In soccer it is only natural that some players will join a club and not look good enough. Sometimes a player can look a world-beater for a smaller club but completely out of their depth at a larger side. Often this is a simple case of ability, the player no longer stands out alongside more talented individuals. There are numerous other factors such as the pressure and media attention which come with playing for a big club which can hamper a players performance level.
This list is in regards only to players at their current sides. Historical examples would include the likes of Julien Faubert and Thomas Gravesen at Real Madrid and Tom Cleverley and Bebe at Manchester United. It is not that the players on this list are not very capable soccer players; they just do not look up to the heights of the club they currently play for.
It can be unfair to write players off early in their time at new clubs. Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo are prime examples of players who initially looked out of their depth but went on to become stars of the world’s game. In most cases though, a player who looks out of their depth eventually moves on to a club more appropriate to their level. Here are the top 20 soccer players who are out of their depth.
20. John Obi Mikel
John Obi Mikel is a very talented player who would walk into most teams. It was Jose Mourinho who brought him to Chelsea in 2006, and he has shown faith in the Nigerian, but at 28, Mikel really should be playing regular first team football. The Super Eagles international has played 64 games for his country and 224 times for Chelsea, but the recruitment of Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic have made Mikel unlikely to play regularly in the near future. Unlike some on this list, should Mikel move on, he would get another top club.
19. Vlad Chiriches
Vlad Chiriches is already the Romania captain at the age of 25, and was signed by Tottenham for more than $10 million after impressing with Steaua Bucuresti. The central defender has looked a little shakey in North London though, and like many players, he appears to be struggling to adapt to life in the Premier League. He has been at Tottenham for two years now, and only played 25 league games; this season could be make or break for Chiriches. He looks out of his depth to us but at 25, there is still time for the Spurs man to prove us wrong.
18. Liam Bridcutt
Liam Bridcutt looked one of the best players in the Championship, England’s second tier, and it was not particularly surprising when Gus Poyet handed him his chance in the Premier League, bringing him to Sunderland. At Brighton, he looked a dominant defensive midfielder who broke play up brilliantly, snuffing out opposition attacks. At Sunderland, he has looked lost in midfield and been nowhere near at dominant as Lee Cattermole. Bridcutt looks likely to leave Sunderland this summer, probably for the Championship, where one suspects he will impress once more.
17. Martin Skrtel
Martin Skrtel has played almost 300 games for Liverpool and been a virtual ever-present since signing for the Reds back in 2008, how then could he possibly be out of his depth? Well he just is. It’s clear for most people to see. Skrtel is dominant in the air, but other than that he looks slow and clumsy. He often leaves a flailing leg conceding free-kicks and is spotted grappling players at set-pieces; not to mention the number of own goals he concedes. It is no surprise Skrtel is often targeted as a weak spot by opposition sides, and Brendan Rodgers should really be looking out for a new center back.
16. Paul Konchesky
Paul Konchesky looked horrendously out of his depth at Liverpool, but still appears somewhat that way at more lowly Leicester City. The two-time England international was excellent in his three years at Fulham, but looked dreadful for Liverpool and has never quite recovered; he even appeared exposed in the Championship with the Foxes. Now 34 years of age, Konchesky is slow and reckless and shouldn’t be a first choice defender for any Premier League club.
15. Roberto Soldado
Clearly Roberto Soldado has some talent, you don’t average over a goal every other game in La Liga and for the Spanish national team without being a quality player. Yet in the Premier League we just have not seen any indication that there is a clinical or even gifted player in there. Soldado cost Spurs over $25 million, and for that they have got three goals from open play in 52 league games, and seven if you include penalties. Soldado looks painfully out of his depth with the physicality of the Premier League and both parties will probably be hoping for a move this summer.
Maxwell has had a very impressive career for a very average player. He has won numerous titles with Cruzeiro, Ajax, Inter Milan, Barcelona and PSG. Earlier in his career, Maxwell’s most useful weapon was his blistering pace, but now aged 33, that weapon is severely lessened. He is not calamitous at the back, but if PSG are serious about challenging in Europe, then they need better than the Brazilian left back.
13. Mike Williamson
You know something’s wrong when your own manager accuses you of getting sent off deliberately, and that’s exactly what happened to Mike Williamson at the end of last season. As the Magpies were roundly defeated in a crucial game against Leicester City, Williamson made a rash lunge on Jamie Vardy which saw red, it was the epitome of his incompetence. Williamson has played 150 times for Newcastle, largely due to the injuries to Steven Taylor, and has never looked up to it at Premier League level.
12. Kevin Kampl
Kevin Kampl is a raw but exciting talent who looked to be a potential star with Red Bull Salzburg. But the Austrian league is not the strongest, and since joining Borussia Dortmund in January of this year, Kampl has looked a bit lost with the German giants. Capable of playing through the middle of on either wing, Kampl has to compete with the likes of Marco Reus, Ikay Gundogan, Shinji Kagawa and Jakob Blaszczykowski. The Slovenia star is still only 24, but must start improving and soon.
11. Marvin Emnes
Swansea’s signing of Marvin Emnes was a bit of a strange one. The Swans are currently enjoying one of the greatest times in the club’s history, pushing the upper reaches of the Premier League, and Emnes does not seem quite the player to lead a team’s line should they have any such aspirations. Emnes spent only one season in the top flight with Middlesbrough, where he failed to score in 15 games, and was far from outstanding in the Championship. Since joining the Swans, Emnes has no goals in 17 league games, and once more looks to be out of his depth at the highest level.
10. Chris Smalling
Chris Smalling has played exactly 100 league games for Manchester United, and not many players have done that at the age of 25. The fact is, Smalling really shouldn’t have played so many games for the club. Had he been at the club in the Vidic/Ferdinand era, he wouldn’t have got a sniff at the first team. Despite all of Louis van Gaal spending, he seems to have forgotten once more that the club is in dire need of a central defender, with the exception of their unlikely move for Sergio Ramos. Smalling looks out of his depth for both Manchester United and England.
9. Nicklas Bendtner
Nicklas Bendtner appeared to be well out of his depth for almost a decade at Arsenal. Technically good and of impressive physique, Wenger saw Bendtner as the man to lead his line one day, but it never came to fruition and the Dane never looked quite good enough with the Gunners, despite impressing at international level. He moved on last year and joined Wolfsburg, where he looked equally out of his depth, scoring once in 18 games.
8. Simone Padoin
Simone Padoin impressed enough in five seasons with Atalanta to earn a move to Juventus, but he has looked somewhat out of his depth at Juve, and lower Serie A side may well be his rightful level. In four years in Turin, Padoin has made only 70 league appearances for Juventus, and never looked quite up to the level of the Italian champions; which is reflected in the fact that he has never been capped by the Italian national team, despite playing for by far the countries strongest side.
7. Alex Song
Alex Song is another very good player who just looks a little out of his depth in a star-studded Barcelona squad. Song looked a quality player for Arsenal and once more in the Premier League whilst on-loan at West Ham, but in three years at the Camp Nou, Song has played only 39 league games and been largely overlooked in favor of Sergio Busquets. Song is still only 27 and would prove a valuable asset to any team outside of that top bracket, of which Barcelona probable lead.
6. Lacina Traore
Lacina Traore recently featured on our list of the tallest players in the game, standing at 6-foot-8. Traore showed promise in the Ivory Coast, Romania and Russia, but joined Monaco in 2014 and has struggled ever since. The giant of a man has seen little first team football, playing only six league games, and once more struggled for game time when he was shipped out on loan to Everton, where he played once. Even with the departure of Dimitar Berbatov, Traore may well move on this summer.
5. Gabriel Obertan
The second Newcastle player to make this list, and to be honest, it could have been more. Gabriel Obertan looked laughably out of his depth in his 14 Manchester United appearances, and hasn’t looked a fat lot better in his 53 games for Newcastle, since joining the Magpies in the summer of 2011 for a fee in the region of $5 million. Obertan has had very limited game time over the last three seasons and could well leave Newcastle in the near future; it is unlikely he will get another Premier League team.
4. Victor Moses
Victor Moses is the classic example of a player who looks too good for a lesser team but not good enough for a top team. He was superb for Wigan in the Premier League, which saw Chelsea pounce, signing him for over $10 million. The Nigerian was somewhat less impressive with Chelsea, and equally uninspiring when he spent a season on-loan at Liverpool. However, last season, at Stoke, Moses was once more very impressive. It seems unlikely that Jose Mourinho will keep him at Chelsea for next season.
3. Asier Illaramendi
The pressure of playing for Real Madrid is probably greater than that of playing for any other club in the world. Even huge stars such as Luka Modric and Gareth Bale have struggled upon their arrival in the Spanish capital, and both looked considerably more capable than Asier Illaramendi. The Spanish midfielder joined Real from Sociedad in 2013, and has played 59 times for the club. Real paid the best part of $40 million for him, making him their most expensive Spanish signing in history. He has been a flop, with even Pepe creating more chances than him last season, and he’s been linked with a move to Liverpool this summer.
2. Rickie Lambert
Rickie Lambert had a fairy-tale 2013/14 season and a nightmare 2014/15 season. He was a hero at Southampton, taking the club from League One to the upper reaches of the Premier League in five seasons, but couldn’t resist the draw of boyhood club Liverpool. The match made in heaven didn’t go so well on grass though, with Lambert scoring two goals in 25 games, and not quite looking up to scratch for a team with top four ambitions. Aged 33, Lambert has been linked with a move to Bournemouth this summer.
1. Yaya Sanogo
Arsene Wenger was quick to pounce after Yaya Sanogo scored 10 goals in 13 games in Wenger’s favorite hunting ground of France, albeit in the second division. Unsurprisingly, the step up from Ligue 2 to the Premier League has proved rather large. Sanogo played 11 times for Arsenal and 10 times for Crystal Palace, failing to score in either and looking rather inept. He is fortunate to have earned a loan move to Ajax this summer, a great club for any developing youngster, but they will have to work wonders for the Frenchman if he is to return good enough for the Arsenal team.
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