First impressions in football are crucial and a player’s Premier League debut carries a lot of weight. Should a debutant play well, they will be instantly loved by the fans and relied upon by the manager. But should they play poorly they could be frozen out of the squad and taunted by their own supporters.
Unfortunately for Saul Niguez, his Chelsea debut will be a moment he will never forget – for all the wrong reasons. Fans branded his first-half performance for the Blues as ‘garbage’ and the manager subbed him off after just 45 minutes of action.
The Spaniard – who signed on loan from Atletico Madrid on a deadline day transfer – was thrown into the deep end against Aston Villa and failed to float.
Saul Niguez’s Chelsea debut will be a moment he will never forget – for all the wrong reason
He was guilty of playing some wayward passes and demonstrated some poor decision making
During the game he was guilty of playing some wayward passes, two of which nearly leading to Ollie Watkins goals. The Blues and their new midfielder would have been punished if it wasn’t for Thiago Silva and Edouard Mendy behind the Spaniard.
Niguez admitted his terrible debut wasn’t ‘unexpected’ as he joins a long list of players who have struggled to prove their worth during their first outing at a club. Here, Sportsmail analyses the ten worst Premier League debuts…
Alex Jankewitz (Manchester United vs SOUTHAMPTON, February 2021)
Alex Jankewitz was touted to be the next big thing in the Premier League after impressing with the Switzerland youth team. However, Ralph Hasenhuttl only handed the youngster his debut after he threatened to leave the club.
Jankewitz made his debut against Shrewsbury in the FA Cup. He came on for the final five minutes of their third-round tie at St Mary’s, before making his Premier League debut against Aston Villa in January 2021.
His first full senior appearance for the Saints lasted all of 79 seconds, as he received a red card
Despite having two consistent performances under his belt, Jankewitz lost his cool in his first Premier League start away at Manchester United in February 2021. His first full senior appearance for the Saints lasted all of 79 seconds, as he received a red card from referee Mike Dean.
He was sent off for going in high with his studs showing against United midfielder Scott McTominay. His rash challenge left a distinct line of stud marks down the inner thigh of the Scotland international.
Southampton went on to lose the game 9-0 – marking the second time the Saints had lost by that margin under Hasenhuttl. Jankewitz was never to be seen again for the Saints in the Premier League and is now at Swiss side Young Boys.
His next match? A home tie with Manchester United in the Champions League on Tuesday. Better keep your temper this time, Alex.
He was sent off for going in high with his studs showing against United’s Scott McTominay
Teddy Sheringham (Tottenham vs MANCHESTER UNITED – August 1997)
Teddy Sheringham became a legend at Manchester United after helping the club secure their famous treble. However, life at Old Trafford did not start how he had planned.
He was signed as a replacement for Eric Cantona after the Frenchman announced his shock retirement in 1997.
Many questioned whether signing someone two months Cantona’s senior was a good idea – especially given Sheringham had never won a major honour and had only scored eight Premier League goals in the previous season.
Teddy Sheringham (left) was signed by Man United as a replacement for Eric Cantona (right)
Sheringham had hoped to prove his critics wrong when he returned to White Hart Lane to face his former club. However, he missed a penalty for Manchester United and failed to impress in open play.
To make matters worse, Sir Alex Ferguson wrote a letter to Cantona a week after Sheringham’s debut – outlining his failures within the United squad.
It said: ‘As you know, we signed Teddy Sheringham to replace you, but at the moment he is finding it quite difficult to find the space he got at Tottenham and is playing deep so we have some adjusting to do.
Sheringham’s first United game was back at Spurs where he missed a penalty in a 0-0 draw
‘Players sometimes don’t realise how difficult it is to play at our level as every game is a cup final four our opponents so I just hope he can do it for us.’
It wasn’t until his fourth game for the Red Devils that Sheringham started to show some promise. He ended up scoring 46 goals in 153 matches at Old Trafford.
Laurent Koscielny (Liverpool vs ARSENAL – August 2010)
Laurent Koscielny made one of the most unusual starts for Arsenal – having been stretchered off the pitch before half-time and brought back on in the second half of their clash against Liverpool.
His injury was caused by Joe Cole – who also suffered a terrible Premier League debut in the 2010-2011 campaign. Nevertheless, Koscielny returned action in the second half.
However, many felt that Koscielny should have stayed on the sidelines after he later received two yellow cards – forcing Arsenal go down to 10 men.
Laurent Koscielny got two yellows on his Arsenal debut causing him to be sent off at Liverpool
Joe Cole (LIVERPOOL vs Arsenal – August 2010)
As previously touched upon, Joe Cole’s Premier League debut for Liverpool did not go as he had planned. He was awarded a red card in the first half of their clash with Arsenal.
He made a poor challenge on Koscielny and was handed a straight red card in what would have otherwise been regarded as a promising performance.
The incident came as a blow for Cole – who had joined Liverpool on a free transfer from Chelsea. However, Roy Hodgson’s side did manage to take the lead despite being down to 10 men.
Although their lead didn’t last long as they went on to draw the game after a goalkeeping error from Pepe Reina let the Gunners back into the game.
Joe Cole (right) was given a red card for a rash tackle on Arsenal debutant Koscielny
Patrice Evra (Manchester City vs MANCHESTER UNITED – January 2006)
Patrice Evra won five Premier League titles, three League Cups, five community Shields and the Champions League during his time at Manchester United.
However, he struggled to prove his worth during his Premier League debut when United faced Manchester City on January 14, 2006. Ferguson even questioned whether he was right to give Evra a shot.
However, Evra has since revealed that he was sick before the game – claiming he had eaten pasta and beans for breakfast. The United legend said he almost told Ferguson that he was unable to play.
He recalled the incident, saying: ‘In January 2006, I was signed by Manchester United. You might remember that I made my debut away to Manchester City. Big derby.
Sir Alex Ferguson (right) questioned whether he was right to give Patrice Evra (left) a shot
‘The game kicked off at 12.45pm, which was unusual for me as a Frenchman. I’m not big on traditional breakfasts, so I didn’t know what to eat to get ready.
‘I went for pasta and beans. I got sick. I was vomiting. I went to my room wondering what to do. Should I tell Ferguson that I can’t play, that I’m sick? No Patrice, you can’t! You’ll look soft and scared. You have to play.
‘On the bus to the stadium, I was feeling dizzy. It was sunny, it felt hot. In Manchester! Come on. I went up for a header against Trevor Sinclair. BOOM! An elbow in my face. Blood everywhere.
‘I was losing it. You know the cartoons where you have a bubble that says what the character is thinking? My bubble was saying, ‘Oh my God, these guys are so fast, so strong. It was so nice in Monte Carlo…’
Evra (right) has since revealed that he was sick before his Man United debut against City
‘At half-time, we were 2-0 down. Ferguson was raging. ‘And YOU, Patrice,’ he shouted. ‘That’s enough for you! You sit down and watch now, because you have to learn English football. I took off my boots, wiped away some blood. We lost 3-1. I was really down.’
Fernando Torres (CHELSEA vs Liverpool – February 2011)
Chelsea fans were excited about the prospect of watching Fernando Torres play for their club. The striker singed for the Blues in what was a record English transfer of £50m.
In a brilliant twist of fate, his first Chelsea match was against his former side Liverpol. However, he failed to live up to expectation against his old employers on the day.
Fernando Torres made a disastrous Chelsea debut after leaving Liverpool to join the club
He missed a sitter just minutes into the game after Maxi Rodriguez put the ball on a silver platter inside the box. Following that, he spent the rest of the day firmly inside Daniel Agger’s pocket and was subsequently subbed off in the 66th minute of the game.
Liverpool went on to score just three minutes later through Raul Meireles – seeing the Reds triumph over Chelsea.
Gervinho (Newcastle vs ARSENAL – August 2011)
Gervinho was doing well in his Arsenal debut – until he let Joey Barton get under his skin.
The forward had been bombing forward and causing trouble for the Newcastle defence. Having been awarded several free-kicks during the game, Gervinho found himself on the floor once again and it’s safe to say Barton wasn’t impressed.
The controversial Newcastle midfielder felt that Gervinho had dived and subsequently pulled him up by the scruff of the neck.
Gervinho was doing well in his Arsenal debut…until he let Joey Barton get under his skin
Barton would have probably faced a red card himself if Gervinho hadn’t responded. But the striker made the decision to tap Barton on the face and was shown a straight red card.
Gervinho became the second Arsenal debutant to receive a red card on the opening weekend of the Premier League season, after Koscielny at Liverpool the year before.
Rio Ferdinand (Leicester vs LEEDS – December 2000)
There was a lot of expectation surrounding Rio Ferdinand when he joined Leeds United. The club had spent a record £18m to secure his services from West Ham and had hoped that he would be the missing piece to their puzzle.
Fans were excited about the prospect of seeing the defender play and believed he could help transform David O’Leary’s side into title contenders. However, they were left feeling deflated by his debut performance.
O’Leary had arranged his starting XI around the defender and even changed the team’s tactics to suit their new signing. However, Leeds were 3-0 down in the opening 29 minutes of the game and Ferdinand did little to prevent this from happening.
There was a lot of expectation surrounding Rio Ferdinand when he joined Leeds United
The fans fury was evident as they chanted: ‘What a waste of money’ on repeat inside the stadium.
Nevertheless, it’s safe to say Ferdinand revived his career at Leeds – becoming the most expensive defender in the world when he joined Manchester United for £30m in 2002.
Ali Dia (SOUTHAMPTON vs Leeds – November 1996)
Ali Dia has gone down in history as one of the worst Premier League debutants after tricking Graeme Souness into thinking that he was the cousin of George Weah – who had won the Ballon d’Or and World Player of the Year award in 1995.
It is believed someone pretending to be Weah recommended Dia to the Saints boss and said the striker had featured for PSG and played 13 times for his country. As a result, Souness handed Dia a one-month contract.
However, the Saints boss quickly realised his mistake after Dia featured from the bench against Leeds United – despite only completing one training session. He came on to replace Matt Le Tissier after he picked up a first-half injury.
Ali Dia tricked Graeme Souness into thinking that he was the cousin of George Weah
Souness handed Dia a one-month contract and played him against Leeds United (above)
His performance was so diabolical that Souness hooked him off in the 85th minute of their 2-0 loss.
Le Tissier recalled the incident, telling the Liverpool echo: ‘It was unbelievable. He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice.
‘It was very, very embarrassing to watch. Souness actually had to take him off again because he was actually that bad.
The Saints boss (above) quickly realised his mistake and took Dia off in the 85th minute
‘I have no idea if he was George Weah’s cousin or not. I don’t think he was. He was just chuffed to get out on the pitch and play. I think it was a great wind up from someone who came up with this idea.
‘He turned up the next morning for treatment on an injury, the physio was telling me. So Sunday morning he turns up, has a bit of treatment, he leaves and then we never see him again. He never came back. He just left. Nobody knows where he went. Never to be seen again.
‘It was very odd. Not quite sure how a man of Graeme’s experience fell for that.’
Thiago Silva (West Bromwich Albion vs CHELSEA – September 2020)
Saul is not the only high-profile Chelsea signing to struggle early on, as Thiago Silva had an afternoon to forget during his Premier League debut for the Blues last season.
Frank Lampard brought the Brazilian in to sure-up the Blues’ backline but instead did quite the opposite.
Thiago Silva had an afternoon to forget during his Premier League debut for Chelsea
Silva was at fault for the second goal Chelsea conceded against West Bromwich Albion. He lost possession in his own half – allowing Callum Robinson to run through and score.
The defender also failed to make a single tackle and was dribbled past twice during his Premier League debut.
Despite his poor contribution, Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham managed to find the back of the net to rescue a point for Chelsea.