8 Famous Footballers Tipped for Greatness Who Never Quite Lived Up to Their Potential

It’s hard for fans and pundits alike not to heap pressure on emerging talents within the world of football. 

There’s a special kind of excitement garnered by watching promising youngsters take their first steps into the game. 

Some players are able to deal with the pressure and go onto achieve greatness. Others aren’t so lucky. 

For one reason or another, there are some players who show incredible promise in their formative years, but it doesn’t translate to a successful career. 

Here are eight of those players, who were unable to truly realise their early potential. 

8. Jack Wilshere

So much was expected of a man dubbed as the saviour of English football. Wilshere made waves as a youngster, making his Arsenal debut at 16 (the youngest player to do so at the time) and becoming a first team regular by 18. 

Who can forget his 2011 performance against Barcelona, where a 19-year-old Wilshere held his own against one of the greatest midfields of all time?

However one thing cursed Wilshere across his career, stopping him reaching the heights many had hoped for: he couldn’t stop getting injured. 

An ankle problem picked up in pre-season meant that Wilshere missed the entirety of the 11/12 season, and from that point on recurring injuries would halt any momentum Wilshere would build. 

Now 26, Wilshere currently plays for West Ham after Arsenal finally gave up on him in the summer. He still has time to forge a decent career (if he stays fit), but it looks unlikely that he’ll reach the atmospheric heights he seemed destined for.

7. Freddy Adu

All of the hype that surrounded this American starlet proved to be much Adu about nothing. 

The Football Manager legend was playing professional football at 14 after DC United picked him up in the 2004 MLS Super Draft. he quickly attracted attention from Europe’s biggest clubs such as Inter Milan and Manchester United – he even had a trial with the English giants, but couldn’t play any competitive games due to a lack of work permit. 

Adu’s career never kicked on at any point. After finally making his European move to Benfica, Adu endured a string of loan moves, playing for Monaco, Belenenses, Greek side Aris, and Turkish second division side Caykur Rizespor. 

After his spell with Benfica eventually ended, Adu became a journeyman and played for some of the most obscure clubs; FK Jagodina of Serbia, Finland’s Kuopion Palloseura, Tampa Bay Rowdies and Las Vegas Lights FC all gave Adu a home at some point. It’s fair to say that Adu didn’t enjoy the glittering career many in his homeland thought he would. 

6. Adriano

The man who was once hailed as the reincarnation of Ronaldo (the Brazilian) had an explosive start to his career. He made his name at Inter, for whom he scored 42 goals between 2004 and 2005. He was living up to his billing as Ronaldo’s heir apparent with the Brazilian national team, becoming top scorer in their 2004 Copa America triumph. The Brazilian also gained cult 

hero status for his 99 shot power in the Pro Evolution gaming franchise. 

However, personal issues saw Adriano’s career take a nose dive. Inter captain Javier Zanetti recalls that Adriano wasn’t the same after hearing of his father’s death, and went into a spiral of depression which he was unable to recover from. Issues with attitude and weight soon followed, and the player who was once described as a Zlatan Ibrahimovic/Ronaldo hybrid was no longer there. 

He returned to Brazil for stints with Flamengo and Corinthians, but the same problems followed him there. With his father gone and his bank account full to the brim, Adriano lost much of his motivation to play football and so stopped taking it seriously. If circumstances had been a little different, it’s baffling to imagine just how good Adriano could have been. 

5. Mario Balotelli

For one reason or another, Mario Balotelli was never too far away from the limelight. The Italian was a raw but exciting talent during his time at Inter, winning a host of trophies under Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho. There were always question marks over his discipline, but it was always assumed that those issues would be sorted out as Balotelli matured. Unfortunately, said issues would follow him for the majority of his career. 

On his day Balotelli is unplayable; his tremendous technical ability and flair coupled with his strength make him a handful for any defender. He reunited with Mancini at Manchester City, and his time at the Etihad was mixed with success and controversy. Balotelli helped the team to their first Premier League title, playing the ball to Sergio Aguero who struck their famous winner. However his off field antics garnered just as much attention.

His ill-discipline was starting to affect his time on the pitch as well. Constant suspensions and fines, and a training ground bust up with his manger meant that Balotelli’s playing time was restricted, and his place in the City squad becoming more untenable as time passed.

 He returned to Italy with Milan and enjoyed a career resurgence, scoring 30 goals in 54 games for the club. His second stint in England with Liverpool was less successful, as he scored just one league goal in 16 matches. 

The Italian has now taken his mercurial talent to France, enjoying a spell with Nice. While Balotelli has enjoyed a good career by any measure, it hasn’t quite been  the great one that his talent suggested was possible. 

4. Ricardo Quaresma

A player who always threatened to break out big on the European stage, it never quite happened for Ricardo Quaresma during his career. The king of the ‘trivela’ (his trademark outside of the foot skill) had several chances at some of Europe’s biggest clubs. 

He left boyhood club Sporting for Barcelona in 2003, but he only last one season with the Catalan giants. He re-established himself during a four year stint with Porto, which earned him a move to Inter. His time in Italy was hardly a qualified success, and he joined Besiktas via a brief loan spell with Chelsea. For one reason or another, Quaresma was never more than a bit part player in Europe, and he could never capitalise on the promise he showed in his early career. 

He has enjoyed success with the Portuguese national team however, earning 80 caps and being a part of the team that lifted the European Championships in 2016. His goal against Iran at the 2018 World Cup was a reminder of the talent Quaresma possesses, and how good he could’ve been. 

3. Micah Richards

Micah Richards burst onto the Premier League scene at an early age, with many touting him to be a key fixture in the England squad in years to come. While everything started promisingly, the end result saw Richards’ burgeoning career fizzle out by the time he was 30. 

Richards broke into the City first team at the age of 17 under Stuart Pearce, and he became a first team regular soon after. He was also a regular for the England squad, becoming a favourite of then manager Steve McClaren. Richards was the first choice right back for Roberto Mancini during City’s maiden title win, and it looked like the Birmingham born defender was set for a career right at the top. 

However, Richards quickly fell out of favour in Manchester. He made just 19 appearances for the club in the three years following City’s title win, and was even shipped out on loan to Fiorentina. 

His move to Aston Villa didn’t turn out to be the career springboard that Richards might have hoped, as he can’t even get into the Villa squad whilst they battle in the Championship. After promising so much in his younger years, it appears as though Richards’ career will end with a whimper. 

2. Royston Drenthe

After winning player of the tournament for the Netherlands at the 2007 Under-21 European Championships and securing a move to Real Madrid, it appeared as though the Royston Drenthe coming out party was in full swing. However, the start of his career proved to be his peak. 

In his three years at the Bernabeu, Drenthe never produced consistently, eventually falling behind Marcelo in the pecking order. The Dutchman struggled to rekindle any kind of form during his subsequent loan moves (including Everton and Sheffield Wednesday), and started to fall out of love with the game. 

Drenthe tried his hand at a rap career (yes, seriously) performing under the name Roya2Faces (yes, seriously), which is a career move many couldn’t have seen him making after lighting up that European Championships 11 years ago. 

Drenthe has come out of retirement this year to sign a one year deal with Sparta Rotterdam, but the best of his career is unquestionably behind him. 

1. Ravel Morrison

Every single person that watched a young Ravel Morrison play thought he was destined for the very top. Rio Ferdinand often recalls how Sir Alex Ferguson pulled himself, Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs aside at training to show them Morrison, who the great Scot described as being better then all of them when they were his age. 

Some described him as the best player to come from United’s academy since Paul Scholes. In United’s 2011 FA Youth Cup winning team, which contained first team regulars Jesse Lingard and Paul Pogba, Morrison was the standout. Every account of Morrison from his teenage years suggests that he was a once in a generation talent. However the successful career never materialised.

Morrison was a product of his rough Manchester upbringing, and could never seem to escape the problems of his environment. This led to United selling Morrison to West Ham, where Morrison showed brief glimpses of the talent everybody was so excited about, with his brilliant solo goal against Tottenham in 2013 a particular highlight. 

However attitude problems prevailed, and after a slew of Championship loans with Cardiff and QPR, Morrison headed to Lazio, but the same problems resurfaced. 

Now on loan at Atlas at 25, with his peers from that Man United youth team achieving things at the highest level, one wonders if Morrison regrets how his career turned out. 


8 of the Most Iconic Derbies in World Football

On Saturday, two of the fiercest rivals in world football will meet in a Superclásico to end all Superclásicos as Boca Juniors and River Plate do battle in the first of two legs in the Copa Libertadores final.

Ahead of this monumental clash, we run through some of the most iconic derbies in the footballing world.

8. Boca Juniors vs River Plate

If you subscribe to the notion that football is ‘just a game’, may we suggest you take a couple of hours out of your busy schedules to witness the war that inevitably transpires when these two historic teams meet?

Aptly dubbed the Superclásico, this is the fixture that puts a nation on hold. With 70% of Argentinian football fans pledging their allegiance to one of these sides, when they face each other on the football field, a nationwide hiatus ensues.

The last time these Buenos Aires rivals faced each other in this competition, four of River Plate’s players were hospitalised as a Boca fan made his way into the tunnel and used pepper spray to attack rival players. After such events, away fans have been banned from attending the two-legged Copa Libertadores final.

What makes this rivalry even more interesting is after their last 38 meetings, Boca Juniors have won 13, River Plate have won 13 and 12 have ended in draws. 

In addition, Saturday’s game will be the first time in their history that these two sides have played each other in a competitive final!

7. Barcelona vs Real Madrid

In Europe’s answer to the Superclásico, El Clásico features two of world football’s most decorated club sides. 

Barcelona and Real Madrid have enjoyed a shared domination of Spanish football in recent years. In fact, 11 of the last 14 seasons in La Liga have finished with Barcelona and Real Madrid taking first and second place in the table.

Unlike in the South American equivalent, El Clásico is normally about what happens on the pitch. 

Some of the world’s greatest ever players have done battle in this famous fixture from Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, to Ronaldinho and Raul.

6. Celtic vs Rangers

Old Firm derbies have been few and far between in recent years after Rangers’ went into liquidation and dropped down to the Third Division. However, with Steven Gerrard’s side back in the top flight, Scottish football fans are guaranteed at least two derbies a year for the foreseeable future.

As a result of Rangers’ demise, Celtic have almost exclusively dominated Scottish football in recent times. The Bhoys have won the last seven league titles and Rangers won three in a row before that. In fact, since the 1985/86 season, either Celtic or Rangers have won the Scottish Premiership title each year, highlighting just how dominant these two sides have been.

However the Old Firm derby goes far beyond what happens on the football pitch, often spilling out into politics and religion.

5. AC Milan vs Inter

Much like the rivalry a younger sibling has for his elder brother or sister, this particular conflict occurs in the same house. 

Since 1947, these Milanese rivals have both played their home games at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, commonly known as San Siro.

In modern times, Juventus have been the dominant force in Italian football, winning the last seven Scudetti. However, before this, Inter and AC Milan captivated football fans across the continent, with their ground-breaking style of play and mesmerising individual talents. 

While not as feisty as some other Italian derbies, the rivalry between Milan’s two giants (known as the Derby della Madonnina) is further intensified as many of the best players to ever line up in the blue and black of Inter, have also donned the red and black of AC. This includes legendary figures include Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Clarence Seedorf.

4. Bayern Munich vs Borussia Dortmund

Der Klassiker has been the biggest rivalry in modern German football. Make no mistake, unlike the Milan derby or Superclásico, these teams are not rivals because they share the same stadium, or even the same city. In fact, the cities of Dortmund and Munich sit over 600km apart!

The rivalry reached boiling point in the 2010/11 season when with Jurgen Klopp at the helm, Borussia Dortmund finally became the team that put an end to Bayern Munich’s domestic dominance. Dortmund won back-to-back league titles in 2010/11 and 2011/12 and added the DFB-Pokal in the latter season as well. 

The stage was set, then, in 2013, for a Champions League final for the ages. The flashy and electrifying Dortmund had earned themselves a Champions League final date at Wembley with arch rivals Bayern Munich. However, the experience of Bayern told and Dortmund failed to capitalise, as Bayern reasserted their dominance on German football.

3. Manchester United vs Manchester City

Arguably the biggest rivalry in England, the Manchester derby sees two of the Premier League’s best sides go head to head. Never short of late drama, these two sides seem to produce a Premier League classic every time they do battle.

United have dominated City in the Premier League era, but City have done something to change that of late. 

In the 2011/12 season when, with the title all but in United’s hands, Sergio Aguero scored in the 94th minute of the final game to snatch the title from their rivals – City’s first for 45 years. 

Since then, City have exerted their dominance over the Red Devils, finishing above them in all but one of the following seasons.

2. Arsenal vs Spurs

The north London derby has produced some of the greatest games in the Premier League era. From David Bentley’s 40-yarder in a 4-4 at the Emirates, to Arsenal clinching the title at White Hart Lane. For the neutrals, this is one for the diaries.

For years, Tottenham supporters dreaded derby day, such was the dominance Arsenal had over them. In fact, from 2000, to early 2008, Spurs and Arsenal played each other 21 times and Tottenham failed to win a single one of those games. It wasn’t until the sides faced each other in the League Cup semi-final later that year that Spurs bucked the trend as they trounced their rivals 5-1 on their way to lifting the trophy.

1. Liverpool vs Everton

In this astonishingly unique derby, not only do Liverpool and Everton share a city, they nigh on share a street. Their stadiums sit just 1.2 miles away from each other across Stanley Park, as the two sides battle for Merseyside supremacy.

In the Premier League era, Everton have finished above their neighbours just three times, with the bragging rights so regularly falling to the red half of the city. 

The Toffees haven’t celebrated a derby day win since 2010 as Liverpool continue to be the powerhouse of the Mersey. 

While known as the friendly derby, no Premier League fixture has produced more red cards than Liverpool vs Everton.


Atalanta vs Inter Preview: How to Watch, Live Stream, Kick Off Time & Team News

?High flying Inter travel to Atalanta looking for their eighth consecutive win in Serie A on Sunday.

Ahead of Napoli on goal difference, Inter are currently six points off leaders Juventus in what could be a fascinating title battle. 

Meanwhile, having made a poor start, Atalanta are in good form going into Sunday’s fixture – winning three of their last four to climb to tenth.

FC Internazionale v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group B

Both looking to maintain their impressive recent form as they battle on different fronts. 

Check out 90min’s preview ahead of Sunday’s clash.

How to Watch

?When Is Kick Off? ?Sunday 11 November
?What Time Is Kick Off? ?11:30 (BST)
?Where is It Being Played? Atleti Azzurri d’Italia
?TV Channel/Live Stream? ?Eleven Sports 2
??Referee? Paolo Mazzoleni

Team News

Having not featured in their last four games, Atalanta have injury concerns over defender Andrea Masiello and forward Marco Tumminello, who could miss out again.

Centre back Marco Varnier has a cruciate ligament rupture and is expected to be out until mid January.


Scorer against Barcelona in midweek, marksman Mauro Icardi is set to return having sat out their last league victory against Genoa.

With no injury concerns, Luciano Spalletti will be relishing Sunday’s fixture as his side look to close the gap on Juve.

Predicted Lineup


?Atalanta Berisha; Mancini, Palomino, Toloi; Gosens, Freuler, De Roon, Hateboer; Gomez, IIicic, Barrow.
?Inter ?Handanovic; Vrsaljko, Skriniar, De Vrij, Asamoah; Brozovic, Vecino, Nainggolan; Perisic, Icardi, Politano.

Head to Head Record

Atalanta and Inter have met on 26 occasions in the league – the latter winning 14 times, compared to the hosts’ five.

Inter’s biggest win came in a 7-1 rout at San Siro in 2016/17 as Icardi bagged his first hat-trick for the club.


There’s been seven draws between the sides – the last coming in April’s 0-0 stalemate.

Recent Form

Whilst their early season form suggested Gian Gaspperini’s side would struggle, they’ve seemingly turned a corner with four wins from eleven league games.

Atalanta have enjoyed successful spells in recent seasons, having finished fourth and sixth consecutively, and were harshly knocked out of this season’s Europa League third qualifying round on penalties against Copenhagen.

Bologna FC v Atalanta BC - Serie A

Inter’s 5-0 thrashing over Genoa last Saturday made it nine goals scored without conceding any in Serie A as they look to be serious contenders for the title. Jose Mourinho was the last man to guide the Italian giants to the Scudetto – in their remarkable treble winning season in 2009/10.

Here’s how each team has faired in their previous five fixtures:

?Atalanta ?Inter
?Bologna 1-2 Atalanta (04/11) Inter 1-1 Barcelona (06/11)
?Atalanta 3-0 Parma (27/10) ?Inter 5-0 Genoa (03/11)
?Chievo 1-5 Atalanta (21/10) ?Lazio 0-3 Inter (29/10)
?Atalanta 0-1 Sampdoria (07/10) ?Barcelona 2-0 Inter (24/10)
?Fiorentina 2-0 Atalanta (30/09) ?Inter 1-0 Milan (21/10)


European action could prove to be a determining factor in Sunday’s game for Spalletti’s men against a tricky Atalanta side.

However, I Nerazzurri boast perhaps Europe’s most deadly striker in Argentine Icardi, whose goals have been crucial.

Atalanta BC v FC Internazionale - Serie A

Both in irresistible form, it will be a close encounter.

Prediction: Atalanta 2-2 Inter


AC Milan & Inter Sign Agreement to Work Together on Constructing New Stadium

?AC Milan and Inter have signed a Memorandum of Understanding establishing their willingness to work together on a project which could culminate in the construction of a new shared stadium.

AC Milan have played at San Siro since 1926, and they have held joint tenancy with Inter since 1947. The legendary stadium is showing its age though and needs to be either renovated or replaced.

?In a statement released by AC Milan, they outline their vision for a ‘modern, state-of-the-art stadium’ with the infrastructure to deliver a ‘world-class fan experience’.

FC Internazionale v FC Barcelona - UEFA Champions League Group B

Both clubs have agreed that continuing to share a stadium with each other is the most viable solution, and they will now press forward with discussions of the available options.

“The Clubs believe that a shared stadium will serve in the best interests of all stakeholders from a financial, administrative and technical perspective,” reads the statement.

“We are evaluating several possible options, including a complete renovation of the existing San Siro Stadium. A joint task-force to analyse all options accordingly has also been re-established.

“The Clubs aim to conclude an initial evaluation phase by the end of the year, in order to commence the technical and administrative activities required to deliver a modern stadium to their fans in the shortest possible timeframe.”

?AC Milan and ?Inter met with the mayor of Milan, Giuseppe Sala, on Thursday to re-open a ‘constructive and productive dialogue’ about redevelopment opportunities around the San Siro.

It is hoped that a new stadium will help the two Milan clubs catch up with ?Juventus, who have won every Serie A title since moving into their new stadium in 2011.

AC Milan last won the Scudetto in 2010/11, with Inter’s last title coming the season before in 2009/10.


The Brilliance of Inter’s Mauro Icardi: Football’s Most Economical Superstar

16, 31, 24, 21.

Those are the number of touches for Mauro Icardi in each of his four Champions League appearances so far this season. In all four, he has registered the fewest touches of the ball of any starting player (including the goalkeepers).

And yet, the Inter captain has scored three times in the competition, each securing victory or rescuing a point, as he did against Barcelona at San Siro on Tuesday night. His three touches to control, swivel and fire past Marc-Andre ter Stegen with three minutes remaining constituted over 14% of his time with the ball.


In the Milan derby back in October, where he nodded home a stoppage time winner, his touch tally was again just 16 – 25 fewer than even ?Inter keeper Samir Handanovic.

The 25-year-old Argentine, already a two-time Capocannoniere winner, is without question one of the most decisive and predatory forwards in world football, but he is also arguably the game’s most economical. Touch for touch there is hardly a more efficient player.

?La Repubblica worked out recently that Icardi has scored a goal for every 29 touches this season, while ?Opta stats claimed after he reached 100 ?Serie A goals last season that he had the best touches to goals ratio among players who have scored at least 30 goals in the Italian top tier since 2012/13.

?Icardi does not support, he does not drop deep, nor does he do many of the other things we are told a modern forward must.

He is fast, but not ‘lightning’, strong, but not a ‘beast’. He is not Roberto Firmino, Karim Benzema nor Luis Suarez. He does not really do defending from the front.

But, as his manager Luciano Spalletti puts it (as quoted by ?Goal): “Icardi inside the penalty area is impossible to stop.

“He is lethal. I would like him to join in more with the team play, but that takes nothing away from his finishing.”

He is the quintessential ‘number nine’, still operating in 2018 like a throwback to a bygone era. Stay up top, wait for chance, hold nerve, score it.

In the same way that Inter’s ultras have seemingly forgiven Icardi his trespasses over early transgressions that might have finished off another player, Inter’s coaches have let him off defensive duties because, simply put, he can do what few can in the penalty area… and with fewer chances. 

This season in Serie A, ?Cristiano Ronaldo is operating at 7.5 shots per game, Edin Dzeko 4.9, Ciro Immobile 3.6. Icardi, who has taken just 22 shots but still has six goals so far in the league in 2018/19, is averaging just 2.8 per game.

We often reserve the categorisation of football intelligence for playmakers and technical players who see a lot of the ball, but Icardi’s ingenuity often comes without it, through his timing, awareness and ability to find pockets of space in dangerous areas.

A close up clip lauding Icardi’s movement prior to his Milan derby winner went viral on social media recently. It showed, with the game level in the 92nd minute, how as the ball was floated into the box by Matias Vecino, Icardi was being tracked by fellow Argentine Mateo Musacchio.

A fraction of a second later, however, Icardi darts away from the defender with the indifference of a fish evading an overly familiar scuba diver who has come to close. Musacchio slips in the confusion, Icardi has his yard, he heads past Gianluigi Donnarumma. Game over.

Trained in Barcelona’s cantera before making his name in Italy, Icardi’s style of play is far removed from the titki-taka commonly associated with his alma mater. Rather than death by a thousand cuts, the Argentine’s game is all about one-hit kills.

No club was willing to take a risk on the divisive young forward back in 2016, after the fallout of his ill-advised autobiography almost saw him kicked out of Inter. However, two years on he is one of the world’s most coveted strikers with a reported release clause of €110m that is almost as good value as Icardi’s own touches to goals rate.

However, while his goalscoring exploits have seen him linked with big money moves to many of Europe’s top clubs from Real Madrid to Chelsea, whether another club would afford him the freedom to be what is that he has at Inter is debatable.

Hopefully whatever happens for Icardi in the future, no-one will try to change him too much. Not all footballers need the ball to be brilliant.

Statistics sourced from ?WhoScored.com