One Season Wonders in Football: Relive the Craziness That Failed to Repeat

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 30. prosinca 2023.

Greatness is mostly defined by consistency. It's hard to argue with such an approach too. But if we look at the sport as entertainment, well then the wild rides that are one season wonders in football are equally enjoyable and memorable. It’s as the candidate for all-time greatness, Erling Haaland, said for one of the men we'll list below - "the streets remember."

The thing that makes one season wonders in football so special is that no one knows they are one-season wonders until a few years after they burst onto the scene.

Harry Kane was mocked as a one season wonder by the chanting opposing fans in his breakout year, yet that didn’t really age well, did it?

Michu (Swansea City) - 2012/2013 season

Michu 2013.jpg
By Benjamin Blackler - Michu Uploaded by Dudek1337, CC BY 2.0, Link

Let’s get this over with. Everybody thinks of Michu madness when one season wonders in football get mentioned! It can be freely said that the Premier League season 2012/2013 was mostly marked in the media by the Spaniard’s cannonade to introduce himself to the English football fans. Even though that was the last year Sir Alex Ferguson was at the helm of Manchester United.

Michu's case of one season wizardry also perfectly illustrates a common theme amongst his fellow inconsistent magicians - he didn't arrive for a lot of money. If he did, he would be remembered as a flop, not a one season wonder.

Swansea City was a season away from competing in the Championship and acquired the unknown Spaniard from Rayo Vallecano for only €2,570,000. After spending only one season in the top rank, playing in the second and third Spanish tier previously. His crazy start ignited the hype - a brace on his Premier League debut, along with an assist. The second game - one of each. Scoring in his third game of the season as well! Awaiting the other half of the season with 13 goals already, Michu was on fire! His total tally across all competitions 22 goals in 43 games, with five assists.

Bagging "only" five league goals in the second half of the campaign and then an injury-riddled following season where he played in 17 league games and scored only four time deflated the hype. Michu was loaned out to Napoli and then quickly returned to the third division.

Krzysztof Piatek (Genoa & Milan) - 2018/2019 season

Krzysztof Piatek

Possibly even the world's biggest marketing agencies can learn a thing or two from Krzysztof Piatek's one season wonder. A very unusual one season wonder, because Piatek changed clubs during it. Piatek ended up having a solid career for a pro, yet after his 2018/2019 season, it seemed that Poland would have a massive one-two punch with him and Robert Lewandowski.

Arriving from Poland's Ekstraklasa to Genoa in the summer of 2018 for €4,500,000, Piatek had some hopes behind him. Yet no one expected the striker to explode as he did, scoring in all of the first seven Serie A games of the season! Getting two braces! All with his signature guns-blasting celebration that made him a true viral sensation! Finishing the half season with 13 league goals before Genoa profited €30,500,000 with a sale to Milan.

Then Piatek scored five goals in his first five league matches for Milan too! Finishing the half-season with nine goals total. He had a fertile year in the Italian Cup as well, eight goals in five matches. Even Poland's NT got infested with the hype, as he scored four in his first six for the country!

Yet the following half-season yielded only four goals for Piatek and Rossoneri quickly cut their losses selling him for €11,000,000 less than they've bought him the winter prior. At Hertha, Fiorentina, and Salernitana - the pole failed to score over seven goals a season - in all competitions! Now he plays for Istanbul Basaksehir. If anyone rejoiced for his short stint at the top, it's the commentators, with one of the most Polish names ever.

Sandro Ramirez (Malaga) - 2016/2017 season

Sandro Ramirez

"La Masia product" in a player's CV raises the eyebrows of recruitment teams as much as great statistics. Sandro Ramirez had both after the 2016/2017 season and buyers were lining up. Even for those standards of 2017, the move for €6,000,000 was a great piece of business. Everton didn't suffer much financially, but their fans did, hoping they got their own Fernando Torres from Spain.

Sandro got some chances with Barca, scoring seven in 32 as an afterthought. But in his only season with Malaga, he scored 16 goals in 30 games, alongside five assists! Yet for Everton - 16 games total across three seasons and a mere single goal. Loans, of course, back to Spain. There he changed six more clubs, scoring more than four in total, only when he was in the second division.

Luka Jović (Eintracht Frankfurt) - 2018/2019 season

Luka Jović

A big asterisk next to this one as Luka Jovic still just turned 26 and is playing for the seven-time champions of Europe. Scoring a bit in succession at the end of 2023. But it's hard to imagine he'll ever be a €63,000,000 player again, or near it. Luka Jovic was hyped before he was old enough to drink, Benfica invested in those high hopes yet Luka barely played. He was loaned out to Eintracht Frankfurt for the 2017/2018 season. Doing fairly well, nine goals in 27 appearances.

Yet the following year was the storm that dazzled everyone. Including Real Madrid scouts. Starting off very strongly - scoring seven in his first six Bundesliga matches. Including a five-goal cannonade against Dusseldorf. But Luka wasn't just impressing in Germany, that year Frankfurt walked through the Europa League, stopping only in the semis when Chelsea placed its rich foot down. Luka scored 10 goals in that campaign! In total, he bagged 27 goals in 48 matches with seven assists.

Yet he bit off more than he could chew, lost the focus while looking at Karim Benzema's back at Santiago Bernabeu and he scored only three goals for Los Blancos. A loan back to where he found his grove didn't help, and after Eintracht, Fiorentina and Milan got the hot potato. Rossoneri are still hopeful, though.

It's worth noting that he shelled out the same year as the pistol-wielding Piatek. Maybe there was something in the air... Or the boxes at least.

Marcus Stewart (Ipswich Town) - 2000/2001 season

Marcus Stewart 30-04-2016 1.jpg
By Mattythewhite - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Cristiano Ronaldo only once scored more than 18 goals in a Premier League season. Same as Marcus Stewart. The English centre-forward played for Bristol Rovers in the second and third rank of English football, before moving to Ipswich - then in the second tier. Helping the team win promotion, he scored fewer goals in that year than in his first with the big boys!

In 34 games, he bagged 19 goals! With Ipswich! Only Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink outscored him, while Thierry Henry and Michael Owen looked at his back.

Yet the fairytale didn't progress onwards, in the next campaign, Stewart only counted to six. Another PL season ensued, only with Sunderland - just one goal in 19 games. Top-rank life was over and Steward did have a couple of good years in the Championship, but he's cemented as one of the Premier League one season wonders.

Grafite (Wolfsburg) - 2008/2009 season

Grafite beim Training (cropped).jpg
By Dernico - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

At the time it seemed as if we were looking at two equal greats in the making. Yet only one of the memorable duo Edin Dzeko - Grafite finds his place among one-season wonders in football. The other is perhaps underrated by many, yet undeniably great.

Grafite however, ironed his cult status that year. Spearheading the last Bundesliga title not won by Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund (one of these clubs is doing most of the heavy lifting here) the Brazilian-Bosnian duo was unplayable.

Grafite wasn't bad in his other three Wolfsburg seasons upon arriving from Le Mans. Getting 12, 18, and 10 goals in his first, third, and fourth campaign amongst the Wolves. But that second one made every football fan, even those unbothered by the Bundesliga, know his name.

Perhaps because of that one goal where he danced the samba (not a lazy exaggeration, check the tape) around Bayern Munich's whole backline to humiliate them with a backheel, but Grafite was an even bigger star than the future Man City striker.

In 25 league games, Grafite scored 28 goals and made seven assists. In 31 total games that year his tally was even wilder with 35 goals and 10 assists! Erling Haaland level. Yet after two more solid, yet unimpressive seasons, Grafite decided it was time for a payday - moving to UAE in 2011.

Michael Ricketts (Bolton Wanderers) - 2001/2002 season

Ricketts, Michael.jpg
By Jonesy702 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

While 12 goals in a Premier League season isn't on the level of other one season wonders in football we listed, it's very worth noting that it was his debut PL season and that Michael Ricketts earned an England call-up from it. Unfortunately, it remained his lone cap.

Starting his career in the third division, Rickets helped bring in Bolton into the elite with a strong showing in the second division. So when he continued his goalscoring tally into the Premiership, the hype was strong. Yet it wained into the new season with Ricketts bagging only six goals in his next season. Onwards, he scrapped only a handful of goals and moved down the tiers back.

Saido Berahino (West Bromwich Albion) - 2014/2015 season

Saido Berahino 8886 (15632059695).jpg
By Warwick Gastinger - Saido Berahino 8886, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link

Perhaps a name far too familiar to be a one season wonder? Well Saido Berahino's transfer sagas sufficiently surpassed their suggested expiration date. If one were to follow only the writings of the rumour mill, he would've thought that Saido was the Premier League's next best thing.

Saido came up through WBA's youth team and then played the full 2013/2014 season from the get-go. With a solid return, 32 games, five PL goals. But in the following year, Saido got 14 goals in 38 league matches. Scoring another five and making five assists in four FA Cup matches. All in all, a season of 45 games, 20 goals, and six assists in the League Cup. Yet Saido failed to come close to it in the next season - just four PL goals. So WBA sold him in the winter of 2017 for far less than they'd hoped for €13,400,000.

Perhaps losing motivation because he fell from dreamland, Saido struggled even more at Stoke City, dropping to the second tier, and then going to Belgium. Firstly with Zulte Waregam, then with Charleroi, only to end up in League One by 2021. Now, he's 30 years old and playing in Cyprus.

Michael Bridges (Leeds United) - 1999/2000 season

Michael Bridges April 2019
By Western Sydney Wanderers FC - Leeds United legend Michael Bridges and Jordan O'Doherty countdown 100 days until match , CC BY 3.0, Link

Injuries wrote this tale more than anything, but Michael Bridges can both fall into the "what could've been?" and "one season wonders" categories. With the latter a bit more flattering, as at least wonders leave a mark. Bridges' was the 19 goals he scored in 34 games for Leeds United! On level with Andy Cole, ahead of Thierry Henry and Paolo Di Canio. With three assists and other four goal involvements in the UEFA Cup.

Coming from a player who scored three PL goals in his previous season for Sunderland. Yet injuries decimated Bridge's Leeds United adventure and he has scrapped for games over the next three seasons, not scoring once until the 2004/2005 campaign! Bridges dropped down to the fourth tier to have his other best season, yet even in League Two he couldn't match his tally from the 1999/2000 PL season.

Vincent Janssen (AZ Alkmaar) - 2015/2016 season

Vincent Janssen

Is it really a one season wonder if its a striker coming from Eredivisie? That seems to be the norm. Yet maybe the case of Vincent Janssen is the best example of this well-known phenomenon. Janssen's story started out inspirationally, with a Feyenoord reject starting in the second Dutch division, impressing there, before making a switch to AZ for just half a million. A gamble. It paid off big time.

Janssen scorched the Eredivisie defences in his debut season, scoring 27 goals in 34 games, and becoming the season's top goalscorer. Tottenham was quite happy with their previous Eredivisie purchases at the time, so they splashed €22,000,000 on a man who was to be Harry Kane's understudy. Sort of a striker's saving for a rainy day.

Janssen played in 27 Premier League games that season, scoring twice. Six in 38 his return for all competitions. It's unsurprising that a loan followed. Far away, to Turkey. But not compared to Janssen's next destination - Mexico, with THFC at least getting €9,000,000 back. Somehow. Yet Vincent, although he scored seven in his 22 caps for the national team, failed to impress there too. Only in his return to Europe, the 2022/2023 season saw a glimpse of the game that introduced him.


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