Premier League: Eight one-time prodigies you may have missed leave during the summer transfer window

Jack Wilshere in action for West Ham in pre-season

It's difficult to find much sympathy for modern footballers with their gorgeous girlfriends and scintillating salaries, but they're in some ways incredibly unfortunate to live in age where media presence is historically unparalleled.

Yes, this gives them the platform to become worldwide superstars that in some instances transcend the game itself, but it also puts incredible pressure on them at a very young age - especially if they’re labelled as a wonderkid or footballing prodigy and therefore expected to reach the very pinnacle of the game.

While some are able to embrace such glowing endorsements, others wilt in the lime light and many - whether due to injuries or joining the wrong club at the wrong time - just get a little unlucky.

And you only need to look at the transfer window just gone to find copious examples of that. These eight players, all once billed as the next big thing, quietly left the Premier League this summer with incredibly minimal fanfare, despite all being once allegedly destined to make the top…

Sofiane Boufal

Sofiane Boufal fights for the ball

Billed as a target for Arsenal, Manchester United, Tottenham and Manchester City during the 2016 January transfer window , Southampton appeared to have landed a real coup when they signed Sofiane Boufal in the subsequent summer, following a campaign in which he’d notched up four goals and eleven assists for Lille. 

Deadly dribbling ability had even earned him comparisons with Eden Hazard but the Moroccan just never quite showed what he was made of in the Premier League despite occasional flashes of brilliance - such as his memorable strike against West Brom - not starting more than 12 games in a single season for Saints. On Deadline Day his career went full circle, joining boyhood club Angers on a free transfer.

Jack Wilshere

Jack Wilshere passes the ball

Once England’s great hope of having an Iberian-inspired engine room, Jack Wilshere is now without a club after having his contract at West Ham terminated by mutual consent.

Such news doesn’t really come as much of a surprise - the former England international’s constant injury problems, forcing him to miss 208 games throughout his career (and that’s not even including those he wasn’t match fit for) are notorious, and he only ever managed nine starts across two seasons with the Hammers. 

As a free agent, Wilshere still has ten days to retain his Premier League status, but after so many false restarts to a career that began with him making the 2010/11 PFA Team of the Year, another chance at the top level seems unlikely.

Sandro Ramirez

Sandro Ramirez in action for Everton

Sandro Ramirez joined Everton in summer 2017 fresh off a 14-goal La Liga campaign with Malaga and having also risen through the ranks of La Masia impressively enough to cut his teeth with Barcelona B before featuring 32 times for the Catalans’ first team, the Toffees appeared to have struck gold when they activated a £5.3m release clause.

But the striker never got out of the starting blocks at Goodison Park. In part plagued by the fact Everton soon went on to sign Wayne Rooney, the Spaniard made just eight Premier League appearances in his first six months on Merseyside, before a succession of goal-shy loans back in La Liga.

On Deadline Day, he was allowed to join newly-promoted Huesca on a free transfer, a year before his Everton contract was due to expire. 

Andre Green

Andre Green celebrates scoring for Aston Villa

Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City and Tottenham were all alleged to be chasing Andre Green back in 2016, but the then-highly-promising young forward would soon go on to suffer a serious injury, and from that point his career trajectory appeared to significantly alter.

Rather than moving up to the Premier League’s highest rung, Green struggled to make his way into Villa’s first team and spent last season on loan in the Championship - first with Preston and then with Charlton - only earning himself eight starts.

Villa announced his release back in June, and he’s still currently a free agent.

Angel Gomes

Angel Gomes in action for Manchester United

Angel Gomes takes pride of place as this list’s rare exception, because he left Manchester United on his own terms this summer rather than being forced out. Nonetheless, the attacking midfielder hadn’t made the progress that he would’ve liked at Old Trafford prior to his departure, only ever making three starts for the first team.

And rather than being snapped up by Chelsea, Valencia or Benfica - with all three European giants reportedly amongst his many suitors - the 20-year-old has instead signed for Lille, who immediately loaned him out to Boavista in Portugal.

It seems like something of a sideways move considering the widespread interest in him, but maybe it’s the right stepping stone to eventually return to the Premier League in the future.

Kieran Dowell

Wigan's Kieran Dowell shields the ball

Once dubbed an “Everton wonderkid” by The Liverpool Echo, Kieran Dowell looked like a future first team star at a very young age, having made his league debut at just 18.

The attacking midfielder would go on to enjoy some productive loan spells in the Championship, most notably scoring five times for Wigan last season and racking up 13 goal involvements for Nottingham Forest in 2017/18, but big opportunities at his parent club never quite came and this summer he was sold to Norwich City for a nominative fee

The 22-year-old scored on his debut against Luton in the EFL Cup, but is yet to get off the mark for the Canaries in the Championship.

Nathan

Young Brazilians moving to European football at an early age always capture attention and while he was always something of a punt acquisition - with Tim Vickery questioning at the time whether he’d truly justified a transfer to Chelsea - Nathan, initially at least, fitted that trend. 

Despite the Blues allegedly muscling Liverpool, Arsenal and City out of the way to secure his services, Vickery’s prediction of the midfielder becoming nothing more than a first-teamer at feeder club Vitesse unfortunately proved right.

Nathan spent two seasons there before spells with Amiens and Beleneses, and then returned to Brazil on loan at Atletico Mineiro. This summer, he joined the latter club in a permanent deal.

Martin Montoya

Martin Montoya challenges for the ball

Having plied his trade with Barcelona, Inter Milan and Valencia - in addition to earning a whopping 22 caps for Spain’s U21 side - before arriving in the Premier League, Brighton appeared to have snapped up a player of real pedigree when they added right-back Martin Montoya to their ranks in 2018.

The Spaniard was by no means a flop at the AMEX, making 47 Premier League starts over two seasons, but he was hardly a game-changer for the Seagulls in the way many would have expected, especially upon joining the club during theoretically his peak years.

Instead, Montoya found himself ousted out of Graham Potter’s plans by Tariq Lamptey towards the end of last season, which is likely why he decided to return to former club Betis this summer. Once part of an all-La-Masia starting XI for Barcelona, Montoya’s career just hasn’t hit the heights expected. 

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