The Great Debate: Who is the PL's best ever big name cult icon?

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Lewis Ambrose

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James Rodríguez at Everton, who would have thought it?

And his debut was pretty fantastic too. But he isn’t the first big name to surprisingly end up at a club that isn’t exactly fighting for the Premier League title.

So who is the greatest icon to surprisingly earn Premier League cult status outside one of the very best clubs?


Lewis Ambrose

Can you believe Dimitri Payet spent just one-and-a-half seasons at West Ham? And what a mesmerising time it was.

The Rabona assist against Watford. THAT solo goal against Middlesbrough. An impossible-looking free-kick against Crystal Palace, or the long-range one at Old Trafford.

The Frenchman was not only one of the best players in the league in an otherwise average team, but he was also a pure joy to watch.


Dan Burke

Some brilliant players rocked up at Bolton Wanderers during the Sam Allardyce and my favourite was Jay Jay Okocha, who was so good they named him twice.

The Nigerian trickster was mesmerising to watch and must have been a nightmare to play against on his day. His goal against West Ham to save Bolton from relegation in 2003 sticks in the mind.

They don’t make ’em like Jay Jay any more.


Phil Costa

If your answer here isn’t Michu, then you’re doing cult heroes wrong.

Swansea signed the 26-year-old from Rayo Vallecano and nobody knew much about him, but he quickly became one of the Premier League’s most clinical strikers – with an iconic celebration to boot.

Erling Haaland loves him which tells you everything you need to know.


Matt Frohlich

When a player is known for his goal celebration as much as his ability, he’s got all the makings for a cult hero.

Enter World Cup winner Jurgen Klinsmann. His goalscoring exploits for Spurs over two spells not only saved the club from relegation in 1998 and his diving celebration became a frequent occurrence in front of the adoring Spurs fans.

Combine this with his sense of humour and playing style, it was difficult for anyone not to like him.


Séamus Leonard

You’ve played for Milan, Barcelona and Marseille, and you’ve got World Cup and European Championship winners’ medals in your back pocket. Where to spend the twilight of your career? Why, Birmingham City of course!

Christophe Dugarry was a shock arrival at St Andrew’s on loan in 2003. His Gallic swagger and five goals in 16 games would prove crucial in helping Steve Bruce’s Blues stave off the threat of relegation. He’s spend one more year at the club before leaving.

A short but very sweet stint for Monsieur Dugarry was more than enough to make him a legend at Birmingham and see him inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.


Alex Mott

Before Roman Abramovich’s oil money came rolling in, that Chelsea were nothing more than an average Premier League club set amongst the posh surrounds of west London. Gianfranco Zola’s arrival from Napoli changed all that.

Signed from Serie A at a point when the English top division was a joke amongst those on continental Europe, Zola – alongside luminaries like Eric Cantona and Dennis Bergkamp – totally changed the way people saw the game in Britain.

There are too many highlights to mention, but *that* back-heel flick against Norwich still amazes.


Joel Sanderson-Murray

A Brazilian World Cup winner bringing flair and beauty to Teeside. Juninho was the original OG, a mercurial ‘no.10’ that had rarely been seen in England before his arrival.

His return of 33 goals in 165 appearances for Middlesbrough was a solid return but he achieved ‘cult hero’ status in the north east for the magic he produced on the pitch.


Pádraig Whelan

What is it about West Ham? They’ve had more than their fair share of cult icons.

I’m opting for Carlos Tevez, who surprisingly rocked up at Upton Park for the 2006/07 season (with his pal Javier Mascherano) despite his reputation as one of South America’s brightest talents.

He stayed just one season but after a slow start, won the club’s Hammer of the Year award, helped by his final day winner at Old Trafford to keep the Hammers up.