It is never nice to describe a soccer players career as ‘doomed’, but in some cases, it sadly appears that way. Soccer, like most sports, is a ruthless business in which you can have the world at your feet one day and be forgotten the next. Unlike most aspects of life, soccer is almost entirely a meritocracy. The best players with the best mentalities will – by and large – rise to the top, unless their careers are stalled by external factors such as injuries.
Injuries are one of the factors that feature on this list, with at least four of the entries being able to cite various injuries as the primary reason for their careers taking an unfortunate turn. Other factors include poor mentalities, ranging from a lack of effort and fitness to falling out with coaches and teammates, whilst others simply lost a yard of pace and saw their careers spiral into oblivion.
The list only includes active players. All could yet rescue their careers, particularly the younger players, but most would agree that their playing careers at least appear rather ‘doomed’ at this moment in time. Older players may naturally decline, but those over 30 on this list have fallen far further than most expected or than their ability suggested they would, hence their inclusion. Here are the top 15 soccer players whose careers seem doomed:
15. Savio Nsereko
Back in January 2009, Savio Nsereko made a big-money move, worth over $13 million, to West Ham United. The German youth international of Ugandan descent was only 19 at the time, and his brief time at the Boleyn Ground was a huge flop. Still only 20 when he left, Nsereko’s stock was still high enough for him to join a big club such as Fiorentina. Loaned out six times by the Serie A club with little fruits for their labour though, his next move was to the German fourth tier.
Still only 26, Nsereko last played in Bulgaria for Beroe Stara Zagora, and has recently had failed trials with the likes of Kazakh outfit FC Shakhtar Karagandy, some fall from grace and sufficient reason to believe the forwards career is rather doomed.
14. Julien Faubert
The second former West Ham player to make this list in as many entries; a versatile former French international, Julien Faubert spent five years as a very capable utility player for the Hammers, a spell which included a shock loan move to Real Madrid, where he played only twice. The next three years saw a spell in Turkey and a return to France with Bordeaux, but with limited involvement in his final season, Faubert was released and became a free agent. Still only 32, he ultimately joined Kilmarnock of the SPL in February of this year, following a trial at St. Johnstone.
Brazilian forward Keirrison joined Barcelona at the age of 20 for a fee worth potentially in advance of $20 million. While his compatriot Neymar is enjoying great success at the Camp Nou, Keirrison found life in Catalonia a little more difficult to adjust to. In five years at the club, he was loaned out five times and failed to make a single appearance for the current European champions. In 2014, Keirrison left Barcelona, returning to childhood club Cortiba, he has been described as Barca’s worst ever signing. Since returning to Cortiba, Keirrison has managed only 4 goals in 27 games, in comparison to the 21 goals in 31 games he managed there between the ages of 17 and 20.
12. Shaun Wright-Philips
Shaun Wright-Philips’ career has seemed doomed for some time now. The quick and skillful winger made his mark at Manchester City, before joining Chelsea in a huge transfer deal at the time worth around $35 million in 2005. He won four trophies in three years at Chelsea but never became an integral part of the Blues side, and in 2008, he returned to Man City. In 2011 the former England international joined QPR, but appeared to have lost a few yards of pace, and featured sporadically in both the Premier League and the Championship. The lack of interest in SWP once his contract came to and end spoke volumes. Ultimately, the wide man linked up with brother Bradley Wright-Philips at the NY Red Bulls.
11. Royston Drenthe
A regular on lists of this ilk, so highly-regarded at one time, despite his numerous knock-backs and let downs, there has always been a decent team willing to take a punt on Royston Drenthe, until now that is. Time appears to have run out for the 28-year-old, whose latest move has an air of having given up on ever making it at a respectable level of world football. After failed spells in Spain, England, Russia and Turkey, Drenthe joined Abu Dhabi based side Baniyas. The UAE Pro League may pay well, but an average of a little over 2,000 spectators a week is all that are likely to see the former Netherlands youth starlet strut his stuff for Baniyas.
10. Steven Taylor
Injuries have plagued the career of Steven Taylor to an extent few others have had to endure. Very highly rated by both Newcastle and England, Taylor made his club debut at 18 and won a highly impressive 29 caps for England’s under-21s. The defender has now been at Newcastle for 13 years, but has played only 205 games, an average of little over 15 games a season. In the last five seasons in particular, Taylor has only played more than 20 games in one season. In his recent returns, the England B international has not looked his former classy self, and has been culpable for a number of poor mistakes, prompting suggestions the injuries may finally have take their toll. Having recently turned 30, the future – sadly – for Taylor, doesn’t look particularly promising.
9. Ryan Babel
Former Ajax and Liverpool star Ryan Babel always flattered to deceive. A world beater one minute and a liability the next, his end product and technical skills could at times be called into question, but he was still a very promising player. He made his Netherlands debut at 19, and had played over 100 games for Ajax at the age of 21, when he was transferred to Liverpool for a fee in the region of $25 million. At 26, when he should really have been in the prime of his career, Babel joined Turkish side Kasimpasa. Two years later he headed to Abu Dhabi, where he played 14 games for Al Ain. Now 29, Babel is without a club, and his once exciting career seems to have petered out and is beginning to look rather doomed.
Another player who has been badly affected by injuries, it is difficult to think of a player whose rise and decline were as rapid as that of Spanish attacking midfielder Michu. He joined Swansea from Rayo Vallecano in 2012, and scored 22 goals in his first season for the Swans. It was an incredible achievement, he won his first cap for Spain in this time too and was linked with $40 million moves to Europe’s elite. An ankle injury halted his meteoric rise though, and in 2014 he went on-loan to Napoli.
Appearances for either Napoli or Swansea were suddenly hard to come by, and Michu was released by the Welsh club by mutual consent. Remarkably, the midfielder joined Spanish amateurs and fourth division side Langreo in the summer; it remains to be seen whether he can revitalize his career.
7. Ravel Morrison
Ravel Morrison has been very highly-regarded since a young age. Sir Alex Ferguson recognized his obvious talents and at the age of 16 he was already training with the Manchester United first team. Attitude and behavior problems have troubled his career ever since then though. In spells with West Ham, Birmingham, QPR and Cardiff, all have seen both the good and the bad of Morrison.
In 2015, he made a surprise move to Lazio, looking for a new start, but it hasn’t gone to plan. The Lazio manager has criticized his effort on the training ground and his attempts to learn Italian. He has played only three league games and is widely expected to leave the club before the end of his current contract.
6. Mario Balotelli
Balotelli, much like Morrison, is clearly a very talented footballer, but seems to lack the mental attributes required to make it at the highest level. He scored 1 goal in 16 league appearances in his first season at Liverpool, and has managed an equally uninspiring 1 goal in 12 league games on-loan at AC Milan this season. Balotelli keeps getting third, fourth and fifth chances at clubs due to the talent managers and coaches know he has, but no longer a youngster – aged 25 – time is running out for Balotelli to prove his worth to a top team and show he can definitively make it at the top.
Now aged 34, one would expect Adriano’s career to have started to tail off. The truth of the matter however, is that his career began to tail off around the age of 25. Quick, powerful, skillful and ruthless in front of goal, Adriano had all the tools to become a world class complete center-forward. Yet his fitness and application repeatedly let him down. He hasn’t played in Europe for five years and has played only 12 league games in any country since 2009. In 2016, Adriano returned after two years out the game, joining Miami United in essentially the fourth tier of U.S. soccer. With all due respect, an embarrassing standard for a player who could have been an all time great.
There is still time for Falcao to rescue his career, aged 30, but the Colombian needs to make the right move this summer and start with a bang. Regarded as one of, if the not the finest out and out striker in the world only three years ago, it is amazing how far Falcao has fallen. A surprise move to Monaco followed by two failed loan moves to Manchester United and Chelsea have seen his stock fall off a cliff. It remains to be seen whether El Tigre wants his next move to be a last attempt at competing with Europe’s elite or merely his last big pay day, but right now the king of the Europa League’s career looks rather doomed.
3. Charles N’Zogbia
You could be forgiven for having forgotten all about Charles N’Zogbia, even if you were an Aston Villa fan. The Frenchman has made only two appearances this season, and made none in the 2013/14 campaign. N’Zogbia has played for Le Havre, Newcastle, Wigan, Aston Villa and the French national team, and is undoubtedly a talented player. His total transfer fees amount to around $25 million. However, his lack of appearances in an Aston Villa team which is regarded as one of the worst in Premier League history is testimony to how far the twice-capped winger has fallen, and suggests at the age of 29, that his career may well be doomed.
2. Adel Taarabt
Similar to Ravel Morrison in many ways, Adel Taarabt is a very gifted attacking midfielder who has had his career plagued by attitude problems. The Moroccan international began life at Spurs, but really saw his career kick off in the Championship with QPR in 2010/11, when he was widely regarded as the best performer in the division. He only ever showed glimpses of his talent in the Premier League though, falling out with coaches and fellow players as well as having his fitness and effort in training called into question. Taarabt joined Benfica in the summer but the move has seen his career fall backwards further, having failed to make a single appearance for Benfica and only 7 for Benfica B.
1. Abou Diaby
A wonderful footballer, Abou Diaby was blessed with all the tools to become a complete central midfielder. He had the power and athleticism twinned with fine passing, technique and vision. It was because of this Arsene Wenger refused to give up on the Frenchman, despite his incredible proneness to injuries. In his last four seasons at the Emirates, Diaby played only 16 league games, an average of four a season, highlighting the severity and regularity of his injury troubles. Finally released by Arsenal in 2015, after 10 years at the club, Diary joined Marseille. He was almost immediately injured once more though, and is yet to make a single appearance for OM, making his career – at 29 – seem rather doomed.
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