Consistency is one of the most valuable attributes a footballer can have. With it, they can become a reliable and solid member of their team and a player their manager/coach knows they can rely on. Without it, they can prove to be a risk and a liability, whose place in a top team can never be guaranteed. As such, inconsistent players are often the bane of a manager's life.
Inconsistent players often show flashes or glimpses of brilliance before disappearing or fading for a few games. To be a consistent professional over an entire career requires a great deal of mental toughness. The likes of Andrea Pirlo, Ryan Giggs and Lionel Messi have played at the highest level consistently and almost never had a bad game. They are a very rare breed. Most of the players on this list are attacking players, as they are the only type a manager can afford to be so inconsistent, and many have been accused of having bad attitudes over the course of their careers.
Most players' performance levels go up and down over the course of a season and their career, that is only natural, but the players on this lists form swings like a pendulum from game to game, with their fans and manager alike never knowing what to expect. Here are the top 20 most inconsistent players in world soccer.
20 Wesley Sneijder
19 Papiss Cisse
18 Cesc Fabregas
17 Erik Lamela
Tottenham have had more inconsistent players than perhaps any other top flight club in recent years, and few typify this better than Argentine Erik Lamela. The winger arrived in a summer of big spending as the North Londoners looked to replace the departed Gareth Bale. Lamela was Tottenham's biggest buy, costing a potential $46 million if add-ons are activated. The young winger had a torrid first season, playing only nine league games. After a brighter start to his second season, Lamela faded once more and has had a quiet start to the 2015-16 season.
16 Martin Skrtel
15 Samir Nasri
14 Angel Di Maria
13 Mesut Ozil
Another player who made a big money move from Real Madrid to the Premier League and didn't quite live up to the expectations surrounding them is Mesut Ozil. The German playmaker was a massive signing for Arsenal as Arsene Wenger smashed his record transfer fee for a player by more than double the previous record, shedding out over $60 million to make Ozil the most expensive German player in history.
12 Shaun Wright-Philips
Few careers have nose-dived quite as spectacularly as that of former Manchester City and England winger Shaun Wright-Philips. After a blistering start to life in the Premier League with Manchester City as a youngster, SWP was snapped up by Chelsea, in the days before the Sky Blues were awash with cash and had to sell their best assets. The fee was around $35 million and made the 24-year-old one of the most expensive Englishmen in history. At Chelsea, Wright-Philips' performances were up and down, and when he returned to Man City after three seasons, he couldn't recapture the form he had showed in his first stint, despite showing glimpses of his old self.
At one time, Robinho was regarded as the hottest prospect in world football. At Santos, he was a revelation right through from the junior and youth teams to the first team. At the age of just 15, Pele was already hailing the teenager as his heir apparent. None of this pressure seemed to get to the young man, who joined Real Madrid at 18 and took to La Liga like a fish to water. His inconsistency was accounted for, as it would with any 18-year-old, but by his fourth season, aged 22, Los Blancos felt a $50 million offer by Man City was sufficient.
10 Mirko Vucinic
9 Hatem Ben-Arfa
One of the most frustrating footballers of the 21st century, Hatem Ben-Arfa had all the tools to become a world class player. His skill, control and dribbling abilities were genuinely good enough to rival the likes of Messi, Hazard and Ronaldo, but his attitude and application was poor enough to rival Mario Balotelli or Mido. In the 2011-12 season he was superb, the star of a Newcastle team which finished fifth in the Premier League, but he needed the team to be built around him.
8 Ricardo Quaresma
Portuguese winger Ricardo Quaresma had a lot in common with Ben-Arfa. He was also a very gifted and technical player, and Quarema was even powerful, making him a real complete package. He looked an incredible prospect with Sporting CP and a player destined for greatness. He joined Barcelona aged 20 but his form for the Catalan club was shaky, and he left after just a year.
7 Adel Taarabt
If it's players with a bad attitude that you're looking for, then look no further than Moroccan Adel Taarabt. He joined QPR from Tottenham and in the 2010-11 season he was by far the best player in the Championship as he inspired the club to promotion, although even that season didn't pass without drama from the attacking midfielder. Interest from PSG and Napoli reportedly turned Taarabt's head, as he was replaced as captain by Joey Barton.
6 Mario Balotelli
5 Emmanuel Adebayor
4 Kevin Prince-Boateng
3 Antonio Cassano
Technically speaking, Antonio Cassano is probably the most gifted player on this list, and that is no small claim on a list featuring some very natural footballers who are excellent on the ball. Cassano however, should have been a top player, in the very top bracket of players of his generation. His skill, control, passing and awareness are as good as anyone's. Nicknamed the Jewel of Old Bari, Cassano danced past opponents and made a mockery of defenses in his early years when on form.
For Manchester United fans, the words inconsistent and Nani will be forever intertwined. The Portuguese wide man arrived with all the ability in the world, and surely all it took was some of Fergies man management to get the best out of such a magnificent prospect. Nani, like Ronaldo, arrived at Old Trafford from Sporting CP, and like Ronaldo, Nani had bags of ability. He could dribble at pace, beat a man and was capable of producing a wicked shot.
No player has been as gloriously inconsistent as Brazilian striker Adriano. In fact, no player has come close. The man has made inconsistency an art form. At his best, he was a dominant striker who could run defenders ragged and had one of the most blistering strikes of a ball of any player in the world. At his worst, he was genuinely terrible. He didn't even look like a footballer at times. Adriano spent five seasons at Inter Milan, in two of them he averaged a goal every two games, in the other three he was named the worst player in the league, AKA the Bidone d'Oro.
That is quite a remarkable feat. Once his performances at Inter dropped from inconsistent to just downright not good enough, the Brazilian international headed back to Brazil, joining Sao Paolo on-loan. He was superb, and Inter gave him another chance, but he failed to find consistent form once more. He had one more stint in the Serie A, a five game spell with Roma, but failed once more. He returned to Brazil, but has played only 10 games in the last four years, plagued by fitness troubles. Now 33, it remains to be seen whether Adriano will ever restart his failed career.
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