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5 footballers who lost their pace due to injuries

Rohit Menon
ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
246.79K   //    Timeless

Many players have struggled to reclaim their pace and form after an injuryAcceleration and sprint speed typically make up the definition of ‘pace’ in football, and this attribute can be absolutely deadly in open play if used well.There have been plenty of players who have gotten by fairly well without it, but as seen throughout football history, most of the best players in the world have had pace in their locker in addition to other attributes. Managers expect their defenders to be quicker these days, which shows the impact such players have made on this game.The players discussed on this list are top talents who have played for the best European clubs in the world and used pace as one of the main weapons of their game. However, these players have somehow seen their careers derailed due to the impact of recurring injuries on their pace, and have struggled to reclaim their form ever since.

#1 Michael Owen

Michael Owen had searing pace and a good finish

Former England international Michael Owen was a prolific force in front of goal, but it was his searing pace that helped him go about his business. Despite having a fantastic career with the England National Team, he could never fulfill his potential at the club level due to his struggle with several niggling injuries throughout his career.

He started off his footballing journey at Liverpool and was well on his way to becoming a club legend. His eight-year spell at the club propelled him to new highs and he managed to score 118 goals from 216 league appearances, picking up a Ballon d’Or in 2001 in the process. 

Real Madrid came calling and purchased the forward in 2004, but the Englishman lasted only a year at the Santiago Bernabeu, following which Newcastle picked him up for a club-record fee of £16.8m. He made only 71 league appearances in an unhappy four-year spell for the Tyneside club.

In England, he picked up multiple injuries including several muscle injuries and sustained an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, which kept him out for an entire year. He then went on to complete a couple of seasons as a bit-part player at United, before ending his career at Stoke City in 2013.

The long-term injuries he had picked up at an early age were detrimental to his speed, which was his chief attribute. Running in behind defences was his main threat, but the injuries made him lose the aura about him that put fear into the opposition defenders. 

#2 Robinho

Robinho was a good dribbler with a bag of ridiculous tricks

Robinho is an eccentric forward, with fantastic dribbling skills and oodles of pace to back it up. The Sao Paolo native has played for the likes of Santos, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Milan till date, and was extremely feared by defenders when he was at his peak.

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After impressing with Santos at the beginning of his career, the Brazilian was sold to Real Madrid for €24m, where he wore the number 10 shirt. Despite being the third highest scorer for Real Madrid during his three seasons at the club, he was not shown the respect he deserved, which saw him reject a contract extension.

After initially seeking a move to Chelsea, Robinho was signed by Manchester City in 2008 for a club-record €42.5m, and spent two unsuccessful seasons at the Etihad, where he was plagued by injury problems and inconsistency. He then moved to Milan followed by a stint in China before returning to Brazil.

These days Robinho still packs the dribbling skills and tricks, but his pace has gone down considerably. 

#3 Alexandre Pato

Pato never quite made his mark in Europe, despite his huge talent

Pato was a quick, creative, and technical player who had a fantastic eye for goal. He was considered as one of most promising players in his youth and was also seen as the future of the Brazilian National Team.

The Selecao international began his career with Internacional in 2006 and spent just one season at the club before he was signed by AC Milan. The forward made a huge impression in his first three seasons at the San Siro.

But constant injuries meant that he had limited playing time for the following seasons, and this led to a decline in his form. He was sold to Corinthians in 2013 and after failing to make an impression there, he spent the 2014/15 season on loan at Sao Paulo.

Pato, who can play in all positions across the front-line, made just 117 league appearances in his injury-laden five seasons in Milan, scoring  51 goals. His promising career was interrupted by recurring injuries which affected several of his attributes, with the main one being the pace he uses to routinely beat defenders. 

#4 Fernando Torres

Torres was one of the most complete forwards in his prime

Fernando Torres is a technically proficient striker with plenty of skill, although he was also one of the fastest strikers in the game at his prime. The Atletico Madrid youth product began his career at the Vicente Calderon in 2001 and established himself as a fan favourite for six seasons, before joining Liverpool for a club record £20m.

The Spanish international was an instant hit at Merseyside and played some of the best football of his career at Anfield. Despite not winning any honours, he was consistently rated by the fans and the neutrals alike as he made a huge impact at the club. He did get exhausted due to the rigours of the Premier League, though, and picked up recurring injuries towards the end of his Liverpool spell.

A £50m move to Chelsea was supposed to help Torres become the best striker in the world and also satisfy his craving for titles but the plan only worked out partially. Torres struggled to establish himself as a starter in his four seasons at the Stamford Bridge despite winning the Champions League and the Europa League.

He was seen as a liability by every manager at the club and was eventually sold off to AC Milan. The 31-year-old failed to impress in the Serie A as well and these days, he plies his trade with his boyhood club Atletico Madrid.

Torres still has an eye for the spectacular, and possesses silky footwork, but has lost to ability to easily beat the opposition defenders with his pace. 

#5 Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao
Falcao’s injury saw him spend two unsuccessful seasons in England before a return to Monaco

Radamel Falcao has been described as one of the most natural goalscorers in the world. In his prime, the Colombian has the ability to adapt to most positions and can score goals with various parts of his body. He has been prolific throughout his career, playing for the likes of River Plate, Porto, Atletico Madrid and Monaco.

The 29-year-old striker began his career at Argentinian team River Plate and played four seasons at the Argentine club, scoring 34 goals in 90 appearances, and won the Primer Division in 2008. This was followed by a two-year spell in Porto, where he picked up multiple honours and scored plenty of goals before a €40m bid from Atletico Madrid was accepted.

The Colombian international’s astonishing scoring record got even better after his move to La Liga. He managed 52 goals in just 68 games, making him the third best goalscorer in the Spanish league after Messi and Ronaldo. He spent two decently successful years at the Vicente Calderon, after which he was purchased by an ambitious and cash-rich French outfit Monaco.

After struggling to settle into life at Monaco, Falcao suffered a knee injury mid-way through the season, which saw him miss the rest of the 2013/14 season as well as the 2014 World Cup. He was rushed back from the injury and was never quite the same again. Even loans at Manchester United and Chelsea weren’t enough to get the striker back to his best. 

Falcao has an uncanny ability to control his pace and use it against defenders whenever he really needed to, which is a trick that seems to be missing after his injury at Monaco. The striker looked tame and uninterested in those days which was in stark contrast to the incredible ‘El Tigre’ everyone so fondly remembered. 

However, he has not lost his eye for goal and has done well with Monaco back in Ligue 1.

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Rohit Menon
ANALYST
Gooner. Football enthusiast. Dreamer.
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