Remembering Successful Defenders Who Wound Down Their Careers With Premier League Cameos

Michel Salgado
Blackburn Rovers v Wolverhampton Wanderers – Premier League | Chris Brunskill/Getty Images

The news that Paris Saint-Germain captain Thiago Silva won’t be extending his stay in the French capital beyond this season has stirred interest among a number of Premier League clubs.

Arsenal, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Everton, Newcastle and West Ham are all said to be keen on luring the Brazil international to England. With Silva set to turn 36 this September, the quintet are seemingly undeterred by the defender entering the twilight of his career.

Despite being home to some of the greatest players on the planet at the peak of their powers, the Premier League is no stranger to players embarking on late cameos as the curtain begins to fall on their time at the top.

Some have arrived with pound signs in their eyes as they seek one final pay day, while some have gone on to become club legends – despite their brief stay in England’s top flight.

While the nous and footballing brain of these elder statesmen is unquestionable, often the athletic ability of a player entering his final few years at the top is cause for concern.

So just how often does the gamble pay off?

Let’s have a look…

Man Utd v Boavista XMan Utd v Boavista X
Blanc celebrates a rare high point in his Manchester United career | Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

When Jaap Stam departed Manchester United in 2001, Sir Alex Ferguson delved into the transfer market looking to replace him with an equally tough, tenacious and imposing figure…but instead he signed Laurent Blanc.

The 35-year-old had enjoyed a trophy-laden career, picking up numerous pieces of silverware in both France and Spain. Despite proving instrumental in France’s successful World Cup campaign just three years prior, the centre back found the Premier League to be a bridge too far at that point in his career.

Blanc retired after two indifferent seasons in England.

Success Rating: 3/10

Fernando HierroFernando Hierro
Former Real Madrid man Hierro in action for Bolton Wanderers | Michael Steele/Getty Images

Sam Allardyce seemed to develop a knack for luring superstars of the game to what was then the Reebok Stadium, and Hierro was arguably his biggest coup.

The heart of the Real Madrid and Spain defences for many seasons, Hierro arrived in the Premier League at the tender age of 36.

The three-time Champions League winner proved that class is permanent as he enjoyed a stellar campaign, helping Bolton Wanderers to their highest Premier League finish of sixth. Despite calls to continue for another year, Hierro called it a day after just one season in England.

Success Rating: 8/10

Salgado thunders into a challenge with Manchester City's Aleksandar KolarovSalgado thunders into a challenge with Manchester City's Aleksandar Kolarov
Salgado thunders into a challenge with Manchester City’s Aleksandar Kolarov | AFP PHOTO/Getty Images

One of Hierro’s Real Madrid teammates and another Allardyce masterstroke.

Salgado spent ten fruitful years at Santiago Bernabeu before swapping Madrid for Blackburn Rovers.

The 34-year-old would go on to become something of a cult hero in Lancashire, turning back the clock to produce some solid performance.

After three seasons at Ewood Park and with Blackburn dropping into the second tier, the former Spain international called time on a decorated career. His spell at the club will no doubt see him live long in the hearts of Rovers fans.

Success Rating: 8/10

Diego LuganoDiego Lugano
Lugano endured a torrid spell at West Bromwich Albion | Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

32-year-old Lugano was brought to the Premier League in 2013 by Steve Clarke.

With five league titles and a Club World Cup under his belt, the former PSG man looked a solid purchase by a club desperately searching for Premier League solidarity.

Unfortunately, the move proved to be ill-judged. The Uruguay international would make just nine league appearances for the Baggies that season and was heading for the Hawthorns exit door after just a year at the club.

However, he did still make it into the Uruguay World Cup squad later that season.

Success Rating: 2/10

Chelsea's Brazilian  defender Juliano BeChelsea's Brazilian  defender Juliano Be
Chelsea defender Belletti against Roma in the Champions League | ALBERTO PIZZOLI/Getty Images

31-year-old Belletti may not quite have been nearing retirement when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2007, but his best days were certainly behind him.

Having spent three successful seasons at Barcelona, the two-time La Liga winner wasted no time in endearing himself to the Chelsea faithful, with his long-range efforts becoming a highlight of his time at the club.

Belletti would spend three fruitful years in the capital before returning to his native Brazil with Fluminense.

Success Rating: 6/10

Thomas HelmerThomas Helmer
Helmer would make just two Premier League appearances | David Rogers/Getty Images

Helmer signed for newly-promoted Sunderland in 1999 – despite a reported contract offer from Liverpool.

The 34-year-old arrived with a world-class pedigree, having spent seven years at Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.

However, the former Germany international’s time in England was short-lived. After boss Peter Reid declared the centre back’s ‘legs had gone’, Helmer was shipped off to Hertha Berlin on loan having made just two league appearances. He announced his retirement once his loan spell had ended.

Success Rating: 0/10

Having spent two years together at Spanish side Málaga, Manuel Pellegrini and Demichelis were reunited at Manchester City in 2013.

With City desperately searching for a solid centre-back partner for Vincent Kompany, the 32-year-old Argentina international proved he wasn’t up to the task.

Despite his three-year stay in England gleaning a Premier League winner’s medal, the former Bayern Munich man’s spell was littered with errors, and he was offloaded to Espanyol in 2016.

Success Rating: 2/10

Thomas HelvegThomas Helveg
Helveg spent just one season in the Premier League | Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Former Milan defender Helveg was something of a scalp for newly-promoted Norwich City when he arrived at Carrow Road in 2004.

It was hoped the 33-year-old would offer some solidarity to the Canaries backline, though such qualities failed to materialise.

Helveg lost his place in the starting XI in the opening weeks of the season, and after featuring in little over half of their league fixtures, the Denmark international was heading for pastures new with Norwich condemned to life back in the second tier.

Success Rating: 2/10

Dean Ashton, Michael ReizigerDean Ashton, Michael Reiziger
Reiziger tussles with Norwich forward Dean Ashton | Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Reiziger was part of an ageing-superstars revolution at Middlesbrough in the early 2000s, joining household names such as Boudewijn Zenden and Gaizka Mendieta at the Riverside.

The 31-year-old arrived from Barcelona with four league titles, a Champions League and a UEFA Cup to his name.

Unfortunately, his time on Teesside was plagued by the injury problems that had marred his career, appearing in less than half of Boro’s fixtures in his first campaign. He would head back to his native Holland after just a single season at the club.

Success Rating: 3/10

UEFA Champions League - Borussia Dortmund v Manchester CityUEFA Champions League - Borussia Dortmund v Manchester City
Maicon struggled to dislodge Pablo Zabaleta at City | VI-Images/Getty Images

Another player who had endured an injury-ravaged career but was hoping for a late renaissance.

31-year-old Maicon was signed by his former Inter boss Roberto Mancini in 2012, but he struggled to displace the ever-consistent Pablo Zabaleta at right back.

Much of his time at City was either spent on the treatment table or on the bench, and he headed back to Serie A after a year, having only made 13 appearances in English football.

Success Rating: 1/10


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