TOP FIVE: Footballers who never fulfilled their potential! (part one)

AFTER Renato Sanches’ nightmare debut for Swansea City in their 1-0 loss to Newcastle last weekend, critics were quick to jump on his back and lambast him for his less than impressive performance.

In fairness to the kid though, he has not had much game time at all since his big money move to Bayern Munich from Benfica last summer and so I think you have to take that into consideration, as well as the fact that he was playing in a whole new league.

I have no doubts, he’ll improve on that display and prove the haters wrong real soon.

Anyways, it got me thinking, which footballers who we all may have once raved about never quite made it to their max potential? Here’s AFEFootballNews (PART ONE) list of those who had all the promise, but didn’t deliver the goods …


Bojan Krkic (Barcelona)

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Bojan with Ronaldinho. Image:

Bojan’s downfall isn’t as disastrous as some of the other players further down on this list, but he still never lived up to the hype that once surrounded him at Barcelona.

After scoring the winner in the Champions League quarter finals against Schalke in 2008, Spanish forward Bojan was dubbed “The next Messi” by pundits all over and it seemed for all the world like he was going to be a star.

He even broke one of Messi’s records as he became Barcelona’s youngest goalscorer in La Liga’s.

The pressure on the youngster’s head well and truly go to him though, with rumours circling that he was suffering with “serious panic attacks” as he withdrew from the Spain squad.

Bojan eventually left the Nou Camp in 2011 and after a brief spell at Roma, as well as loan spells at AC Milan and Ajax, he ended up at the far less glamorous Stoke City in 2014.

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Bojan is now at Stoke City, but will spend the season on loan at Alaves. Image:

Now at 27-years-old, Bojan still belongs to Stoke now, but spent last season on loan at Bundesliga side Mainz 04 and this year he will play on loan at Deportivo Alaves in Spain.

He went from playing with Messi and Ronaldinho to playing with John Walters and Glenn Whelan. Wasted potential.


Ganso (Santos)

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Ganso (right) with Neymar in their Santos days. Image:

You may or may not have heard of Ganso before, but at one point him and Neymar were tearing it up together as youngsters at Santos.

He was the engine, nicknamed “Mercenario” (Mercenary) that created the chances whilst Neymar was the one who tucked them away and danced around defences.

Whilst the latter went on to sign for Barcelona and of course more recently, became the world record signing with a move to Paris Saint-Germain, Ganso had to wait a bit longer for his big move to Europe.

Having made 63 appearances for Santos between 2008 and 2012, the Brazilian midfielder decided to stay in Brazil for a further for years when he made the move to Sao Paulo. He racked up 106 appearances in his four year stay there and was again loved by fans of the club and regarded as a great player.

As with many South Americans who make the move across the pond to Europe, Ganso’s move to Sevilla last year, proved to be a big mistake. arguably, by the time it came around for him, the Brazilian had hit the age of 26 and had missed out on spending some of his potentially peak career years in a “better league”.

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Ganso at Sevilla. Image:

He has made just 10 league appearances since his move to La Liga. He has scored twice in those rare showings, but he’s only shown a glimpse of what he was once able to do in Brazil.

It’s a classic case of “should have stayed in South America and became a legend”.


Federico Macheda (Manchester United)

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Macheda celebrating THAT goal against Villa in 2009. Image:

For Manchester United fans, Italian forward Macheda will always be remembered for his magnificent turn and shoot goal on his debut against Aston Villa back in April of 2009. However, much like Calum Scott and his song “Dancing On My Own”, this would prove to be the only decent hit that Macheda ever provided.

After that match, a then 17-year-old Macheda was given rave reviews by pundits and critics alike and United fans were quickly becoming excited by what the Italian could offer the club.

He looked a great player, with a fine physique and a wonderful first touch, but as he began to get chances at Old Trafford, injuries began to ravage his career.

He spent six years at United (2008-2014) and during that time he made just 19 appearances, scoring four goals. Furthermore, he was loaned out an incredible SIX times during that spell too, so it was no wonder he never had time to settle anywhere.

Arguably, it was his loan spell at Birmingham City in 2014 that provided fans with a reminder of what he could do as he hit 10 goals in 18 appearances in the Championship.

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He has found form again for Novara (kind of!). Image:

After brief spells at Cardiff City and Nottingham Forest, Macheda is now back in his home country with Novara, where he has become a modest goal scorer, scoring 7 goals in 21 league matches so far.

What could have been eh.


Kerlon (Cruzeiro)

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The “Seal Dribble” which Kerlon made famous. Image:

Kerlon is just another in the long list of Brazilian-travels-to-Europe story gone wrong.

The little tricky winger was one of the most sought-after and hottest prospect in the world during the mid 2000’s.

He became a sensation in his homeland whilst playing for Cruzeiro, as he became well known for his trademark skill, “the seal dribble”. This bizarre but effective move saw him bounce the ball continuously on his forehead while running.

This meant that Kerlon was often on the receiving end of nasty fouls from opposing players, but it never stopped him from continuing it.

Inevitably, the big European clubs had been keeping an eye on this uniquely talented South American wonder boy and it wasn’t long before Italian giants Inter Milan swooped into sign him. However, this big move once again proved to be the downfall of yet another Brazilian prodigy.

He spent four years at the San Siro and never played a single minute, partly down to persistent knee injuries, but also down to the fact that he endured four unsuccessful loan spells whilst being there at Chievo Verona (Italy), Ajax (Netherlands), Parana and Nacional-NS (both Brazil).

In 2012, after failing in Europe, he tried his hand at dominating another continent; Asia, or Japan to be precise, as he signed for Fujieda MYFC on a free transfer. He found his original form once again for awhile, but once again the injuries returned to halt his progress. His tally of 9 goals in 22 matches for the club was his best to date.

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Kerlon is now in Slovakia with Spartak Trnava. Credit:

Spells at Miami Dade FC (USA), Sliema Wanderers (Malta) followed before a move to Slovakia with Villa Nova.

Now at 29 years old, Kerlon is playing for Slovak Super Liga side FC Spartak Trnava and you have to wonder what might have been if injuries hadn’t have got in his way. I miss the seal dribble days (YouTube it, it’s amazing!).


Freddy Adu (DC United)

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“The Next Pele” to invisible – Adu’s sad story. Image:

This guy right here is the king of “what could have been’s”.

Adu was once described as being the “Next Pele” by journalists and pundits worldwide as he had shocked the world, when, at the age of just 14, he became the youngest American ever to sign a major league professional contract in any team sport when he was chosen by D.C. United as the number one overall pick in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft.

The forward grew up in Tema, Ghana where he often played football against men who were three times his age. When he was eight, he and his mother moved to the United States and in 2003, he became a U.S. citizen.

Soon after arriving in the United States, he was discovered by a local soccer coach and began playing with boys several years older.  While playing with the U.S. Olympic Development Program in an under-14 tournament, Adu’s team won the competition as he led the tournament in scoring, and was named MVP.

Despite eventually becoming the youngest player to score in MLS history, it’s fair to say that his career spiralled out of control REALLY quickly.

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Adu’s career summed up in one picture. Image:

Having played for DC United and Real Salt Lake City, Adu decided to try his hand at European football and some would argue that it was here that his downfall began. He failed to make a breakthrough at the Portuguese side and after unsuccessful loan spells with AS Monaco (France), Belenenses (Portugal), Aris (Greece) and Caykur Rizespor (Turkey), he was sold back to the US with Philadelphia Union.

Incredibly, he again failed to make an impact in his homeland and was sold to Bahia (Brazil). Soon after though, he was released again and underwent a succession of unsuccessful trials throughout Europe with the likes of Stabaek (Norway), Blackpool (England) and AZ Alkmaar (Netherlands).

After eventually signing for Jagodina (Serbia) and having spent time at KUPS (Finland), Adu who is now 28 years old is back in the States once again, but is without a club, having been release by second division outfit Tampa Bay Rowdies last season.

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In action for Tampa Bay Rowdies last year. Image:

Adu’s case is one of the saddest in modern footballing history and the weight of expectation placed upon his head as a youngster has seen his career turn into a journeyman story, playing for thirteen clubs in eight different countries.

Keep an eye out on AFEFootballNews for more articles to come on the demise of some of those who were once considered to be some of the best young talents in world football!





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