Find an interview from most players to have arrived in the Premier League from elsewhere and do not be surprised to see that many of them speak of their difficulty to adapt to English football.
Considering this the case for some of the league’s best imports over the previous few years including Fabinho, Kevin De Bruyne and Mo Salah at Chelsea and Joao Cãncelo, the failure of a player to make a success of their time in England should not always necessarily define them. Here, at Get Spanish Football News, we look at five players who have struggled in the Premier League but who have since gone on to greater things in LaLiga.
5) Luuk de Jong
A roaring success in the Eredivisie over the past decade, de Jong has never been able to fully replicate his form abroad. Saying that, when you compare the towering Dutchman’s spells in England and Spain the latter is notably better.
Struggling at Borussia Mönchengladbach, De Jong moved to Newcastle United in 2014 as a late loan signing in the January transfer window. Chosen to bolster Newcastle’s attack he did the exact opposite, scoring zero goals in his twelve league appearances at the club.
The Premier League side predictably opted not to sign him permanently and he returned to the Netherlands for an impressive five-year spell at PSV Eindhoven where he collected numerous league medals. It was his form in his final season that prompted Sevilla to give him another chance elsewhere. Although de Jong has not hit the heights that he did back home, he has showcased the ability to score on the grand occasion with goals against all of Spain’s ‘big three’ and decisive goals in the semi-final and final of Sevilla’s Europa League triumph last summer.
4) Stefan Savić
If Sergio Agüero had missed rather than scored the monumental goal that saw Manchester City win the Premier League in 2012 many of their fans may have pointed the finger of blame at Stefan Savić. Arriving from FK Partizan the previous summer as a 21-year-old his only season in English football proved to be a baptism of fire, a string of costly errors in a neck and neck title race created cause for concern about the youngster’s abilities.
Despite eventually collecting a Premier League winners medal for his twelve appearances he was shipped off to Fiorentina where he began to rebuild his career. After three successful seasons at La Viola, he made the jump to join Diego Simeone at Atlético Madrid. Since arriving in Madrid in 2015, he has played in a Champions League final, helped his side win the Europa League and has made a number of appearances this season for the side first in the league.
Ironically he has since been linked with a return to the Premier League including Manchester City alongside Chelsea, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
3) José Campaña
The most forgettable Premier League player on this list. Campaña actually spent half a season with Crystal Palace upon their return to the Premier League in 2013. He arrived for €2 million from Sevilla where he had broken through their academy, yet, he appeared to be part of a scattergun transfer approach which resulted in him competing for his midfield spot against Barry Bannan and Joe Ledley amongst others.
Signed by Ian Holloway, Campaña’s half-season at the club saw him train under three different coaches which did not likely help his cause with the latter, Tony Pulis, not featuring him at all. During this spell, he was failing to convince former Spain under 21 head coach Jupen Lopentegui to be part of a midfield that succeeded a generation featuring Thiago and Koke. He tried finding his form elsewhere on the continent but spells at neither Nürnberg, Sampdoria nor Porto bore fruit.
It was upon his return to Spain where he rediscovered his form playing in the Segunda División. Initially on loan at AD Alcorcón before joining Levante permanently where he has remained ever since. Season by season he has become an increasingly pivotal part of the side with his seven assists last year integral in steering the Valencia-based side away from relegation. His efforts were rewarded by a Spain call-up last Autumn.
2) Mikel Merino
Second on our list is maybe the player who did their reputation the least harm during their time in the Premier League but failed to showcase their best qualities. Establishing himself as a teenager in the Segunda División with Osasuna, Merino spent one season at Borussia Dortmund under the tutelage of Thomas Tuchel before leaving to join Newcastle United in 2017 on loan with the obligation to buy.
He made a bright start to life in Tyneside, featuring in the team’s opening nine league games and scoring in the final one of those, off of the bench against Crystal Palace. However, despite being surrounded by a Spanish contingent at the time in Javier Manquillo, Joselu and Ayoze Pérez with Rafael Benítez at the helm his decisive goal would be the final time he featured for over ten minutes in a winning performance for the club that season.
When Real Sociedad approached Newcastle for Merino the following summer they were quick to jump at the prospect of making a quick profit on him. Selling him for £10.8 million and making a £4.5 million profit from the fee Dortmund charged a year earlier.
It has turned out to be a sensational piece of business for La Real, since joining he has helped the team to back-to-back top-half finishes and also scored the decisive goal in a 4-3 victory over Real Madrid in the Copa del Rey last year with the long-awaited all-Basque final yet to be played. He has also played in five out of Spain’s last six competitive games. He may well be competing against Campaña for a spot in the Euro 2020 squad this summer.
1) Iago Aspas
The most high-profile name on this list, not just for the high-profile error in Liverpool’s costly defeat to José Mourinho’s Chelsea in the 2013/14 title race but also for the astonishing career he has had in Spain since becoming one of LaLiga’s best players of the past five years.
Signed by then-Liverpool-boss Brendan Rodgers in 2013 from Celta de Vigo, Aspas found game time hard to come by in a sensational Liverpool season where he was behind Luis Suárez, Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling in the pecking order. He did actually appear in the first five games of Liverpool’s season however the return from suspension for Luis Suárez after biting Branislav Ivanović meant game time for the Spaniard became increasingly hard to come by.
In Liverpool’s defeat to Chelsea, he fluffed a corner which allowed Chelsea to breakaway and score their second goal in a 2-0 home loss taking the title out of the Reds’ hands. He did not feature for the club again with his only goal contribution being an assist on his debut.
After an average season on loan at Sevilla, Aspas returned to Celta de Vigo where he has rightly earned legendary status. In his sixth consecutive year at the Galician club, he is only a goal away from hitting double figures in each of those seasons. During this time he has helped the club avoid relegation, reach the Europa League semi-finals and score for Spain at the 2018 World Cup.