FourFourTwo named 20 players ‘on the cusp of greatness’ in 2012 - What happened to them?

  • Rob Swan

When it comes to football, predicting the stars of tomorrow isn’t easy.

Some players who look like future world-beaters at 16 or 17 years old can end up failing to live up to expectations and falling by the wayside.

On the other hand, seemingly average teenagers can become superstars a little later in their careers. Take Tottenham’s Harry Kane, for example.

Of course, there are some players who are clearly destined to reach the top from a young age.

Lionel Messi looked outstanding from the moment he broke into Barcelona’s first team, as did Kylian Mbappe with AS Monaco.

Back in November 2012 – seven years ago now! – FourFourTwo selected 20 players that they felt were on the ‘cusp of greatness’.

One Reddit user has listed the players – but what happened to them? Let’s take a look.

Raheem Sterling

Okay, this is a decent start from FourFourTwo.

Sterling was only 17 years old when this feature was published but the winger was already looking every inch like a potential superstar with Liverpool.

Now 24, the England international is a two-time Premier League champion with Manchester City and is widely regarded as one of the best players in Europe.

Eden Hazard

Hazard had already been signed by Chelsea by the time FourFourTwo published this feature.

But credit where it’s due, the Belgium winger has exceeded expectations, bossing it at Stamford Bridge for the next seven years before completing a €100 million move to Real Madrid.

Nick Powell

Oh dear.

Sadly, Powell failed to make the grade at Manchester United and found himself sold to Wigan Athletic in 2016.

The one-time England Under-21 international, who turned 25 in March, is still playing at a decent level – he’s currently with Stoke City in the Championship – but has failed to live up to his early-career reputation as the next Paul Scholes.

John Guidetti

Another player who struggled to live up to expectations, Guidetti was tipped to become Manchester City’s main centre-forward around in 2012 after scoring 20 goals in 23 games during a loan spell with Feyenoord.

However, the Swedish forward failed to break into City’s first team and was eventually sold to Celta Vigo in 2015.

The 27-year-old has plied his trade with Alaves since 2018.

Ross Barkley

“He’ll be one of the best players we’ll ever see in this country.”

Martin Keown said this about Barkley in 2011, but the former Arsenal defender’s prediction hasn’t come to fruition.

Now at Chelsea, Barkley is a decent Premier League midfielder who could still become great. But it’s yet to happen for the ex-Everton player so far.

Lorenzo Insigne

Not a bad shout from FourFourTwo.

However, few would describe Insigne is a truly ‘great’ player.

The Italy international, who turned 28 in June, has scored 77 goals in 303 games for Napoli.

Stephan El Shaarawy

El Shaarawy looked class when he broke through at AC Milan in the early 2010s but he has failed to establish his status as one of Europe’s best forwards.

The Italy international is currently in China, earning the big bucks with Shanghai Greenland Shenhua FC.

Alvaro Morata

A good striker? Without a doubt. A great striker? No.

Morata was tipped to become the next Raul but it never quite happened for him over two spells with Real Madrid.

His spell with Chelsea was hugely disappointing – 24 goals in 72 games was a poor return for a player who cost £60 million – but the 26-year-old is still playing at the highest level with Atletico.

Cristian Tello

Tello has enjoyed a decent enough career so far but, unfortunately, hasn’t managed to become a top forward.

Now 28, Tello has spent the past couple of seasons with Real Betis but has only managed to make one appearance for the Spanish national team.

Paul Pogba

Whatever happened to that guy?

Pogba divides opinion but his haters can’t take his World Cup winners’ medal away from him.

Radamel Falcao

Falcao was probably the best No. 9 on the planet in 2012, so FourFourTwo were a bit cheeky including the Colombian striker in this particular feature.

His spell in England with Manchester United and then Chelsea was an unmitigated disaster, but he has enjoyed the past couple of years with AS Monaco.

Iker Muniain

Muniain is one of those players who you always expected to move up to that next level but, for whatever reason, it never quite happened.

The 26-year-old has spent his entire professional career to date with his beloved Athletic Bilbao.


A wonderful footballer, Isco left Malaga for Real Madrid in 2013 and has won a host of major honours at the Bernabeu, including four UEFA Champion League titles.

That said, the Spain international has found himself in and out of Madrid’s starting line-up under various managers and may soon decide that a move away from the Bernabeu is in the best interests of his career.

Joao Moutinho

Most people in 2012 would have predicted that Moutinho would end up at a club like Manchester United or Real Madrid, not Wolves.

However, Wolves are a decent side these days and Moutinho is still regarded as a class act.

Yann M’Vila

M’Vila was tipped to become the world’s best holding midfielder around 2012, while he was still playing for Rennes.

But moving to Rubin Kazan in 2013 was a poor career move.

He spent an unconvincing season on loan with Sunderland in 2015-16 and now plays for Saint-Etienne.

Younes Belhanda

A skillful attacking midfielder, Belhanda has ultimately fallen short of the ‘greatness’ level.

The Morocco international has spent the past couple of seasons with Turkish giants Galatasaray.


Oh, Oscar. Why did you move to China?

The Brazilian playmaker has fallen off the radar since joining Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea in 2017.

He’ll boast an astronomical bank balance when he retires but could achieved a lot more in a football sense had he stayed in Europe.


Football Manager legend Ganso was seen by some football fans as the most talented midfielder to emerge since Zinedine Zidane.

But the former Brazil international, who now plays for Fluminense, failed to make the grade in European football with Sevilla.

Lucas Moura

Moura has enjoyed a very decent career, spending five years with PSG before joining Tottenham in 2018.

But can we consider him a ‘great’ player? In truth, probably not.

Leandro Damiao

Permanently linked with various English clubs in gossip columns, Damiao is another player who failed to live up the hype.

The 30-year-old, who scored three goals in 17 games for Brazil, now plays for Kawasaki Frontale in Japan.

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