Let’s face it. It’s difficult to find a footballer who plays just one full season in the Premier League and is actually any good. Lists of “one-season wonders” throw up players like Titus Bramble, Michu and Michael Ricketts who have as many bad seasons as good.
But with a little creative math, and some arbitrary decisions about what counts as one season, we’ve found four absolutely superb players who you’d be glad to see next time you have Premier League tickets. As long as it’s that player from that specific season.
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#4 (Pre-injury) Michael Bridges
When Leeds United signed second division Sunderland’s young striker Michael Bridges in 1999, nobody believed he’d be able to replace the goal scoring machine Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. A hat-trick against Southampton in his second game proved the doubters wrong as Bridges’ 19 goals powered Leeds to 3rd in the Premier League and the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup. Then, a serious injury in the group stage of the next year’s Champions League kept Bridges sidelined through Leeds’ subsequent demise and relegation.
He played a handful of games for Leeds and Newcastle in subsequent seasons after a string of injuries, but never scored a top flight goal again. But for one season at the turn of the Millenium, Michael Bridges looked every inch a future England star.
#3 Blackpool’s Charlie Adam
Blackpool themselves could feature on this list, playing some exciting football in their one and only Premier League season as they battled bravely against the drop. And nobody was more exciting in that 2010-11 season for Blackpool than Charlie Adam. 12 goals, 8 assists, and a nomination for the PFA player’s player of the year. It’s a shame we only saw Blackpool’s Charlie Adam for a single year.
Sure, someone who looked like Charlie Adam with the same name turned out for Liverpool the next season, and Stoke after that, but he was slow, sluggish, and definitely not the same guy, right?
#2 Henrik Larsson
You might not remember, but the Celtic legend has a Premier League winner’s medal. He played less than a full season for Manchester United – just 13 matches, but he scored crucial goals to help the Red Devils to the title in 2007, along with an equally important goal vs Lille in the Champions League. On this list as much for being an amazing player everywhere he went, the Swedish assassin deserves his spot.
#1: Jurgen Klinsmann
In 1994, Tottenham Hotspur signed an injured German striker from Monaco. By 1995, schools in North London and beyond suffered a spate of injuries as kids hurled themselves to the turf emulating Jurgen Klinsmann’s iconic goal celebration. 20 goals in 41 games tells its own story, as does the fact he won Footballer of the Year. But it was his connection with the fans at White Hart Lane that makes him such an icon. Not many players are bona-fide club legends after a single season.
He did return to Spurs in 1998 and kept the team in the Premier League, including four goals against Wimbledon, but by then he was a faded force. But ask anyone who had Tottenham Hotspur tickets in that majestic 94/45 season and they’ll tell you that Jurgen Klinsmann is the league’s best ever one-season wonder.