10 promising football players who never made it

Serie A: Inter Milan v AC Milan
Serie A: Inter Milan v AC Milan
Modified 10 Nov 2020
Top 5 / Top 10

Sometimes, a precocious talent arrives on the football scene and takes away the breath of onlookers and critics while evoking comparisons with legends of the sport.

Often, these football players have humble beginnings before they are 'spotted' by the biggest clubs in the world. These clubs sign such players in the hopes that they will one day blossom into glittering finished products and usher in an era of unprecedented success.

However, more often than not, that doesn't happen because of a multitude of reasons. Football players tipped for greatness often lose their focus by letting their initial success get into their heads. There are countless such examples in the annals of football history.

Top ten football players who never lived up to their potential

Young and talented football players can also see their careers disintegrate if they happen to join a big club at the wrong time. The sudden surge of expectations and the hype around them can get too overwhelming, and these players end up imploding long before they are able to reach the promised land.

These football players then tend to move to pastures anew, but 'sustained' success remains elusive. On that note, let us have a look at ten such football players who had the world at their feet only for them to throw it all away and slip down the path of mediocrity into a bottomless crevasse of anonymity.

Without further ado, let's get started.

#10 Robinho


Despite playing for some of the biggest football clubs in the world like Real Madrid, AC Milan and Manchester City, Robinho's career was largely underwhelming.

Robinho had burst onto the football scene at Santos, where his goal-scoring ability and dribbling prowess caught the eyes of top European clubs. Real Madrid soon came calling for his services, and there should have been no looking back for the player after that. However, that wasn't to be the case.

The Brazilian striker inherited the number ten jersey at the Bernabeu but scored only 17 goals in 64 cumulative games in Real Madrid's back-to-back La Liga triumphs.

However, with the Spanish football club more intent on using him as a bargaining chip to land Cristiano Ronaldo, Robinho was long courted by Chelsea before he landed up at Manchester City instead.

However, Robinho's form petered off after scoring 14 league goals in his debut season in English football. Six months later, he was back at Santos.

In 2010-11, Robinho joined Italian giants AC Milan, for whom he scored 14 league goals as the Rossoneri lifted the Scudetto. Soon, his goals dried up as a combination of a drop in form, injuries and the emergence of Alexandre Pato (more on him later) meant that Robinho slipped down the pecking order.

Once again, Robinho was back at Santos. Further spells at Guangzhou Evergrande, Atletico Mineiro, Sivasspor and Instanbul Basaksehir followed but unsurprisingly, the player was a resounding failure at all these football clubs.

#9 El Hadji Diouf

El Hadji Diouf
El Hadji Diouf

El Hadji Diouf had a modest start to his football career in France before he sealed a move to English giants Liverpool just before the 2002 FIFA World Cup.

Diouf dazzled in that tournament for Senegal, scoring the winner against defending champions France en route to scoring two more goals as the African nation belied expectations to reach the quarter-finals.

However, the striker failed to live up to his hype at Anfield, scoring only six times in 79 appearances. Further appearances followed at Premier League clubs Bolton, Sunderland and Blackburn.

Diouf also dropped down a division to the Championship, where he played for Doncaster and Leeds United, but the player simply forgot to score. He instead got embroiled in needless controversies and spats (both literally and otherwise) with fellow players, fans and officials.

The Senegal international thankfully called time on his career after a short stint with Malaysian football club Sabah in 2015.

Even after his retirement, Diouf has continued to court controversies galore. He has burnt bridges for good with his former football club Liverpool by making a slew of unsubstantiated allegations against them.

#8 Ravel Morrison

Ravel Morrison
Ravel Morrison

Ravel Morrison was touted to be the next big thing in English football when Manchester United legend and former defender Rio Ferdinand showered lavish praise on the then-teenager.

“The first day I saw him, my old boss (Sir Alex Ferguson) said: ‘Have a look at this boy’. He was taking the mick out of everyone on the pitch when he was about 14. The manager thought he was the best player he had seen at that age,” said Ferdinand about Morrison.

However, despite the hype around him, Morrison never made a first-team appearance at Manchester United before he moved to West Ham United.

The midfielder scored a stunner against Spurs, a goal described by the club's then-manager Sam Allardyce as a 'genius goal'. However, such moments were too few and far between.

Morrison spent a few seasons in the Championship and has also had short stints in Italy, Mexico, Sweden and Netherlands but the 'next big thing' never took off. The 27-year-old is now plying his trade at ADO Den Haag in the Eredivisie.

#7 Nicklas Bendtner

Nicklas Bendtner
Nicklas Bendtner

Touted for greatness at a young age, a 17-year-old Nicklas Bendtner made his Arsenal debut for Arsene Wenger in 2005.

Blessed with aerial prowess, physical strength and good tactical intelligence, Bendtner had all the ingredients to become a prolific center-forward. However, that was not to be as his indiscipline, big mouth and lack of focus proved to be his bane.

Bendtner once remarked about himself:

"If you ask me if I’m one of the best strikers in the world, I (would) say ‘yes’ because I believe it."

Alas, he could never walk the talk.

In nine seasons at North London, that were interspersed with several loan stints (one of them was at Juventus), the tall Dane only hit double figures twice before he moved to Wolfsburg in Germany, where he disappointed once again, scoring only nine times in almost 50 games over two seasons.

'Lord Bendtner', as he was often called by Arsenal fans, was infamous for wagering large amounts of real money at casinos as he got blinded by the trappings of fame and ultimately failed to live up to his potential.

From playing in the 2015-16 UEFA Champions League to plying his trade at a Danish fourth-division team five years later, the 32-year-old Bendtner has had quite the fall from grace.

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Published 10 Nov 2020
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