We’ve all been there. Spending endless hours on Football Manager, dragging a team kicking and screaming rom the obscurity of non-league football right up to the Premier League.
If you’ve done this, it’s more than likely you took advantage of some pretty awesome wonderkids, who in FM at least, were predicted for stardom.
These kind of games are normally bang on the money when it comes to touting youngsters for greatness, with some of the top footballing talents on the planet spotted by the gaming creators.
However, like anything, sometimes they make mistakes. We’ve picked out 10 who didn’t quite make the grade in the real footballing world, but were pretty banging in your FM team. This will bring back some memories.
We just couldn’t start anywhere else really. At just 14-years-old, Freddy Adu had scouts from all around the world purring. Once touted as the ‘next Pele’ he signed for DC United to become MLS’ youngest ever footballer. Sadly for him, no-one really believed the hype, and you can’t really blame them. Benfica eventually forked out $2million for Adu’s services in 2007. After just 11 appearances Adu was shipped out on loan. After failing to impress, young Freddie turned into something of a journeyman, playing for 13 different clubs in eighteen years in France, Portugal, Greece, Turkey, the U.S (again), Brazil, Serbia and Finland, as well as unsuccessful trials across Europe, including Blackpool. A team that struggled to gather 11 players together didn’t even want him. If that isn’t a kick in the bollocks, I don’t know what is. Adu is now back in the U.S. playing for Tampa Bay Rowdies in the North American Soccer League- a league below the MLS. Oh, and he occasionally partakes in a bit of nightclub promoting and has also recently featured in a vacuum advert, apparently.
— Freddy Adu (@FreddyAdu) November 18, 2015
Hatem Ben Arfa
When Hatem Ben Arfa burst onto the scene in early noughties he was seen as a focal point of the future of French football. Early in his career he won four league titles with Lyon, playing as striker. After a controversial move to rivals Marseille for €11 million, he made a natural switch to become a winger, which allowed his sheer pace and trickery to flourish. After a two year spell, he won the league and league cup with Marseille and arrived in England in 2010. Originally on loan at Newcastle, he showed glimpses of brilliance, but was thwarted by injury. Many remember his incredible solo goals against Blackburn, Bolton and Everton but struggled to get a decent run of games. After a falling out with manager Alan Pardew he was ordered to train with the U18’s and frozen out of the first-team, accused of being overweight and simply not fit enough to compete in the Premier League. He secured a season-long loan at Hull for 2014/15 season, but again fell out with their manager Steve Bruce and was reduced to a handful of appearances coming off the bench. After a prolonged transfer debacle, where he was unable to play for three teams in one season, he confirmed his move back to France last summer for Nice. He described his time at Newcastle as “hell” and since then, he’s put some impressive performances in and has scored seven goals- earning him a recall to the French national team set-up. Maybe the French league is where he belongs…
Anthony Vanden Borre
With 28 Belgium caps to his name you might be thinking we are being a bit harsh, but compared to what everyone thought he was going to be back in 2003, he’s definitely not fulfilled his potential. Vanden Borre emerged as a 15-year-old prodigy, making his way through the youth ranks at Anderlecht. A versatile defender, he was rated higher than then teammate Vincent Kompany at the time. He was just 16 when he made his first international appearance, but after pretty poor stints at Fiorentina and Genoa, he moved to Portsmouth on loan. This is where his career really took a nosedive. They were relegated from the Premier League that season and his move was not made permanent after he was branded “too fat”. After a short spell in Genk and an even shorter time in Ukraine, the 28-year-old has now gone full circle and is back at his home team Anderlecht.
Many a Stoke fan will think we are being a tad harsh, but when you think this lad was touted as the next Lionel Messi it’s fair to say he hasn’t reached those dizzying heights. Bojan eclipsed Messi’s record as the youngest first team debut at Barcelona, just after his 17th birthday. In a pretty decent debut season he scored 12 goals, but struggled to build on this eye-catching season. After a big money move to Roma he struggled to be anywhere near as prolific as he was in his youth days and was then loaned out to AC Milan. Another subdued loan spell at Ajax led to Bojan making a head-turning move to mid-table Premier League outfit Stoke City. Joining manager Mark Hughes, he made a promising start to his career in England, with his skill and trickery. But a serious knee injury four months in meant he’s only just getting back to his illustrious best as we speak. With the likes of other ex-Barcelona players- Affelay, Muniesa and El Ouriachi, as well as playmaker Shaquiri, ‘Stokealona’ are a lot more interesting to watch these days, than the long ball, rugby-style tactics employed by Tony Pulis a few years back. Maybe this will be the unlikely destination where he fulfils his potential? Who knows…
Remember him United fans? Not quite as awful as the legend that is Eric Djemba Djemba, but this was definitely one of Sir Alex’s few mistakes. Federico Macheda got a lot of people excited back in 2009, with a quality goal agains Aston Villa. But he spent the next couple of years on the periphery of the first-team and struggled to make a better impact. He twice went out on loan to Sampdoria first and then to Queens Park Rangers, but was hampered by injury at the latter. He then went on to have other unsuccessful loan spells at VfB Stuttgart, Doncaster Rovers and Birmingham City, before being released by his parent club in June 2014. He signed for Cardiff City that summer and made a handful of half decent appearances for them in the 2014/15 season, but has yet to make an appearance and is struggling to find a place in a poor Cardiff side this season.
Giovani Dos Santos
Yet another ex-Barcelona prodigy who didn’t quite reach the pinnacle of the game. Touted as one of the “Top 50 Most Exciting Teen Footballers” by World Soccer Magazine, Dos Santos made his way up through the ranks and made his debut for the Catalan giants in 2007. In search of more game time, he made a switch to the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur in 2008 for €6 million, but struggled to grab a first-team place in his four year stint, spending most of that time on loan at Ipswich Town, Galatasaray, and Racing Santander, with varying degrees of success. Spurs eventually sold Gio to Mallorca and made more of an impact, as their new number nine. Although they were relegated that season, he was a mainstay in the squad and turned out to be their top-scorer with six goals and seven assists. In 2013, Giovani completed a much speculated move to recently promoted side Villarreal CF for €6M, finishing the season with 11 goals and eight assists, helping the club to a respectable sixth position at the conclusion of 2013-2014 La Liga season. Having re-discovered some of his early career form, he packed it all in for a lucrative move to the MLS, to join Robbie Keane and Steve Gerrard at LA Galaxy.
It would be fair to say that Scotland haven’t had a world beating footballer emerged for a fair number of years. But back in 2007, supporters would have been excited by Rangers youngster, Fleck, who was breaking into their first team and being touted as a future star on FM back in 2008/09 as you’d march Fleetwood Town to the Premier League. He became the first 15-year-old to play for the first team since Derek Ferguson, but he went on to achieve very little with the Glasgow club. He went tried getting a loan deal at Sheffield United which eventually fell through and then managed to play for Blackpool, with little success. Now aged 24, the left-sided midfielder still remains uncapped for the national side and has achieved very little since his Rangers days. He is now plying his trade in League One with Coventry, weighed down by his FM wonderkid status. Shame.
Tonton Zola Moukoko
We’re going back a bit now, but if you’re still reading this you will probably know this Football Manager legend. Tonton Zola Moukoko was available at an outrageously low price from Derby County and had world-beating potential to become the greatest central midfielder you’d ever see. However, his life didn’t quite turn out how the FM community originally hoped. Perhaps the game’s scouts got a bit confused with another man with Zola in his name, who knows? After suffering family problems and falling out with Derby’s owners, Moukoko went back to Sweden. He is still playing and at only 31 turns out for Swedish fourth-tier team IFK Lidingo FK. The lad has acheived cult status though, regularly telephoned by fans of FM and with numerous Tonton Zola Moukoko appreciation groups’ set up in honour of the great man.
Championship Manager legend Tonton Zola Moukoko was a highly rated youngster at Derby. Now at IFK Lidingo, aged 30. pic.twitter.com/1bElqxMWRZ
— Faded Footballers (@FadedFootball) March 10, 2014
Stefano Okaka Chuka
Another FM favourite a few years back because of his ridiculous potential and a pretty funny surname to boot, although he seems to have dropped the Chuka part in recent times. The former teenage talent burst onto the scene at Roma at just 16 years of age, becoming the youngest footballer to debut in an international competition for an Italian team. But he failed to live up to expectations at Roma and made loan moves to Serie B sides Modena and Brescia, before another loan move to Premier League outfit Fulham. He failed to impress in England and was once again back in Italy, with AS Bari but was plagued with injuries during a pretty unsuccessful season. He was finally off Roma’s books permanently in 2012 after a move to Parma, but he failed to make many appearances before being shipped off again to another Serie B side. He recaptured some form at Sampdoria however, gaining one Italy cap in 2014, before making a move to Belgium this summer. He’s now doing a lot better with Anderlecht, scoring seven goals so far in this current campaign.
Another Scottish wonderkid who didn’t quite make the grade. Mark Kerr seemed destined for greatness, available on the cheap from Falkirk in 2001, his potential was incredible on FM. Whatever became of his ‘talent’ you might ask? Well nothing, really. After a move to Dundee United his formed dipped after a solid couple of seasons and had a pretty torrid spell at Aberdeen and then a bad stint in Greece. He then became Scottish football’s journeyman, turning out for Dunfermline Athletic, Dundee, Partick Thistle and Queen of the South, before going back full circle to Falkirk. We imagine he will finish his pretty average career here, but the SPL could be beckoning, with his side currently third in the Scottish second tier.
It’s a hard life being a footballer…