Huw Davies goes through each nation at Russia 2018 and assesses their very greatest and most terrible contributions to the Premier League.
Best: Andrey ‘now in Kazakhstan’ Arshavin tailed off so dramatically at Arsenal that the only possible answer is Andrei Kanchelskis, two-time title-winner with Manchester United and purveyor of skills that didn’t actually get him anywhere.
Worst: Surprisingly, only eight Russians have played in the Premier League. So, while he wasn’t awful as such, and indeed scored a pair of beauts against Manchester United and Portsmouth, we’ll pick Diniyar Bilyaletdinov for doing little to justify being the third-most expensive signing in Everton’s history at that time.
(Who wants to make themself a hero?)
Best: With respect to Ahmed Elmohamady, it’s hard to look past Mo Salah, isn’t it?
Worst: West Brom’s signing of Al Ahly’s Ahmed Hegazi last year was an unexpected stroke of genius, so in January they went double or quits on centre-backs plucked from the Egyptian leagues. Ali Gabr came in from Zamalek to keep Hegazi company, then made zero appearances as the Baggies were relegated.
Best: Gus Poyet deserves an honourable mention, and our winner’s controversies make him a less honourable one - but Luis Suarez, with his incredible goalscoring season of 2013/14 and pathological hatred of Norwich, is the Premier League’s best Uruguayan import.
Worst: A cavalcade of crap includes Charlton’s Omar Pouso and West Ham’s Walter Lopez. King turd, however, was Newcastle loanee Nacho Gonzalez, who inadvertently caused Kevin Keegan’s resignation. In the subsequent tribunal, Keegan claimed he’d been signed by director of football Dennis Wise against Keegan’s wishes and entirely on the basis of YouTube videos, which does also explain why Newcastle also paid £5m for a cat playing a piano.
Best: Cristiano Ronaldo, one of only two players in the past 50 years to win the Ballon d’Or at an English club.
Worst: Yes, Bebé is the obvious answer. But, on the basis of having his loan cancelled after a single 20-minute cameo in which he tripped over and gave Thierry Henry the match-winning goal – his first in English football – Southampton’s Marco Almeida takes home the prize.
Best: This is a tough call. For us, David Silva edges it, ahead of David de Gea, Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso and, for the sake of top-six balance, someone from Spurs. Nayim?
Worst: Another tough call – take your pick of César, Xisco, Marcelino, Juanmi, Roque Mesa, Albert Crusat, Albert Luque, Mikel Alonso, Raul Bravo, Alejandro Pozuelo, Borja Baston and Jose Angel Crespo. We’ll go for Marcelino, because he cost a fair sum and effectively Bogarded it for nearly two years at Newcastle, citing spurious injuries while sat in the reserves.
Best: The underrated gem – in his Coventry days, anyway – that was Mustapha Hadji.
Worst: If only for rivalling David ‘99 Premier League appearances?’ N’Gog in embodying how Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool squad wasn’t quite good enough, it has to be Nabil El Zhar.
Best: Of the three, let’s go with Ashkan Dejagah of Fulham, because he isn’t Andranik Teymourian.
Worst: Iranian legend Karim Bagheri and his 19 minutes playing for Charlton.