One look at the furore around the success of Jamie Vardy last season tells you that there’s nothing that people love more than a player who finally makes it big after years of toil in the game. For every Vardy who makes it to the top though, there’s a player who starts off like a rocket and fades out quickly. A player who hits his peak way too soon and then falls off, often with devastating consequences to his career.
There have been plenty of young starlets who were tipped for success and never quite made it but this piece isn’t really about them. The following players saw tremendous success in their early years but just couldn’t keep it going over the course of their careers. Here are five players who peaked way too soon. Kylian Mbappe, you have been warned.
#1 Paul Gascoigne
We begin with a player who, I’m not ashamed to admit, is my favourite player to ever lace up a pair of boots. Gazza, as he’s usually known, is recognised by most fans and fellow professionals alike as perhaps the most skilled player that England ever produced. Unfortunately, he’s also recognised as a man who largely squandered his talents and peaked far too soon, as he was largely finished at the top level of the game at the age of just 31.
Gazza’s peak was unmistakeably during the first two years of the 90s. He signed for Tottenham Hotspur at the beginning of the 1988/89 season and had an immediate impact as the team finished sixth, and in his second season, he helped them to third place.
The summer of 1990 was clearly Gascoigne’s highest point though as he was the brightest star of an England side that unexpectedly reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in Italy. Gazza’s performances – and his tears when he was booked in the semi-final – are still iconic today.
While he also did brilliantly at Rangers in the mid-1990s and starred in another great England performance – Euro 1996 – it can definitely be argued that Gazza had already peaked by 1990 at the age of just 23.
A bad knee injury ruined his 1991/92 season and a move to Lazio went wildly wrong too. By mid-1998 at just 31 he was essentially a shell of his former self and being left out of England’s 1998 World Cup squad was the final nail in the proverbial coffin. Through abusing his body, Gazza never again reached the peaks of 1990.