should be red flags for the dealing club.

Footballers have two major depreciation factors attached to them - age and injuries. While both occurrences are not within the hands of the footballers, they reduce their footballing abilities nevertheless.

In the list below, one of these two factors played a major role in the failure of these superstars flopping for their new sides.


#5 Owen Hargreaves

Manchester City v Birmingham City - Carling Cup Third Round
Manchester City v Birmingham City - Carling Cup Third Round

Owen Hargreaves was a serial winner in the world of club football. He won four Bundesliga titles and one Champions League with Bayern Munich. The Englishman joined Manchester United in 2007, where he again won another Champions League title and added a Premier League winners' medal as well.

However, his spell at Old Trafford was riddled with injuries and he missed large chunks of the season. This was the primary reason why Manchester United didn't renew Hargreaves' contract.

To prove his fitness, Hargreaves posted videos of his practice and fitness on YouTube. Manchester City were persuaded by those and decided to hand him a one-year contract. In some ways, the switch made sense since it was the season when Manchester City won the coveted Premier League title.

Sadly for Hargreaves, it was a repetition of his Manchester United spell as he was constantly riddled with niggling injuries. While Manchester City picked up the Premier League title that season, Hargreaves could only manage one appearance and wasn't eligible for the winners' medal.


#4 Joe Cole

Liverpool v AS Roma
Liverpool v AS Roma

Joe Cole was a pivotal player for Premier League club Chelsea, with whom he had picked up multiple Premier League titles. When Liverpool signed him as a free agent in the summer of 2010, club captain Steven Gerrard called it a major coup. He even went on to claim that Cole was on par with Lionel Messi in terms of technical ability.

🥳 40 today...How good was Joe Cole? 🤔@ChelseaFC | #HBD | #UCL https://t.co/GMdB9CiihP

Cole started his Liverpool career in the Europa League, but his Premier League debut was an absolute nightmare. It was against Arsenal, and he was sent off after just 45 minutes.

He played the next few matches before picking up injuries that greatly dented his performances and outings. A loan to Lille helped for the time being, but Cole failed to establish himself and West Ham ultimately snapped him up on another free transfer.

#3 Michael Owen

Southampton v Stoke City - Premier League
Southampton v Stoke City - Premier League

Michael Owen is the story of many achievements, yet fans hope what more the Premier League star could have achieved. He was the poster boy for success at Liverpool, where he began his career. He won individual and club honors for the Merseyside club and moved to Real Madrid, which kick-started his career's downfall.

Michael Owen(England)2004-2005 https://t.co/TVkBemyyQs

Spells at Newcastle United and Manchester United followed. Owen had signed for Manchester United as a free agent, but his performances were somewhat satisfactory. It was his spell at Stoke City, where he joined in 2012, that backfired massively.

Owen signed for Premier League side Stoke City in 2012 as a free agent on a one-year contract. He made his debut against Manchester City but soon ended up with a hamstring injury.

His one season at Stoke was filled with injuries as he could manage only eight Premier League appearances. Owen scored only once and announced his retirement after that season.


#2 Robert Pires

Aston Villa v Blackburn Rovers - Premier League
Aston Villa v Blackburn Rovers - Premier League

Robert Pires' free agent signing is a sorry story of age taking its toll on a world-class footballer. Pires has an incredible legacy at Arsenal, where he was one of the most important players and won many honors with the club. He then left the Premier League to join La Liga side Villareal.

Bakar and LANCEY Is what Robert Pires and Henry were together in football terms https://t.co/o3C6KarnYd

Pires signed for Gerrard Houllier's Aston Villa as a free agent in 2010. He made his return to the Premier League as a second-half substitute against Blackburn Rovers.

His first goal for VIlla came in the FA Cup, and he had a couple of praiseworthy performances. Pires even informed his will to stay for another season, but it was evident that age had taken over him, and Villa released him after his six-month contract was over.


#1 Ian Rush

Ian Rush of Leeds (left) gets to the ball ahead of Mike Duberry of Chelsea
Ian Rush of Leeds (left) gets to the ball ahead of Mike Duberry of Chelsea

Ian Rush is considered among one of the greatest ever players in the Premier League, and his exploits for Liverpool are well documented. He won five first-division league titles on Merseyside along with the European Cup and FA Cup. However, his transition to the Premier League era was rough, with the first signs of age showing up.

How good was Ian Rush 🔥 https://t.co/FwzBZ4KDv5

In 1996, Rush signed as a free agent for Leeds United, who had just finished 13th in the previous campaign. Rush bid an emotional farewell at Anfield as he set his eyes on beginning his career at Elland Road.

Unlike the former names who battled injuries, Rush was a regular at Leeds and made 36 appearances in the Premier League. But Rush lost his scoring ability as he netted only three times and was released on a free transfer the following summer.

Edited by Nived Zenith

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