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One-season wonders: Looking at the very best in Premier League history

Having retired earlier this week at the age of 31, Michu makes a pretty strong case for being the greatest one-season wonder in Premier League history.

The Spaniard’s decline was a consequence of harrowing injury problems, a distinct difference from the many other players over the last 25 years to also earn that moniker in the English top flight, whose rises and falls were considerably more mystifying.

Nonetheless, Michu’s plight is quite exceptional; during summer 2013, after finishing fifth in the Premier League’s scoring charts with 18 goals and scoring in the League Cup final, the then-Swansea City striker was linked with a move to Arsenal – in fact, Arsene Wenger later compared him to Gunners legend Dennis Bergkamp.

“I see him like a little bit, position-wise, like a Bergkamp, more than an up-front striker. They can play with both [strikers] because Michu’s the kind of striker who is a midfielder as well.

“He can play both positions, that’s why they are 4-4-1-1 or you can call that a 4-4-2 when Wilfried Bony plays.”

Four years, a failed loan spell at Napoli, an embarrassing stint in the fourth tier of Spanish football and one goal-shy season at Oviedo later and injuries have forced Michu to hang up his boots – a spectacular slump from grace.

But can anyone throughout the last 25 years rival the former forward for the title of being the Premier League’s greatest ever one-season wonder? FootballFanCast takes a look…

Marcus Stewart

Arguably the Premier League’s archetype one-season wonder, Marcus Stewart fired newly-promoted Ipswich Town all the way to fifth place and subsequently the UEFA Cup during the 2000/01 season, his 19-goal haul in the top flight that season only bettered by Chelsea’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and including goals against three of the division’s remaining top six – Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool – as well as three game-winning goals.

But the Englishman struggled to replicate that form in the following season and managed only five goals in the Premier League, none of which resulted in victories for the Tractor Boys as they exited the top-flight in 18th place. In fairness, Stewart still enjoyed a decent Football League career until retiring in 2011, representing Sunderland on over 100 occasions and enjoying a swansong at Exeter City. But never again did the now Bristol City assistant match the prolific strike-rate of 0.55 goals per game.

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Amr Zaki

Unlike Marcus Stewart, who gradually faded back into the abyss of relative obscurity, Amr Zaki disappeared into it as quickly as he’d emerged.

The stocky striker wasn’t exactly a household name when Wigan Athletic signed him on loan from Egyptian outfit Zamalek in 2008 but during his only full season in the Premier League, he netted 10 times to fire the Latics to an eleventh-placed finish and for a small period was even third in the division’s Golden Boot race.

“Zaki has been sensational already. He does remind me of Shearer. He’s a natural striker too who is so hungry and so determined.”

But whereas chairman Dave Whelan compared the Egyptian to Alan Shearer, Steve Bruce was far less impressed with Zaki’s lack of professionalism, incurring a number of fines for returning late from international duty.

That convinced Bruce not to sign his 2008/09 top scorer permanently and Zaki, baring a six-game loan spell at Hull City in 2010 which didn’t produce a single goal, returned to Asian football without being seen again. He left Zamalek in 2012 and rather incredibly signed for six clubs over the next three years, three of which he didn’t make a competitive appearance for.

Odion Ighalo

The most recent addition to the one-season wonder pageant, Odion Ighalo looked like a top-class goalscorer in the making during his first six months in the Premier League with Watford, scoring against Everton, Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham before the turn of 2016 as the newly-promoted Hornets found themselves just one point away from the top six, and striking up an incredibly impressive partnership with Troy Deeney.

That saw the Nigerian international linked with a January move to Arsenal, as the kind of in-form short-term signing who could give the Gunners extra cutting edge.

Unfortunately, however, Ighalo quickly ran out of steam from them on; in fact he would go on to score just three goals in his next 35 top-flight appearances for Watford, including only one the following season, before being eventually sold to Chinese outfit Changchun Yatai for £20million earlier this year.

He’s not been hugely missed at Vicarage Road, though he has been given another chance at Manchester United.

Michael Ricketts

Michael Ricketts established himself as one of the most exciting young players in the Football League when he fired Bolton Wanderers to the top-flight in 2000/01, so when he began the next season by scoring 12 goals by mid-January – most notably a winner against Manchester United at Old Trafford and an equaliser against Arsenal at Highbury – an England call-up inevitably beckoned for the prodigious Trotters front-man.

However, that proved to be the cut-off point for Ricketts. He was given a 45-minute runout but failed to find the net – not only for the Three Lions but for the rest of the domestic season as well.

Rickets would go on to score just six more league goals for Bolton before being sold to Middlesbrough in January 2003, which saw his career slide along a downward spiral that eventually ended with a 12-game stint at League One Walsall during 2009/10.

Overall, after that flurry of form at the start of his Premier League career, Ricketts went onto score just 33 league goals in over eight years.

Roque Santa Cruz

In fairness to Roque Santa Cruz, he’s probably the most talented player on this list, spending eight years of his career at Bayern Munich – where he won six Bundesliga titles and the 2001 Champions League title – proving his proficiency in La Liga with Malaga and picking up a staggering 112 caps for the Paraguay national team, netting 32 goals in the process.

Yet, in terms of scoring at club level, one season of Santa Cruz’s lengthy career, which continues to this day in Paraguayan football, truly stands out – 2004/05, when he netted a personal best of 19 top-flight goals for Blackburn Rovers and laid on a further seven assists.

But the South American couldn’t keep it up and in the following season bagged just four league goals for the Ewood Park outfit. Despite this, Manchester City still saw fit to splash out a staggering £17.5million on the 6 foot 3 striker in the summer, the club where Santa Cruz’s deficiencies became most apparent.

He made only 20 league appearances for the Citizens, scoring just three times, before enduring a goalless loan spell back with Blackburn in 2011 and then disappearing off to La Liga.

Article title: One-season wonders: Looking at the very best in Premier League history

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