The Champions League final is almost upon us – arguably now a bigger game than the World Cup final, with the best clubs and best players from across Europe competing for the prestigious prize that guarantees your place in footballing folklore.
And yet, among the players on show for Bayern Munich vs PSG clash tonight are players with a chequered reputation from their time in the Premier League.
To call them all flops would be harsh, but misfits seems an accurate word for this lot who used to ply their trade in England and who perhaps now seem like slightly surprising figures to be potentially starring in such a big game.
Here’s a look at eight players who are not exactly Premier League legends but who are now on the brink of European glory…
After a promising start as a youngster at Arsenal, Serge Gnabry suffered a weird through years as he fell out of favour with Arsene Wenger and failed to even impress on loan at West Brom.
Fast forward a few years later and Gnabry is a star player for Bayern Munich and the German national team, and may well be the man to watch in tonight’s big game after a stunning campaign in football’s biggest club competition.
Just 18 games and one goal for Arsenal, a mere three games for West Brom…modern football can lack the fairytales of old, but this is quite a staggering story as this Premier League reject is now one of the finest footballers on the planet whose rise came almost out of nowhere.
Angel Di Maria
A player who’s always been a big name after a great career at Real Madrid, but Angel Di Maria will only ever be remembered as a spectacular flop for his single, highly forgettable season at Manchester United.
The Argentine moved to Old Trafford on the back of another fine campaign for Madrid, where he was Man of the Match in their Champions League final win over Atletico Madrid.
Now, six years later, Di Maria has the chance to shine for PSG and deliver the club their first ever European Cup, but how on earth did Man Utd fail to make the most of his world class talent?
By no means a bad player for United, but clearly not one they felt was worth keeping last summer as he left at the end of his contract.
Ander Herrera now has a shot at Champions League glory with PSG, though he’s not done a huge amount for the Ligue 1 giants in a stop-start first season in the French capital.
While the Spaniard was a bit of a fan-favourite at United, he perhaps represented the kind of player that the club needed to improve upon if they were ever going to get back to their glory years, so it’s pretty puzzling to see him closing in on the ultimate glory tonight.
No longer a guaranteed starter for Bayern Munich, but Jerome Boateng has been a tremendous servant for the Bavarian giants.
That’s quite the opposite from his bizarre, short-lived spell at Manchester City earlier in his career in the 2010/11 season.
Now regarded as one of the finest centre-backs in Europe in recent years, Boateng spent just one year at City, mostly playing as a full-back and looking pretty poor, before being shipped off to Bayern, where he’s already picked up one treble and could now grab a second.
Certainly not a flop after starring for Liverpool in his time in the Premier League, but undoubtedly a player whose reputation on these shores has been tarnished.
Much of this is perhaps unfair on Coutinho, but owes to the fact that Liverpool have been so much more successful since allowing him to leave, and reinvesting that money very wisely indeed on the likes of Virgil van Dijk and Alisson.
By contrast, Coutinho has gone downhill since quitting Anfield for seemingly bigger things, flopping first at Barcelona and now on loan at Bayern, though he had an impressive cameo against his parent club in the quarter-finals to perhaps show he still has something to offer at this level. Maybe we’ll see the old Coutinho again tonight? If he gets on off the bench, that is…
Scorer of one of the most important goals of PSG’s season, and what may indeed go on to be remembered as one of the most important in their history, Eric Choupo-Moting came off the bench to score that late, late winner against Atalanta to book Thomas Tuchel’s side’s place in the semi-finals.
And yet, Choupo-Moting really didn’t show any signs of these heroics when he was struggling at Stoke City just a couple of years ago.
The 31-year-old Cameroonian played 32 games for Stoke in all competitions, scoring just five goals, and ended his single season in England with relegation.
It just goes to show – never write yourself or anyone else off!
Not likely to be involved tonight, Jese Rodriguez has been on loan at Sporting Lisbon this season, though their 2019/20 campaign is already over, due to the weird reshuffle of the footballing calendar.
Jese may still technically be a European champion by the end of the night, though, despite also having a highly forgettable spell as a Stoke City player.
The Spaniard scored just one goal for the Potters in their relegation season of 2017/18 – so that’s a total contribution of six from him and Choupo-Moting, and yet here they still are as PSG players – talk about failing upwards!
Relegated with Aston Villa in 2015/16, and little more than a solid player for Everton in the following three seasons, it’s a bit of a surprise to see Idrissa Gueye also on the brink of becoming a Champions League winner.
Gueye is clearly a fine player on his day, but the 30-year-old certainly looked more at his level during his time at Goodison Park than he has in Paris, where he’s not really been as much of a regular this season.
He’ll no doubt be pleased with life, however, as he’s played his part in what could yet be an historic European campaign for PSG.