Jetsetters: 9 Footballers Who Have Never Played Professionally in Their Home Country

There are few borders when it comes to football, with players from all over the world practically unlimited in their ability to play in any nation on the planet.

Sometimes, players will leave their homes at a young age and never return, meaning they actually don’t turn out for domestic clubs before heading abroad.

Here’s a look at nine international jetsetters who never played professionally in their respective home countries…

9. Ryan Giggs

Cardiff-born Ryan Giggs spent his entire career at Manchester United after joining the club as a 14-year-old and retiring 26 years later at the age of 40, as one of the most decorated individual players in the history of the sport.

Giggs had earlier played in the junior ranks at Manchester City after leaving his native Wales as a young child when his father’s rugby career saw the whole family move to England.

8. Ivan Rakitic

Strictly speaking, Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic has played professionally in his ‘home’ country as he was born and raised in Switzerland, getting his break at Basel, for whom he played just under 50 games between 2006 and 2007.

But Rakitic, who has also turned out for Schalke and Sevilla to date, has never played for a club in Croatia, the country he represents at international level.

7. Robbie Keane

The journeyman career of Robbie Keane saw him play for 11 different clubs in England, Italy, Scotland, the United States and most recently India, but never professionally in his native Ireland, where soccer is behind gaelic football and hurling in the national sporting psyche.

Keane left Ireland a few days before his 16th birthday to join the youth ranks at Wolves, favouring the midlands club over Liverpool because the path to the first team was clearer.

6. Didier Drogba

Born in Ivory Coast, Didier Drogba was first sent to live in France by his parents at the age of just five, joining his uncle, a professional footballer. And, despite a short return home, it was in France where his journey to becoming a player himself began.

After time at several amateur youth clubs, Drogba finally settled at Le Mans and went pro with the first team at the age of 20. A late bloomer, he joined Chelsea from Marseille six years later.

5. Park Ji-sung

South Korean hero Park Ji-sung bypassed the country’s K-League when he was first starting out as a young player, jumping from collegiate level at Myongji University, where he was already a national team player, straight to the J-League in neighbouring Japan in 2000.

Park joined Kyoto Purple Sanga, earning a move to Europe with PSV Eindhoven a year after an impressive World Cup campaign and later joining Manchester United.

4. Samuel Eto’o

Samuel Eto’o was only 15 years of age when he left his youth team in his native Cameroon to join Real Madrid in Spain. He played seven times for the first team in total in amongst several loan spells, before making his real breakthrough at Real Mallorca.

Barcelona snapped up the star marksman in 2004, winning two Champions League titles with the club. He later won a third with Inter, before spells with various clubs in England and Turkey.

3. Antoine Griezmann

There is still plenty of time for Antoine Griezmann to play for a French club one day, but for now the 2018 World Cup winner and Atletico Madrid star is happy in Spain, the country where he has spent his entire professional career to date.

A young Griezmann was rejected by several French clubs as a result of concerns over his size and stature, leading him to leave for Spain at the age of just 14 to join Real Sociedad.

2. Yaya Toure

Yaya Toure was originally schooled at Abidjan-based club ASEC Mimosas in his homeland and was just one of many young talents who left Ivory Coast for Belgian club Beveren in the early 2000s, making the first appearance of his senior career against Genk in August 2001.

Toure had a trial with Arsenal in 2003, instead choosing to go to Ukraine, and later winding up at Monaco and Olympiacos, before Barcelona and Manchester City made him a superstar.

1. Lionel Messi

The story of Lionel Messi’s journey from his home town of Rosario in Argentina to the Barcelona at the age of 13 is one that had been told time and time again as the living legend continues to firmly cement his place in the pages of football history.

Barcelona were initially reluctant to sign a foreign player so young, but after being issued an ultimatum their faith has been repaid with a club record 552 goals and 32 trophies.

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Manchester United Join Italian Giants in Race to Sign Out of Favour Bayern Munich Midfielder

Inter and ?Manchester United are both in the hunt for Arturo Vidal’s signature after ?Bayern Munich granted the midfielder permission to leave the club this summer, according to reports. 

Vidal, 31, is one of nine central midfield players on Bayern’s books and speculation over his future intensified after he was left out of the club’s pre-season squad for their tour of the United States earlier this week. 

According to Chilean publication ?emol, Vidal’s agent Fernando Felicevichm is already in Munich for negotiations after both Inter and United expressed an interest in his services following news of his uncertain future with the Bundesliga giants. 

Felicevich is the same agent who orchestrated Alexis Sanchez’s move from Arsenal to Old Trafford earlier this year. 

The Nerazzurri are known to be eager to bolster their midfield ranks and have recently been ?linked with making an official offer for the Chile international, while United remain in the hunt for reinforcements to compete across four competitions. 

While Vidal has long been linked with a move away from the Allianz Arena after three years with the club, Bayern boss Niko Kovac has insisted that his absence from the squad is due to nothing more than him struggling with an injury. 

The report clams the Chile international’s representatives expect developments over a move to transpire over the coming week.

Vidal – who has helped lift six pieces of silverware with the club – made just 17 league starts for Bayern last season after a series of injuries disrupted his third campaign with German outfit. 

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7 Real Madrid Players Who Could Soon Be Sold As Julen Lopetegui Begins His Reign at the Bernabeu

Right now, there’s a Cristiano Ronaldo-sized void in the Spanish capital. Without doubt, the biggest transfer this summer has caused Real Madrid a serious problem during the closed season, but with the Portuguese’s departure comes an opportunity.

With Julen Lopetegui’s arrival, Los Blancos have a chance to overhaul and rebuild with a younger side, ready to begin the new era at the Bernabeu.

With that, there are a number of players that could definitely be leaving the club over the next month in order to begin the process.

Here are seven possible departures we could soon be seeing in Madrid…

7. Toni Kroos

Possible Suitor: Manchester United 

Predicted Price Tag: £70m

A long time target of Jose Mourinho, Man Utd’s failure to land Gareth Bale has turned their attention onto his teammate. 

Reports claim that Kroos is actually warming to the idea of a move and that he is ready for the challenge of the Premier League. At 28, the World Cup winner is in his prime, but cashing in on him now may be Real’s best opportunity to make some serious money from his sale.

6. Marcelo

Possible Suitor: Juventus 

Predicted Price Tag: €50m

Cristiano Ronaldo’s working relationship with Marcelo was something special, and many reports claimed that if the attacker was to leave Real Madrid, the defender would too.

There is now a chance for the pair to be reunited. Alex Sandro continues to attract interest from around Europe, and should his €50m departure go through, Il Bianconeri would directly reinvest that money in Marcelo.

This is one of the more expected moves – but it all hinges on Sandro leaving Turin. 

5. Keylor Navas

Possible Suitors: Chelsea, Milan, AS Roma

Predicted Price Tag: £20m

With Thibaut Courtois expected to arrive in the coming days, one man that will likely be forced out is Navas. Though he himself seems keen to stay and fight for his place, the wages that the keeper is on aren’t those of a second string stopper.

He’s not keen on a move to England, according to reports, so a trip to Italy could suit the Costa Rican well – and he is highly expected to replace Alisson Becker at Roma. The price tag won’t be too heavy. Madrid need to sell and he’s not held in the highest regard in Europe.

4. Karim Benzema

Possible Suitors: Manchester City, Milan

Predicted Price Tag: £35m

Reports have emerged over the last few days that Madrid are demanding £100m for Karim Benzema, but it would be crazy to think someone would pay the same for him as Juventus did for Ronaldo.

Benzema hasn’t been at his best for years, and is hotly expected to leave the Bernabeu this summer as part of Lopetegui’s reshuffling. There’s been a bit of drama about whether the Frenchman met with Milan or not over the last few days, but right now, San Siro looks his most likely destination.

3. Gareth Bale

Possible Suitors: Man Utd, Chelsea, Tottenham, Bayern Munich 

Predicted Price Tag: £80m

At this point in time, it seems as though Gareth Bale may well stay in Madrid. Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo have left the Spanish capital – paving the way for the Welshman to become the focal point of Los Blancos.

However, rumours still persist, and his lack of game time in recent years will remain in the back of the attacker’s mind – and there are a lot of teams that would love to make him their main man.

2. Dani Ceballos

Possible Suitor: Real Betis

Predicted Price Tag: €18m

It’s fair to say Dani Ceballos has had a tough year in Madrid since his move from Real Betis, and before Zidane’s resignation it was a dead cert that Ceballos would be on his way out.

However, things change, and Lopetegui has openly admitted that he will do his best to keep hold of the central midfielder this summer.

Of course, it seems likely that the youngster will now remain at the Bernabeu, but Betis definitely want him back. Never say never.

1. Mateo Kovacic

Possible Suitors: Arsenal, Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester United, Manchester City, Juventus, Inter 

Predicted Price Tag: £30m

After a strong World Cup, Mateo Kovacic has become the name on almost everyone’s transfer lists. The Croatian is determined to leave the Bernabeu this summer in the hunt for more minutes on the pitch, and there are so many options for him.

At this point in time, the bookies actually make Arsenal the favourites to gain his signature over the next month, but anything can happen.

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The Real Winners: An All Time Serie A XI of Players to Have Never Won the Scudetto

Contrary to popular opinion, football is not all about trophies. As the old adage goes, it’s not the winning but the taking part that counts. 

Never could that be more true than with this collection of Serie A legends, who somehow managed to go through their career without tasting the sweet nectar of a Scudetto triumph. 

So here they are, the real winners of Italian football, compiled in a diamond 3-4-3 formation:

1. GK: Samir Handanovic

The retired Slovenian international keeper has been one of the best in Serie A since he signed for Inter in 2012. Prior to his time in Milan, the 34-year-old was at Udinese for eight years, although two of those were spent on loan at Treviso, Lazio and Rimini.

Handanovic has now accrued an impressive 139 clean sheets in 405 Serie A appearances. Despite his admirable impregnability, the Slovenian has still not been able to get his hands on the Scudetto. Indeed, looking at Inter’s domestic record during his tenure, you would perhaps expect a player of his calibre to have moved on for greener pastures. 

But this fails to recognise the amount of times Inter have actually challenged for a title – so often the winter runners up, before that notorious new year capitulation. Maybe, just maybe, 2018 can be the custodian’s year. 

2. LCB: Antonio Benarrivo

The Parma legend has three Coppa Italia’s to his name, and two Europa League’s (or UEFA Cups), but alas a Serie A title eluded him throughout his illustrious career. 

With early spells at Brindisi and Pavoda, it was the 13 years he spent in Parma from 1991 to 2004 that he is most remembered for, as he became the beating heart of a highly exciting and successful side. Playing 362 times for Gialloblu, Benarrivo remains the club’s second highest appearance maker, and is the only player who was present for all eight major trophy victories. 

He was also a major figure in Italy’s 1994 World Cup campaign, playing every minute of the competition bar the first clash with Ireland, and proving a vital tool for Arrigo Sachhi thanks to his versatility to play on both flanks of a defence. His strongest Scudetto charge came in 1996/97, when his side finished runners up to Juventus by two points.

3. CB: Fabio Cannavaro

Perhaps a controversial one for those who ardently follow the Old Lady, but rules are rules, and both of Cannavaro’s league triumphs with Juve were ultimately nullified following the Calciopoli scandal. 

The first of two (spoiler) players on this list to win the Ballon d’Or, the World Cup winning captain started his career in Napoli, before joining Parma for seven years. Stints at Inter, Madrid and Juventus (twice) followed. 

And yet, despite all his impressions at club level, his lasting legacy lies predominantly with Gli Azzurri, as he became the most capped outfield player in the national team’s history, and a worthy Leggenda

4. RCB: Luigi Apolloni

The man who pipped Benarrivo to Parma’s most experienced player, Apolloni registered 384 appearances for the Crusaders from 1987 to 2000, and eventually became their manager in 2015, leading the re-founded iteration (S.S.D. Parma Calcio 1913) to Serie D promotion in his sole year in charge.

In his playing days, the Italian was a domineering presence at the back, forming a formidable partnership with Lorenzo Minotti. Unfortunately, the defender’s career was hampered by injury in ’96, and he never quite recovered, making just 24 league appearances over the next three seasons before he moved to Verona. 

Despite collecting just 15 international caps, he was still a part of Sacchi’s plans at the 1994 World Cup, and played 81 minutes in the final against Brazil after Roberto Mussi’s injury. 

5. CDM: Luigi Di Biagio

While others in this list garnered considerable silverware asides from a league title, Di Biagio was a serial runner up, and the Coppa Italia Serie C1 is the only trophy to his name from an otherwise glittering career. 

Starting off at Lazio in 1988, the defensive midfielder made one appearance for Le Aquile as a teenager, before moving to Monza to garner some game time, followed by Zdenek Zeman’s Foggia. In 1995 he returned to the capital, but this time adorned in the burgundy colours of Roma.

It was in Rome where he became a seasoned star of the Italian game, earning himself a call up to the national team, for whom he would score for at the 1998 World Cup. His consistency at Roma led him to Inter, with whom he was closest to securing that elusive triumph – a Coppa Italia title was precluded by Lazio in 2000, and they famously lost out to Juventus on the final day of the 2001/02 Serie A season. 

6. LCM: Simone Perrotta

Born in the Greater Manchester area, but made in Rome, Perrotta was one of the unsung heroes from Italy’s 2006 World Cup campaign, starting every single game. 

After shining for Reggina as a youngster, the attacking midfielder had a season at Juventus and two at Bari before signing for Chievo in 2001. Three impressive years in yellow and blue resulted in a €7.2m move to Roma, where he would eventually end his career after nine years.

Aside from his World Cup, the goal-shy Italian (his best domestic tally was just eight) accrued successive Coppa Italia’s in 2007 and 2008, and was a Serie A runner up no less than four times, the smallest deficit being two points in 2009/10.  

7. RCM: Daniele De Rossi

Only the second player so far on this list who hasn’t hung up his boots, Daniele De Rossi is a modern day great. Famously a one club man, the midfielder has been plying his trade in the capital since 2001, tantalisingly just after Roma’s last Serie A triumph. 

17 years and 593 appearances later, and De Rossi is a club legend, second only to the inimitable Francesco Totti as La Lupa’s all time appearance maker. Serie A player of the year in 2006, the Italian has two Coppa Italia titles to his name, an Under-21 European Championship and the World Cup, but a league title continues to escape his grasp. 

8. CAM: Marek Hamsik

Napoli’s all time leading goalscorer, the Slovenian has been the linchpin of the Partenopei since his transfer from Brescia in 2007, for just €5.5m. 

The midfielder has collected 120 goals and 110 assists in 501 appearances for Napoli, two Coppa Italia’s in 2011/12 and 2013/14, and numerous individual awards – including one Serie A Young Player of the Year, three selections in the Team of the Year, and seven Slovakian footballer of the year nods – but the Scudetto continues to evade him. 

The charge under Maurizio Sarri last season was the nearest he came, accruing an unprecedented 91 points as runners up. 

9. RW: Ronaldo

Il Fenemono lived up to the name he was given to by the Italian press at Inter, arguably playing the best football of his spectacular career – after all, he did pick up the Ballon d’Or after his final season for I Nerazzurri in 2002, although his performances in South Korea may have helped.  

Second only to Pele as Brazil’s top scorer with an astonishing record of 62 goals in 98 games, the striker amassed three less in the same amount of games for Inter, and garnered the praise of legends such as Paolo Maldini, who put him alongside Diego Maradona as his toughest opponent. 

And yet, all of this was to no avail trophy-wise, predominantly thanks to the knee issues that plagued his third and fourth season. Regardless, he will still go down as one of Italian football’s most lethal players, and would thrive wherever he was put on the pitch – hence his placement on the right.

10. ST: Giuseppe Signori

Beppe Signori was one of the greatest characters of Italian football history, and that’s saying something. 

Famed for his one step penalties (of which he scored 44) and deft dinks, as well as deliberately wearing boots that were too small for him because it supposedly improved his game, he is joint ninth alongside Alessandro Del Piero and Alberto Gilardino in Serie A’s all time goalscorers list. 

Having made his name at Foggia in the early 90’s, he blossomed in his five years at Lazio, scoring 126 times in 195 appearances, and crafting a cult following. Alas, a Serie B title with Foggia and a UEFA Intertoto Cup with Bologna was all he could muster. 

11. LW: Antonio Di Natale

As a graduate of Empoli’s youth system, Di Natale spent eight years in Tuscany, two of which were spent on loan at Iperzola, Varese and Viareggio. But it was his switch to Udinese in 2004 that sparked his career into life. 

Even then, he didn’t reach his peak until he was passed the proverbial hill that 30 represents in football. Indeed, between 2009 and 2011 (from the age of 32 to 34), only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi scored more league goals than the Italian.

With a remarkable record of 227 goals in 444 games, he is Udinese’s all time leading scorer, and sixth on Serie A’s all time list. A true hero to a generation of fans, the diminutive forward has a host individual accolades to his name – including a Serie A Player of the Year, and two Capocannoniere titles – but despairingly zero club honours. 

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Serie A Side Consider Move for Lionel Messi to Reignite Long Standing Rivalry With Cristiano Ronaldo

??Inter could reportedly go for an audacious attempt at signing ?Barcelona forward ?Lionel Messi this summer, in hopes of re-igniting his rivalry with newly signed ?Juventus attacker ?Cristiano Ronaldo.

Yes, you read that correctly. Lionel Messi, a man who has never shown even the slightest implication that he might ever leave the club that he has called his home for the last 15 years, is a potential target for Inter.

Money talks, and that’s what the club would be hoping could tempt Messi into leaving Camp Nou very soon. That is, according to Marco Tronchetti Provera, the CEO of Pirelli. The head of the long time shirt sponsor of I Nerazzurri is plastered all over the front page of Italian outlet Tuttosport on Tuesday morning, hinting that Inter could move for the Argentinian.

In a move that could see Messi team up with compatriot Mauro Icardi (a partnership that would undoubtedly become one of the most deadly in Europe), Tronchetti Provera claims that once the club’s Financial Fair Play troubles are cleared, he’d like to see Inter move for the 31-year-old.

FC Barcelona v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

“I hope that Suning, once Financial Fair Play will allow it, can make a huge signing,” he began.

“Messi? How can you say no to Messi?”

Optimistic, to say the least, but perhaps a move to Italy would be what Messi needs to prove any doubters that he is better than Ronaldo? Nothing would quite show it like winning ?Serie A with Inter after the complete dominance Juventus have shown over the last seven seasons.

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Food for thought, but as of right now, the move looks quite silly. Then again, so did Ronaldo’s switch to the Bianconeri when those rumours first began…

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