• Matt Daley


So much has changed in the world of football since Cristiano Ronaldo departed Manchester United for Real Madrid in the summer of 2009. Manchester City and PSG have become European power houses, Bournemouth have gone from League Two relegation battles to the Premier League and back down to the Championship.

So, now that the Portuguese has re-joined his former club I've had a look at all the players that made appearances in the English top flight during his final year in the Premier League who will be welcoming him back some 12 years later.

After a career renaissance with Inter Milan Ashley Young has re-joined former club Aston Villa the same club, he spent the 2008/2009 season. Young won the ‘Young Player of the Year’ award after his seven goals and eight assists helped the Villains to a 6th place finish. The once flying winger has retrained into reliable full back in his older years and could reach 400 Premier League appearances this season.

Danny Welbeck was the next hot thing from the Manchester United Academy in 2008, making his Premier League debut in the 5-0 win against Stoke City. Welbeck got on the score sheet; whilst the game was also memorable as Cristiano Ronaldo himself scored his only Premier League hat-trick. Since leaving Old Trafford well that Co struggled with injuries during his spells at arsenal, Watford and now Brighton.

Phil Bardsley's first full season away from Old Trafford was Ronaldo's last year in the Premier League. Signing for Sunderland Bardsley made 28 Premier League appearances as the Black Cats avoided relegation. The tough tackling defender scored against his old team in the 2013 League Cup semi-final helping Sunderland to progress to the final. Since leaving the North-East he has played a squad player role for both Stoke City and Burnley.

By the 2008/2009 season, Aaron Lennon was already a major squad player for Tottenham Hotspurs and a full English international. Lennon played 35 times in the Premier League scoring and assisting five goals each, with his most important goal contribution would be the 94th minute equaliser in the North London Derby which ended 4-4 at the Emirates Stadium. After leaving Spurs with over 350 appearances under his belt Lennon joined Everton before two spells at Burnley were sandwiched by a season in Turkey with Kayserispor.

After winning the Young Hammer of the Year the previous season, James Tomkins may have expected a little more game time than he did that season. After returning from a loan spell at Derby County Tomkins did see more regular first team football accumulating twelve appearances in the Premier League in 2009. Having only played eight matches in the league during the 2020/2021 season, opportunities to add to his over 300 top flight appearances seem limited at Patrick Vieira's Crystal Palace.

Having spent the first three months of the season out on loan in League One to Yeovil Town Asmir Begovic made his Premier League debut on the penultimate match of the season; a 3-1 victory against Sunderland. He would go on to play 10 more times at Fratton Park for Portsmouth before moving to Stoke City in 2010 Begovic holds the record for the longest goal in the Premier League scoring against Southampton in 2013, and has amassed 63 appearances to date for the Bosnia and Herzegovina national team. After leaving the Britannia Stadium in 2015 Begovic has been to Chelsea, AC Milan, Bournemouth and now finds himself at Everton.

Jonny Evans made his Premier League debut during Ronaldo’s final season at Old Trafford. The Northern Irishman played 34 times in all competitions including 17 in the league. Since then the centre half has accumulated several pieces of silverware including two Premier league titles, an FA cup and league cup. The 33-year-old has become one of the most reliable defenders in the country and despite relegation with West Brom in 2018 his move to Leicester City has been one of the bargains of recent history. With 91 caps for his country, he will be sorely missed after picking up an injury in last season's FA Cup final.

James Milner was an ever present for Aston Villa in the 2008/2009 season scoring three goals and assisting a further nine to help villa too sixth place, alongside Ashley Young who also made this list. Known as one of the most reliable players, Milner has made a career out of being a seven out of 10 player whilst also being a managers dream. Playing in several positions including his natural centre midfield, out wide in both the midfield and defence - since his villa days James Milner has won Premier League titles at both Manchester City and Liverpool while vice-captaining the Reds to their sixth Champions League title.

Jordan Henderson only qualifies for this list after making his Premier League debut as a half-time substitute in Sunderland 5-0 defeat away at Chelsea. He spent the second part of the season on loan at Coventry City before being recalled by his hometown club after fracturing his foot. Since signing for Liverpool 10 years ago, Henderson has amassed almost 400 appearances for the Reds having been captain since Steven Gerrard departed in 2015. He has led the Reds to their first ever Premier League title, whilst also lifting the Champions league and FIFA Club World Cup.

Manchester City goalkeeper Scott Carson was another ever present in the 2008 2009 season as his permanent move to West Bromwich Albion ended with relegation in his first season. Carson spent two further seasons with the Baggies winning promotion from the championship at first attempt before moving to Turkey with Bursaspor. After two years on the continent Carson came back to England spending time with both Wigan Athletic and Derby County before spending two years on loan at Premier League champions Manchester City before joining them on a permanent deal after his deal with the Rams ended.

2008 Theo Walcott was already a known asset in English football not only due to his 2006 World Cup call up but the youngsters blistering pace and ability with the ball at his feet. Walcott only managed two league goals this season, managing to beat that tally in one match for England with his hat trick against Croatia. Having scored over 100 goals in almost 400 matches during his 13-year spell at Arsenal, Walcott spent time at Everton before re-joining boyhood club Southampton first on loan and then as a permanent at the start of 2021 season.

Ben Foster only made two Premier League appearances throughout 2008/2009 in wins against Sunderland and Middlesbrough. Although it was in the League Cup final where foster made his greatest contribution to Manchester United. Being the penalty saving hero in the shootout saving from Tottenham hotspurs Jamie O'Hara. Foster would win man of the match two years later in the League Cup final for Birmingham City as they beat Arsenal 2-1. A seven year stay at West Bromwich Albion ended with relegation to the second tier before moving to Premier League Watford where he remains despite losing his first-choice role at the club.

Dan Gosling made his breakthrough into Everton's first team in 2008 playing 11 league matches throughout the season scoring two goals and creating a further two. Both goals coming as a second half substitute in a 3-0 win against Sunderland and a t2-1 loss to Manchester City. Gosling scored Everton’s goal of the year this season with his 118th minute winner at Anfield in the FA Cup, on the way to the Toffee’s first FA Cup final in 14 years. Gostling has since spent time at Newcastle United and Bournemouth before signing for current club Watford during that promotion season last year.

Lukasz Fabianski was always a backup during his career at Arsenal, being understudy to Jens Lehmann, Manuel Almunia and fellow Polish shot stopper Wojciech Szczesny. Titled with the unfortunate nickname ‘Flappyhandski’ by Arsenal fans, the goalkeeper kept net six times during the season including a 2-1 win against Manchester United and in the 4-4 draw against Liverpool at Anfield. Since his seven year stay at the Emirates Stadium ended, the 36 year old has become one of the most consistent goalkeepers in the league during his spells at Swansea City and now West Ham United playing over 100 matches for both teams.

Mark Noble has been a stalwart in the West Ham United team since 2007. Not much has changed in the 14 years since then, as the man synonymous with the Hammers has now gone on to play over 500 matches in claret and blue captaining the side since 2014. Noble played 29 times scoring three goals during the 2008/2009 season. He went on to captain England U21’s to the final of that summer's European Championship, where the 3 Lions lost 4-0 to Germany.

It’s safe to say that Ronaldo won’t be returning to an entirely different Premier League, but whether or not he can have the same effect at Old Trafford this time around is anyone’s guess.