No matter which sport you watch, even if it's professional wrestling, you will see and notice your favorite athletes slowly declining. In soccer, it is even more prevalent to see some of the best stars have dramatic declines.
For some players, this happens naturally with age. After all, sports can take a huge toll on you physically as well as mentally and it's only natural that after some time, you start to get slower or your quality drops. All the years on the road eventually take their toll.
It can also be from an injury. Some soccer stars have had crucial injuries and as a result, been out for the long term, ranging from months to even whole years. When they finally return, they are simply not the same again. This could be because of the affected injury or simply because of the fear of getting injured again which has a mental effect on the player.
Wrong career moves leading to a lack of game time have also been factors that have seen players drift into the dreaded obscurity of nothingness. Sometimes, wrong career moves lead to too much publicity while labels such as "the next Maradona" can also cause a player to crack out of high expectations and eventually decline.
In some cases, it can even be a traumatic event that has left a player in a fragile mental state - such that they have never been the same and eventually fell off the radar. Alcohol and drug issues are another while something as simple as a decision from a manager could render a butterfly effect that ends a player's career even before it begins.
In brief, there are many ways players decline dramatically in the beautiful game and we will be taking a look at 20 of these soccer players who had a fall for the worse.
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20 Michael Owen
Michael Owen burst into the scene during the 1998 World Cup where he scored THAT goal against Argentina, announcing himself on the world stage. England's speedy golden boy was also Liverpool's golden boy as he helped his side to a treble in 2001, proceeding to even win the Ballon d'Or trophy for that year.
However, leaving Liverpool turned out to be Owen's downfall as joining Real Madrid in 2004 would signal the start of a downward spiral for the England international. Leaving Spain after just one season (mostly on the bench), Owen signed for Newcastle and despite a promising start, the injuries piled up and soon, his pace deteriorated.
Owen eventually became known for being injury prone as he could never maintain fitness for a whole season. He joined Manchester United in 2009 where he went on to win a Premier League medal, however, as a fringe player. He might have gotten his league medal but his career could have been so much more especially as he retired so early at the age of just 33.
19 Joe Cole
Like Owen, Joe Cole was also a star for both club and country, being one of the most technically gifted British footballers in recent times. Having moved to Chelsea from West Ham, Cole was absolutely pivotal in the early Jose Mourinho years, helping the Blues win three FA Cups and three league titles - two of which Cole scored the title deciding goals.
However, leaving Chelsea for Liverpool on a free transfer in 2010 at just 28 years of age would go on to make Cole obsolete. He had a debut season to forget at Anfield and was eventually shipped off on loan to Lille for the 2011/2012 season.
He returned to West Ham for one season, playing a bit part role and is now contracted to Aston Villa. It certainly is a mystery as to how Cole suddenly declined and so quickly as well soon after leaving Chelsea.
18 Papiss Cisse
When Papiss Cisse was signed by Alan Pardew for Newcastle in the 2012 January window from German side Freiburg, few fans knew who the Senegalese forward was. Cisse however, made sure everyone knew who he was by making quite the impact, scoring goals left, right and centre including one to remember against Chelsea.
Cisse ended his half season at Tyneside with 13 league goals in 14 games. Signed for just £9.3 million, many were already calling him the bargain of the decade. What was to follow after the 2011/12 season has been anything but the same.
Cisse failed to emulate his scoring figures for Newcastle from his debut season, scoring just 21 league goals in the next 82 games, including just two league goals in the 2013/14 season. Maybe it was a case of debut season goalscoring syndrome?
17 Takayuki Morimoto
You're likely to have not heard of this Japanese player but Morimoto was a big deal once upon a time. Not only is he the youngest Japanese player to make his professional debut at the age of 15 in 2004 but he is also the youngest goalscorer in J-League history at the same age. Having also been named the rookie of the year at 16 years of age, it's clear to see why big things were expected of the Japanese kid.
A loan move to Serie A side Catania in 2006 followed and despite being out for six months after rupturing his ACL, Catania saw enough promise to make the deal permanent.
However, Morimoto didn't live up to expectations, never scoring more than seven league goals in his time in Europe. Morimoto, now 27 years old, is currently playing for JEF United Chiba who play in the second division of the J League. Quite the decline.
16 Andriy Shevchenko
Andriy Shevchenko had a good claim of being arguably the best striker in the world during his time at Milan. Scoring a minimum of 20 goals in all competitions in his last three seasons in Italy, the Ukrainian moved to Chelsea in 2006 for a fee of £30.8 million - a British record at the time.
Things got off to a good start as he scored a fine goal in his debut game against Liverpool in the Community Shield and also netted his first league goal in only his second league appearance. However, his Chelsea career since then has been a disaster.
Looking like a shadow of the player that terrorized defenses in Europe, Shevchenko just never got going at Stamford Bridge. Did he reach his prime too early? Could he just not adapt to the Premier League? No one really knows what happened but a player feared for scoring goals had just scored nine league goals in 47 league games. He eventually left Chelsea after three years for his first club, Dynamo Kyiv.
15 Michael Essien
When Michael Essien signed for Chelsea from Lyon in 2005, he quickly established himself as one of the most powerful and devastating midfielders in the Premier League. Able to score goals, tackle and create, Essien was the all round midfielder.
Soon enough, the Ghanaian was named Chelsea's player of the year in 2006/2007 in what was his best season with the Blues where he notably scored this screamer of a goal against Arsenal.
However, a series of long term injuries saw Essien come back far from the player that dominated midfields and by 2011, he was virtually a fringe player for the Blues despite only being 29-years-old.
Essien was eventually sold to AC Milan in 2014 and now plays for Panathinaikos in the Greek league.
14 Emmanuel Adebayor
In 2008, Emmanuel Adebayor was on top of the world for Arsenal. Club legend Thierry Henry had left the summer before and with Robin van Persie's constant injuries, the Togolese international took his opportunity with both hands.
Ending the 2007-08 season with a stunning 30 goals in all competitions, Adebayor was on his way to becoming one of the best strikers in world football. But with interest from clubs like Milan, Adebayor let it go to his head and despite staying on for another season, it looked like he never really wanted to stay.
He scored nearly half as less goals the following season and eventually moved to Manchester City in 2009. A fresh start looked exactly what he needed as he scored four goals in his first four league games, however, the Togo bus attack in 2010 played a huge role in Adebayor's eventual decline.
During the African Cup of Nations, the Togo bus was attacked which led to teammates getting wounded and two team officials dying. Arsene Wenger believes the trauma of the incident along with added competition at City was what led to Adebayor's fall from grace.
While he did move to Real Madrid (on loan) and Tottenham soon after and did well, he eventually declined further, now being a fringe player at White Hart Lane, as he never managed to reach the heights of that one Arsenal season in 2008.
13 Eduardo Da Silva
Like Adebayor, Eduardo was another who impressed for Arsenal in the 2007-2008 season. Having signed that same season, it took a while for the Brazilian-Croatian to get going but when he did, he looked like the signing of the season.
Eduardo was in a rich vein of form, scoring four goals in seven league games but when a visit to Birmingham City took place, Eduardo suffered a gruesome injury, breaking his left fibula and suffering an open dislocation of his left ankle thanks to a studs up tackle from Martin Taylor.
Eduardo would miss the rest of the season as well as majority of the 2008/09 season and while he did have a heroic goalscoring return to action, he was never the same player and eventually moved to Shakhtar Donetsk in 2010.
12 Radamel Falcao
It might be harsh to include Radamel Falcao based on one season but his loan stint at Manchester United was quite the decline from the goalscoring machine we've been accustomed to seeing.
While at Monaco, Falcao suffered a season ending injury in January 2014 which led him to miss the 2014 World Cup. It was a long lay-off so it would naturally take the Colombian some time to get back to his best but during his loan stint at Old Trafford, he just never looked the same player again.
Missing easy chances and failing to impose himself - Falcao's decline was so dramatic that he was even demoted to playing an U21 game for United where even then, he struggled to make an impact and was substituted.
He ended the 2014/15 season with just four goals in 29 games. He's on loan to Chelsea now and while his fortunes could be different, if he continues to play like he did last season, it is definitely quite the decline.
11 Darren Bent
Darren Bent made a name for himself in 2005 where after just signing for Charlton Athletic, he would go on to score 18 league goals in 36 games, making him the highest scoring Englishman that season.
Bent would continue to impress and earn himself a move to Spurs where despite a decent record, he never really kicked off at White Hart Lane. A move to Sunderland followed in 2009 where we'd see the best of Bent, scoring 24 league goals in 38 games. He continued his goalscoring form in the 2010/11 season before a move to Aston Villa in the January window.
Since that move, Bent never really emulated his Sunderland form and eventually became a fringe player despite costing the Villans £24 million. He's still there and about, currently playing for Derby in the Championship but at 31 years old, Bent peaked pretty early for a striker.
10 Andrey Arshavin
Andrey Arshavin made his name known after his performances in Euro 2008 helped Russia reach the semifinals, defeating tournament high fliers Holland along the way. Rumors of a move to Barcelona soon followed in the 2008-09 season but it was on deadline day of the January transfer window where Arsenal signed the Russian.
No one really knows what happened but by the next season, Arshavin just seemed to have lost his spark and ability to create.
The Russian continued to decline to the point where in the 2011/12 season, he was booed by Arsenal fans before getting shipped out on loan to Zenit.
There still remains a feeling of regret from Arsenal fans that more should have come out of Arshavin during his stay in North London.
9 Danny Cadamarteri
Another player on this list you may not have heard of is Danny Cadamarteri. Hailed as one of the most promising English talents, the Everton forward seemed to be destined for success.
However in 2001, at the age of just 21, Cadamerteri appeared in court on a charge of assault and was found guilty. He would soon be released from Everton and join a number of lower league clubs while suffering quite a number of injuries along the way.
He last played for Carlisle United where he scored two goals in two years before retiring from the game in 2014 at the age of 33.
8 Sebastian Deisler
Hailed as one of the brightest talents in German history, Sebastian Deisler had big expectations on his shoulders, especially for his national team as Die Mannschaft looked to end their international misery since 1990.
Labelled as "one of the best players we ever had in Germany," by Bayern Munich's general manager, Uli Hoeness, Deisler unfortunately never reached his potential due to a series of injuries, first occurring when he ruptured his cruciate ligament as a 19-year-old.
The injuries would continue to relapse as Deisler - who also suffered from depression - eventually retired in 2007 at just 27 years of age. He now runs a Nepalese import store in Freiburg, Germany.
7 Michael Johnson
When Michael Johnson broke out as a teenager for Manchester City in 2007, huge things were expected of him.
Not only was he handed his U21 debut by Stuart Pearce at the age of 18, but Johnson was even seen as a future England captain.
A succession of various injuries put a halt to his progression however and combined with depression, drunk driving and allegedly spending too much time in night clubs and casinos, Johnson's career was over before it even began. City soon enough, cancelled his contract in 2012 as Johnson left football at just 24 years of age to get treatment for mental health problems.
An example of wasted talent due to the wrong attitude, many figures such as Roberto Mancini, Dietmar Hamann and Sven-Goran Eriksson have expressed regret over the way Johnson's career turned out.
6 Owen Hargreaves
After impressing for Bayern Munich and England in the 2006 World Cup, Owen Hargreaves signed for Manchester United in 2007 for a fee of £17 million. Seen as the missing piece in United's midfield, Hargreaves exceeded expectations in his debut season, helping United win the Premier League as well as the Champions League, where he played all 120 minutes and scored a penalty in the shootout.
However, things would sadly take a turn for the worse for Hargreaves as a series of recurring patellar tendinitis and hamstring problems would resign the former Bayern midfielder to only four league appearances from 2008 to 2011. Hargreaves would then go on to make a shock move to Manchester City where he would only make four appearances before retiring in 2012.
Sir Alex Ferguson somewhat harshly, called Hargreaves one of his worst signings, stating that it turned out to be a disaster.
5 Alexander Hleb
If there was any player who embodied the Arsenal way of passing the ball into the net, it was Alexander Hleb. Signed by the Gunners in 2005, Hleb excelled at dribbling and passing and turned out to be quite a success story in North London.
His best season came during the 2007/08 season where he helped the Gunners remain on top of the table for majority of the season before their eventual collapse. It signaled a third year without a trophy for Hleb and he decided to leave for the advances of Barcelona the following summer.
It proved to be his downfall as he barely got any game time under Pep Guardiola. It wasn't even because of the number of stars at the Nou Camp but Hleb reportedly always showed up late to training and never wanted to learn the language.
A series of loans to Stuttgart, Wolfsburg and Birmingham City only highlighted his demise as Hleb now plies his trade in Turkey for Gençlerbirliği. The Belarusian even admitted that leaving Arsenal was a huge regret for him.
4 Tony Flygare
One player who declined before he even reached the top was Tony Flygare. You are likely to have not heard of him but this was a Swedish player who at one point, was considered more talented than his Malmo teammate, Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In 1999, Malmo were awarded a late penalty in a game against Halmstad which could have helped them avoid relegation. Flygare - only 17 at the time - decided to take the penalty and subsequently missed, meaning the Swedish side were relegated for the first time in their history.
Ibrahimovic said that was the moment he overtook his teammate as Flygare was demoted to the youth team and eventually never made the most of his potential. After moving around European's lower leagues as well as indulging in drugs, Flygare retired in 2008 at just 27 years of age.
Flygare claims he hasn't spoken to Ibrahimovic in over a decade but not all was lost as he is the author of a best selling autobiography, "Once I Was Bigger Than Zlatan."
Adriano broke out in the 2004 Copa America where he scored a late equalizer against Argentina as well as a penalty in the following shootout to give Brazil victory over their age old rivals. A return to Inter Milan followed as Adriano quickly established himself as one of football's most powerful yet, exciting players.
However, the Brazilian succumbed to not only the alleged depression over his father's death but also a break up, partying, drinking his problems away and a bad work ethic.
Adriano soon left Inter but his problems would worsen as he gained weight, was accused of drug trafficking in 2010 and reportedly spent £13,000 on 18 prostitutes this year after a move to a second division French side, Le Havre collapsed. It is a huge shame how his career turned out, especially as he was considered the long term successor to Luis Ronaldo.
2 Yoann Gourcuff
When Yoann Gourcuff was at AC Milan, he barely got any game time thanks to Kaka being on top of the world. However, he showed his true potential on loan at Bordeaux during the 2008-2009 season where he helped the French side reach the quarterfinals of the Champions League as well as winning Ligue 1.
Gourcuff's elegance, dribbling and overall performances got French newspapers labeling him as the successor to Zinedine Zidane. The problem was, having played twice the amount of games at Bordeaux (who he went on to sign permanently with) than he did with Milan, Gourcuff was fatigued and soon became injury prone.
The 2010 World Cup all but ended any chances of him actually succeeding Zidane as he was frozen out by Franck Ribery and Nicolas Anelka who reportedly didn't pass the ball to him, before Gourcuff got sent off against South Africa, ending a torrid time for France.
A big money move to Lyon followed but Gourcuff was never the same, barely remaining fit for an entire season. His injury proneness almost became a parody as it was reported that the Frenchman got injured while walking his dog. Currently a free agent at the age of 29, what should have been a great career for Gourcuff is now, pretty much an ordinary one as a whole.
1 Fernando Torres
Without a doubt, the most dramatic decline of any player in recent years, Fernando Torres' career took a turn for the absolute worse when he joined Chelsea in 2011.
Previously regarded as one of the most lethal strikers in club and international football, Torres' problems began after a knee operation in 2010 which seemed to have an effect on his World Cup as he never looked comfortable in South Africa despite Spain winning the tournament.
His goalscoring also dropped in the 2010/11 season for Liverpool but Chelsea still decided to splash out £50 million for the 26-year-old that same season which was a British transfer record at the time.
No one could have predicted how Torres' career eventually turned out. While he did win trophies like the Champions League, FA Cup and more (having won nothing at Liverpool or Atletico Madrid), he was not even close to the Torres we were used to seeing. Taking 903 minutes to score his first Chelsea goal, it was as if Torres forgot how to score goals.
Torres even became the butt of all jokes as he missed absolute sitters, most famous of all, against Manchester United. This wasn't a bad spell or a case of special circumstances - Torres had completely lost all confidence and the fact that he cost £50 million didn't help him or his managers.
Highly regarded managers like Carlo Ancelotti, Rafa Benitez and Jose Mourinho all failed to resurrect the once tormenting Spaniard while even having a special cast of players behind him didn't help him either. Now at his boyhood club, Atletico, Torres has found some confidence and happiness but looking back at his career the last few years, it is still shocking to see how a player like him declined so much.
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