Top Five: Teams ‘too good’ to be relegated but were

Newcastle United appear to be staring relegation from the Premier League in the face, but they would not be the only team to drop a division when they had the talent to excel. 

During the last twelve months, the Magpies have broken the £10million barrier for a player on no less than five occasions. Georginio Wijnaldum (£14.5million), Alexandre Mitrovic (£13million), Florian Thauvin (£12million), Jonjo Shelvey (£12million) and Andros Townsend (£12million) all arrived with big reputations and big fees to match.

However, despite being added to an existing squad certainly not lacking in pedigree and boasting the likes of Moussa Sissoko and Daryl Janmaat, Newcastle find themselves six points adrift of safety.

Here are five famous relegations from the past that really should not have been allowed to happen.

Newcastle United – 2008/2009

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That’s right, the current Newcastle side wouldn’t even be the first richly-talented Newcastle team to be relegated from the Premier League.

The Magpies boasted players such as Michael Owen, Nicky Butt, Shay Given, Damien Duff, Jonas Guitierrez, and Obafemi Martins when they went down, eventually, under Toon legend Alan Shearer in 2009.

To rub further salt in the wounds, it was great local rivals Sunderland who actually survived at their expense. What price history repeating itself in a month’s time?

Atletico Madrid 1999/2000

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Atletico beat the mighty Barcelona on Wednesday to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League, but they were a veritable crisis club not all that long ago.

Los Rojiblancos appeared to be making genuine strides in the 90s, and won their first La Liga title for 19 years in 1996. They invested heavily in an attempt to capitalise, but just seemed to slip further and further down the table.

At the turn of the century, just four years after being crowned champions, Atletico were heading for the Segunda Division with players such as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Ruben Baraja, Jose Mari, Jose Molina, Kiko, Jose Chamot, Juan Valeron, and Joan Capdevila in their ranks.

River Plate 2010/2011

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South American football can often be an insular affair, but when River Plate suffered relegation in 2010-11 it was something that was felt all over the footballing globe.

River Plate are one of the game’s most enduring and romanticised clubs, and alongside Boca Juniors are unquestionably the biggest in Argentina.

Their squad that year was perhaps not talent-laden as those that preceded it, but it still contained players such as Erik Lamela, Roberto Pereyra, Diego Buonanotte and Manuel Lanzini.

They went into the final fixture of the season with their fate in their own hands. But, despite Mariano Pavone giving them an early lead against Belgrano, they couldn’t go on to win and even had to suffer the indignity of missing a late penalty that would have surely saved them.

1. FC Nürnberg 1968/1969

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Nürnberg are the Bundesliga’s most prolific relegatees, so it’s no surprise to see their name on any list discussion dropping down divisions. However, back in 1969 they achieved something genuinely special in being relegated while reigning Bundesliga champions.

If ever there was an object lesson in the futility of trying to fix that which isn’t broken, then this would be it. Apparently unsatisfied with his title-winning squad, boss Max Merkel deemed them over the hill and opted for a significant summer overhaul.

Even top scorer Franz Brungs was shipped out and they found themselves in a post-Christmas slide they just couldn’t arrest. Nürnberg went into the final game of the campaign with their fate still in the hands, but a dismal 3-0 thrashing at 1. FC Köln sealed their fate.

The team who were to benefit from Nürnberg’s final day surrender and retain their Bundesliga status? None other than Borussia Dortmund.

West Ham 2002/2003

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The Hammers will claim they were unlucky. They will say that the amount of points they won in their relegation season would have been enough for survival in any other year. They would be right, but the fact is that they should have been nowhere near the drop given the talent they possessed.

West Ham were actually riding the wave of a spate of top quality academy products landing in the first team. Frank Lampard had already left for Chelsea, but future Premier League title winners Joe Cole, Glen Johnson and Michael Carrick remained, as did Jermain Defoe.

There were experienced pros at the club too in the brilliant Paolo Di Canio and England internationals Trevor Sinclair and David James.

Just how they managed to get relegated will remain one of the Premier League’s greatest mysteries.

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