Top five: Injury-prone players

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The news that Owen Hargreaves will not be offered a new deal by Manchester City comes as no surprise.

The England midfielder has battled persistent knee problems since leaving Bayern Munich to join Manchester United in 2007, and barely featured for the Red Devils.

United finally gave up on the former-England star after four injury-ravaged campaigns at Old Trafford, but that did not dissuade others from taking a gamble on the talented midfielder's fitness.

Roberto Mancini was the one who eventually took a punt on Hargreaves, picking him up on a free transfer on a pay-as-you-play contract in 2011. However, after just four appearances, interrupted by a series of setbacks and injury niggles, City have decided to cut their losses.

With no word yet on whether Hargreaves will look to sign for another club - Roy Hodgson's West Brom were very keen before City stole in last year - we take a look at some of the best players whose poor luck with injuries hindered their promising careers.

5. Ledley King (knee)

The Tottenham captain has been plagued by chronic knee problems for most of his career, and the fact that he has been able to nab 21 caps for England despite his troubles is testament to his talent.

Highly-rated by Harry Redknapp but unable to play more than once a week, King trains apart from the Spurs squad with a personal fitness programme designed to manage his pain.

Once labelled an "absolute freak" by his manager for being able to play Premier League football without training, King continues to play through the pain to help Spurs bid for Champions League qualification.

4. Brian Clough (knee)

The legendary Nottingham Forest manager was almost as good on the pitch as he was in the dugout. In his time with hometown club Middlesbrough, Clough notched an impressive 197 league goals in 213 appearances.

However, after moving to north-east rivals Sunderland, Clough suffered a career-ending knee injury in a game against Bury at Roker Park.

The European Cup winning manager had torn cruciate ligaments in his knee after a collision with the goalkeeper, and was forced to retire aged 29.

3. Owen Hargreaves (knee)

England's sole shining light during their failed 2006 World Cup campaign, Hargreaves was hailed as the future of the Three Lions midfield. However, following his move from German giants Bayern to Manchester United, the midfielder suffered a string of horrific knee injuries that have dogged him ever since.

The majority of the problems started after Hargreaves broke his leg in 2007. Following his return, a further complication was discovered in his patella tendon, leading to numerous operations, with one suregon describing Hargreaves knee as the worst he'd ever treated.

Miraculously, Hargreaves managed to return to the United first-team in November 2010, only to limp off six minutes later. His fortune has improved little since moving across Manchester, with City set to release the luckless Hargreaves at the end of this season.

2. Dean Ashton (ankle)

Ashton received a single cap for England and sadly for the former Crewe Alexandra frontman, it was England duty which was to end his career. A broken ankle sustained in a tackle with Shaun Wright-Phillips during a 2006 England training session cut short an otherwise promising career.

The former Norwich and West Ham forward had adjusted well to life in the Premier League, and had recently been rewarded with a call up to the Three Lions squad when his injury nightmare began.

He managed to make his first-team return in July 2007 but, after a series of setbacks, Ashton announced his retirement in December 2009.

1. Marco van Basten (ankle)

A recurrent ankle injury cut short van Basten's masterful career and robbed AC Milan and Holland of one of their greatest players. The three-time European Football of the Year scored 277 goals during 13 magnificent years, before injury forced his retirement in 1995.

Van Basten joined Milan's Dutch revolution in 1988, along with fellow countrymen Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. His first season was punctuated with long periods on the treatment table as he battled a troublesome ankle injury but he was still able to make a telling contribution as Milan won Serie 'A'.

Despite the ankle problem van Basten was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1992. However, the complaint worsened and the 1992-93 Champions League final against Marseille was to be his final game for Milan.

Van Basten sat out the whole 1993-94 as he attempted to rebuild the strength in his ankle, but finally called time on 17 August 1995.

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Ledley King
Manchester City
Premier League
Dean Ashton
Owen Hargreaves

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