8 cult heroes you forgot played in England – from Ravanelli to Hierro
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As Fabrizio Ravanelli, one of the Premier League's greatest ever cult heroes celebrates his 53rd birthday, it's only right we take a trip down memory lane.
Over the years, England's top-flight has attracted some of the football's biggest names and has bared witness to it's fair share of unforgettable flops – and then you've also got the cult heroes.
Some players don't quite hit the lofty heights of others, but catch the eye in their own unique way, holding a special place in the hearts of their club's adoring followers while disappearing from the memories of the rest of football's fanbase.
Nicknames are earned, legendary tales are told and sometimes even songs are sung for football's favourite forgotten men.
Alongside the enigmatic Ravanelli, Daily Star Sport takes a look at some of the Premier League's other cult heroes that time, and in all likelihood, you, forgot.
Fabrizio Ravanelli – Middlesbrough
But let's start with the birthday boy himself.
Having won five titles with Juventus, including a Serie A crown in 1995, it came as quite the surprise when Ravanelli landed himself in Middlesbrough one year later.
Fresh from finding the net for The Old Lady in their 1996 Champions League final success, the Italian joined Bryan Robson's Middlesbrough for a fee of £7million and had a Premier League debut to remember.
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An opening day hat-trick against Liverpool sparked the beginning of a one-season love affair with the Teeside club as his 31 strikes in all competitions fired Boro two both domestic cup finals.
Unfortunately for the man known as the 'White Feather', Boro lost both and were relegated from the Premier League with the controversial character swiftly heading to France with Marseille.
Ravanelli did return to English shores in 2001 for another short spell, this time with a doomed Derby, where he once again succumbed to the Premier League drop.
Attilio Lombardo – Crystal Palace
Another who made the surprising jump from Juventus to one of the Premier League's not-so-bigger names is Attilio Lombardo.
The Italian international joined Crystal Palace in the summer of 1997 and became an instant hit as a debut goal against Everton was followed up by a number of classy displays.
Injuries ravaged his first-season with the Eagles and the club were subsequently relegated to the First Division after Lombardo's spell on the sidelines mirrored the South London side's demise in form.
'The Bald Eagle' remained with the club for the first half of the following campaign and established himself as a club icon, but a financial crisis meant the much-adored midfielder would see his time in England brought to a premature end.
Florent Sinama Pongolle – Liverpool
The Frenchman arrived at Anfield in the summer 2001, along with cousin Anthony Le Tallec, as a highly-rated youngster after a string of glittering performances in both the UEFA European Under-16 Championship and the FIFA Under-17 World Championship.
While the striker only featured sporadically for the Reds, he established himself as a club cult hero after netting a number of memorable goals.
On the way to Liverpool famously claiming the Champions League in 2005, Sinama Pongolle came off the bench to grab the equaliser in the thrilling 3-1 comeback win over Olympiacos in the Round of 16 and also played a part in the Reds run to 2006 FA Cup success.
With Liverpool trailing 3-1 to Luton Town in the third round that season, the French forward struck twice as the Reds completed a unforgettable 5-3 turnaround.
David Bellion – Manchester United
After suffering relegation with Sunderland following a move from Cannes in his homeland, French forward Bellion surprisingly signed for Manchester United amid allegations of "tapping up".
Despite showing early promise with strikes against both Norwich and Bolton, Bellion ultimately failed to live up to the hype – and many Thierry Henry comparisons – as he became a peripheral figure at Old Trafford.
Though he did net for the Red Devils in their 6-2 Champions League demolition of Turkish side Fenerbahce, Bellion was swiftly shipped out on loan to West Ham and beyond, managing a mere eight goals in his 40 United appearances.
Fernando Hierro – Bolton
Back in their Premier League heyday, Bolton were awash with stellar names, but one iconic figure who was often in the shadow of stars such as Jay-Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff is a certain Fernando Hierro.
The Spanish centre-back was a Real Madrid stalwart during the 1990s making more than 500 appearances on his way to claiming five La Liga titles and three Champions League trophies with Los Blancos during a 14-year stay.
The 89-time Spain international then opted to finish his fine career with a season in Bolton of all places, linking up with fellow cult hero Ivan Campo.
So adored during his one-season stint with Wanderers was Hierro, that both the club's adoring fans and manager Sam Allardyce were left broken-hearted when he opted to hang up his boots instead of staying on for a second season.
Maicon – Manchester City
The man once given a San Siro runaround by Gareth Bale back his Inter Milan days, an ageing Maicon made the surprise move to moneybags Manchester City in the summer of 2012.
Big things were expected of the Brazilian once considered the best right-back in world football, but his foray into Premier League football never did go as planned.
Injuries plagued his one season in Manchester and even when fit, a failure to displace Pablo Zabaleta in the City first-team or the injury-prone Micah Richards on the club's bench, saw the iconic Maicon muster a mere 13 appearances in sky blue heading back to Italy.
Roque Junior – Leeds
Leeds fans were licking their lips when they landed 2002 World Cup winner Roque Junior on loan from AC Milan for the 2003-04 season, however, the signing just didn't go to plan.
The Brazilian's spell in the side was short-lived as defender was firstly given his marching orders following a red card on his debut against Birmingham City.
The Whites then shipped 25 goals in his seven appearances for the club, failing to register a single win during that run, but Leeds fans will forever have his two goals against Manchester United in a 3-2 League Cup defeat to treasure.
Maxi Rodriguez – Liverpool
A free transfer from Atletico Madrid in the January of 2010, it's easy to forget Maxi Rodriguez spent a spell in the Premier League – and it was quite a successful one, too.
The Argentine midfielder hit 17 goals in 73 games with the Reds, including a particularly impressive haul of ten league strikes during the 2010-11 campaign as he won over the hearts of the Anfield faithful.
While Rodriguez only showed glimpses of his explosive talent during his time on Merseyside, there were plenty of fireworks when the retiring 40-year-old said an emotional farewell to his boyhood club side Newell's Old Boys recently, with a spectacular display taking place in the skies overhead as he left the pitch.
- Premier League
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