Hype means nothing in football if you don’t reach your potential and you never do.
Football is such a fickle sport. Players careers can peter out before they reach their mid-twenties. Before too long the next big thing has turned into a ginormous flop and the football world starts building up someone new.
Here is my look on players through out my footballing life that were supposed to become superstars but have never quite made it.
We heard the name Freddy Adu when the boy was just 14! He was going to take the footballing world by storm, he was the new Pele.
Well we have heard it all before.
How many new Pele’s or new Maradona’s have we had? Plenty.
How many were really that good? Not many.
Now nine years on and Freddy is now 23. In that time he has… Well floundered!
After initial success with DC United in the MLS, where he won the MLS Cup, Adu has already become a footballing journeyman. He has played for eight different clubs in those nine years, if you include his loan deals.
In Europe, Adu quickly realised he was stepping up a league in terms of ability and he never seemed to fit in at any of the sides he played for.
After failing to adapt in Portugal with Benfica, Adu also came up short at Monaco. Then followed uninspiring spells in Greece and Turkey. In 2011 Adu returned home, signing for Philadelphia Union. But even in the MLS he couldn’t shine and in January of this year ‘The Union’ freed Freddy leaving him in search of his ninth professional club.
The problem with young Adu is that he believed the hype as did those who would train/sign him. He was flung into the spotlight far too early in his development as a footballer and he preferred living the celebrity lifestyle rather than learn his craft on the training ground.
He has time on his side but I doubt he will ever amount to much.
Billed as Scotland’s answer to Wayne Rooney. John Fleck currently finds himself playing in England’s third tier alongside Adam Rooney not Wayne.
Still only 21 it may be a bit harsh to stick him on this list but he has fallen very quickly.
Even now at Coventry City, Fleck isn’t pulling up any trees.
Given his Rangers debut at the age of 16, Fleck seemed to promise so much. Yet he delivered very little at Ibrox.
Yes he found a little bit of form early on and was even tipped for an imminent Scotland call up. But then he came up against Celtic and had a woeful performance and never quite bounced back.
He was constantly fast tracked at Murray Park but couldn’t fit into the first teams plans. Not deemed good enough for a spot behind a main striker, he would often find himself out on the left where he would do little damage.
He has also become a Billy Big-Time in and around Glasgow and seemed to believe the world owed him it all and it was just a matter of time before he would get it. Problem is life doesn’t work that way.
He might find his way back into top flight football but will never realise that initial potential. Truth is when Rangers were losing players left, right and centre last summer, no one batted an eyelid when Fleck left.
I remember when Franny Jeffers burst onto the scene at Everton at the age of 16.
He was pacey and had a keen eye for goal. He also picked up a few wee niggling injuries at that time but most youngsters, still developing, do.
His style and early ‘goals to game ratio’ at Goodison reminded me of Robbie Fowler when he first broke into the Liverpool team.
Jeffers would catch the eye of Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger who would sign the young English striker up for £8m. Famously Wenger would say that Jeffers was like a ‘fox in the box’ and was an instinctive finisher. For the £8m Arsenal paid for his services Jeffers could only repay them with 4 league goals in two seasons.
In February 2003 Jeffers made his one and only England appearance, scoring against Australia. That game would see another Everton youth play for the ‘Three Lions’ although at least Wayne Rooney would live up to his early billing.
He would return to Goodison on loan but would fail to net in the 18 EPL appearances he had for the Toffees during that second spell.
In his 16 year career, the 32 year old has played for ten different clubs. He has carved out a career in England, Scotland, Australia and Malta even if it wasn’t the glittering career he had hoped for.
For one dubbed as the ‘fox in the box’ Jeffers has only managed 39 league goals in 237 appearances!
Perhaps not surprisingly he is once again a free agent.
This Brazilian is certainly a head scratcher.
He is on this list despite winning a World Cup, playing in total 61 times for Brazil and at one time he held the world transfer record.
Denilson seemed to have all the talent in the world, but he rarely and I mean very rarely showed that talent during a game of football.
When you splash out £21m for a player you would expect that player to get you finishing near to the top of the table and more league goals than just 13 in seven years. But the thing is Denilson was never prolific which again makes you wonder why on earth Real Betis forked out so much for him.
During his spell in Spain, Betis were relegated and the best position they finished while he was there was in fourth spot and that was during his last year at the club. He never played in the Spanish second league as he was loaned back to Brazil that season.
After leaving Betis, Denilson would, like so many on this list, follow the mercenary route ending up in France, Saudi Arabia, the US, Greece, Vietnam and back in his homeland a few times.
He would only play 30 games in a season twice after leaving Betis.
After 332 games scoring a miserly 31 times Denilson would hang up his boots and become a commentator.
He couldn’t live with the £21m price-tag. The winger was too one footed and predictable to really become a great in modern day football.
Back in the late nineties US international Eddie Pope seemed destined to join a European team.
He was a defender who was intelligent, good in the air and decent with the ball at his feet.
But in his 11 year career Pope would never grace a European league with his presence. He did have a flurry of injuries that hampered his development as a player but by rejecting the opportunities to taste European football Pope probably didn’t do his career justice.
Eddie was rumoured to have turned down advances from Dortmund and Southampton. He was also heavily linked with AC Milan.
Pope would say this about his reasons for turning down moves to European sides…
“I don’t feel I missed anything by not going to Europe,”
“Sitting on the bench over there was not for me. Here (MLS), I had a good contract, so no problem.”
For me that just says Eddie Pope didn’t believe in his own ability. Pope should have tested himself abroad and made a go of it.
He did manage to get to three world cups and played 82 times for the US national team but he never gave himself a fair chance of becoming the best player he could have been.
Once dubbed a future England and Manchester City captain at 24, Michael Johnson’s career already seems to be over.
The dynamic midfielder seemed gifted in the pass, was passionate on the park and liked to run after the ball.
Unfortunately injuries curtailed his blossoming career. Depression would then set in and the youngsters lifestyle spiralled out of control. Pictured above in a kebab shop it seems that Johnson, who was recently released by City, won’t be back in professional football any time soon.
Its a shame that injuries hampered him when he was so young but his lack of self discipline made sure he could never regain a decent career.
Scotland loves a good/bad comparison. Remember earlier I said that John Fleck was Scotland’s Wayne Rooney? Well before that we had Mark Burchill who was billed as Scotland’s Michael Owen.
Problem was he was more like Scotland’s Francis Jeffers.
Burchill would break into the Celtic team scoring an impressive 20 goals in just 50 games, many of which were substitute appearances. Unfortunately for Burchill he had Henrik Larsson and Chris Sutton ahead of him in the pecking order and the youngster was itching for more game time.
He would make two loans to England joining Birmingham and then Ipswich. Burchill would then leave Celtic for a permanent deal with Portsmouth who paid £600,000 for him.
He would spend four years with Pompey but during that spell he was sent out on loan four times.
In January 2005, Mark was released by Portsmouth and he would spend the rest of that season at Hearts. In the summer of 2005, Burchill once again was freed and this time he was picked up by Dunfermline Athletic. With the Pars he would have his best spell since leaving Parkhead, where he scored 24 times in three years in Fife.
From 2008, Burchill would go on to represent Rotherham, Kilmarnock and Enosis Neon in Cyprus. But he couldn’t find a prolific touch at any of those clubs.
The 32 year old now plays for Esan United in Thailand.
Although he did pull on a Scotland shirt six times the forward never reached the heights that seemed destined for him.
Liverpool could have had a few names on this list with the likes of Anthony Le Tallec, Florent Sinama Pongolle, Bernard Diomede and Bruno Cheyrou all making good cases for inclusion.
But for me, in a personal choice, it has to be Sean Dundee.
The South African, who would change nationality so he could represent Germany, was bigged up in my own mind.
See it was all World Soccer’s fault. Every time I bought the magazine I’d flick through the results pages and noticed that Dundee would often score in the Bundesliga for Karlsruher. Indeed he would get 36 goals in three season there.
So when Gerard Houiller signed him up for Liverpool in a £2m deal, I told all my pals watch this lad bang them in. And he duly disappointed.
He never managed a single league start and only came off the bench three times, never scoring a goal. So I looked very silly.
He would return to Germany signing for Stuttgart. He would grab 25 goals in 77 league games. Then he would go on to enjoy another goalless spell, this time at Austria Vienna. Sean would then drop down the German leagues before ending his career back in South Africa with AmaZulu, where he would again manage zero league goals.
Oh and for those wondering about how many caps he got for Germany, well that was also zero!
Maybe another harsh selection as he is only 22 years old. But he burst onto the scene scoring 10 times in his debut season with Barcelona in the 2007/08 season but that remains his best league season to date.
You are meant to get better not worse!
He couldn’t really justify his position in the same team as Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta, so he was sold to Roma. It was thought a move to the Italian capital would help take the pressure off Bojan and see him score regularly. Unfortunately that wasn’t to be the case as the young Spaniard could only muster seven Serie A goals in 33 outings.
This summer he moved to AC Milan in a years long loan deal but again he hasn’t been prolific playing 21 times in all competitions and only finding the net three times.
He’s nowhere near the Spanish national team and only seems to be in decline.
It was thought Bojan along with Messi and Giovani dos Santos would make up a golden trio for Barcelona. But only Messi remains with Barca. The reason Giovani doesn’t make this list is purely down to his international form for Mexico.
Andy van der Meyde:
At Ajax, Andy van der Meyde seemed to be a world beater, at Inter he was a nobody and at Everton he was a pie-eater!
Another star that believed all the hype without trying to prove he was worthy of it. At Ajax he won the Eredivisie twice and he would gain his first Dutch cap in 2002. The international career would end two years later with Andy gaining 17 caps.
He left Ajax for Inter Milan in 2003 for £4m but he would never become a regular starter. After only two seasons in Serie A, scoring just once the Dutch winger was sold off to Everton for a £2m fee.
The Goodison faithful were hopeful that van der Meyde would once again regain his form that he had shown while he was at Ajax. But unfortunately what they got was a totally unprofessional individual who took more to drink, drugs and crime rather than applying himself to training.
He would be used sparingly and when he was spotted in an Everton strip, he would fill it amply with a big gut. He was clearly never fit enough to play for 90 minutes.
He returned to Holland, signing for PSV but he would never play an official game for the club.
The winger clearly loved the luxurious lifestyle and the money that came with being a top flight footballer, unfortunately he liked it so much he forgot to be a top-flight footballer.
At 33 he is now retired. Although he was semi retired by the time he signed on for Everton!
(Again this is just ten names that popped into my head when thinking of footballers who didn’t reach their potentials. There are many, many more. Please leave any that you believe deserve a mention in the comments section.)
Posted on February 14th, 2013 by scott
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