Back in 2007, World Soccer magazine named the 50 most exciting teenagers on the planet – but what happened to them all?
Predicting the stars of tomorrow is never easy. In fact, it’s extremely difficult.
Countless talented young footballers have failed to fulfil their potential over the years for a whole host of reasons.
Sometimes it’s immediately clear that a young footballer is destined for greatness: Lionel Messi being the obvious example when he first burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s.
A couple of years after Messi broke into Barcelona’s first team, World Soccer’s top 50 most exciting teenagers list was published in their excellent monthly magazine.
But how many of them lived up to expectations?
50. Ever Banega | Boca Juniors
Capped 65 times by Argentina, 33-year-old Ever Banega has enjoyed a fine career playing for the likes of Valencia, Sevilla and Inter Milan.
The gifted midfielder joined Saudi Arabian side Al Shabab in 2020.
49. Gregory van der Wiel | AFC Ajax
Dutch full-back Gregory van der Wiel left Ajax for Paris Saint-Germain in 2012 and spent four years with the French club before moving on to Fenerbahce.
The 33-year-old right-back last played professional for Toronto FC in 2019. He bravely spoke about his battles with anxiety and panic attacks in November 2020.
48. Theo Walcott | Arsenal
Has Theo Walcott fulfilled his potential? It’s a difficult question to answer and everyone has their own opinions.
The England international spent 12 years with Arsenal before playing three years at Everton. The 32-year-old returned to his first club Southampton in 2021.
47. Carlos Vela | Arsenal
Another former talented Arsenal youngster, Carlos Vela failed to become a first-team regular at the Emirates Stadium and eventually moved to Real Sociedad where he scored 61 goals in 213 games.
The former Mexico international, who netted 19 goals in 72 appearances for his country, is still plying his trade with Los Angeles FC after joining the MLS outfit in 2018.
46. Abdou Razack Traore | Rosenborg BK
Not a name that your average football fan will be overly familiar with, Abdou Razack Traore moved to Polish side Lechia Gdansk after leaving Rosenborg in 2010.
The Burkina Faso forward currently plays for Nantong Zhiyun in China.
45. Ivan Rakitic | Schalke 04
A fine shout from World Soccer, this. Ivan Rakitic has enjoyed a superb career, shining for Sevilla and Barcelona over the past 10 years. The midfielder was also capped 106 times by Croatia.
44. Marek Suchy | Slavia Prague
Defender Marek Suchy went on to become captain of the Czech Republic national team. The 33-year-old last played for Bundesliga outfit Augsburg.
43. Sergio Tejera | Chelsea
One of many talented young footballers who failed to make the grade at Chelsea, midfielder Sergio Tejera joined Mallorca before turning out for Espanyol, Alaves (loan), Gimnastic, Oviedo and Cartagena.
42. Alexis Sanchez | Udinese
Good at Barcelona, excellent at Arsenal, disastrous at Manchester United.
Alexis Sanchez, one of the greatest players in Chile’s history, has spent the past couple of years trying to rebuild his confidence at Inter Milan.
41. Micah Richards | Manchester City
It’s a huge shame that Micah Richards wasn’t able to fulfil his potential because he was superb as a youngster at Manchester City and with England.
The 33-year-old retired from football in July 2019 at the age of just 31. He’s now one of the most popular pundits on British TV.
40. Henri Saivet | Bordeaux
Henri Saivet left Bordeaux for Newcastle United in 2016 but did virtually nothing at St James’ Park before his spell at the club ended in 2021.
The 31-year-old has been capped 27 times by Senegal.
39. Renato Augusto | Flamengo
One year after World Soccer’s list was published, Renato Augusto left South America for Europe, signing a deal with German side Bayer Leverkusen.
The midfielder returned to Brazil in 2013, signing for Corinthians, before joining Chinese club Beijing Guoan three years later.
In 2021, the 33-year-old returned to Corinthians.
38. Andrea Russotto | AC Bellinzona
Italian midfielder Andrea Russotto played for his country at virtually every different age group but never managed to win a senior cap.
The 33-year-old currently plays for Catania in Italy’s third tier.
37. Mesut Ozil | Schalke
Mesut Ozil moved to Werder Bremen in 2008 and was one of the stars of the 2010 World Cup, which earned him a move to Real Madrid.
The German playmaker, who lifted the World Cup in 2014, was superb at the Bernabeu but left for Arsenal in 2013 after the Spanish club signed Gareth Bale for a world-record fee.
While Ozil’s extraordinary talent was never in doubt, his work ethic was often questioned during his time in the Premier League.
He joined Fenerbahce in 2021.
36. Nikolay Mihaylov | Liverpool
After failing to force his way into Liverpool’s first team, Nikolay Mihaylov moved to Twente in 2010.
The Bulgarian goalkeeper has been on Levski Sofia’s books since 2018.
35. Fran Merida | Arsenal
Fran Merida was tipped to follow in Cesc Fabregas’s footsteps at Arsenal but wasn’t quite good enough to become a first-team regular.
The 31-year-old now plays for Espanyol.
34. Daniel Opare | Ashanti Gold SC
Signed by Real Madrid in 2008, former Ghana international Daniel Opare failed to make a first-team appearance for the Spanish giants.
The ex-Standard Liege and Augsburg right-back, 31, most recently played for Zulte Waregem in Belgium.
33. Aaron Niguez | Valencia
Aaron Niguez, brother of Saul, left Valencia in 2011. He now plays for lower-league Spanish club Eldense.
32. Ransford Osei | Medeama SC
Ransford Osei was capped twice by Ghana in 2010 but certainly didn’t belong on a list alongside the likes of Sergio Aguero and Gareth Bale.
He last played for a Lithuanian club called Palanga.
31. Cristian Nazarit | America de Cali
Another promising youngster who didn’t achieve that much in the game, Cristian Nazarit’s final club was Al Ahli.
30. Sapol Mani | Maranatha FC
Sapol Mani scored two goals in 13 games for Togo’s national team but never managed to secure a move to a European club.
29. Lulinha | Corinthians
Prolific at youth level, Lulinha scored 16 goals in 16 games for Brazil’s Under-17s between 2005-2007 and was a Football Manager wonderkid.
Did he achieve much in senior football? Sadly not.
The 31-year-old currently plays for Montedio Yamagata in Japan’s second division.
28. Juan Mata | Valencia
Juan Mata was excellent at Valencia and then enjoyed two outstanding seasons at Chelsea before things went downhill for him when Jose Mourinho returned to Stamford Bridge in 2013.
Mata and Mourinho would end up working together again at Manchester United, where the former is now playing his ninth season for the Red Devils.
27. Toni Kroos | Bayern Munich
One of the greatest midfielders of his generation, Toni Kroos has been consistently brilliant since leaving Bayern Munich for Real Madrid in 2014.
26. Kerlon | Cruzeiro
Kerlon became an early internet hit thanks to his unorthodox seal dribble.
However, the Brazilian struggled in senior football and eventually announced his retirement in 2017, aged just 29.
25. Rabiu Ibrahim | Sporting Lisbon
Rabiu Ibrahim went on to play for PSV Eindhoven, Celtic and Kilmarnock after leaving Sporting Lisbon in 2010. Since 2017, the former Nigeria international has been playing for Slovan Bratislava in Slovakia.
24. Nour Hadhria | Club Africain
Little is known about Nour Hadhria, who last played for CA Bizertin and now appears to have retired.
23. Lorenzo De Silvestri | Lazio
Lorenzo De Silvestri has enjoyed a decent career in Serie A over the past 15 years, playing for Lazio, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Torino and Bologna.
22. Damian Ismodes | Club Sporting Cristal
A move to Racing Santander in 2008 failed to pan out for Damian Ismodes, who briefly played for Peru’s national team and is currently on the books of Alianza Universidad back in his home country.
21. Guilherme | Cruzeiro
Guilherme has turned out for the likes of Braga B and Legia Warsaw during his career. The 30-year-old now plays for Guangzhou City.
20. Marouane Fellaini | Standard Liege
Marouane Fellaini was excellent during his five years with Everton and subsequently earned a move to Manchester United in 2013.
The former Belgium international spent six years at Old Trafford before moving to Chinese side Shandong Taishan in 2019.
19. Fabio Coentrao | Benfica
Fabio Coentrao looked sensational at Benfica, prompting Real Madrid to fork out €30 million for his signature in the summer of 2011.
The Portuguese left-back played 106 games for Real Madrid but was unfortunate that Marcelo was at the club at the same time.
He retired in 2021 after a spell with Rio Ave and recently made headlines when it emerged that he was now working as a fisherman.
18. Kermit Erasmus | SuperSport United
First of all: what a name. Kermit Erasmus played 15 times for South Africa and currently plays for Mamelodi Sundowns.
17. Fabio da Silva | Manchester United
Fabio da Silva moved to Manchester United with his twin brother, Rafael, in 2008 after impressing at Fluminense.
Fabio wasn’t quite as successful as his sibling at the Theatre of Dreams, although he did start for Man Utd at right-back against Barcelona in the 2011 Champions League final.
The Brazilian full-back spent time with Cardiff and Middlesbrough before joining Nantes in 2018.
16. Dumitru Copil | Hearts
Former Romania Under-17 international Dumitru Copil’s spell with Hearts, like the rest of his underwhelming career, has been largely forgettable.
15. Karim Benzema | Lyon
One of the greatest strikers of his era, Karim Benzema moved to Real Madrid in 2009 and has scored 299 goals for the Spanish giants, winning a host of major honours in the process.
14. Macauley Chrisantus | Abuja
Macauley Chrisantus did reasonably well with Las Palmas between 2012-2014 but has struggled almost everywhere else he’s played.
The former Nigeria Under-20 international is currently with FF Jaro in Finland.
13. Franco Di Santo | Audax Italiano
Franco Di Santo moved to Chelsea too early in his career and paid a heavy price.
While the one-time Argentina international’s career hasn’t been too bad, he’d have expected to have achieved far more in the game given his talents.
12. Diego Buonanotte | River Plate
Diminutive winger Diego Buonanotte moved to Malaga in 2011 and also had a spell with Granada.
The Argentine, 33, has played for the Chilean side Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica since 2016.
11. Angel Di Maria | Benfica
Unlike his compatriot Buonanotte, Angel Di Maria did blossom into a world-class footballer.
The 33-year-old has represented Real Madrid and Manchester United during his glittering career and has been with Paris Saint-Germain since 2015.
10. Gerardo Bruna | Liverpool
Former Argentina Under-20 international Gerardo Bruna has had a rather unusual career, featuring spells with Blackpool and Derry City.
The 30-year-old is currently part of Shelbourne’s squad.
9. Breno Borges | Sao Paulo
Breno joined Bayern Munich in 2008 but was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison in 2012 after setting his rented villa on fire.
Released in 2013, the Brazilian centre-back returned to professional football two years later with Sao Paulo and also had a spell with Vasco da Gama.
8. Bojan Krkic | Barcelona
A goalscoring phenomenon in Barcelona’s youth teams, Bojan Krkic was tipped to become the new Messi but it never quite happened for him at Camp Nou.
Bojan has played for AS Roma, AC Milan, Ajax, Stoke City, Mainz, Alaves and Montreal Impact. Since 2021, the forward has been playing in Japan with Vissel Kobe alongside the great Andres Iniesta.
7. Sergio Aguero | Atletico Madrid
Sergio Aguero was brilliant at Atletico Madrid and even better at Manchester City, where he became a Premier League legend.
The Argentine joined Barcelona in the summer of 2021 but was sadly forced to retire months later, aged 33, due to a heart condition.
6. Gareth Bale | Tottenham
Gareth Bale went on to become world class at Tottenham before further cementing his status as one of the game’s greatest players at Real Madrid from 2013 onwards.
However, the less said about his past few years as a professional footballer the better. It’s a travesty how much of his recent career the 32-year-old has wasted.
5. Giovani dos Santos | Barcelona
Like the aforementioned Bojan, Giovani dos Santos was tipped to become a superstar at Barcelona but he was unable to live up to expectations at Camp Nou.
The 32-year-old Mexican has played for Tottenham, Mallorca, Villarreal, LA Galaxy and Club America over the course of his career.
4. Anderson | Manchester United
Anderson looked a genuinely special talent at FC Porto, so it wasn’t a shock when Man Utd signed the Brazilian midfielder in 2007.
Injuries and inconsistency meant the South American failed to deliver on his early-career promise at Old Trafford but he still picked up four Premier League winners’ medals and scored in the shoot-out of the 2008 Champions League final against Chelsea.
Anderson retired from football in September 2020, aged 31.
3. Alexandre Pato | AC Milan
Alexandre Pato was so good at youth level that people expected him to become the next Ronaldo Nazario.
He was decent at AC Milan but failed to set European football alight.
The former Brazil international’s topsy-turvy career has seen him play for Corinthians, Villarreal, Tianjin Tianhai, Sao Paulo and Orlando City.
2. Ismail Aissati | PSV Eindhoven
The former Morocco international moved to Ajax in 2008 but was a disappointing signing for the Dutch side.
He currently plays for Denizlispor.
1. Sadick Adams | Atletico Madrid
How did Sadick Adams top World Soccer’s list when it also featured Bale, Aguero and Di Maria among other star names?!
He impressed for Ghana at the 2007 Under-17 World Cup, scoring four goals, so perhaps that explains it.
A move to Atletico Madrid’s B team in 2008 was the peak of his club career. He was never seen at another top European club and most recently spent time playing for Arambagh KS in Bangladesh’s third tier.
It’s a safe bet that Adams has a framed copy of that 2007 edition of World Soccer magazine in his house.
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