ThreeMatchBan Top 10: World Cup Finalists Who Chose Mid-Table Obscurity… Or Worse

The Premier League has witnessed many World Cup winners in its brief but illustrious history, but only 10 players have appeared for clubs other than Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal and witnessed the humdrum of mid-table obscurity. Those brave souls who have tasted the pinnacle of football success as champions of the world, but chose to play for a club whose existence is based around more than just winning trophies every season have finally been recognised in chronological order.

Jurgen Klinsmann – World Cup winner 1990, West Germany
Tottenham Hotspur

Famed for his diving goal celebrations, supposed to mock his reputation for being light on his feet, Klinsmann enjoyed two spells at White Hart Lane in 1994/95 and again on loan in 1997/98. The prolific goal scorer found the back of the net 30 times in his two seasons in England and gave kids everywhere a celebration to do on rain soaked pitches. He guided Germany to third place in Euro 2006 as manager, prompting a parade through Berlin, but he declined to renew his contract. Recently sacked as manager of Bayern Munich after Champions League qualification was endangered by a poor run of results.

Nicola Berti – World Cup runner-up 1994, Italy
Tottenham Hotspur

Signed from Inter Milan after the 1998 World Cup, Berti failed to replicate the form he had displayed for club and country in the Premier League and he was limited to just 21 first team appearances at Spurs. He made 39 appearances for Italy, scoring three goals and appeared in both the 1990 and 1994 World Cup finals.

Branco – World Cup winner 1994, Brazil

Capped 72 times by Brazil in an international career spanning ten years, the left-back only made nine appearances for Middlesbrough during his brief spell at the Riverside in 1996. A fearsome free-kick taker, reminiscent of Roberto Carlos, he was also responsible for successfully scoring in the penalty shoot-out win in 1994. He is now the Director of Football with Brazilian club Fluminese.

Dino Baggio – World Cup runner-up 1994, Italy
Blackburn Rovers

Three times a UEFA Cup winner, once with Juventus and twice with Parma, Baggio was a cultured midfielder who was an integral part of Italy’s midfield throughout the 1990s, chosen ahead of such players as Demetrio Albertini and Roberto Donadoni. So when he was loaned to Blackburn in 2003, great things were expected of him, but what arrived at Ewood Park was a shadow of the formerly great player known to Italian fans and he failed to make an impression. Joined his hometown club Tombolo in the tenth tier of Italian football in 2008, with his first coach Cesare Crivellaro at the helm. Capped 60 times.

Youri Djorkaeff – World Cup winner 1998, France
Bolton Wanderers and Blackburn Rovers

A surprise signing by Sam Allardyce in 2002, Djorkaeff added a much needed sense of style and flair to Bolton’s aggressive and no-nonsense approach to play and he was a great hit at the Reebok during his two seasons at the club. Played alongside Jay- Jay Okocha and Ivan Campo during the clubs best spell in the Premier League. Moved to local rivals Blackburn in 2004, but he could only manage three appearances. Spent a season with New York Red Bulls in 2005 before retiring.

Christian Karembeu – World Cup winner 1998, France

The dread locked midfielder spent just the one season at the Riverside in 2000/01, having won the Champions League with Real Madrid in 1998. Capped 58 by France, but only found the net once, though he was made Chevalier of the Legion d’honneur in 1998, the equivalent of a knighthood in England.

Christophe Dugarry – World Cup winner 1998, France
Birmingham City

An accomplished striker who perhaps failed to score as many goals as his reputation merited, Dugarry became a fans favourite at St Andrews after signing initially on loan in 2003, helping the club push into the top half of the table, adding a Gallic flair to the side. He also had a great affect on the players around him, helping transform Geoff Horsfield into more than just a bull-in-a-china shop forward. He left the club by mutual consent in 2004, before moving to Qatar SC for his final season.

Juninho Paulista – World Cup winner 2002, Brazil

Enjoyed three spells at the Riverside and earned himself a passionate following from Boro fans thanks to his trickery on the ball and eye for a spectacular finish. He was voted their greatest ever player in a PFA fan’s poll in 2007. The diminutive five and half foot playmaker only appeared for five minutes in the World Cup final, replacing Ronaldinho, but he won’t be remembered for this on Teesside, instead for the technical skill and ability rarely seen by Boro fans.

Roque Junior – World Cup winner 2002, Brazil
Leeds United

Signed on loan by Leeds to try and help them avoid the drop in 2004, his stay in Yorkshire was disastrous, although Leeds fortunes after relegation were somehow even worse. During his time at Elland Road, they conceded 24 goals in seven games, he was sent off on his debut against Birmingham City and they eventually dropped in to the second tier. He now plays for OFK Igalo in the Montenegrin third division. The 32 year old was rumoured to be linked with a move to A-League side Sydney FC for next season.

Marco Materazzi – World Cup winner 2006, Italy

Sent off four times in just one season during his spell at Goodison Park, Materazzi would continue to court controversy as his career progressed. Infamous for making the most of a Zinedine Zidane head butt in the final, after he reportedly questioning the sexual habits of the Frenchman’s mother. He now plays for Inter Milan and helped them to the Serie A title last season.

Tags: World Cup

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Drabik 18 June 2009 at 8:13am

I assume you were running out of ideas near the end. I dont think you should include players that were ‘mid-table’ BEFORE being a world cup finalist. Most players will play at a mid-table club at sometimes in their career, most of which before they are at their peak. Materazzi was at Everton clearly before hitting his peak.

Chris 18 June 2009 at 9:43am

I doubt it’s a case of running out of ideas, there are only ten players that have played in a world cup final outside the big four in Premier League history.

Omar 18 June 2009 at 6:43pm

“Those brave souls who have tasted the pinnacle of football success as champions of the world, but chose to play for a club whose existence is based around more than just winning trophies every season…”

You say that is if those clubs made a conscious decision to struggle to make it to the mid-table.

Dan Mobbs 18 June 2009 at 8:13pm

I didn’t intend to imply that the clubs chose to struggle, but instead that the players made the decision and chose to play for a club whose season is mainly spent in mid-table, instead of up at the sharp end, fighting for the championship.

For the few players who are lucky enough to play in the World Cup final, their appearance can be the beginning or the continuation of great things at club level. After all, it is expected that in amongst the two teams deemed by a series of group competitions and a knockout round to be best in the world, there should be players on display of considerable talent. These players in theory should be able to walk into many top flight positions, purely on the back of their reputation and as a result not have to pick and choose between the scrapping bunch.

So when experienced Brazilian World Cup finalists like Juninho and Branco are caught up in a relegation battle, which Middelsbrough eventually lost in the 1996/97 season, it is a surprise that players of such calibre and status have not been snapped up by a club of greater stature.

I take on your valid point that Materazzi has yet to drop down the pecking order as he is still riding high with Serie A winners Inter. His four dismissals in a solitary season at Goodison Park and his reputation as more of a chopper than a stopper, were characteristics hard to ignore from a World Cup finalist though.

For further evidence have a Terry Butchers at this:

Jonathan 12 July 2009 at 11:06pm

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