On his day, Michel Salgado was an incredible footballer. On his day, Salgado ran the flanks of Real Madrid and the Spanish National Team, earning universal plaudits for his tough, no-nonsense tackling and fearless attacking play. On his day, Michel Salgado was superb. By 2009, however, Michel Salgado was comfortably over the hill. And so, when the 34-year old Michel Salgado signed for Sam Allardyce's Blackburn, eyebrows were ostensibly raised. He actually put in a decent shift in his time at the Rovers, playing 66 times in 3 years, but he made very little in the way of a lasting impact on the beleaguered club. A truly weird move for both club and player.
This enigma of a player - signed by Arsenal before the 2002 World Cup - was oddly a bit of a journeyman in English football. Despite arriving with the label of being "bigger than Beckham" (in the Japanese media), Inamoto flitted across English football, first as a cult figure at Arsenal, then as a combative midfielder at Fulham, and then as a squad player at West Brom. The initial promise of his arrival from Gamba Osaka for £3.5m faded the longer he stayed in the stagnant pool of English football, and it wasn't long until he was shipped off to do a tour of Europe before settling back in his native Japan. One of the first - and notably unsuccessful - efforts of an English club to tap the Asian market.
As incredible as it seems on paper, Peter Reid - in a desperate attempt to bring hope to his floundering Leeds - signed a World Cup-winning Brazilian centre-back on loan to fortify his defence. His name was Roque Junior, and he was a disaster. In the 7 games he appeared in for Leeds, the side shipped 24 goals, and Roque was a liability in every sense of the word. He was underwhelming on his best day, and horrific on his worst, being sent off against Birmingham, and ripping his shirt in a tussle with Duncan Ferguson against Everton. The famous image of Roque Junior's time at Leeds remains that ripped shirt, and when that's your most notable memoir from your time in England, you haven't done well.
There are many different types of football hardman. There are the dirty tacklers, the dressing-room brawlers, the sly bastards. And then there's Tomas Repka. Built like a brick shithouse made of actual bricks of shit, Repka was formidable to say the least, and was often seen screaming hoarsely into the faces of referees and players alike on the pitch. He was sent off on his debut for West Ham, served his ban, and was sent off again when he returned. In his career, he was sent off nineteen times, whilst for West Ham, he was yellow-carded 10 times in his first season alone. Beloved by the West Ham faithful, but largely forgotten by everyone else, Tomas Repka surely deserves a retrospective on his time in England, by the virtue of being absolutely crackers.
Sometimes in a player's career, rare moments of brilliance can significantly overshadow long periods of mundanity. This is very much the case with Erik Edman - a very average left-back who scored one of the Premier League's greatest goals, against Liverpool in April 2005. The goal - a 40-yard scorcher which Liverpool had no answer for - is entirely deserving of its status, however Edman never managed anything else in English football. A brief spell with Spurs was followed with an escape to Rennes in Ligue 1, and then a further foray into Premier League football with Roberto Martinez's Wigan. After a good spell in the side, Edman was humiliated against his old club when Aaron Lennon ran him ragged in their 9-1 demolition of Wigan. He was dropped after that game, and never played in England again.
Here's your pub-quiz tiebreaker. Did you know that Gavin McCann, perennial journeyman of England's mid-table clubs, was capped for England during a friendly against Spain in 2001? Neither did I, and on paper, I can scarcely think of a stranger 'internationally-capped midfielder'. McCann was consistently bang average, for whatever side he played for. He always seemed to be involved in either an unlikely push for Europe, or a valiant struggle against relegation. Apparently he scored some screamers; I didn't know that either until I checked that out on YouTube. Here's to you, Gavin McCann, we hardly knew ye.
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