7 top footballers who were dreadful for one club whereas world-class for others

Ashley Cole (left) and Rio Ferdinand
Ashley Cole (left) and Rio Ferdinand

Every so often we come across footballers who make the job look effortless. These charismatic individuals mesmerize the viewers with their ability to make match-winning contributions, practically without breaking a sweat. These footballers are a class above their peers. These high-calibre players are rightfully dubbed world-class.

Having a top-class player is a source of pride for every team. However, it does not always work out the way everyone expects. Sometimes, although very rarely, even world-class footballers struggle to find their footing and fail to make the impact everyone anticipates.

Today, we will take a look at some world-class footballers who have experienced failure away from their comfort zone. Here are seven legendary footballers who were terrible at one club:

Source: HITC Sevens

#7 Dennis Bergkamp - Inter Milan

Dennis Bergkamp, Christian Dailly vying for the ball
Dennis Bergkamp, Christian Dailly vying for the ball

Having graduated from Ajax’s famed academy, Dennis Bergkamp joined Inter Milan for £7.1 million in July 1993.

He initially played down the middle, which helped him play his best football. But due to Inter’s poor form, the formation changed and Bergkamp was forced to play out wide, resulting in a dip in his performances in the league.

The Dutchman scored only eight times in 31 Serie A appearances in his debut campaign. He, however, was impressive in the UEFA Cup, scoring eight goals en route to Inter’s cup win.

Bergkamp struggled with injuries and poor form the following season and was crucified by the Italian media for his alleged lack of effort. He scored only four times in 24 appearances for the Nerazzurri in the 1994-95 campaign.

In the summer of 1995, he joined Arsenal, where he went on to attain his world-class tag, recording 114 goals and 94 assists in 414 appearances. He won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups, amongst other honors, with the Gunners.

#6 Rio Ferdinand - Queens Park Rangers

Arsenal v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League
Arsenal v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League

Rio Ferdinand, who won 15 trophies in 12 seasons at Manchester United, including six Premier League titles and a Champions League, is one of the best-ever English defenders.

The centre-back was world-class in every sense of the term, doing everything one could expect of him and more.

At the end of his glorious Manchester United stint, Ferdinand joined newly-promoted Queens Park Rangers as a free agent in the summer of 2014. Struggling with fitness issues and personal problems over his wife’s cancer treatment, he barely played for the new boys, and whenever he did, he looked beyond abysmal.

After playing only 12 games in all competitions, Ferdinand retired at the end of the season. As for QPR, they finished 20th, and were sent back to the Championship.

#5 Juan Riquelme - Barcelona

Juan Riquelme in Copa Libertadores X
Juan Riquelme in Copa Libertadores X

Shaken by his brother’s kidnapping in Argentina, Juan Riquelme reluctantly left Boca Juniors to join La Liga outfit Barcelona in the summer of 2002.

Riquelme, who had already won three Argentine league titles and two Copa Libertadores with Boca, was given the No. 10 jersey by Barcelona. Unfortunately, then-coach Louis van Gaal had no room for a No. 10 in his system.

The Argentine struggled to live up to his billing at the Camp Nou, often cutting a frustrating figure on the pitch.

The attacking midfielder scored six times and provided nine assists in 42 games for Barcelona in the 2002-03 campaign before joining Villarreal, where he rediscovered his magical touch.

Three-and-a-half seasons (45 goals and nine assists in 142 games) later, he returned to Boca, where he went on to win a couple more league titles and another Copa Libertadores.

#4 Ashley Cole - AS Roma

Southampton v Chelsea - Premier League
Southampton v Chelsea - Premier League

Ashley Cole is arguably the best English left-back of all time. He played for Arsenal and Chelsea in the Premier League, winning a combined total of 19 trophies, including three league titles, seven FA Cups, and a Champions League.

Naturally, when he joined AS Roma in July 2014, fans were expecting to see more such memorable performances from Cole.

Unfortunately, Cole never quite settled in at Roma and saw his two-year contract terminated midway through his second season at the club. Cole played only 16 games for the Italian outfit, failing to record even a single goal or assist.

Following his shocking spell in Rome, he joined MLS side LA Galaxy, where he went on to make 94 appearances across competitions over three seasons, recording three goals and 11 assists.

#3 Edwin van der Sar - Juventus

CSKA Moscow v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League
CSKA Moscow v Manchester United - UEFA Champions League

Before going down in Manchester United’s folklore as one of their best goalkeepers, Edwin van der Sar had to live through a terrible stretch at Juventus.

Joining the Italian giants from Ajax in a £5 million deal in 1999, the 1994-95 Champions League winner was immediately made the team’s first-choice goalkeeper. His debut season was not spell-binding, but his reflexes helped Juventus finish second in Serie A, with the best defensive record in the division.

Van der Sar’s second season saw him make a lot more errors under the bar. His most notable disasterclass came in a 2-2 draw with Roma, with his sloppiness costing the Bianconeri their 2-0 lead. Roma eventually won the title that season, beating Juventus to the punch by two points.

The Dutchman left Juventus for Fulham in the summer of 2001 where he rediscovered his confidence.

Four fruitful seasons later, he joined Manchester United and went on to win eight trophies in six seasons, including four Premier League titles and a Champions League.

#2 Romario - Adelaide United

Foot : World Cup 2002 / Preview
Foot : World Cup 2002 / Preview

One of the greatest centre-forwards in history, Brazilian legend Romario signed a six-game contract (loan from Vasco da Gama) with Australian A-League side Adelaide United in November 2006. Signing the soon-to-be-41-year-old was a $250,000 marketing move for Adelaide, which did not turn out so well.

The 1994 World Cup winner regularly missed training and allegedly derailed Adelaide’s A-League campaign, as he continued to play despite being unfit. He only scored once in six games for Adelaide before returning to Vasco da Gama.

The former PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona legend scored 15 goals in 19 games for Vasco da Gama upon his return, proving that he was not finished yet.

#1 Johan Cruyff - Levante

One of the game’s greatest ever players, Johan Cruyff hardly needs an introduction. He inspired Ajax to three consecutive Champions League triumphs in 1960s, redefined Barcelona’s footballing identity as a player and a manager, and helped Catalonia in every way conceivable.

It is hard to imagine Cruyff as a failure, but even the three-time Ballon d’Or winner had a blip on his glowing resume.

Less than three years after leaving Barcelona, Cruyff returned to Spain, signing for Segunda-Division side Levante in March 1981. It is believed that Levante made Cruyff Europe’s highest-paid footballer, which was a recipe for disaster for a team playing in the second division.

The Dutchman was also exempt from training sessions and received 50 percent of the club’s away gate receipts. Eventually, the financial burden took its toll and the two parties parted ways.

Cruyff returned to Ajax in November 1981 and went on to win two Eredivisie titles with them in two consecutive seasons.

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Edited by Samya Majumdar