Part two of the best and worst foreign imports to the Premiership.
The mid 90s saw an influx of Italian players, primarily at Chelsea. Gianluca Vialli found himself joining the Italian revolution at Stamford Bridge, as did current manager, Roberto Di Matteo. Paolo Di Canio was a huge success at West Ham despite his Italian-ness coming out on more occasions than needed. But no one can deny he was a great player and had the ability to do the unexpected. . However, for me only one man can top this list. That man is Gianfranco Zola. The little maestro was a delight to watch even if his appearance was unnervingly similar to 'The Fonz', watching him always brought Happy Days to the Cheslea fans.
Chelsea also brought Pierluigi Casiraghi to the Premiership. Although Casiraghi's career was cut sort by injury, up until that point he hardly impressed. Nottingham Forest had earlier brought Andera Silenzi to England but the tall forward failed to score in the Premier league and after two miserable years was sent packing. Corrado Grabbi cost Blackburn Rovers, a then club record of, £6.75 million pounds and he returned their faith with two Premiership goals in three years. Rolando Bianchi cost Manchester City £8.8 million pounds but never made the grade either. But the winner here has to be Massimo Taibi, the man whose career at Old Trafford is best forgotten. I think Sir Alex wishes he could erase his memory of him most of all.
Best: Gianfranco Zola
Worst: Massimo Taibi
Although Deco started his Chelsea career fantastically we can not look past a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. Let's move on.
Marco Almeida made one substitute appearance for Southampton during his loan spell which was supposed to last a year but was instead cancelled after a few months. Dani signed for West Ham United on a loan deal but was sacked by manager, Harry Redknapp, for being spotted in a nightclub the night before he missed training. Naughty boy. Paulo Futre joined West Ham in 1996 but left after nine games and no goals. Spurs, in their search for a top class striker, turned to Helder Postiga to bring them goals. He cost the club £6.25 million pounds and gave them one Premier league goal. That's one expensive goal.
Best: Cristiano Ronaldo
Worst: Helder Postiga
Fernando Torres exploded onto the scene during his first two years at Liverpool. He could not stop scoring and was a delight to watch. Xabi Alonso was a pass master at Anfield and his departure was the catalyst for Liverpool's demise when he joined Real Madrid. Mikel Arteta has been superb for Everton and had a good season with the Gunners last year. Cesc Fabregas was an inspiration at Arsenal and surely has his best days ahead of him. Unfortunately, It will be Barca fans that will see him in the peak of his career, rather than the Gunners fans.
Another Fernando at Liverpool, Morientes, didn't have the same effect as his namesake. Having scored goals in Spain and France, he struggled to reproduce the same killer instinct that made him into one of the most feared strikers around Europe. Diego Tristan, at one stage of his career, was considered one of football's hottest properties. Sadly for him, he never reached what his potential promised. West Ham offered him a contract in 2008 but he never got off the ground and his stay was ended not too long after 3 goals in 14 games. Javi Moreno was another destined for big things but his 2004 goal-less stint at Bolton proved fruitless for the Wanderers. Liverpool have had a number of disappointing Spaniards including Antonio Nunez and Josemi. My vote goes to Albert Luque though, having failed to justify his huge £9.5 million price tag at Newcastle in the mid 90s.
Best: Cesc Fabregas
Worst: Albert Luque
Robin van Persie has just enjoyed his best ever season in the Premiership. He finally had an injury free season and confirmed what many had suspected – when fit, he is a great player. Rafael van der Vaart was a sensation in the early days of his Tottenham career. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was at the top of his game for a few seasons at Leeds and Chelsea. Jaap Stam was a brilliant player for Manchester United and his career at Old Trafford was only shortened by his ill advised book. Chelsea didn't see the best of Arjen Robben but still he was exciting to watch in full flow. Another player who excelled on the wing was Marc Overmars for Arsenal. Edwin van der Sar is badly missed between the sticks at the theatre of dreams. But only one winner here for me, Dennis Bergkamp. To watch him at his peak was a pure joy. A hugely talented player.
Ryan Babel came with a huge reputation and cost a huge amount of money when he signed for Liverpool. He reportedly turned down Arsenal to join the Reds and how the Gunners must have been relieved. He failed miserably, often appearing not in control of the ball and trying way too much on his own. Patrick Kluivert's career took him to Milan and Barcelona, so the surprise when he joined Newcastle was understandable. The Dutchman scored just six Premier league goals and stayed just one season. Jan Kromkamp was highly rated when Liverpool signed him from Villarreal in an exchange deal sending another flop, Josemi, the other way. However, he didn't fulfil his promise and was sent back to Holland. Marco Boogers signed for West Ham United in 1995 and scored no goals in 4 games for the London side. He was a West Ham player for the next three years despite loan spells in Holland during that time.
Best: Dennis Bergkamp
Worst: Marco Boogers