The lower leagues are littered with players who were hyped as the ‘next big thing’ but eventually succumbed to matters such as poor form or fitness issues before sliding down the leagues.

However, who are the players with the most unfulfilled potential?

1. Francis Jeffers

Arguably, Francis Jeffers has enjoyed a fine career to an extent. He has an England cap and has turned out for a host of clubs including Everton, Arsenal and Blackburn Rovers. The Gunners even paid £10 million for him, such was his form as a youngster at Everton. 

However, that was where the fairy tale ended for the man from Liverpool. Poor form meant he never cemented his place in Arsenal’s team, and since leaving in 2004 Jeffers has played for ten different clubs, scoring just 19 goals in the process. 

Unspectacular spells with Newcastle Jets in Australia, Motherwell in Scotland and an ill-fated period with Maltese club Floriana have led him to League Two with Accrington Stanley.

2. Freddy Adu

Many Football fans will remember Freddy Adu as the fresh-faced 14 year-old that had the Football world on the edge of their seats. In 2004 the young American made his professional debut for DC United in the MLS, going on to make 87 spectacular appearances in the next two years. 

The endorsements, fame and fortune soon followed, and by the time he was 16 Adu was a full USA international. However, following his big move to Europe with Benfica in 2007 Adu has just never looked the same. Several loan moves with few appearances later and Adu finds himself playing for Bahia in Brail. A major slide down the Footballing pyramid, although at still only 23 there is time for him to turn it around.

3. Michael Johnson

Michael Johnson is probably the saddest story on this list. Johnson exploded onto the scene with Manchester City in 2006, quickly cementing his position as one of the first names on the team-sheet. 

His vision and skill on the ball were a joy to behold and rumours of a future England call-up were rife. However, Johnson was never comfortable with the fame that surrounded him and injuries began to take their toll.

A loan spell at Leicester in the 2011/12 season was unsuccessful and this year it emerged he had been quietly released from his Manchester City contract following personal battles with mental health issues. At just 25 years old we can only hope that Johnson finds what he is looking for.

4. Danny Cadamarteri

Danny Cadamarteri is another player that burst onto the Premier League scene. He made his debut for Everton as a youngster and the dreadlocked striker quickly looked the real deal up front. His pace was a constant danger to Premiership defences and it looked like he would have a long and fruitful career. 

However, having been charged for assault in 2001 Everton announced he was free to leave the club, although no offers came in. He was left to run his contract out on the bench before leaving for Bradford in 2002, although since leaving Everton he has never looked the same and has scored just 23 times in the 11 years since.

5. Federico Macheda

Condemning Macheda to the 'unfulfilled potential' list could perhaps be deemed to be jumping the gun somewhat considering - he’s still only 21, but there’s no doubt that the young Italian promised much more than he has so far delivered. 

Having joined United from Lazio it didn’t take him long to start making waves, impressing in the youth team. In 2009 he made his first team debut off the bench against Aston Villa, making an instant impact by scoring a delightful last minute winner to earn the Red Devils a crucial 3-2 victory. Macheda remained in and around the United first team over the rest of the season, but seemed unable to break through. 

Three years worth of loan spells without a goal for Sampdoria, QPR and Stuttgart mean that Kiko Macheda makes the list.

 

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