Premier League XIs: The ones who left before glory

Date published: Tuesday 16th June 2020 7:42

If Bayern Munich can beat relegation threatened Werder Bremen tonight, the Bundesliga title is theirs. Philippe Coutinho will pick up a winner’s medal if that happens but he may well feel like he could have been part of Liverpool’s Champions League and Premier League success instead. Here’s an XI made up from players who moved on at the wrong time…


Goalkeeper: Shay Given
Shay Given joined Newcastle United just after the ‘Entertainers’ era, becoming a legend at St. James’ Park but never lifting a trophy. The Irish great finished as a runner-up in the 1998 FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal and sat on the bench in the ’99 loss to Manchester United. Given left for Manchester City in 2009, with the newly-minted club eager for silverware to fill their previously neglected trophy cabinet. By the time of the 2011 FA Cup final, Given had lost his starting place at the club to Joe Hart and sat on the bench for their victory over Stoke at Wembley. Instead of fighting for his spot at the club, he left the Etihad in search of first-team football at the start of the 2011/12 season, missing out on City’s first Premier League title.


Right-back: David May
Back in the 1993/94 season, David May played 40 league games as a key member of a Blackburn Rovers side fighting for the title. Manchester United’s second successive Premier League crown meant Rovers finished as runners-up, with May making the move to Old Trafford in the summer of ’94. He only played 19 times for the Red Devils in the following campaign, whilst his former team-mates at Ewood Park ended the season with a Premier League title to their name. Luckily for May, United reached the summit again in ’96 and ’97.


Centre-back: Kevin Moran
Another player to miss out on Blackburn’s moment of glory, Kevin Moran retired at the end of the 1993/94 season, despite still being considered one of his country’s best defenders. The Irishman made Jack Charlton’s 1994 World Cup squad and could have played a part in Rovers’ Premier League triumph if he had stayed on for one more year. Unlike May, there was no Manchester United redemption for Moran; he spent the majority of the 1980s at Old Trafford without ever lifting the league title. However, he was part of two cup-winning sides, becoming the first man to see red in an FA Cup final after his dismissal in United’s 1985 win over Everton.


Centre-back: Marcel Desailly
World Cup-winning defender Marcel Desailly missed out on lifting the Premier League trophy after leaving Chelsea in the summer of 2004. The Frenchman was in the veteran stage of his career by that point but still managed to play 25 times in the Blues’ 2003/04 campaign. La Liga and Premier League winner Ricardo Carvalho formed an effective partnership with John Terry at the back as Chelsea won the title in 2005 but it was a shame Desailly’s career at Stamford Bridge didn’t end with him holding the trophy aloft beside them.


Left-back: Sylvinho
Brazilian defender Sylvinho finished as a runner-up in the league twice during his spell at Arsenal and left Highbury shortly after being named in the 2000/01 PFA Team of the Year. Ashley Cole’s rise meant Sylvinho wasn’t missed the following season, as the Gunners wrapped up the Premier League title in style with a win at Old Trafford in the May of ’02. He joined Manchester City for one season later in his career, but didn’t pick up any silverware with the Citizens during the 2009/10 campaign.


Central midfield: Patrick Vieira
Despite his success at Arsenal, Patrick Vieira missed out on making a Champions League final with the club after his departure in the summer of 2005. In 2010, the Frenchman moved a little too soon again, with his departure from Inter Milan coming just before a Jose Mourinho inspired treble win. Vieira did add another FA Cup title to his honours list after joining Manchester City but retired one year before the club’s famous 2012 Premier League triumph.


Central midfield: Esteban Cambiasso
One man who did win the treble with Inter Milan, Esteban Cambiasso spent a decade at the San Siro before joining Leicester City in his mid-thirties. After helping the Foxes to safety in the 2014/15 Premier League season, the Argentinean decided to leave England for the sunnier climate of Greece. Cambiasso may have regretted the move a year later, after witnessing one of football’s greatest underdog stories unravel, with his former team-mates at Leicester the stars of the tale.


Central midfield: Emre Can
After failing to sign a new contract with Liverpool, Emre Can left Anfield in the summer of 2018 after finishing as a runner-up in the League Cup, Europa League and Champions League during his time at the club. He helped Juventus win a Serie A title in 2019 but must have looked on with envy as his former colleagues defeated Spurs in Madrid last May. Now at Borussia Dortmund, the German international will likely have to watch former club Bayern Munich claim the Bundesliga title as well as witnessing Liverpool’s inevitable Premier League triumph in the near future.


Wing-forward: Nicolas Anelka
After missing the decisive spot-kick in the 2008 Champions League final, Nicolas Anelka could have found European redemption if he had stayed a little longer at Stamford Bridge. The Frenchman departed for China midway through 2011/12 season, unaware that Roberto Di Matteo was about to lead the Blues to the summit of club football, with unlikely victories over Barcelona and Bayern Munich crowning them as Champions League victors.


Wing-forward: Philippe Coutinho
Apparently now desperate for a return to Anfield, Philippe Coutinho may well regret his decision to leave Merseyside in the first place. Despite winning two La Ligas at the Nou Camp, the Brazilian is unwanted at Barcelona and although he looks set to pick a Bundesliga title at Bayern Munich, it’s no match for the Champions League title he could have won at Liverpool last summer. Mind you, would they have won anything without Virgil van Dijk, bought with the proceeds from the Brazilian’s sale.


Striker: Michael Owen
A few potential options up top for this side; Cantona could have won a treble by staying a couple of more years at Manchester United. Zola could have won the Premier League title his unrivalled talent so richly deserved if he ended his career with Chelsea instead of Cagliari. However, Michael Owen’s timing remains the worst of the lot. The young England debutant left Liverpool for Real Madrid in the August of 2004; a year later he was back in the Premier League with Newcastle United.

In that time, his old team-mates had performed a miracle, coming back from three goals down against AC Milan to win the 2005 Champions League final on penalties. Owen ended up suffering relegation at St. James’ Park before going on to pick up a Premier League medal with Manchester United, but Champions League success eluded him.


James Wiles – whose Instagram has a whole load more XIs


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