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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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