Relegation is heartbreaking for any player or club. Some players stick with their relegated clubs while others look to move back to the first division. Although it's never a good thing, relegation does not define the quality of individual players.
So here is one player from each of the top five leagues who got relegated but should return to the first division. Players like Nick Pope and Jose Luis Morales have already returned to the top-flight with Newcastle United and Villarreal respectively.
#5 Junior Onana (Bordeaux) - Ligue 1
Bordeaux have a number of interesting players on their hands but Junior Onana is the best of the lot. He is a monstrous ball-winner who covers the ground really well.
He's only 22 and could have a big future in the game. He has completed 24.81 pressures, 3.87 tackles, 3.00 interceptions, and 2.21 blocks per 90 this season. He also wins 2.41 aerial duels in every game on average.
Who should buy him? Monaco. The Monégasques have recently lost an elite ball-winning central midfielder in Aurelien Tchouameni. They can replace him on the cheap with Onana.
While he isn't on the same level as Tchouameni yet, Monaco specialize in taking young, inexperienced players and making them world-class. As a matter of fact, they had signed Tchouameni from Bordeaux as well.
#4 Stefan Ortega (Arminia Bielefeld) - Bundesliga
Being a goalkeeper for a newly promoted team with limited resources is an extremely thankless job. Stefan Ortega did it to the best of his abilities but he couldn't save Arminia Bielefeld from relegation.
He is excellent with his feet, had the second-highest save percentage in the Bundesliga last season and made the most saves. He is also very good at sweeping actions, which is a very desirable trait for teams playing a high line.
Which team should buy him? Manchester City. While Ortega could be a starter for several clubs around Europe, it seems like City have an agreement to sign him. Regardless, he would be an excellent second choice who will provide stiff competition to Ederson. Plus, his skillset is one that Pep Guardiola really likes.
#3 Ethan Ampadu (Venezia) - Serie A
Ethan Ampadu came through Chelsea's academy and they have sent him on loan after loan for years now. This season's loan spell at Venezia was his best one. He can play a multitude of positions but in Italy, he excelled as a defensive midfielder.
His three tackles, 2.17 interceptions, 2.47 blocks, three clearances, and 2.68 aerial duels per 90 make for excellent reading. He is still only 21 and if Chelsea decide not to use him this season, it is better for him to be sold than getting loaned again.
Who should buy him? Southampton. Southampton are in dire need of reinforcements. Their midfield already has James Ward-Prowse but it's his partner that is the problem.
Oriol Romeu is decent but they need an upgrade over him and if all goes to plan, Ampadu could be just that. Pairing up the Welshman Ampadu with Ward-Prowse could settle the Saints' midfield for years.
#2 Luis Maximiano (Granada) - La Liga
Luis Maximiano did everything he could but that wasn't enough to stop Granada from going down. The 23-year-old Portuguese keeper is really complete. He is a good shot stopper, tidy with his feet and also the best sweeper keeper in La Liga.
He is also really good when it comes to coming out to claim crosses and also makes a number of penalty saves. If there is one player from Granada who doesn't deserve to play in the Segunda, it is Maximiano.
Who should buy him? Villarreal. The Yellow Submarines enjoyed a really strong season but if they have one weakness, it is in the goalkeeping department. Unai Emery doesn't seem to have much trust on Sergio Asenjo while first-choice keeper Geronimo Rulli has made a number of high-profile mistakes. Signing Maximiano is an easy fix.
#1 Nathan Collins (Burnley) - Premier League
For a 20 year old coming into his first Premier League season, Nathan Collins made quite the impact. He has shown that he is ready for the league physically and seems to have a bright future ahead. He put up some really good defensive numbers - 2.59 blocks, 5.5 clearances, and 4.47 aerial duels per 90.
He can also play as a right back and is surprisingly good in the opposition box. In 2021-22 season, despite playing only 19 games, he managed two goals. He also averaged 0.85 shot creating actions as well as 2.05 touches in the opponent's box per game which is really good for a centre back.
The only question about him is how he would fit into a possession-based team given he has only played for Stoke City and Burnley so far.
Who should sign him? Wolves and Leicester City. Both clubs seem to be after the Irishman and it is clear to see why. Leicester have only one dependable centre-back in Wesley Fofana and even he is returning from a long injury.
Wolves too are in dire need of centre backs after losing Roman Saiss. Both these clubs would be good places for Collins to continue his development.
[Stats source: Fbref]