Reviving ones career is easier said than done. It is typically very talented and gifted players who show their class before falling away but ultimately getting back to the top once again. Even very gifted players often fail to revive their careers though; Ravel Morrison, Adel Taarabt and Mario Balotelli are just three enormously talented players who have all made moves (or multiple moves) yet failed to revive their careers in recent years.
Every player on this list has, or had, bags of ability. Their catastrophic downturn in fortunes and fall in stock was never a result of their ability, but typically either a failed transfer which did not suit them or a poor attitude/mentality. As such, it should come as no surprise that there are a large number of attacking and flair players who perhaps aren't what you'd call 'model professionals' who make this list.
Conversely, there are others who were merely the victim of a poor transfer which saw their career spiral downwards. The vast majority had to change clubs in order to revive their careers, although a couple did so at the same club where their form first fell away. Here are the top 20 soccer players who managed to revive their careers:
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20 Emmanuel Adebayor
Only Cristiano Ronaldo scored more goals than Emmanuel Adebayor in the 2007/08 Premier League season. He made a big-money move to Manchester City in 2009 though, and in his second season at the Etihad he found opportunities hard to come by. He was loaned to Real Madrid where he scored 5 league goals and the Togolese strikers stock seemed to be falling, yet the following season he scored 18 goals for Tottenham, the second best tally of his career. The 32-year-old fell away again once more though, and spent last season as a peripheral peripheral figure at Crystal Palace.
19 Shinji Kagawa
A very technically gifted attacking midfield player, unlike many on this list, there were few surprises when Shinji Kagawa revived his career in his second spell at Borussia Dortmund. The Japanese international first joined Dortmund in 2010, and after two very impressive seasons he was signed by Manchester United. While he wasn't poor in his two seasons at Old Trafford, he didn't have the impact the club would have liked, and in 2014 he returned to the club where he won two Bundesliga titles. Since re-signing two years ago, Kagawa has played 84 games and scored 19 goals.
18 Adrian Mutu
Regarded among the greatest Romanian footballers of all-time, Adrian Mutu had an excellent 2002/03 season, earning himself a big move to Chelsea. He had a torrid time in London though. His form was poor, scoring just 6 goals in 27 games, but worse still was a seven-month ban and cancelled contract after he failed a drugs test for cocaine use in 2004. He couldn't find his shooting boots at Juventus either, and was in need of a career revival at Fiorentina in 2006. He got just that. The Romanian spent the next five years in Florence, scoring 54 goals in 112 games.
17 Javier Hernandez
Mexican goal-getter Javier Hernandez was always a crowd favourite at Old Trafford, but fell out of favour with boss Sir Alex Ferguson after his first few seasons at the club. Chicarito, as he is often better known, joined Man Utd off the back of an impressive 2010 World Cup. He then became a super sub for the Premier League giants before dropping down the clubs pecking order. In his last full season at Man Utd he scored just 4 goals before joining Bayer Leverkusen, where he has breathed new life into his career, scoring 26 goals in all competitions this term, in his debut season with the club.
16 Antonio Cassano
Blessed with skill, awareness and vision most players could only dream of, Antonio Cassano had all the tools to become one of the finest players of his generation. At Roma in his early twenties, he looked on course to do just that, but an ill-thought out move to Real Madrid in 2006 proved costly. Under the disciplinarian Fabio Capello, Cassano's creativity was stifled, and his poor attitude became abundantly clear. He quickly returned to Italy though, and somewhat revived his career with Sampdoria, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Parma, although he still never hit the heights many believe he was truly capable of.
15 Nicolas Anelka
One of the most naturally gifted forwards of his generation, Nicolas Anelka scored an impressive 23 goals in 65 games for Arsenal between the ages of 18 and 20, before heading to Real Madrid. Opportunities were hard to come by at the Bernabeu though, and when they did arrive, Anelka didn't take them. He scored just 2 goals in 19 games in a single season with Real, before returning to boyhood club PSG. In the French capital Anelka was able to get his career back on track, and despite becoming something of a journeyman, he has had an exceptional career, winning 13 trophies and scoring more than 200 goals.
14 Matthew Etherington
Former England youth international Matthew Etherington showed great promise at West Ham in his early twenties, even winning the clubs Player of the Year Award in 2004 at the age of 23. Between 2007 and 2009 the winger lost his place in the side under manager Gianfranco Zola and joined Stoke City, where he revived his career in a big way, winning the second Player of the Year award of his career, this time for the Potters in 2010. Sadly injuries got the better of Etherington who retired from football two years ago aged 32.
In his early twenties at Lille, Gervinho was regarded as one of the most exciting prospects within the game. A record of 28 goals in 67 games showed that Gervinho was a rare example of a winger with pace twinned with excellent end product. It was no surprise when the likes of PSG and Atletico Madrid tried to sign him in 2011, but it was Arsenal that snapped up the Ivorian. In two years he was largely uninspiring, scoring just 9 league goals. He left for Roma where his career experienced a renaissance, brought to an end only earlier this year by the lure of a big-money move to China.
12 Lukas Podolski
Lukas Podolski has arguably revived his career twice. Despite being the epitome of consistency for the German national team, his club form has fluctuated over his career. Having looked world class at Koln, with a record better than a goal every other game, he was snapped up by Bayern Munich. He struggled in Bavaria though, scoring only 15 league goals in 3 years, and returned to Koln in 2009 where he impressed once more. His next to moves to Arsenal and Inter Milan proved unsuccessful though, but Podolski has revived his career once more in Turkey with Galatasaray.
11 Luca Toni
The extraordinary thing about the revival of Luca Toni's career was the age in which he did it. The Italian legend was late bloomer, not playing top flight football until the age of 23 and dropping back down to the second tier at 26. However, he ultimately showed himself to be a class act, starring for the likes of Fiorentina and Bayern Munich. The goals dried up as Toni hit 31 though. In three years, he scored only 21 league goals, those figures including a spell in the UAE. At the age of 36, Toni revived his career in a big way though, scoring 44 goals in the next two seasons for Verona, even finishing as Serie A's joint top scorer.
10 Gianfranco Zola
Gianfranco Zola was obviously an extremely gifted footballer, but many were questioning whether the perennially smiling little Italians talents had diminished in his mid 30s, as his form between 1999 and 2002 tailed off. After the 2001/02 season, aged 36, many felt Zola's time in the top flight was over. Yet the next season was up there with the finest of his career, as he scored 16 goals from midfield and won Chelsea's Player of the Year. It was his parting gift to the Blues supporters, as Zola left for Cagliari that summer.
9 Jean-Pierre Papin
A Ballon d'Or winner and one of the finest goal scorers of his generation, Jean-Pierre Papin scored a total of 303 goals in 542 games over his career, most notably for Marseille. Papin also had great success at AC Milan, before joining Bayern Munich. It was with Bayern that Papin fell away, scoring just 3 goals in 27 league games over two seasons. The following year he revived his career late on at Bordeaux, scoring 16 goals in 32 games.
8 Wesley Sneijder
It should come as no surprise that there are a few former Real Madrid players on this list, and Wesley Sneijder is another who falls into that category. The former Dutch Young Player of the Year joined Real after an incredible season at Ajax in 2007, but after two difficult years in the Spanish capital, in which the club recruited heavily, Sneijder joined Inter Milan. His first season at Inter was a historic one and a revival of epic proportions, as he scored 8 goals, made 16 assists and won the treble, being named the UEFA Midfielder of the Season and finishing a harsh fourth in the Ballon d'Or that year.
7 Diego Forlan
Diego Forlan was a star both before and after his time at Manchester United, but struggled with the Red Devils in the Premier League. He arrived as a hot prospect from Independiente, but scored just 10 league goals in four seasons at Old Trafford before leaving for Villarreal. The most capped Uruguayan of all time revived his career in Spain, first with Villarreal and later with Atletico Madrid. Forlan was named the best player at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
6 Robert Huth
Chelsea's Young Player of the Year for three consecutive seasons, the only player to have received the award more than once, Huth was always highly regarded at the Bridge, with Mourinho even turning down approach's from Bayern Munich when he had the likes of Terry, Carvalho and Gallas already within his ranks. After leaving the Bridge, Huth became a key player at Stoke City, winning the clubs Player of the Year award in 2011, but his career seemed to be tailing away as he was benched for the 2013/14 season.
The following year he joined Leicester, where he has done more than just revive his career. Part of their 'great escape' in his first season and a title winner in his second, Huth was one of the best defenders in the Premier League this season.
5 Mario Gomez
Another very recent one, few would have expected Mario Gomez to be heading to the Euros with Germany this summer prior to the start of this season. The former Bayern Munich poacher went from prolific to poor around 2012, first losing his place in the Bayern team, followed by a transfer to Fiorentina, two years of poor form at Fiorentina and a move to Turkey with Besiktas. This season has been the Mario Gomez of old though, with the striker scoring 28 goals, winning both the league and golden boot and Turkey, giving him a real shout of leading Germany's line in France this summer.
4 Lassana Diarra
Once touted as the 'new Makelele', Lassana Diarra thrived on being an effective defensive midfielder, and by the age of 25 he could boast the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Real Madrid among his employers, with a trophy cabinet which included the FA Cup, La Liga and more. A tough last two seasons at the Bernabeu was followed by a two year spell in Russia, with Anzhi and Lokomotiv Moscow, which ended with his contract being terminated, a E10 fine and a 15 month suspension from football.
Diarra needed a revival, and that's exactly what he got this season, showing his true class for Marseille. He made the 2015/16 Ligue 1 Team of the Season and his form was so good that he even forced his way back into the France squad for this years Euros, but he sadly had to pull out of the tournament due to injury and has been replaced by Manchester United midfielder Morgan Schneiderlin.
3 Claudio Pizarro
Fans of only the Premier League could be forgiven for thinking Claudio Pizarro was a distinctly average player. His time at Chelsea was by far the worst of his career. Having scored prolifically in Germany with Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich, the Peruvian forward joined Chelsea in 2007. He scored just 2 league goals 21 games in his first season, and was loaned to former club Werder Bremen, where he quickly got back on tracks, scoring 17 goals in 26 games. Having since had a second spell at Bayern, the 37-year-old is currently in his fourth spell at Werder Bremen.
2 Esteban Cambiasso
Esteban Cambiasso began playing first team football in Argentina at the age of 18, and his talent was immediately recognised. At 20 he made his debut for Argentina and a year later he joined River Plate. When he signed for Real Madrid in 2002, there were few finer midfield prospects in the world. But Cambiasso, like so many great players, became a victim of the 'Bernabeu bite'.
He had two difficult years in Real before being released. His career needed a revival, and boy did he revive it at Inter Milan. He won the double in his first season and went on to play 420 games for the club over a 9 year spell, winning a total of 15 trophies, including a historic treble in 2010.
1 Hatem Ben-Arfa
One of the finest examples of a player reviving their career in recent history, both Hatem Ben-Arfa's fall and rise were rapid. In 2011/12, his first full season at Newcastle, Ben-Arfa was superb, and lit up the Premier League. He inspired Newcastle to a fifth-placed finish and was among the league's top performers.
Over the next couple of years the Frenchman fell out with Alan Pardew and Steve Bruce, which saw him sent back from his loan spell at Hull City and released by Newcastle. The former Marseille man headed for the south coast of France, where he joined Nice and his subsequently had a great season in Ligue 1, and will almost certainly join a top European team this summer.
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