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10 football superstars that were rejected as youngsters

Arsenal decided to release Harry Kane from their academy
Arsenal decided to release Harry Kane from their academy

The football industry, like any other industry, is built around decisions. The world of the king of sports would arguably be quite different today had some decisions been made differently. Kylian Mbappe, Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Ronaldo, among others, may not have developed the way they did.

Here, I present some distinctive cases of football superstars that were rejected as youngsters by clubs. A lapse in judgment, impatience, as well as economic factors, led club executives to miss the chance to sign players that would later become one of the game's finest. Fortunately, these footballers did not give up at the time and are now considered among the best ever to play the game. After all, for every success, there is a rejection.

Arguably, the history of football would have been written in a completely different way if those decisions of rejection had not been taken. It may be the case that some of these football prodigies might never have become what they have become as of today.

#10 Harry Kane

Harry Kane is arguably another flub of Arsenal. Kane was a member of the Gunners' academies but, per reports, the administration decided to release the player at the age of 8 because he was 'a bit chubby'.

He ultimately joined Tottenham a few years later and rose to become one of the best strikers to play in the Premier League. He is now fifth in the list of the club's top goalscorers with 146 goals. In the 2015/16 season, he became the first English player to win the Premier League Golden Boot in 16 years.

#9 Antoine Griezmann

Club Atletico de Madrid v Club Brugge - UEFA Champions League Group A
Club Atletico de Madrid v Club Brugge - UEFA Champions League Group A

Griezmann's dream to become a professional footballer came, thankfully only temporarily, to a halt when he was rejected as a youngster by Olympique Lyon. According to reports, Lyon, like many other French clubs before them, passed on the chance to sign the Frenchman on the accounts of his physical characteristics. He was seen as a short, very slim boy who did not have the standards to play professionally.

Lyon, as well as other French clubs, now rue missing the chance to sign Griezmann. At the age of 15, while being on a trial with Montpellier, he attracted the interest of Eric Olhats, a scout, who convinced Real Sociedad into giving the young player a chance. The rest is known history.

#8 Michel Platini

Michel Platini AS Roma v Juventus 1986
Michel Platini AS Roma v Juventus 1986

Before the golden Messi-Ronaldo era, Platini was only the second player, after the fabled Johan Cruyff, to amass 3 Ballon d'Ors. David Squires writes in his book 'The Illustrated History of Football: Hall of Fame' that the French prodigy was rejected as a youngster by Metz. As reported, Platini seemingly fainted during his trial and Metz ignored the chance to sign him.

Later, the Frenchman found his Ithaka in Nancy, where his father worked as a director. The rest is history. Platini shone with Saint-Etienne and, of course, Juventus and is widely regarded as one of the best players in the history of football.

#7 Ruud Gullit

Ruud Gullit of AC Milan races to intercept the ball
Ruud Gullit of AC Milan races to intercept the ball

After spending his first years as a professional player at HFC Haarlem, Gullit had a trial at Arsenal in 1982. However, then-manager Terry Neil decided against his signing for £200,000 labeling the player 'lazy and undisciplined'.

Fortunately for us and unfortunately for Arsenal, history unfolded in a completely different way. Gullit excelled during his spell at Eindhoven before moving to AC Milan forming one of the best ever football tridents alongside Frank Rijkaard and Marco Van Basten. He conquered everything with the Rossoneri while claiming the Ballon d'Or in 1987.

#6 Kylian Mbappe

Liverpool v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Group C
Liverpool v Paris Saint-Germain - UEFA Champions League Group C

It is impossible to think of a reason for a club to have rejected the player who is now considered as the most promising player in the world. Yet, Chelsea found one.

Back in 2012, per reports, at the age of 13, Mbappe was on a trial with Chelsea but the Blues decided against investing on his talents. Daniel Boga, a former Chelsea chief scout, claimed that the reason behind the decision was that Mbappe was regarded as talented but not a hard-worker, a relentless spirit in attack but a void one in defense.

Today, Mbappe is one of the best players in the world having scored 58 goals. He is just 19 years old.

#5 Franco Baresi

Roberto Baggio of Juventus and Franco Baresi of AC Milan
Roberto Baggio of Juventus and Franco Baresi of AC Milan

One of the best defenders in the history of football, the legendary Baresi was rejected, fortunately for AC Milan fans, by Inter Milan executives back in 1974.

At the age of 14, Baresi wanted to follow in his brother's footsteps who was 2 years older and already a member of Inter academies. However, according to his own words, Franco was rejected and was instructed to 'come back a year later'. AC Milan stepped in and did not have to do much to convince the young player to join their ranks due to the fact Baresi is himself an AC Milan fan.

The great defender devoted all of his professional football years to AC Milan and rose to become one of the most accomplished defenders to ever play the game. He played 719 games for the Rossoneri captaining the club in 15 seasons. In 1999, he was named by AC Milan as the club's 'Player of the Century' while his No.6 jersey was retired after his final season at the San Siro.

#4 Giuseppe Meazza

Giuseppe Meazza is widely regarded as one of the best players in the history of football
Giuseppe Meazza is widely regarded as one of the best players in the history of football

No wonder one of football's greatest stadiums is named after him. The legendary striker rose to prominence as an Inter Milan player where he stayed for 13 years. However, his heart always belonged to AC Milan.

One of the greatest forwards to have ever played the game, Meazza was indeed a huge admirer of AC Milan and as a result, he opted to join the Rossoneri's academy at the age of 13. Yet, according to reports, AC Milan decided to reject him on the grounds of his physical characteristics. He was seen as too slim and too fragile to make a career as a professional player.

Fortunately, a short time later, he was seen playing in the streets by an Inter Milan scout who urged his club to sign him. He scored more than 240 times for I Nerazzurri and remains up until today the second top goalscorer of the Italian National Team, only behind Gigi Riva.

#3 Lionel Messi

Valencia CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga
Valencia CF v FC Barcelona - La Liga

Messi's name is rarely included in a sentence without many superlatives around it. As in the case of Griezmann, the Argentinian prodigy was told that he was too small to play football professionally.

According to reports, at the age of 8, River Plate decided that the £500-a-month cost of hormones that the youngster needed was not a sum that could be justified and as a result, he remained at his beloved Newell's Old Boys. 2 years later, he was diagnosed with a growth hormone deficiency and his father's health insurance could only cover a part of Lionel's expensive hormone treatment.

A few years later, Barcelona agreed to pay his health bills and in 2000, Messi became a member of La Masia. He is now considered one of the two greatest players in our generation and one of the best ever.

#2 Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo during his spell at Sporting Lisbon
Cristiano Ronaldo during his spell at Sporting Lisbon

Arsene Wenger stated that missing out on Cristiano Ronaldo in 2003 was his biggest transfer regret at Arsenal. The Gunners were reportedly the first to be attracted by the talented then Sporting Lisbon player and invited him to their training center at the age of 15. However, the deal fell through due to the fact Arsenal did not have the funds to meet the asking price.

A few months later, Manchester United secured the services of the player.

"My biggest regret? I was so close to signing Cristiano Ronaldo, and not only did I not get him, he signed for Manchester United. So that of course still hurts today," Wenger revealed during an interview in 2014.

The Gunners were not the only English club that snubbed the Portuguese. Liverpool were the pioneers. Gerard Houllier, who managed the club from 1998 to 2004, admitted that he saw Ronaldo during an Under 21 tournament in 2003, some negotiations took place but the deal ultimately fell through due to wage demands.

"I saw him in the Toulon Under 21 tournament and we went for him. But we had a wage scale and we weren't paying the sort of salary he wanted. Maybe we would have won the title with Ronaldo, but we had Harry Kewell, who was outstanding at the time and was very hungry but got a bad injury," Houllier said in an interview.

"I agreed with not breaking the wage structure. I thought it would cause problems in our dressing room. We would have had anarchy if the other players had found out how much we were considering paying for an 18-year-old kid," Phil Thompson, Houllier's assistant added.

#1 Ronaldo

Ronaldo playing for Cruzeiro
Ronaldo playing for Cruzeiro

'The Phenomenon' faced rejection very early in his career. Ronaldo was born in Rio De Janeiro and opted to join his favorite Flamengo where his football idol, Zico, had amazed the masses during the 1980s. However, it was not meant for him to follow in Zico's footsteps.

According to reports, Ronaldo was invited to a trial by Flamengo and after a great performance, he was instructed to come back for a second trial the day after. Yet, he could not afford the bus ticket to Flamengo's training ground and as a result, the club decided not to give him a second chance to prove his worth. He was never invited back.

Luckily for him and for all of us, Ronaldo signed instead for Sao Cristovao where Jairzinho, the former Brazil player, was in charge and he was the one to suggest Cruzeiro proceed with his signing.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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