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Salah, Martinez, De Bruyne – Five PL players allowed to leave former clubs too soon

Premier League clubs have made some regretful decisions down the years, with perhaps no feeling worse than seeing a discarded former player star in the colours of a rival side.

There’s a number of current Premier League players who have bounced back from being cast aside to impress at new clubs. We’ve looked at five players whose former sides might just regret allowing them to leave too soon.

Five Premier League players allowed to leave former clubs too soon.

Kevin De Bruyne (Chelsea)

Chelsea’s decision to allow Kevin De Bruyne to leave the club is one that still rankles in west London, with the midfielder allowed to depart after limited opportunities at Stamford Bridge.

Signed from Gent, De Bruyne was viewed as player of real promise and that view was increased after an impressive loan spell at Werder Bremen in 2012/13 that saw the midfielder named as the Bundesliga’s Young Player of the Year.

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He returned to Chelsea with hopes of becoming a first-team regular, but struggled to break into the side under Jose Mourinho. The midfielder made just nine appearances in all competitions before being sold to Wolfsburg for £18m in January 2014.

After 18 months of development in the Bundesliga, De Bruyne returned to the Premier League with a point to prove after signing for Manchester City in a £55m deal. He has since made 365 appearances for the Citizens and has established himself as an all-time great of the division.

De Bruyne has won five Premier League titles, seven domestic cups and the Champions League, while twice being named as the PFA Player of the Year and leading the league for assists on four occasions.

Mohamed Salah (Chelsea)

Chelsea again, here.

Mohamed Salah was another who failed to get opportunities under Jose Mourinho in west London, having signed from Basel in the 2014 January transfer window.

The Egyptian failed to make a lasting impression in only 19 appearances for the club and scored just twice before leaving for Roma on a permanent deal.

He returned to England to sign for Liverpool after a productive spell in Serie A and has since evolved into one of world football’s finest. Salah scored 44 goals in 52 appearances during his first season at Liverpool and has not looked back since, breaking goal records and winning a host of team and individual accolades.

Salah has been the star of a Liverpool side that has won the Premier League, Champions League, FA Cup, League Cup and Club World Cup under Jurgen Klopp, while becoming a two-time PFA Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year and a three-time Golden Boot winner.

He has scored 186 goals in 305 appearances for the Reds in all competitions and is now fifth in the club’s all-time list of record goalscorers, ahead of Steven Gerrard, Robbie Fowler and Kenny Dalglish.

Emiliano Martinez (Arsenal)

Emiliano Martinez might have spent a decade on the books at Arsenal, but there’s an argument his exit came too soon.

Martinez made just 15 league appearances for the Gunners, with his chance in the side coming only as a result of an injury to Bernd Leno. Martinez came into the side and impressed as Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2020, but was allowed to depart for Aston Villa in a £20m deal that summer after the returning Leno resumed first-choice status.

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Fast forward three seasons and Leno has been sold to Fulham after falling out of favour, while Martinez has gone from strength to strength. The Argentine broke Aston Villa’s club record for clean sheets (34) in his first 100 appearances for the club and has thrived on the international stage.

Golden Glove awards have been won at the 2021 Copa America and 2022 World Cup with Argentina victorious in each tournament, as La Albiceleste ended a 28-year wait for a major trophy to be crowned continental champions, before winning the World Cup in Qatar last winter.

His performances saw Martinez named as winner of The Best FIFA Men’s Goalkeeper award and completed a remarkable rise from perennial Arsenal loanee to one of world football’s best goalkeepers.

Wilfried Zaha (Manchester United)

Wilfried Zaha’s move to Manchester United failed to work out as anticipated, with the exciting forward restricted to just four appearances for the club in all competitions.

Zaha appeared a fine fit for the Red Devils after arriving from Crystal Palace in a £15m deal, an explosive wide-man who thrived when taking on defenders and skipped past challenges with ease.

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Zaha returned to former club Crystal Palace, initially on loan, after just 18 months at Manchester United and has since cemented his place as one of the Eagles best-ever players. He has scored 68 goals in 291 appearances in the Premier League during his second spell in South London, reaching 10+ goals in three separate league campaigns.

Regularly linked with (and priced out of) moves to England’s leading clubs, there remains a sense of what might have been had United invested in a winger with huge natural talent.

Memphis Depay, Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez and Daniel James are among the wingers United have signed since deciding Zaha was not cut out for life at Old Trafford. None of that quartet made a lasting impression.

Aleksandar Mitrovic (Newcastle)

Aleksandar Mitrovic appeared to have all the ingredients needed to be a success story at Newcastle.

A powerfully built number nine who grew up idolising Geordie goal-machine Alan Shearer, Mitrovic signed from Anderlecht in a deal worth £13m. Full of enthusiasm and aggression, he impressed during his debut campaign at St James’ Park to score nine league goals, but was unable to build on that promise and fell out of favour.

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A loan move to Fulham helped kick-start the stuttering career of the Serbian and he has since earned iconic status at Craven Cottage. Mitrovic has scored 111 goals in 205 games for the west Londoners, earning the Fulham Player of the Year award on two occasions.

After doubts over his ability to fire consistently in the top-flight, he scored 14 league goals in just 23 league starts as Fulham cruised to Premier League safety last season. Serbia’s all-time record goalscorer, he has netted 52 goals in 81 games at international level.

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