Relegation- the most feared word in football. Nothing compares to the anguish of ultimately coming short after a long slog of a season.
But the feeling isn’t just reserved for the have nots. Some of football’s elite have also had to deal with the pain of relegation.
We’re not just talking about ageing veterans either. These 15 players suffered the drop while they were still either at the height of their powers or with their whole careers ahead of them.
1 Dixie Dean (Everton)
This might come as a shock, but football didn’t just start with the Premier League in 1992. Back in 1930 Dixie Dean was relegated to the Second Division with Everton despite scoring 25 goals in 27 games. Like the true blue he was he stayed with the club and scored 48 goals in 42 games to fire the club back to the First Division at the first time of asking.
2 Franco Baresi (Milan)
Relegated not once, but twice with Milan during the ’80s. The first relegation in 1980 was due to match fixing, but the second, in 1982, was purely sporting. Baresi did get back to the top, however, winning Serie A a further five times, plus picking up three European Cups. Not too shabby.
3 Oliver Bierhoff (Ascoli)
Bierhoff dealt in goals. But he also had to deal with relegation from Serie A with Ascoli during the 1991/92 season. He stayed till 1995 before moving on to bigger and better things, in Udinese and Milan, where he lifted the title in 1999.
4 Roy Keane (Nottingham Forest)
Despite being the ‘hottest prospect in football’, according to Brian Clough, Keane suffered relegation with Nottingham Forest in 1993. Relegation opened the door for a move to Man United for a then British transfer record of £3.75million.
5 Gabriel Batistuta (Fiorentina)
Batigol suffered the ignominy of relegation in 1993 with Fiorentina, but 16 goals under the tutelage of a certain Claudio Ranieri helped the club back into Serie A. His first season back in Italy’s top flight was majestic, as he plundered 26 goals to finish as top scorer.
6 Georgi Kinkladze (Man City)
Ask a Citeh fans who the best player ever to turn out for the club is and you’re likely to hear two answers, David Silva and Georgi Kinkladze. The latter lit up Maine Road before City were relegated in 1996, with the magical Georgian staying with the club until he was sold to Ajax in 1998.
7 Juninho Paulista (Middlesbrough)
The Little Fella broke down in tears when Middlesbrough were relegated on the final day of the 1996/97 season. But he returned for a further two spells on Teesside, certifying his status as a true club legend.
8 Fabrizio Ravanelli (Middlesbrough)
While not quite reaching the levels of admiration as Juninho, Ravanelli’s one and only full season with Boro saw him score 31 goals in all competitions, before he scuttled off to Marseille post relegation.
9 Marcos (Palmeiras)
Talking about Brazilian club legends, Marcos is so revered by Palmeiras fans that they call him ‘Saint Mark’. He turned down a proposition from Arsenal after winning the 2002 World Cup to stay and ply his trade in the second tier of Brazilian football.
10 Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Malmo)
Zlatan celebrated signing professional terms as a teenager with Malmo by tasting relegation. That led to the infamous Arsenal trial, where Ibrahimovic snarled that ‘Zlatan doesn’t do auditions’ and swiftly turned Arsene Wenger down.
11 Paolo Di Canio (West Ham)
West Ham’s side that got relegated from the Premier League in 2003 was oozing with class. English youngsters Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe, Joe Cole and Lee Bowyer all played, but the real star was Di Canio. The Italian didn’t stay with West Ham after the drop, moving to Charlton and then boyhood club Lazio.
12 Mark Viduka (Leeds)
Scored a very respectable 11 goals in his final season as a Leeds player but went out on a low, being sent off on the day the club were resigned to relegation.
13 Alessandro Del Piero (Juventus)
Del Piero was demoted rather than relegated after Juventus were implemented in a match fixing scandal in 2006. He captained the side in Serie B, top scoring with 20 goals as the side were promoted back to the top flight.
14 Lukas Podolski (FC Koln)
Podolski loves Koln. So much so that he stayed with the club after they were relegated from the Bundesliga in 2004, even though he was one of the brightest prospects in world football.
15 Marcos Senna (Villarreal)
The underrated heart of Spain’s Euro 2008 triumph suffered relegation with Villarreal in 2012 but did the honourable thing and helped the club back to La Liga before joining New York Cosmos. You stay classy Marcos!