Top 15 Late Bloomers In Soccer History

In soccer, like any sport, people develop at different rates. Some players are simply physically incapable of playing at the highest level until they are into their twenties, whilst others may have the physical aspect but lack the mental attributes during their formative years. The players on this list, for one reason or another, played at a low level or looked unimpressive as youngsters, but burst into life later in their careers.

Top class late bloomers are rare but not unheard of in soccer. If a player is going to make it at the highest level, they will normally have shown considerable promise as a teenager. This list includes World Cup and Champions League winners, some of whom did not break into a respectable level of competitive soccer until their mid 20s. It is a lesson to us all not to write off youngsters who struggle.

It is difficult to put your finger on just what makes a late bloomer bloom. As alluded to, sometimes it can be a physical or mental thing, but at other times it is purely that they find a team that plays to their strengths and all of a sudden they flourish and go from mediocre players to quality one's. Here are the top 15 late bloomers in soccer history:

15 Marco Materazzi


14 Daryl Murphy


13 Ole Gunnar Solskjaer


12 Les Ferdinand


11 Rune Bratseth


10 Didier Drogba

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

9 Rickie Lambert

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

8 Oribe Peralta

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

7 Antonio Di Natale


6 Chris Wondolowski

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

5 Ian Wright


4 Miroslav Klose

Tim Groothuis/Witters Sport via USA TODAY Sports

3 Fabio Grosso


2 Dado Prso


1 Luca Toni

Photo by Tsutomu Takasu

Luca Toni is the king of the late bloomers, and there are no prizes for guessing that it would be an Italian to take top spot. Toni spent the first six years of his career darting around various lower league sides in Italy, playing in the second and third tier. He got his first taste of Serie A football at the age of 23 but found himself back in Serie B with Palermo at the age of 26. It was at this age that Toni really broke through, scoring 30 goals in Serie B as Palermo were promoted, and a further 20 in their first Serie A season, aged 28.

Toni subsequently joined Fiorentina, where he had his best season, scoring 31 goals, earning himself a move to Bayern Munich. Now aged 38, Toni scored an incredible 22 goals in 38 games in Serie A last season, making him the division's top scorer ahead of Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain, a quite incredible achievement at that age.

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Top 15 Late Bloomers In Soccer History