The Premier League’s Five Biggest One-Season Wonders

Their form was temporary, their class wasn’t permanent
15:54, 20 Jul 2022

Nothing brings the rush of nostalgia back like a one-season wonder and the Premier League’s constant stream of transfers means that they're more common than you think. 

Below we take a look at the five players that instantly come to mind when you think of one-season wonder…

Michu 2012/13

Arriving in the summer of 2012 that saw the Olympics arrive in London and Spain lift their second consecutive European Championship, Michu was a transfer ignored by the majority of football fans. Swansea had already been in the Premier League for a season, with manager Brendan Rodgers earning plaudits for wins over Arsenal, Liverpool and Man City. But when he left Michael Laudrup was placed in charge as Michu arrived in South Wales.

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In his first game, he got two goals and an assist as The Swans smashed QPR 5-0 at Loftus Road. The two goals turned into a streak, grabbing two more in the next two games to stay atop the Premier League’s top scorers chart. Throughout the season, he scored 18 league goals and four in the cup, as Swansea lifted the League Cup for the first time in their history. Famous goals against Man Utd, Chelsea and a brace against Arsenal cemented his place in the folklore of the club. 

Despite a solid start to European qualification the season after, Michu suffered an ankle injury that intensified as he wanted to play through the pain. He retired aged 31 at his boyhood club, Real Oviedo. 

Roque Santa Cruz 2007/08

It’s not often you’d say a five-time Bundesliga champion was a one-season wonder. Not many people remember that Roque Santa Cruz was an important piece in Ottmar Hitzfeld’s domestic treble-winning Bayern Munich team, and was scouted by German legends including Karl-Heinz Rumenigge and Franz Beckenbauer. 

For a cool £3.5 million, Blackburn Rovers had secured their man. Joining a squad packed with future cult heroes like Christopher Samba, Tugay and Morten Gamst Pederson, the Paraguayan brought expert finishing and an aerial presence like no other. In his first year, he netted 19 times in 37 games, finishing fourth in the top scorer charts for the 2007/08 season behind Cristiano Ronaldo, Fernando Torres and Emmanuel Adebayor. If it wasn’t for Harry Redknapp’s plucky Portsmouth winning the FA Cup, Rovers would’ve qualified for the UEFA Cup thanks to their seventh placed finish. 

Despite this incredible start, he only mustered another seven league goals in his next three years in England. His transfer to Manchester City was famously poor, scoring three times in 20 league appearances. Despite this, Santa Cruz will always be a ‘streets won’t forget’ type of player. 

If you’re wondering what he’s doing now, he’s still playing football back in Paraguay aged 40, having scored 48 goals in the last three seasons. 

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Papiss Cisse 2012/13

Cisse might not be the most glamorous name on this list, but he definitely has the best goal. Before arriving in the Premier League, the Senegalese bagsman held the record for most goals scored by an African player in a Bundesliga season, scoring 22 times for SC Freiburg. By January 2012, Newcastle had snapped up their man for just over £9 million and would link up with his fellow countryman Demba Ba up top for the Magpies. 

So would begin the start of a phenomenal double act. Papiss Cisse and Demba Ba were the successes of a crazy season for Alan Pardew that included the signings of Hatem Ben Arfa, Jose Enrique and Yohan Cabaye and the departures of Joey Barton, Fraser Forster and Xisco. The Pardew era was underway and despite joining in January, Cisse scored 13 goals for the Toon, with all 13 coming in his first 14 games. Included in the 13 was his famous strike against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, an outside of the foot curling shot that dipped over Petr Cech from 37 yards out. It won Goal of the Season and, at the time, he was Newcastle’s most prolific goals-per-game goalscorer of all-time. 

Fast forward to the season after, he had only netted his second league goal by the time November rolled around. Cisse remained a good option up front for Newcastle but failed to hit the high expectations he set when he first arrived. 

Cisse retired in 2021 after playing for Shandong Luneng, Alanyaspor and Fenerbahce in his post-Newcastle days. There’s no doubt there’s a lot of love for Cisse in the North East of the country, and it will continue thanks to the incredible memories of his goals.

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Amr Zaki 2008/09

For all of the ballers that are attached to the ‘Streets won’t forget’ tag, Amr Zaki is the least mentioned. A mountain of a striker that was fast and excelled in and around the box, Steve Bruce could hardly believe his luck when the original ‘Egyptian King’ had joined Wigan Athletic. 

Famous leg-breaker and Wigan chairman Dave Whelan went as far as to compare the striker to Alan Shearer, while Bruce said he had a ‘real future in the Premier League.’ In the end, both were wide of the mark as Zaki only lasted a season before returning to El Zamalek and having a short time at Hull City in 2010. 

In his time at the DW Stadium, he netted 10 times in 29 games, the most famous goal coming against Liverpool at Anfield as he scored a bicycle kick in front of the Kop end, a game that they went on to lose due to an Antonio Valencia red card. A debut volley against West Ham, a brace against Hull in a 5-0 win and Bruce waxed lyrically about his star man. His parent club’s president said he was ‘better than Messi’ but by the time Christmas rolled around, Zaki had already scored his last goal in English football.

Zaki retired aged 32 in 2015, with his legend remaining in the memory of those who saw him play, but not much more. At one point he was the Premier League’s top scorer, and probably one of the deadliest strikers in Europe, but it was only for one year.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic 2016/17

Perhaps harsh, given his previous achievements and his continued success in Italy to this day, Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes this list after his knee injury basically ruled him out of most of the second season at Old Trafford.

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After leaving PSG at the end of his contract, Jose Mourinho picked up the Swedish striker in his first summer at the club. His immediate impact was seen in the 2016 Community Shield final as he helped Man Utd beat Leicester 2-1 at Wembley. He continued his fine form into the season and by February, he became the oldest player to ever score 15 goals in a season at 35. A week later was a Europa League hat-trick against Saint-Etienne and by the end of the month, he’d won the League Cup for United with a winning brace. 

By late April, Zlatan had unfortunately sustained serious ligament damage in his right knee which ruled him out of a Europa League final win in his home country. He returned to the team in November the following season, but it was clear that his injuries had robbed him of the game time he wanted. 

Just seven appearances in his second year and one goal against Bristol City in the League Cup spelled the end for the Swede, who left for the MLS in March 2018. 

If you’re feeling nostalgic about these classic players, check out Classic Football Shirts and get your hands on your favourite shirts from yesteryear.

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