Six players who rose to stardom after leaving the Premier League

During this past transfer window, the Premier League said goodbye to a number of players who have decided to continue their careers elsewhere.

The world's richest league returns to action this weekend but it will be without the likes of Hector Bellerin, Tammy Abraham and Eric Garcia who left during the summer transfer window.

Every player has their own distinct motives however, a departure from the Premier League is usually caused by a lack of playing time or a struggle to compete in arguably the world's toughest domestic competition.

But just because a player leaves, it doesn't mean they can't become world-beaters. In fact, those who have recently left can take inspiration from others who endured a tough start in England before going on to achieve big things later down the road.

Planet Sport takes a look at six names who flopped in the Prem before rising to stardom.

Gerard Pique

Believe it or not but Barcelona only paid £4.2million to attain the services of Gerard Pique from Manchester United back in 2008.

Looking at it now, it seems like one of the greatest bargains in world soccer. But back then, the situation was a lot more complicated.

The centre-back pairing during Pique's time at United rarely changed as Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic formed one of the most formidable partnerships in Premier League history.

Manchester United's Gerard Pique celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League match at Old Trafford

The Spaniard made just 12 Premier League appearances under Sir Alex Ferguson. Many would argue that one of those appearances - a 1-0 loss to Bolton - sealed his fate.

Ferguson took Pique off after just 59 minutes as the youngster struggled to match the required levels of physicality.

In May 2008, the player joined Barcelona and from day one, he was a first-team main stayer.

Gerard Pique of FC Barcelona lifts the Champions League trophy in 2015

His first season saw him make 45 appearances across all competitions as Barcelona claimed a historic treble - winning the Champions League, La Liga and Copa del Rey.

That trophy-winning mentality has remained with him during his stay at Camp Nou. In total, the Spaniard has gone on to win eight league titles, seven Copa del Rey's, six Supercopa de Espana's, three Champions League's, three UEFA Super Cups and three FIFA Club World Cups.

The player also enjoyed success on the international stage, claiming the 2014 World Cup and two European Championships.

Mo Salah

When Chelsea signed Mohamed Salah for £11million back in 2014, the player arrived at Stamford Bridge with a lot of potential.

The Egyptian had just made a name for himself in Switzerland, helping Basel to successive Swiss Super League titles.

Despite his promise, Salah didn't immediately set the Premier League stage alight. The player joined halfway through the 2013/14 season and went on to make 11 appearances in all competitions, scoring two goals in the process.

Mo Salah, Mohamed Salah, Chelsea, Sporting Lisbon, Champions League, Stamford Bridge

In his second season, playing time was even harder to come by. Salah only made eight appearances and failed to score a single goal as the club sent the forward on loan to Fiorentina.

It was at this point in his career when the Egyptian began to make some serious waves.

In 26 games for the Serie A club, Salah broke his goalless run, ending his spell there with nine efforts across all competitions.

Those numbers certainly picked up once he moved to fellow Serie A side, AS Roma.

Over the course of two seasons, Salah became one of the league's hottest properties. The player scored 34 goals in 83 appearances and was rewarded by claiming the AS Roma Player of the Season award in 2016.

His sudden rise to stardom caught the eye of Liverpool who forked out over £36million on the forward in 2017.

Considering his earlier spell in the Premier League, Salah had his fair share of doubters over in England. However, it's fair to say that over the last four and a half years, he's certainly proved them all wrong.

This also serves as the perfect example of someone moving away from the Premier League, building their stock elsewhere and returning as a conquering hero.

Jerome Boateng

Following successful spells at Hertha Berlin and Hamburger SV, Jerome Boateng was brought over to the Premier League in 2010.

Manchester City - fresh from the takeover of Sheikh Mansour in 2008 - were looking to build a Premier League title-winning team under Roberto Mancini. Boateng, who was one of many new players to join the Cityzens, was certainly part of that plan.

Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini with new signings (left to right) Aleksandar Kolarov, David Silva, Yaya Toure and Jerome Boateng

The German arrived at the Etihad for a fee of £10million in June 2010 but it would be a while before he made his City debut.

A tendon injury picked up on international duty, forced the centre-back out of action in the first few games of the season.

Nevertheless, the player recovered and went on to make 24 appearances in all competitions. Those proved to be his last games for the Cityzens as he duly left to Bayern Munich in the following summer.

Farewell to deserving Bayern players and officials, before the match from left Jerome Boateng FC Bayern München with President Herbert Hainer

The defender never took the Premier League by storm and it wasn't until his move back to the Bundesliga when he ultimately became one of Europe's leading defenders.

Having claimed nine Bundesliga titles, five DFB Pokals, two DFB Supercups, two Champions League's, two UEFA Super Cups, and two FIFA Club World Cups, it's fair to say that his spell with the Bavarians was a successful one - something that wouldn't have transpired if not for his move away from the Premier League.

Memphis Depay

Towards the end of his time in the Eredivisie, Memphis Depay was a big fish swimming in a small pond.

His move to Manchester United in 2015 was an opportunity to show the world exactly why he was regarded as one of soccer's most promising prospects. 

However, his £25million transfer from PSV proved problematic right from the start. First, manager Louis van Gaal admitted that he was forced to sign the player early due to interest from Paris Saint-Germain.

Then, Depay requested to wear the iconic number seven shirt - following in the footsteps of George Best, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Memphis Depay, Manchester United

Later, the Dutch international was subbed off 68 minutes into his Premier League debut, with van Gaal later revealing that Depay played in a 'too eager manner'.

The Dutchman struggled to make an impact with then assistant manager, Ryan Giggs, blaming the player's flashy lifestyle for his poor performances.

Towards the end of his first season, things picked up for the Depay who became an influential part of United's attack. However, that run didn't last long.

In the following season, the player only made eight appearances in all competitions as his time at Old Trafford came to a disappointing end.

Memphis Depay of Olympique Lyon runs in the field during the Ligue 1 match between Olympique Lyon and OGC Nice at Groupama Stadium

Depay needed a fresh start and that's exactly what he got in Ligue 1 when he joined Lyon.

Over the course of five seasons, the Dutchman restored his reputation after scoring 76 goals in his 178 appearances.

His eye-catching performances in France led to a move to Barcelona where he now hopes to take the club out of their current rut.

Following high-profile departures from the Barca, Depay is now one of the key players at one of Europe's biggest clubs. Not bad going for a man who only got to play 20 minutes throughout the entire 2016/17 Premier League season.

Diego Forlan

Diego Forlan represents another case of a Manchester United player going rogue before bouncing back in style.

The Uruguay legend joined the Red Devils in 2002 when the club acquired his services from Independiente for just under £7million.

His first season certainly didn't go to plan. Sir Alex Ferguson gave the forward 18 appearances across all competitions however, Forlan's return of zero goals was far from encouraging.

Forlan (right) was brought in by United boss Sir Alex Ferguson (left) on a four-and-a-half year deal (Martin Rickett/PA).

Ferguson persisted with the striker in the following season as he made a total of 45 appearances. But again, with only nine goals to his name, serious questions were being asked about Forlan's true potential.

One year later, the player posted similar numbers having only bagged eight goals from 32 appearances. Something was wrong and a change of scenery was needed.

A move to Villarreal followed and to the disappointment of Manchester United fans, the goals came flooding in.

In his first season there, Forlan scored 25 times. Over the next two years, he added 34 more efforts to that total.

Atletico Madrid's Diego Forlan (left) celebrates scoring his sides first goal

The player spent the next four years at Atletico Madrid - arguably the greatest spell of his career. In 196 games, Forlan bagged 96 goals as he helped his side to the Europa League title and a UEFA Super Cup win.

It was during this time when the player also took the 2010 World Cup by storm. Uruguay may have finished fourth but Forlan swept up all the individual honours, taking the Golden Ball, Golden Boot, Goal of the Tournament and also featured in the tournament's Dream Team.

During those few years, Manchester United fans got to see exactly what Forlan's potential really was. The question is, would he ever reach those heights at Old Trafford or was the move away from the Premier League a pivotal moment for his career?

Paulinho

Paulinho became Tottenham Hotspur's record signing back in 2013 following his £17million move from Brazilian side, Corinthians.

That record was short-lived as Spurs went on to buy Roberto Soldado and Erik Lamela for bigger amounts in that same transfer window. However, that shouldn't deter from the fact that Paulinho was a man in demand.

The midfielder made 30 Premier League appearances in his first season and even scored a memorable first goal - a stoppage time backheel winner in a 1-0 victory over Cardiff City.

Paulinho, Tottenham Hotspur

Nevertheless, his playing time became considerably smaller in the following campaign, with Paulinho competing in just 15 league games. His second season was incredibly underwhelming.

Usurpingly, the player opted for a move away as he joined up with his old Brazil manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, over at Chinese Super League club, Guangzhou Evergrande.

Paulinho thrived in the league as his stock began to rise once again. As he began to make waves, he caught the eye of Barcelona who acquired his services for £34million.

Barcelona midfielder Paulinho (15) celebrates scoring the goal during the match between FC Barcelona against Deportivo Coruna, for the round 16 of the Liga Santander, played at Camp Nou

The Brazil international only played one season at the Camp Nou but it was during that short spell that his true potential was finally unlocked.

Paulinho played a pivotal role as Barca claimed the La Liga and Copa del Rey double under new manager, Ernesto Valverde.

The player made 49 appearances in all competitions that season and also bagged nine goals in the process.

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