Sportskeeda takes a look at some of the bizarre cases in football where a footballer isn’t /wasn’t first choice for his domestic club, however, is/was a first choice for their country:
Miroslav Klose wasn’t a starter for Bayern Munich in the 2009/2010 season – in fact, he was the 3rd choice striker at times. Finishing the season with 38 appearances – albeit, most of them off the bench – compared to Ivica Olic and Mario Gomez’s respective 41 and 45 appearances, the 2010 World Cup was approaching and his teammate and compatriot, Gomez had scored more goals (14) than him (6.)
However, Germany coach, Joachim Low still chose to opt for the intelligence, link-up play, technique, work rate and experience of Klose rather than the instinct, aerial ability and poaching ability of Gomez and it proved to be a success as Klose scored 4 goals in 5 games as Germany finished 3rd.
Plagued with injuries and a change of fortune for his competitor, Karim Benzema in the 2010/2011 season, had resigned Gonzalo Higuain to the bench for Real Madrid. The French born, Argentine has since played second fiddle to Benzema for Los Blancos, though he still plays a lot of games and scores goals, majority of his appearances are off the bench.
Despite being a second choice for the club, Higuain still hasn’t lost his place as first choice striker for Argentina, one of the strongest nations in the world where he has directly contributed to 10 goals in 12 games since 2011. Quite a feat.
Italian bad boy, Antonio Cassano had joined AC Milan in the 2011 January transfer window where he made many cameos, helping the Rossoneri win Serie A that season. However, he never really staked a claim in the first team and was behind Pato, Ibrahimovic and Robinho in the pecking order. The same order was followed in the 2011/2012 season and heart surgery cut short Cassano’s season midway.
However, he was still crucial for Italy, making 15 appearances for the Azzurri since 2011, playing a key role in EURO 2012 qualifiers and the tournament itself, as Italy finished 2nd with Cassano leaving the tournament with a goal to his name.
To accommodate the arrivals of Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri last season, Yaya Toure was dropped deep in midfield by Roberto Mancini and Nigel De Jong was promptly dropped to the bench. The 2011/2012 season was a season to forget for the Dutchman, individually as he only made 11 league starts. He understood his manager’s decision though:
“It is part of the job that I sometimes sit on the bench. We have a rotation system. Ideally I would play in every game, but the team comes first and we won the title, so it was all worth it.” – De Jong.
However, De Jong still kept his place in the Holland side regardless, and started all three EURO 2012 group stage games for Oranje before they were eliminated.
Javier Mascherano established himself as one of the best defensive midfielders in the world, let alone England, while at Liverpool. He soon opted to move to La Liga champions, Barcelona in 2010, where he played second fiddle to rising star, Sergio Busquets. Mascherano however, was converted into a central defender by Pep Guardiola to cover the absense of injury prone captain, Carles Puyol and it proved to be a great success, but the Argentine was soon resigned to the bench again once Puyol was fit.
“I have to accept my place [on the bench.] Piqué and Puyol are the first choice centre backs and if they’re fit, they play.” – Mascherano.
Even though majority of his career as a Barcelona player has been on the bench, Mascherano is still one of the first members on the teamsheet for Argentina, being a key player for La Albiceleste, making 17 appearances since 2011.
Notable mentions: Nani, Coentrao, Dzeko, Perisic and Chicharito. If you have some suggestions, comment below!