Since the start of the Premier League 30 years ago, there have been many famous comebacks over the various seasons. Perhaps the greatest have come from individual players whose careers have been turned upside down due to various factors – only to bounce back and thrive in the most competitive leagues in the world.
Here are five that set the standard on that front.
1. Christian Eriksen, Manchester United, August 2022
For many Manchester United fans, when a player with a big name, a big reputation, but a birth certificate with a disturbing date lands at Old Trafford, it’s worrying news. What do they get: a great player or a has-been? He was asked when the likes of Henrik Larsson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Alexis Sanchez came along, with mixed results.
Christian Eriksen’s summer signing and return to the big Premier League stage – with all due respect to Brentford and his stint last season – is a case where even the most skeptical United fans are ready. to give the Dane the benefit of the doubt. They’ll give him the time and space to find his feet, while everyone dwells on what could be one of the talking points of the upcoming season.
A year ago, it was not Eriksen’s career that was in danger but his life, with that dramatic collapse and cardiac arrest at Euro 2020.
His Danish teammates forming a guard of honor to protect their injured comrade from the glare of the public and the cameras, while medical personnel tried to save his life, was one of the images of the year.
At the time, asking him if he would play again or see out of his contract with Inter Milan seemed like a ridiculous question. He was more pressing to wonder if his children were going to lose their father.
United and Eriksen are keen to minimize the drama associated with his move. Following his signing, United’s website published a lengthy interview with the player from their internal media, nearly 2,000 words with barely a mention of his heart attack last year and what it means to him no only to be at United but to have a career. , to be alive.
All he said was: “From my professional background before the Euro incident, there were no plans at all to return to the UK.”
He’s grateful to Brentford for that starring job in his recovery, but a move to United, given how bleak the picture was for him a year ago, is a stunning comeback, and the challenge to return. Great again United only adds to the drama.
2. Eric Cantona, Manchester United, October 1995
When Eric Cantona (inset) rushed into the crowd at Selhurst Park and launched a kung fu kick at Crystal Palace fan Matthew Simmons after he was sent off moments earlier, it was difficult to see the Frenchman play for the club, or any club. , Again. Keeping him out of jail was the priority for people around Cantona.
What Simmons said to Cantona to provoke this reaction has been disputed: Simmons claimed in court that he simply said “Stop!” Stopped! Stopped! It’s a morning bath for you, Mr. Cantona! – the “Sir” part of it almost laughable.
Cantona claimed to have heard “F*** off back to France, you French b****rd”.
United’s initial reaction was to fire him, but they backed down, instead imposing a four-month suspension pending what football authorities and the courts had to say.
The FA made it an eight-month ban, while at Croydon Crown Court a two-week jail sentence was reduced on appeal to 150 hours of community service.
United missed out on Cantona as they lost the league title, while Alex Ferguson worked behind the scenes to prevent the Frenchman from slipping away. The player was close to quitting when he was barred from playing in a game behind closed doors and it took an emergency trip from Ferguson to Paris to meet Cantona to keep him on board.
Once his FA ban was served he was free to play again and in October 1995 he was back in the squad, claiming an assist and scoring a penalty in a 2–2 home draw to Liverpool.
“The season ultimately turned into an incredible triumph for United fans and the form Eric achieved on his return was perhaps his greatest achievement,” Ferguson would say. At just 30, Cantona retired at the end of the 1996/97 season.
3. Tony Adams, Arsenal, February 1991
Tony Adams was an England international and captain of Arsenal when he was jailed in December 1990, sentenced to four months for a drink-driving offense when he crashed his car while overtaking the legal limit.
He would serve two months and although prison was a scary experience, he and his club were determined that his career could be saved. They wasted no time in bringing Adams back into the fold.
Attendance is disputed, with figures between 7,000 and 12,000, but in any case there was overwhelming support from Arsenal at Highbury to see Adams on his return, in a reserve game against Coventry City on a Saturday afternoon in February. Once done, he was back in George Graham’s first team.
“We couldn’t figure out what the big crowd was for. Then we found out it was Tony’s first game in football, it certainly added a bit of spice. There was a great atmosphere,” Coventry player Trevor Senior told londonfootball.com of that comeback game.
Adams would go on to win three more league titles and play for the Gunners for another 10 years, but it took him a long time to face his demons.
“For 12 years I drank, and for 11 and a half years I didn’t want to quit,” Adams said. “The denial was really strong, and the consequences too, but even a stay in Chelmsford prison down the road didn’t stop me from drinking. I got out of prison, I drank and I had new conduit. Denial was still in me and I was not ready.
Now I know being fit and strong don’t make your heart 100%
4. Nwankwo Kanu, Inter Milan, September 1997
The Nigerian striker would have a great career, but it almost ended before it really started. He had just joined Inter Milan from Ajax, with a Summer Olympics gold medal in his back pocket, when a medical at Inter ahead of his debut spotted a serious heart defect in the summer of 1996.
“I didn’t know anything about it. For all these years no one had said anything about it. What can I do now?” he said at the time. A war of words has erupted between Inter and Ajax, with the Italian club blaming Ajax for failing to diagnose the disease.
Inter team doctor Piero Volpi was pessimistic about his potential to play again: “The only consolation I have as a doctor is to have discovered the disease”.
Warned he was unsure whether to play again, he underwent surgery in November 1996 and returned to Inter in April 1997, made his late debut for them in September 1997 and after one goal in 12 Serie A matches, moved to London and Arsenal in 1998.
He would play Premier League football for Arsenal, West Brom and Portsmouth, ending his career in 2012 after two league seasons with Pompey. After the operation, he won two Premier League titles and two FA Cups with the Gunners and another FA Cup medal with Pompey.
He just turned 46 today but needed a second heart surgery in 2017 when another problem arose. “Now I know that being fit and strong doesn’t make your heart 100 percent,” he said.
5 Jan Molby, Liverpool, January 1989
As clubs discovered when they tried to sign players fresh out of prison, modern life and the power of social media can turn pros who are ex-convicts into outcasts.
Liverpool took the ‘arm around the shoulder’ approach when it happened to one of their key players.
Molby had already won the league and the FA Cup with Liverpool and appeared in the Euro and World Cup finals with Denmark when he was arrested and charged with reckless driving in October 1988, serving a three-day sentence. month. At the time, Molby was injured and blamed the absence for his decision to drive drunk.
“I was driving for friends and we had been to a nightclub in central Liverpool. I had only had a few pints because I was driving,” he said.
Molby had fled to avoid a police checkpoint but was easily found the next day, as he was driving a car with Danish license plates.
Released after serving time in Kirkham and Preston prisons, he returned to the club certain that he would be sacked.
The club seemed unsure how to deal with Molby after his release, but the midfielder later said he appreciated the support of manager Kenny Dalglish, who accompanied Molby to a key meeting with the chairman of Liverpool.
“He lashed out at me asking what I was going to do about my drinking problem. Kenny stepped in to correct the president. “Jan doesn’t have a drinking problem,” he explained. “If he had, he wouldn’t have been at this club as a player.”
Dalglish helped Molby work on his fitness, which had clearly suffered from his 23-hour confinement, and he returned to the team on New Year’s Day in 1989, in a game against Manchester United.
Molby would remain at Anfield until 1995, surviving the transition to the Premier League era, winning another league and FA Cup medal.