When it comes to being a cult hero, the performance of the player usually comes second to his antics and popularity amongst the fans. These players leave a long-lasting mark and are often spoken about long after they depart from the club. Here are the 5 biggest cult heroes of Premier League history.
Diego Forlan – Man. United
This list simply had to include a player that was a huge flop, but the fans adored him. Diego Forlan played almost 100 games for the club and managed to score only 17 goals during the stint, needing almost an entire year to score his first. But the fans fondly remember him just because of a single game performance in 2002. He scored two fast and unlikely goals against the biggest rivals, Liverpool, starting a chant that would echo for the longest times: He came from Uruguay, he made the Scousers cry, Diego, oh-oh!
Tugay Kerimoğlu – Blackburn Rovers
Tugay is an oddball and one of the most interesting players to ever step on the pitch in the UK. Signed to Blackburn from Rangers at the ripe age of 31, many fans believed he wouldn’t play a major role at the club. But the Turk went on and played 8 years for the Rovers, becoming the fourth oldest player to score in the Premier League with his final goal. He was a heavy smoker, liked to get in the ref’s face and always played with a higher intensity than most 20-year-olds. His retirement game was the first time Ewood park was sold out for the season and the fans surely hold him in the fondest of memories mere 10 years later.
Paolo Di Canio – West Ham United
Paolo Di Canio is perhaps one of the most contradictory players that ever stepped on the pitch. He played in the Premier League for 7 seasons and managed to impress both the fans and his peers while doing some pretty incredible things. He managed to become a cult hero despite receiving an 11-match ban for shoving a referee and having some pretty open racist remarks. But, he also was the actor of one of the most iconic fair-play acts in the football history. Instead of scoring an easy goal against Everton, he caught the ball and pointed out that the opposing goalkeeper was lying on the ground, injured. That video to date is one of the most iconic fair-play moments and it earned Paolo the status of the cult hero.
Robbie Fowler – Liverpool
We all know that the Steven Gerrard is the shiniest star in the Liverpool sky for the last couple of decades. But before he became that, there was Robbie Fowler. The fans loved him and he even had a special group of supporters who regarded him as the “God”. He played for the Merseyside giants for 9 years in two stints, and his lavish celebrations and the plethora of goals earned him an incredible level of popularity, especially from the Kop fans at Anfield. He is one of the few players that managed to score a perfect hat-trick (header, left-footer and a right footer). And to top it all, he managed to do it three times!
Eric Cantona – Man. United
The legend of this man is still alive, and it will be for some time to come. The first golden era of Man. United in the Premier League was marked by a Cantona transfer from Leeds in 1992. Many people regard it as the best signing Alex Ferguson ever made as Cantona would help them win 4 titles in 5 years, often scoring or setting up the crucial goals. But there was this other side to him, the wild side which made some fans cringe, but most of them adore him. He was opinionated, loud, reckless, and at times, pure mad. He was a face of the “real football” dirty, gritty and rough, but with the finesse of a world-class player and the ability that can rival the likes of Maradona and Pele. A true cult hero, not just in the United Kingdom, the entire world.