GK: Joe Hart
Normally when a manager arrives, the talk is of clean slates all round. Not for Hart. Pep Guardiola walked into Man City, took one look at the England keeper and didn’t like what he saw.
Guardiola wanted a stopper more comfortable with the ball at his feet but Hart’s had begun to be a problem too. The keeper had a nightmare at Euro 2016 and questions were asked about his mentality too. The new City boss raided his old club for Claudio Bravo, who would have struggled to stop a pig in a passage during his first season but at least he was willing to follow Guardiola’s instructions.
Hart was sent on loan to Torino and had a mixed year in Serie A. He was then dispatched to West Ham after Guardiola replaced his replacement with Ederson, and Hart’s slide had become irreversible. The former England No.1 was dropped by the Hammers before suffering the same fate at Burnley.
CB: Winston Bogarde (captain)
The former Ajax, AC Milan and Barcelona centre-back remains the poster boy for any player looking to get paid for as little work as possible.
Bogarde, then 29, joined Chelsea on a four-year-deal in 2000 when he made 11 appearances in the first half of the 2000-01 season. But after featuring as a substitute on Boxing Day, he made only one other appearance in a blue shirt, off the bench in a League Cup tie against Gillingham almost two years later.
The Dutchman wasn’t about to give up his £40,000 a week just because he wasn’t playing. “This world is about money, so when you are offered those millions you take them,” he explained. “Few people will ever earn so many. I am one of the few fortunates who do. I may be one of the worst buys in the history of the Premiership but I don’t care.”
CB: Gary Cahill
The Chelsea club captain’s face didn’t fit under Maurizio Sarri, with the new Chelsea boss using footballing reasons to explain his show of force.
“I respect him very much because he has won everything with this club, but then I have to do my job,” said Sarri in the early months of his reign. “For me it is not possible to have him on the bench. Maybe he is the best [of our defenders] in the box, but our defenders may play 100 or 110 balls in a match, so I need defenders [to play] very technically.”
Sarri gave Cahill plenty of notice before the January transfer window and the ex-England centre-back wasn’t short of offers. You could understand why he turned down relegation-fodder Fulham, but snubbing Juventus is rather harder to fathom.
Cahill lingered around Chelsea for the remainder of his contract and stuck around for long enough to have a parting pop at Sarri.
LB: Wayne Bridge
The former Chelsea defender found himself on the wrong side of Roberto Mancini and once you occupy that space, there is rarely any going back.
Having not picked Bridge for a year, Mancini suggested at the end of 2011 that the ex-England left-back was spending his time playing golf. Bridge hit back by claiming that he doesn’t own a set of clubs while criticising the manager for giving him the silent treatment. “That is not true,” said Mancini. “I told Wayne two years ago that he was not part of our plans and if he wanted to find a good solution he should go somewhere else.”
A £90,000-a-week pay packet most probably offered Bridge some consolation for his exile and it last not much longer with the defender seeing out the remainder of his City contract on loan at West Ham, Sunderland and Brighton.
RB: Micah Richards
As we’ve discussed before, right-backs are solid. Right-backs are reliable. You rarely get any bother from a right-back. Which is an admirable trait but no good for these XIs…
So thank goodness for Richards and Villa’s generosity in giving the former England international a massive four-year deal in 2015. The 30-year-old was reported to be close to announcing his retirement, not that we’ll notice the difference since Richards has sat out the last three years of his contract.
He last kicked a ball for Villa in October 2016 and though injuries have hampered him at Villa as they have throughout his hugely-underwhelming career, Steve Bruce and Dean Smith have alluded to other problems with the heavyweight defender’s fitness. He was released at the end of last season after two full season without a game while picking up £35,000 a week.
Thanks for the nice words but am fully satisfied with how my career worked out. Injuries stopped my hitting more heights but how can a grumble at winning the prem playing in a different league and a tough mental challenge at villa! I give 100% in everything I do! That’s enough
— Micah Richards (@MicahRichards) February 10, 2019
MF: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Jose Mourinho eventually apologised for his show of force upon striding into Old Trafford in 2016. Schweinsteiger had missed much of the previous season with injuries while his team-mates didn’t appreciate what they perceived to be special treatment when Louis van Gaal allowed the World Cup winner to undergo his recovery away from the club.
The veteran Germany midfielder was an easy scapegoat for Mourinho to demonstrate his authority and Scchweinsteiger was told to stay away from the first team. He was omitted from the club’s Europa League squad and written off as an asset in the club’s published accounts. But rather than sulk, the veteran kept his mouth shut, did as he was told and kept his head down, which forced Mourinho to admit that he was wrong.
“We had a huge squad in the beginning but after knowing him as a person and a professional and the way he was respecting my decisions as a manager, yes I regret it and there is no problem for me to admit it, because I have told him,” said Mourinho after granting Schweinsteiger a free transfer to Chicago Fire as a gesture of appreciation to “a good guy, a good pro, a very good influence in training”.
MF: Jack Rodwell
If the former England midfielder’s move to Manchester City was a mistake on his behalf, his switch to Sunderland was a f*cking disaster for all involved. Rodwell averaged 21 forgettable appearances over his first three seasons at the Stadium of Light during which time he went 1,370 days without winning a Premier League match that he had started.
But it was when Sunderland dropped into the Football League that it really started to go wrong. Rodwell was being paid £70,000-a-week while the Black Cats while haemorrhaging cash. He was offered the chance to leave in January while his team-mates struggled in their relegation fight but the midfielder opted to stay on Wearside – contractually, if not physically – and trouser his huge salary.
“I’m sure we’ve gone down the legal route of that situation and we are stuck with a player that doesn’t want to play for Sunderland Football Club,” said boss Chris Coleman after relegation to League One was confirmed while Rodwell still had a year remaining on his deal. The former Everton youngster could have earned £43,000 a week while not playing in the third tier but he and Sunderland eventually reached a compromise to part company a year ahead of schedule.
MF: Yaya Toure
The Ivorian midfielder was eventually given a hero’s send-off when he departed Manchester City though for a long time it seemed most likely he’d be shoved out of the back door. His agent would probably have exited via a window if Pep Guardiola had his choice.
It did not take a clairvoyant to predict that Toure might face a struggle of sorts upon the appointment in 2016 of Guardiola, the manager who sold him at Barcelona. But agent Dimitri Seluk’s desperate and continued attempts to sh*t on his own doorstep ensured that his client faced an even more difficult task. The controversial figure cast a shadow over Toure at the Etihad Stadium, constantly questioning and criticising the manager. When Seluk accused Guardiola of “humiliating” the midfielder by leaving him out of the club’s Champions League squad, the Spaniard had had enough. He demanded an apology before the player would ever feature for the club again.
It eventually came three months into the season, but from Toure rather than Seluk. It was enough for Guardiola and the veteran midfielder forced his way back into the manager’s thinking. He remained at City for a further season and a half before leaving with another Premier League winner’s medal and warm words from Guardiola: “Where we are in this moment is thanks to what this guy has done.”
Fwd: Carlos Tevez
The Argentina striker was a persistent pain in Mancini’s arse. In summer 2011, after two years at City, the striker made clear his desire to leave. “I will not return to Manchester, not for a vacation, not anything,” he told an Argentinean television station in June.
So Mancini must have been surprised when Tevez arrived for training in August. But by that point, Sergio Aguero had been signed and Tevez was relegated to the bench. By the end of September, he had started just one game and played 189 minutes in ten fixtures. Then the Bayern Munich thing happened.
Named as a substitute in a Champions League group-stage game against the Germans, Tevez had been told to prepare to come on in the second half. The Argentinean refused, leading to an internal investigation. “If I have my way he will be out. He’s finished with me,” Mancini stated. “If we want to improve as a team Carlos can’t play with us. With me, he is finished.”
Tevez was initially suspended for two weeks, but was then placed on gardening leave by owner Sheikh Mansour. For four long months, the 32-year-old played golf in Argentina and counted down the days remaining on his two-year contract as Mancini showed no signs of acquiescing.
Finally, by February, Tevez had apologised for his conduct. Mancini welcomed him back into the squad with open arms, the Italian delighted to boost his squad as they continued to challenge neighbours United for the crown. The forward had been suspended for 22 league games, but featured in each of the last ten to help deliver a first Premier League title to the Etihad.
Fwd: Diego Costa
The Spain striker won the Premier League twice in three seasons and netted 20 goals to help Antonio Conte win a title in his first season in English football. But Conte wasn’t having Costa any longer.
Upon the end of the season, the striker’s phone pinged. ‘Hi Diego,’ began the text message. ‘I hope you are well. Thanks for the season we spent together. Good luck for the next year but you are not in my plan.”
Costa probably wasn’t all that arsed, to be fair, but it gave him the opportunity to claim the moral high ground, The centre-forward had spent a fair proportion of his three years at Stamford Bridge trying to leave and here was his opportunity.
Chelsea granted Costa an extended summer break, sparing him the pre-season tour to Asia but the then-28-year-old’s absence extended into the season. Come late September, there was no sign of Costa but incoming was an offer of £57million from Atletico Madrid, earning the Blues a massive profit on a player entering his fourth month in exile.
Fwd: Emmanuel Adebayor
After attempting to dethrone Frank Lampard at Chelsea, Andre Villas-Boas identified an easier target to showcase his power upon being appointed by Tottenham. Emmanuel Adebayor would be the Portuguese’s sacrificial lamb. The Togolese had impressed on a season-long loan after joining in summer 2011, and had earned himself a permanent move a year later. He scored 22 goals in 58 games across those two seasons, the latter of which came under Villas-Boas.
But something changed in the summer of 2013. Gareth Bale was sold, Roberto Soldado was one of a number of arrivals, and Adebayor lost his place. Not only that, but he was forced to train with the development squad. The striker did not play any of the first 11 games of the season. He was eventually recalled for a fixture against former side Manchester City; Spurs lost 6-0; Villas-Boas put Adebayor back in the freezer.
The 32-year-old would miss the next four league games, the last of which was a 5-0 drubbing against Liverpool. Villas-Boas was sacked after that result. Adebayor’s glimmer of hope at a return became reality when Tim Sherwood rode in on horseback, Chris Ramsey in tow, with the sun glistening off his gilet. He was restored to the starting line-up for the next game, where he scored twice against Southampton. Having missed 15 of the first 16 league games, Adebayor played 20 of the next 22, finding the net on 11 occasions.