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Four Premier League footballers who fell upwards this season

There’s a common consensus on how football transfers work. A player performs well at a club, attracts attention, and earns a move to a bigger club. Likewise, a player performs poorly, falls out of favour, and leaves for a lesser side.

There are, however, exceptions to every rule and this season we’ve seen several cases of Premier League players falling upwards in terms of transfers.

Kepa Arrizabalaga

Kepa Arrizabalaga never quite convinced at Chelsea. The expectation of his world-record price tag weighed like a millstone around the Spaniard’s neck, with Kepa’s five seasons in west London punctuated by losses of form and favour.

After two shaky seasons at Chelsea, the arrival of Edouard Mendy condemned the 29-year-old to a status of second-choice at Stamford Bridge. He made just 11 league appearances in the 2020/21 and 2021/22 campaigns combined, before a brief return to favour last season.

However, Chelsea agreed deals to sign Djordje Petrovic and Robert Sanchez (effectively Brighton’s third-choice goalkeeper at the time of that switch) to boost their goalkeeping stocks, leaving Kepa’s future uncertain.

Who should come calling? European royalty.

Thibaut Courtois’ ACL injury saw Real Madrid swoop to sign the Spanish shot-stopper, who swapped mid-table mediocrity for La Liga and Champions League challenges at the Bernabeu. Despite losing favour in recent weeks, he’s made 18 appearances in all competitions for Carlo Ancelotti’s side.

Matheus Nunes

Wolves signed Matheus Nunes in a club-record deal from Sporting Lisbon in 2022, with the arrival of the Portugal international considered a coup at Molineux. Nunes had been hailed as one of the best players in the world by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola the previous season, a glowing reference from one of football’s finest minds.

Nunes endured a mixed campaign at Wolves, however, scoring just once and providing one assist in 35 league appearances. Though there were flashes of the elite ball-carrying that persuaded Wolves to spend big on his services, there was still surprise when Manchester City came calling.

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Guardiola spent £53m to add Nunes to his midfield options at the Etihad, though the Spaniard has similarly been unable to coax the consistent best from the 25-year-old. Nunes has started just six league games since signing for the champions in the summer.

Kai Havertz

When Kai Havertz departed Chelsea in the summer there were not too many overly disappointed to see him leave. The German had his moments in a Chelsea shirt, most notably a famous winner in the 2021 Champions League final, but too often flattered to deceive.

A lack of a clear role and consistency meant surprise over his exit was minimal. The surprise, however, was in the destination. Arsenal agreed to a £65m deal to bring Havertz across the capital, a decision which in the early weeks of the campaign saw Mikel Arteta come under fire.

Havertz took time to settle in north London and many believed Arsenal had fallen victim to the same fate as Chelsea. A player full of talent, but who remained an enigma.

Arteta has since integrated Havertz into his plan and the 24-year-old has found his niche with forward runs that opposition teams have struggled to pick up. He has seven goals and three assists in a free-scoring Arsenal team, silencing some of the doubts that greeted his arrival.

Eric Dier

Ange Postecoglou’s appointment as Tottenham manager spelt the end of Eric Dier’s time with the club, with the defender frozen out in north London.

Dier featured for just 198 minutes in the Premier League over the first half of the season, hardly the normal prelude to a move to a European giant. Bayern Munich approached Spurs to sign Dier in January and struck a deal to bring the centre-back in on loan.


The 30-year-old reunited with former Tottenham teammate Harry Kane at the Bundesliga champions and has since made seven league appearances.

From the sidelines at Spurs to a Champions League contender, it appears Dier has tripped to the top.

Read – Four talking points ahead of the Champions League action

See more – Iconic Performances: The night Bale announced his genius

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