Joao Felix, Evra, Saul Niguez and the worst Premier League debuts ever

A Premier League debut is a daunting prospect for even the most seasoned professional footballers.

The intensity of the league, the expectation of the fans, the scrutiny on social media: all of it can weigh heavy on new players’ shoulders.

And there have been plenty of disastrous debuts for those unprepared or simply overawed by the occasion.

In light of Joao Felix’s nightmare debut on Thursday, here are 11 of the worst debuts in the division’s history.

Joao Felix – Chelsea
A debut that started and ended in controversy, Joao Felix won’t be forgetting his first match for Chelsea in a hurry.

The 23-year-old was drafted in on loan from Atletico Madrid amid an ever-growing injury list at the club, and it was this same lack of offensive firepower that saw him start against Fulham just a day after signing.

In a first half that showed moments of brilliance – including a smart flick through the legs of Tim Ream in the opening minutes – the second turned into one of disaster.

Fired up from Chelsea’s equaliser just after the break, Felix went in high on Cottagers right-back Kenny Tete, and was promptly shown a straight red card by referee David Coote for his troubles.

In all, less than 58 minutes of Premier League football for the Portugal man, who was forced to miss his next three matches as a result.

Saul Niguez – Chelsea
Saul’s first game for Chelsea set the tone for his brief stint in London.

The Spaniard, signed on loan from Atletico Madrid in 2021, was handed his maiden Premier League start against Aston Villa.

So inept was his performance, though, that Thomas Tuchel chose to take him off at half-time. Wayward passes were the theme of the day for Saul as one Chelsea fan labelled his performance as ‘garbage’.

A warm welcome to the Premier League, then.

Patrice Evra – Manchester United
By the end of his United career, few people were concerned by Evra’s less than impressive Premier League debut.

The Frenchman quickly established himself as one of the most consistent performers in the division, winning title after title over eight years at Old Trafford.

Few would have predicted that outcome after his debut. Evra was run ragged in a Manchester derby defeat, revealing later that he had been vomiting before kick-off.

A pre-match meal of pasta and beans and a lack of experience with lunch time matches proved a recipe for disaster.

Evra quickly adapted to life in the Premier League, though, putting his dodgy debut behind him.

Gervinho – Arsenal
It doesn’t get much worse than a straight red card on your debut.

But that was the ignominy Gervinho suffered on his first outing as an Arsenal player.

In fairness, most would forgive a newcomer being riled up by the antics of Joey Barton.

The Newcastle midfielder and Arsenal debutant got themselves into a scrap and the latter caught Barton with a flailing right arm.

Inevitably, he milked it by collapsing to the ground, and Gervinho was dismissed.

Ali Dia – Southampton
If any Premier League footballers suffer with imposter syndrome, they merely need to watch some footage of Ali Dia’s debut for Southampton in 1996.

The Senegalese forward arrived having been recommended to Saints boss Graeme Souness by someone pretending to be George Weah.

Southampton chose to take a punt on the relatively unknown striker, offering him a one-month contract, under the assumption that he had starred for PSG previously and featured for Senegal’s national team.

He had done neither, and when it came to his debut against Leeds, Dia was hopelessly out of his depth. Souness hooked him before full-time and he was never seen again.

Laurent Koscielny – Arsenal
Another Arsenal debutant who proved overzealous and managed to get himself sent off.

Laurent Koscielny was also stretchered off at one point during his first Premier League against Liverpool, but quickly recovered and continued to play.

But soon after he had no choice but to leave the pitch, shown a red card for a rash challenge that earned him a second yellow card.

Emmanuel Frimpong – Arsenal
What is it with Arsenal players and red cards on their debuts?

The eccentric Frimpong, just like Koscielny, picked up two yellow cards on his first Premier League outing, coincidentally also against Liverpool.

Arsenal went on to lose 2-0 in what proved to be one of Arsene Wenger’s most difficult periods as manager of the club.

Dimitri Foulquier – Watford
‘Who?’ you might ask. Even Watford fans might have trouble remembering Dimitri Foulquier.

The Hornets seem to have an endless carousel of players and the French right-back was out the door before he had time to make any sort of impression.

He did, however, make his debut in an 8-0 humiliation at Manchester City in 2019.

Foulquier was withdrawn just 33 minutes into the game with his side 5-0 down. Not a great start, then.

Thiago Silva – Chelsea
A stalwart at the back for PSG, a constant for Brazil, seasoned and composed, a consumate professional.

That was the impression Premier League fans had of Thiago Silva before his move to Chelsea in 2020. And it was accurate.

Still, though, the centre-back seemed entirely unprepared by the ferocity of his first Premier League match. He was all at sea as West Brom cut the Blues apart and led 3-0 by the break.

That humbling seemed to do nothing more than refocus Silva, who has been at his unflappable best ever since.

Christian Negouai – Manchester City

Before the money arrived, Man City’s most exciting signings were shrewd acquisitions for a little over £1 million.

Back in 2001, there was some expectation around the arrival of midfielder Christian Negouai, who had been hyped up by manager Kevin Keegan.

But his Premier League debut lasted just three minutes. A dangerous challenge on Everton’s Marcus Bent resulted in a red card, and Negouai never featured in the top flight again.

Garry Flitcroft – Blackburn
The general theme of this list is that getting sent off on a debut is an unwanted but strangely common occurrence.

Garry Flitcroft’s red card was perhaps the worst of them, mainly because of who was on the wrong end of it.

The young midfielder, just a few minutes into his Premier League debut for Blackburn, caught Duncan Ferguson of all people with a flying elbow.

Fortunately, Ferguson was in forgiving mood and Flitcroft escaped the stadium with his life.