Whenever the conversation of wasted talent in football crops up, the same names are always mentioned: Mario Balotelli, Adel Taarabt and Adriano, but to name a few.
Yet there’s a name which is always absent from the list.
After Sevilla won last year's Europa League, all the plaudits went to Carlos Bacca, and understandably so - he was the one who scored the goals to win the trophy.
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However, even Bacca will admit he wasn't the best player on the pitch that night. Pulling the strings in the middle of the park was one of the most talented players in world football - introducing Ever Banega, the ultimate wasted talent.
The Argentine has played nearly all his career at clubs you’d associate with the Europa League having never made the step up to the Champions League - that is no way down to a lack of talent, though.
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When the midfielder plays, half the time he’s one of the best players on the pitch; in the other half, he is the best player on the pitch.
There aren't many more complete central midfielders than him: He can carry the ball, tackle, assist and score goals. Banega, quite simply, has it all.
This begs the question, though, of why he isn’t plying his trade at Barcelona or Real Madrid? Well, this is where it gets interesting.
If you thought Balotelli’s list of misdemeanours was impressive, wait until you see Banega’s. Since he emerged into prominence in 2008, Banega has:
• Faced embarrassment after an unsavoury incident on a webcam
• Tried to stop a moving car with his foot and broke his ankle
• Somehow set fire to his car whilst he was in it
• Continuously turned up late for training
• Continuously turned up drunk for training
It’s no surprise he constantly falls out with his managers, then.
You’d think someone who guarantees such unrest would be discarded to the footballing scrapheap, but when you’re as talented as the 27-year-old, you get away with it.
If he really committed himself to a dedicated lifestyle he would maybe have won a few more trophies, but would he change it? Of course not.
As Antonio Cassano put it amidst criticism of his party lifestyle in his 2008 autobiography:
"I know I haven't given 100% physically or mentally to this game. At best I gave 50%, maybe a tiny bit more in the good years. But so what? Thanks to my talent, I live like a king, I play football and I have a great time."
And who can begrudge that?
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