Man City, Man Utd legends among five ex-Premier League players who could be back

Jason Soutar
Ilkay Gundogan and Wilfried Zaha
Ilkay Gundogan and Wilfried Zaha could return to the Premier League this summer

We looked at every Premier League sale made last summer and found a grand total of five players – or at least five players you might care enough to read about – who could return a year after leaving Our League. A Manchester City and Manchester United legend are included.


Ilkay Gundogan
Barcelona landed Manchester City captain Ilkay Gundogan on a free transfer last summer and the German was a crucial part of Xavi’s squad in 2023/24, scoring five and assisting 14 in 51 appearances across all competitions.

Gundogan is still the tremendous player we saw at Man City for seven years, shining for Germany at Euro 2024 after a stellar year in Catalonia. And while Barcelona value him very highly, reports in Spain suggest they would be open to selling the 33-year-old due to their notable financial concerns.

Everyone is aware of Barca’s problems, with no player deemed untouchable despite Joan Laporta claiming he has rejected approaches for 16-year-old Lamine Yamal reaching close to £200million. We all know that did not happen. Regardless of Yamal’s incredible current ability and ridiculous potential, Laporta would give his right testicle to get that sort of fee for a player.

That is why the Gundogan sale cannot be ruled out and the five-time Premier League and one-time Champions League winner would be a superb signing for any club, adding exceptional experience on top of his wonderful ability on the pitch.

Arsenal were reportedly keen last summer but could not convince Gundogan to snub Barcelona, which is understandable given the lure of playing for arguably the biggest club in world football, whether they are in turmoil or not.

Would Pep Guardiola be interested in re-signing his former captain? He doesn’t seem like the sort of person who goes back to an ex, no matter how good they were together. But City did try very hard to retain the German. It would be weird to see him in any other Premier League strip. Never say never on both accounts.


Wilfried Zaha
Nope, Wilfried Zaha is not the Manchester United legend in question; that is yet to come.

Having been perpetually linked with Arsenal and Chelsea, Zaha eventually left Crystal Palace in the summer of 2023, making a move that surprised us all, switching to Turkey to play for European giants Galatasaray. He helped his new side win the Turkish Super Lig and Super Cup in his first season in Istanbul. Gala accumulated a ridiculous 102 points after only failing to win five of 38 league matches, bettering arch-rivals Fenerbahce’s 99-point haul. 2018/19 Liverpool, eat your heart out.

Zaha only started 13 Super Lig games in 2023/24, scoring nine and assisting three in 30 appearances in total, while notching two goal contributions in six Champions League matches, notably scoring away to Manchester United as a Turkish team won on English soil for the first time in 11 attempts.

The Ivorian made it clear after the win that he feels he belongs in the Champions League and he will get another taste of Europe’s premier competition if he decides to stay in Turkey. But seeking pastures new should not be ruled out after starting only 13 matches in the Super Lig and barely featuring in his side’s Europa League play-off last season. He did at least start five out of six in the Champions League as an awful United side helped Gala secure a third-place finish.

In terms of viable options for Zaha in the Premier League, you can rule out Chelsea as they are targeting younger players, but they could do with improving the left side of their attack. Perhaps Aston Villa or Newcastle United could be interesting options. There are not too many rumours as yet, though West Ham United have been linked. Hell, Palace could lose Michael Olise and Eberechi Eze this summer…

👉 Van Nistelrooy replacing Ten Hag is one of next season’s five Football Manager-inspired caretakers
👉 The 15 FMV factors Premier League will judge before allowing Chelsea, Aston Villa and Everton transfers

👉 Chelsea to loan out six and sell 10 this summer as Boehly bins £210m worth of *talent*


David de Gea
Still without a club, David de Gea left Manchester United on a sour note following the expiry of his contract last summer. There was quite the U-turn at Old Trafford as the club legend was expected to sign a contract extension only for the club to change their mind; after f**king him about, he left without so much of a proper send-off. Pitiful stuff, regardless of how highly/lowly you rate the Spaniard.

De Gea has featured in many a gossip column since his Man Utd exit, with clubs from England and Saudi Arabia linked with the Spanish goalkeeper. He has never been keen on moving to the Middle East, which is clear from his unemployment, while there was some suggestion of agents playing silly beggars amid Newcastle links.

At his best, De Gea was one of the finest goalkeepers in the world but this is not 2017 anymore. His ease with the ball at his feet is lacking in comparison with his shot-stopping ability.

He is probably holding out for a No. 1 spot, which explains why Wes Foderingham has joined West Ham to compete with Lukasz Fabianski and Alphonse Areola, and not De Gea. Would a Premier League club take him and give him the No. 1 shirt? Probably. But the 34-year-old clearly has high standards and will unlikely settle for a Southampton or Nottingham Forest, who are seemingly addicted to signing goalkeepers.

A transfer could come to fruition if a big-name goalkeeper gets injured towards the end of the window. De Gea’s standards have got to drop eventually.

Ilman Ndiaye
This is the most possible of the five because Fabrizio Romano has already reported an agreed fee with Everton. Not only that, but we know how long Ilman Ndiaye’s contract will be and the fact that he has been on Merseyside to complete a medical. Things have moved very fast and this is a signing we like very much for Sean Dyche. But how have we got here?

Following their promotion to the Premier League last year, Sheffield United sold their two best players: Ndiaye to Marseille, and Sander Berge to fellow promoted club and likely relegation rivals Burnley. It was far from being ideal preparation for what promised to be a very testing season for the Blades. ‘Testing’ is one way to describe how it panned out.

Expectations were not massive when Ndiaye joined Marseille but he did move to France as a very promising player capable of a moment of magic. Four goals and five assists in 46 matches indicate that said moments of magic were a rarity for the Senegalese winger.

He has 12 minutes of Premier League experience under his belt but should be a regular starter for Everton next season. Twenty-five goal contributions in the Championship in 22/23 is what earned Ndiaye the big move to Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur.

Sheffield United fans will struggle to blame Ndiaye for making the move but it will sting nonetheless, mainly because it is Everton, who have been fighting relegation for the last three years. Another bummer is that the Blades negotiated a clause that ensured they would make profit from a potential Marseille sale. There will be no profit.


Demarai Gray
A young Demarai Gray broke onto the scene at Birmingham City in 2013 and earned a transfer to Leicester City three years later. There was the occasional glimpse of Gray’s ability but we did not see it consistently enough at the King Power. He was, at least, a member of that historic Premier League-winning team in 2016 having signed halfway through the 15/16 campaign.

After five years at Leicester, Gray joined Bayer Leverkusen on loan on an 18-month contract. It was a strange move that did not work out for the player, who returned to the Premier League for Everton for less than £2m a little less than seven months after relocating to Germany. This proved to be one hell of a bargain for the Toffees, who enjoyed the best football of Gray’s career.

Unfortunately for Everton, they felt obliged to sell Gray last summer when he became brainwashed by the Saudi Arabian riches on offer during a bonkers 2023 summer transfer window.

He has been in the Middle East since last September and looking at his return of four goals and four assists for Al Ettifaq, we can safely assume things are not going well for Gray on the pitch. We have to assume because who the hell is watching the Saudi Pro League except for Cristiano Ronaldo fanboys? At least Gray’s bank balance will be looking very healthy. If he’s been paid, unlike Jordan Henderson.

If Gray fancies coming back to England, we are sure a bottom-half Premier League club would welcome the idea, if Steven Gerrard’s side allow him to leave Saudi Arabia.

👉 Van Nistelrooy replacing Ten Hag is one of next season’s five Football Manager-inspired caretakers
👉 The 15 FMV factors Premier League will judge before allowing Chelsea, Aston Villa and Everton transfers
👉 Chelsea to loan out six and sell 10 this summer as Boehly bins £210m worth of *talent*