Haaland and the 10 worst debuts of all time

FT Desk
  • FT Desk
  • Updated: 3 Aug 2022 20:37 BST
  • 5 min read
FT Desk Updated: 3 Aug 2022 20:37 BST 5 min read
Erling Haaland, Man City, 2022/23

While scoring on your debut for a new club is the dream of any player, that often doesn’t happen in reality, with several stars enduring a tough start to life at a new home.

Jimmy Greaves may have scored on his debut for every team he played for until he officially retired in 1971, but the former Tottenham and England star isn’t the norm, and there are plenty of examples of players to suffer a bad debut.

FootballTransfers runs through 10 of the worst debuts of all time.

Erling Haaland - Man City, 2022

The Norway international arrived at Manchester City with a huge reputation from Borussia Dortmund, and was signed to be the player to take Pep Guardiola’s side to the next level and ensure Champions League glory.

However, his competitive debut didn’t go as planned. He was marked out of the game by Liverpool’s centre-back duo of Virgil van Dijk and Joel Matip, and missed several chances, including a guilt-edged one as the game drew to a close.

After Phil Foden’s shot was parried by Adrian, it fell to Haaland inside the box with a seemingly open goal in front of him. However, he lifted the ball and it clipped the crossbar on its way to hitting row Z in a glaring miss. Not a great start for the forward.

Saul Niguez - Chelsea, 2021

Although he’d fallen out of favour under Diego Simeone, Saul Niguez was still considered one of Europe’s most talented midfielders when he joined Chelsea on loan from Atletico Madrid for the 2021/22 campaign.

Saul Niguez, Chelsea

The Spaniard didn’t arrive as first-choice, but was given the chance to impress in his debut against Aston Villa. However, he was completely overrun by John McGinn and the Aston Villa midfield, while two stray passes almost led to Ollie Watkins finding the back of the net.

He lacked leggy and completely off the pace, and hence was hooked at half-time by Thomas Tuchel. Saul started just four more league games during his season-long loan move.

Thiago Silva - Chelsea, 2020

Just like Saul, Thiago Silva suffered an incredibly poor first Chelsea appearance, this time against West Brom.

Away at The Hawthorns, Silva was thrust into the limelight by Frank Lampard, and things didn’t go well for the veteran Brazilian. West Brom went into the half-time break three goals to the good, with Silva at fault for the second after losing possession in his own half - allowing Callum Robinson to score.

He also failed to make a single tackle and was dribbled past twice. However, goals from Mason Mount, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Tammy Abraham in the second-half rescued a point for Chelsea.

Thiago Silva for Chelsea, 2021/22

Marcos Antonio - FC Nurnberg, 2012

Marcos Antonio had already made his first appearance for FC Nurnberg, but his Bundesliga debut was one to forget. In a game against Stuttgart, Antonio was handed a start at centre-back, but inside the first 30 seconds he had passed the ball to Vedad Ibisevic to open the scoring.

He made the exact same mistake again, but it fortunately didn’t lead to a goal this time. But, Antonio was substituted after 16 minutes, never to appear in the Bundesliga again.

Gervinho - Arsenal, 2011

Just like Laurent Koscielny one year earlier, Gervinho was sent off on his Arsenal debut. The Ivorian had enjoyed a rather encouraging first appearances for Arsene Wenger’s side, but soon let Joey Barton get under his skin.

After tussling with Barton, Gervinho fell to the floor and with the Newcastle midfielder believing he had dived, Barton pulled him up by the scruff of the neck. This angered Gervinho, who struck the Englishman’s face and was shown a red card on his Gunners debut.

Lionel Messi - Argentina, 2005

Lionel Messi may have become one the world’s best ever players during an illustrious career, but his start to life as a senior Argentina international was not ideal.

Lionel Messi Argentina 2021

The forward was given his first call-up for a friendly against Hungary by manager Jose Pekerman, coming off the bench in the 63rd minute.

However, rather than impress as a substitute, Messi was instead sent off just two minutes after entering the field after a foul on Hungary’s Vilmos Vanczak. Messi was reportedly found in tears in the changing room after being sent his marching orders, but his career after that incident didn’t go too badly.

Jonathan Woodgate - Real Madrid, 2005

Jonathan Woodgate’s Real Madrid debut is perhaps the worst of all time. First of all, the Englishman had to wait over a year from the day he signed for Los Blancos to play for the first time after injury issues, and upon stepping onto the field for the club, things took a downward turn.

His debut came against Athletic Bilbao, and Woodgate netted an own goal and was sent off after receiving two yellow cards for bookable offences in a night to forget for the former Middlesbrough man.

Jason Crowe - Arsenal, 1997

Due to Lee Dixon’s presence at Arenal, Jason Crowe was forced to bide his time to be handed a chance in the first-team.

His first and only opportunity came against Birmingham City in the League Cup. Crowe came off the bench, but lasted just 33 seconds before he was sent off by referee Uriah Rennie for a challenge on Martin O’Conner.

Ali Dia - Southampton, 1996

The biggest hoax in football; Ali Dia made just one appearance for Southampton after convincing manager Graeme Souness that he was the cousin of Ballon d’Or winner George Weah.

Souness threw him in the deep end as a substitute for Matt Le Tissier against Leeds, but it became apparent that Dia was not who he said he was. He was taken off after 21 minutes, before being released by the club. Le Tissier later described the incident as “very embarrassing to watch.”

Stanley Milton - Halifax Town, 1934

By far the oldest debut, but one of the worst - Stanley Milton endured a terrible start to life as a Halifax Town goalkeeper.

With Milton between the sticks, Halifax conceded two in the first-half against Stockport County, but a romp in the second-half meant they were beaten 13-0, which is still the heaviest defeat in English football league history.

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