With Barcelona winger Raphinha being linked with a return to the Premier League 12 months on from leaving Leeds United, we have picked the five best players to ditch Our League before coming crawling back the following year.
Irish striker Robbie Keane had more clubs than Tiger Woods in his career as a professional footballer, yet he had the honour of being able to represent 11 of his boyhood ones.
Having broken into the first team at Wolves as a youngster, Keane joined Coventry City in August 1999 for around £7.7million at the age of 19. He lasted a grand total of 11 months at Highfield Road after netting 12 Premier League goals, joining Italian giants Inter for £16.7m, handing the Sky Blues a nice profit but helping contribute to their relegation in 2000/01.
Keane didn’t even last a year in Italy. After six months at San Siro, he would return to England, joining Leeds United on loan for the second half of the season Coventry were relegated, scoring the only goal of the game when the two sides met in January 2001. A year on from his switch to Inter, Keane signed for Leeds on a permanent basis after netting eight goals in 18 league games for the Yorkshire outfit.
After another single year at a club, Keane joined Tottenham, where he enjoyed his best years – six of them to be exact. He then spent time at Liverpool, back at Spurs, Celtic, West Ham, Los Angeles Galaxy, Aston Villa and Indian side ATK.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Former striker turned below-average pundit and manager, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had a foot like a traction engine and was definitely not someone you would want to see drilling balls at you in training, a football match, or even worse, a game of Red Arse.
Jimmy Floyd’s first team in England was Leeds, who bought him from Portuguese club Boavista in 1997. The Whites got two productive years out of the Dutchman before letting him join Atletico Madrid for a decent £14.3m. While 35 goals in 79 games for Leeds was a pretty solid return, it was blown out of the water by his 34 in 46 for Atletico. This prompted Chelsea to spend over £19m to bring Hasselbaink back to the Premier League exactly 12 months after he joined the Spanish giants.
Hasselbaink was brilliant for Chelsea and retired as a very underrated Premier League striker after spells with Middlesbrough, Charlton Athletic and Cardiff City.
Newcastle United went through a phase – or addiction – of signing French players, and there were none better than Yohan Cabaye, who was signed for £4.3m from Lille in 2011. The midfielder joined fellow Frenchmen Hatem Ben Arfa at St James’ Park before Gabriel Obertan and Sylvain Marveaux also came to the north east. The following year saw six more French players join from Ligue 1, most notably Moussa Sissoko and Mathieu Debuchy.
The Magpies got Cabaye’s best years, there is no doubt about that. He scored 18 times and made 14 assists in 93 games for the Premier League club, with the vast majority of his goals being absolute peaches.
His performances for Newcastle caught the eye of filthy-rich Paris Saint-Germain, who wanted to bring Cabaye back to his home country to win trophy after trophy. Cabaye wanted the move and PSG splashed out over £21m for him in January 2014, but the former France international disappointed at the Parc des Princes and was bought by Crystal Palace 18 months later.
Cabaye actually made more appearances for Palace than he did for Newcastle but was no longer in his prime during his three years in south London.
The idiot writing this went out on a limb and randomly backed Taiwo Awoniyi to score zero, one, or two goals in the Premier League in 2022/23. He scored 10 in 27 appearances, which is pretty darn good.
Prior to his then-club-record switch to Nottingham Forest, Awoniyi enjoyed one very productive year in Germany with Union Berlin, who defied the odds to qualify for the Champions League this term.
After several loan spells during his time as a Liverpool player, which kind of makes this a cheat inclusion, the 25-year-old looked to have found his feet in the German capital. However, he would only last a year there (as a permanent player) before being snapped up by Forest, who will be absolutely buzzing with Awoniyi’s 10-goal haul in 22/23. Without him, they surely would have been relegated.
Arsenal legend Willian agreed to terminate his contract at the Emirates after scoring once in 37 games. His free agency allowed him to return to his native Brazil with Corinthians. This free transfer in August 2021 brought an eight-year spell in London to an end and many believed we would never see Willian in Our League ever again. We were wrong.
A year on from exiting Arsenal, Willian joined fellow Londoners Fulham on a free transfer after receiving death threats at his boyhood club Corinthians. How lovely. His move to Craven Cottage was sneered at, with the player’s best years clearly behind him. Thankfully for Willian, he repaid Fulham’s faith with a brilliant 22/23 campaign, scoring five and assisting six in 27 Premier League appearances as the Cottagers finished a very comfortable 10th.