The 15 most obscure Premier League imports

Today’s topic is a discussion of the 15 most obscure Premier League imports.

Forget Willem Korsten, Lars Leese, Ales Krizan, Walid Badir, Bernard Lambourde, Branko Strupar and Sean Dundee – these 15 players are ones, that perfectly meet the definition of obscure.

In order to meet the definition of obscure, they must the following set criteria.

They must have been signed during a club’s tenure in the Premier League, and must not have been first team regulars for a prolonged period or been at several English sides (see Detsi Kruszynski, Clint Marcelle or Dariusz Kubicki).

Their displays at their clubs must have been distinctively average in that they were not bad enough to warrant cult status (see Andrea Silenzi, William Prunier, Marco Boogers or Ali Dia) but were not good enough to warrant a regular place (see Ramon Vega, Bjarne Goldbaek, Eric Hassli, Vegard Heggem or Uwe Rosler).

Obscure Premier League imports with distinguished club careers (see Jean-Michel Ferri, Isaias or Ned Zelic) or international careers (Viorel Moldovan or Goce Sedloski) are also excluded from this list, as their entire career could not be considered as obscure nor average.

The perfect obscure player, therefore, is one that offers nothing at all to a side and has consistently underachieved throughout their career.

All of the following 15 players do exactly that, so lets get on with the list.

15. Silvio Maric

Club – Newcastle United (1999-2000)
Position – Attacking Midfielder
League appearances (goals) – 23 (0)
Cup appearances (goals) – 8 (2)

Maric joined Newcastle in early 1999, on the back of successful Champions League and World Cup campaigns with Dinamo Zagreb and Croatia respectively.

Although this may seem impressive, his career has been very mediocre.

One goal in 19 international appearances says it all, and he failed to score in any of his 23 Premier League matches with Newcastle.

He had a perfect chance to score in the FA Cup final against Manchester United in 1999, but he missed an easy chance.

Apart from his spells at Zagreb, his performances have been consistently average and will only be remembered by the most ardent of Newcastle supporters.

14. Stefan Malz

Club – Arsenal (1999-2001)
Position – Central Midfielder
League appearances (goals) – 6 (1)
Cup appearances (goals) – 8 (1)

Stefan Malz was never the greatest of players, despite impressing in Germany.

After scoring twice in 36 games for 1860 Munich, Arsene Wenger signed the midfielder for a fee of £650,000 in 1999.

Malz made 6 league appearances for the Gunners, during his two-year tenure, but is probably most famous for scoring the winner against Preston in the League Cup and being an unused substitute in the 2000 UFEA Cup final loss, at the hands of Galatasaray.

He later had spells at FC Kaiserslautern and at various non-league German sides.

It is fitting that this obscure player had such an unproductive spell at Arsenal, when he could been used far less sparingly at less glamorous clubs.

13. Xavier Gravelaine

Club – Watford (1999-2000)
Position – Attacking Midfielder/Striker
League appearances (goals) – 7 (2)
Cup appearances (goals) – 0 (0)

Gravelaine moved to Watford, in late 1999, so he could halt Watford’s alarming slide down the table.

It was thought that his flair and talent would provide the goals needed, for the Hornets to avoid relegation.

It was also hoped that Gravelaine would provide experience as he had 14 spells at various clubs (four of which were spent at PSG), before his move to Watford, and gained 4 international caps for the French side during 1992 and 1993.

Gravelaine showed glimpses of his talents, as he played an important role in Watford’s brief improvement in form during the Winter period of 1999.

This included provided an assist in the loss at the hands of Liverpool, and scoring a brace in the 3-2 victory over Southampton.

Unfortunately after failing to settle, Gravelaine left Watford after a couple of months.

After a disappointing managerial career, Gravelaine now works as a television consultant.

12. Daniel Cordone

Club – Newcastle United (2000-2001)
Position – Striker
League appearances (goals) – 21 (2)
Cup appearances (goals) – 6 (1)

Cordone was one of many in a long list of South American flops at Newcastle, but this inclusion is merited as his spell at St. James Park has been forgotten about.

This was seen in a BBC Sport article where all of the other Newcastle flops from South American were scrutinised, apart from Cordone. Cordone, instead, was just name-dropped.

He initially made a strong impact at Newcastle, scoring in his first two games. However his goals, against Derby County and Tottenham Hotspur, were ones that capitalised on poor clearances, rather than Cordone’s skill.

Despite a majestic League Cup display at Valley Parade in the 3-2 victory over Bradford City, Cordone’s lack of skill was apparent as he failed to score in his next 19 league matches.

Cordone moved back to Argentina after his season-long spell, later faced a drugs ban and had spells in the Argentine regional divisions.

His goalscoring record, during this period, remained as pathetic as ever.

11. Itzhak Zohar

Club – Crystal Palace (1997-1998)
Position – Attacking Midfielder/Striker
League appearances (goals) – 6 (0)
Cup appearances (goals) – 3 (0)

A classic case of a player being rate 91% on ‘Fifa 98: Road to the World Cup‘, when they were complete and utter tosh.

Bought by Steve Coppell for Crystal Palace in 1997 for £1.2 million, Zohar made six increasingly dismal performances for Palace in an utterly diabolical spell.

Things came to a head in December 1997 where Zohar hit a tamely hit penalty towards Southampton’s Paul Jones, denying the Eagles their first home victory of the 1997-1998 season.

Zohar, often seen as one of Palace’s worst signings, shortly left in a transfer as pointless as a Crystal Palace Premiership campaign.

Rather amusingly, Steve Coppell tried to swap Zohar for Coventry City’s far superior Dion Dublin.

Zohar is now far more at home in Israel, as he has become a beach football specialist.

He is also enjoying life as a celebrity, as he is the Israeli equivalent of Gary Lineker, through presenting sports shows and being the face of Gillette.

10. Francesco Sanetti

Club – Sheffield Wednesday (1998-1999)
Position – Striker
League appearances (goals) – 6 (1)
Cup appearances (goals) – 2 (0)

Sanetti was signed by Sheffield Wednesday manager Ron Atkinson in April 1998, to boost their Italian legion alongside Paolo Di Canio and Benito Carbone.

He made a sensational début as a substitute at Aston Villa, where he scored one and also hit the woodwork, and impressed on his first start against Crystal Palace.

However, the next season he was frozen out of the team by Danny Wilson and only made four further appearances. He never scored again, after his début.

He joined the army, after the 1998-1999, season and his career after Sheffield Wednesday, has not been followed since.

Whether he is retired or not is unknown; this shows how average and obscure he was.

9. Oleksandr Yevtushok

Club – Coventry City (1997)
Position – Defender
League appearances (goals) – 3 (0)
Cup appearances (goals) – 0 (0)

The former Ukrainian international, who made several brief substitute appearances for the national side in the mid 1990s, was brought in by Coventry City chief Gordon Strachan in a last-ditch attempt to avoid relegation in the 1996-1997 season.

Like so many ineffective obscure imports, Yevtushok’s stay was short-lived. He made three appearances, including playing his part in heavy losses against Manchester United and Newcastle United.

He was released after Coventry secured safety, with a win over Tottenham Hotspur.

Rather fittingly, the far less glamorous Steve Ogrizovic was the hero on that final day of the season at White Hart Lane.

8. Jancinto Ela Eyene

Club – Southampton (2000-2004)
Position – Attacking Midfielder/Striker
League appearances (goals) – 0 (0)
Cup appearances (goals) – 0 (0)

Eyene joined Southampton on the eve of the 2000-2001 season, amidst high expectations of being a highly promising player.

However, Eyene failed to capitalise on these expectations by enduring a frustrating four-year spell at the Saints with as much activity as the Lisa Scott-Lee fan club.

The only football that Eyene played during these four years was during a year-long loan spell with Spanish side Hercules CF.

After failing to make a single appearance for them and a disastrous spell at Dundee, Eyene can now be found playing his trade in the Spanish fifth division.

7. Adrian Paz

Club – Ipswich Town (1994-1995)
Position – Striker
League appearances (goals) – 18 (1)
Cup appearances (goals) – 3 (0)

John Lyall broke the bank to bring Paz to Ipswich in September 1994 for a then club record fee of £1 million.

Despite being the first Uruguayan player in the Premier League, Paz struggled to cope with the demands of the Premier League as he scored only one goal in 18 appearances.

Paz soon left in 1995 and found a slight improvement in form in the MLS for Colorado Rapids and Columbus Crew.

As prolific as an injured Francis Jeffers, it was only in Adrian Coote’s world where Paz could become a free-scoring Premiership regular.

6. Pierre Laurent

Club – Leeds United (1997-1998)
Position – Winger
League appearances (goals) – 4 (0)
Cup appearances (goals) – 0 (0)

Laurent signed for Leeds from Bastia for a fee of around £200,000 in March 1997 (around the same time as below-par Scottish striker Derek Lilley, incidentally), with manager George Graham lauding him as one of Europe’s fastest wingers, and was immediately compared to Eric Cantona.

While failing to make an impression, Laurent did impress on his full début against Nottingham Forest, despite failing to trouble Forest goalkeeper Alan Fettis with a weak shot.

The pressure of playing for Leeds clearly got to Laurent, as he launched a tirade on the team’s training and preparation methods, as well as the fans for comparing him Cantona.

After two further appearances, Laurent was destined to spend the rest of his career as a fringe player for various second division French clubs.

5. Patrick Valery

Club – Blackburn Rovers (1997-1998)
Position – Defender
League appearances (goals) – 16 (0)
Cup appearances (goals) – 4 (0)

Another player was brought to the Premiership by Bastia (this time, on a free transfer) in 1997.

It was Patrick Valery’s turn, who become Roy Hodgson’s first signing at Blackburn Rovers.

While initially a regular at the club, Valery soon lost his place, in the team. This was largely due to his aggressive style of play, gaining several bookings in the process alongside a red card against Tottenham.

During his time, Valery humorously gave an insight into the club’s dietary methods by stating that the Blackburn squad were baked bean addicts!

Although Valery regained his place at end of the season, he was regularly substituted early on in matches and quickly made a return to Bastia in the summer of 1998.

Despite this, Hodgson made the same classic mistake in signing players from Bastia by wasting £3 million on Sebastian Perez.

Valery, however, slid into general footballing obscurity.

4. Frode Kippe

Club – Liverpool (1999-2002)
Position – Defender
League appearances (goals) – 0 (0)
Cup appearances (goals) – 2 (0)

There have been many obscure youth imports during the Premier League’s several seasons, but none have been more obscure and average than Frode Kippe.

Having not as played as much as Gregory Vignal, nor was he as infamous as Anthony Le Tallec, Kippe is the ideal average defender.

Despite impressing in the reserves and for Stoke City (he was shipped on loan to the Potters, during his spell at Anfield), Kippe was neither outstanding or woeful. Just average.

His average career has continued, by making occasional appearances for the Norwegian national side and being a solid squad rotation player for Lillestrom.

3. John Karelse

Club – Newcastle United (1999-2003)
Position – Goalkeeper
League appearances (goals conceded) – 3 (7)
Cup appearances (goals conceded) – 0 (0)

After spending 13 solid seasons at Dutch side NAC Breda, Karelse became Ruud Gullit’s final signing at Newcastle where expectations were that he would be competing with Steve Harper for a place on the substitutes bench.

However, after a poor start to the 1999-2000 season, Karelse was brought in to shore up a leaky defence.

If anything, they became leakier, under the Dutch goalkeeper, as Newcastle conceded four goals against Southampton and allowed Wimbledon to score three.

He made his third and final league appearance against Arsenal in October 1999.

Although he kept a clean sheet, Karelse had to rely on a spirited defensive display to keep the final score at 0-0 as he flapped many crosses and even a shot by Tony Adams. In the end, a goal-line clearance by Franck Dumas kept Karelse’s dignity.

After this, he became a regular in the Newcastle reserve team and was a transfer-listed veteran on Championship Manager.

He is now the assistant manager of NAC Breda. Such an average name; such an average career; such an average guy. The perfect definition of average.

2. Tom Peeters

Club – Sunderland (2000-2002)
Position – Midfielder
League appearances (goals) – 0 (0)
Cup appearances (goals) – 1 (0)

Peeters moved to Sunderland, from KV Mechelin, for a fee of £250,000 before the start of the 2000/2001 season.

During his four-season stay at the Statical of Light, Peeters’ only appearance was in a 3-0 League Cup victory over Luton Town.

He did become a regular goalscorer in the Sunderland reserve team, however.

Peeters later moved back to KV Mechelin (where he failed to make a single appearance in two seasons), before moving to Reselare for a season.

His current status is unknown. Peeters is so obscure, he is not even on Wikipedia.

1. Bruno Rodriguez

Club – Bradford City (1999)
Position – Striker
League appearances (goals) – 2 (0)
Cup appearances (goals) – 3 (0)

Bradford City made many overestimated foreign signings, during their time at the Premier League, such as the disastrous signings of Benito Carbone and Jorge Cadete. However, none proved more disastrous than Bruno Rodriguez.

Rodriguez was signed on a £500,000 season-long loan deal, with a view to a £3.2 million transfer.

You would think that would not be bad for someone who was described, by chairman Geoffrey Richmond, as ‘one of three or four best strikers in France.

Two brief Premier League substitute cameos, alongside terrible displays against a second-division Reading side in the League Cup, ensured that Rodriguez’s loan deal was terminated after just six weeks.

A player so average and obscure, he makes Roger Boli look like Thierry Henry.

So, there it is. While you may have your own opinions, I am sure that you will agree that these are all obscure.

Anyone is more than welcome to post their own choices on the comments section, to get a discussion going.

Keeping with the obscure footballing theme, here is a clip of the excellent Sega Saturn game ‘Sega Worldwide Soccer 97‘ with Gary Bloom commentating!


8 Responses to “The 15 most obscure Premier League imports”

    • 2 Trev
      December 14, 2009 at 6:32 pm

      Great list and brilliantly researched. What about isaac okoronkwo? Worthy of a mention?

      • December 14, 2009 at 8:49 pm

        I cannot believe that I forgot about Issac Okoronkwo. Certainly one of the most obscure imports there is. Maybe his fairly comprehensive international career (including playing at the 2002 World Cup, 2000 Olympics Games, and 2002 and 2004 African Cup of Nations) would have disqualified him from being truly obscure? He probably should be in at the expense of Silvio Maric though. Apologies for the omission.

    • 4 matt
      April 8, 2010 at 10:20 am

      I’m disappointed that john aloisi gets no mention

      • April 8, 2010 at 12:49 pm

        John Aloisi was far too good for him to ever be considered in such a list. He may be forgotten by some but he made an impact during his time in England. He scored in the World Cup as well, and was Australia’s top scorer in the 2005 Confederations Cup. A bit too well-known and liked to be included for my liking. Sorry. Thanks for the comment though.

  1. March 26, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    And some you missed – Youssef Sofiane, Sixto Peralta and Christian Bassila

    • March 27, 2010 at 12:12 am

      Youssef Sofiane and Christain Bassila are both brilliant choices; omissions that should’ve been included. Not so sure about Sixto Peralta but is obscure enough to be worth considering. I remember Sixto well from CM 01-02 :)

      It is lovely to find someone else that appreciates obscure footballers; thank you for taking the time to read the article and to make a comment. Your knowledge is awesome and your comments come very much appreciated.

  2. 8 Chris
    May 23, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Portsmouth can boast of plenty of obscure foreign players during their time in the PL: (admittedly some of these aren’t that obscure)

    Lassana Diabate
    Omar Koroma
    Valery Mezague
    Aleksander Rodic
    Collins Mbesuma
    Giannis Skopelitis
    Berlin Nlome-Ndemi (sp)?
    Azar Karadas

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