With the amount of exposure football enjoys nowadays it is not uncommon for promising young players to experience significant publicity when they are essentially still children.
In some extreme cases this can lead to sponsorship and multi-million pound transfers before their careers has even begun. Sadly, some of these players never quite achieve the success their youth seemed to indicate, etching out a career for lesser teams or in lesser leagues.
Here we look at some of the most recent notable cases. Though now into their twenties, they are still playing the game and presumably hope to rediscover the path to the top level:
The quintessential player that hasn’t made the grade, Freddy Adu was a superstar before he was even a teenager. It didn’t take long for him to explode onto the scene professionally either, at the tender age of 14 he made his professional debut for DC United in the MLS, going on to score his first goal later that month.
Prolific for the US youth teams, he also debuted for the senior national team at just 16. It is easy to forget that his first years at DC showed that he was a genuine talent, and he was linked to the biggest clubs in the world before signing for Benfica in 2007.
A move to Europe never worked out for him, being loaned to several lesser leagues before moving back to the US. Adu is 24 in June, and on loan to Bahia in Brazil, seeking to grasp the limelight for the right reasons once more.
Cherno Samba was one of the first players to encounter heavy coverage as a youth after he scored 132 goals in 32 games for his school team. After signing for Millwall he continued to bang the goals in for the youth team, and received interest from several big clubs.
A regular in the England youth teams, he didn’t make his football league debut until the age of 21 at Plymouth, after beginning the journeyman route that would lead him to minor clubs in Spain, Finland, Greece and Norway. Still playing in the Norwegian second division now, and at 27-years-old, it’s fair to say he never became the player he could have been.
Sadick Adams signed for Ateltico Madrid after starring in Ghana’s run to the semi-finals in the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup. One of the hottest properties in football after rating highly in several magazine lists of most promising players in the world, Adams enjoyed a decent first season playing for Atletico’s second team.
Decent wasn’t good enough though, and he ended up back in his homeland with Berekum Chelsea after playing very little football since leaving Spain. Adams is currently without a club.
British media championed 15-year-old John Bostock after he made his debut for Crystal Palace in 2007. Rumours of Barcelona scouts at games only increased the interest, and when he signed for Tottenham a year later via a bitter tribunal, it was seen as something of a coup.
He became Spurs’ youngest ever player after his debut in the UEFA Cup in his first season, but a series of loan moves has somewhat stalled his development since, despite continuing to exhibit promise. On loan at Toronto in the MLS, and with his contract with Spurs expiring in the summer, Bostock is the player with the greatest chance of salvaging a career at the top, as he is still just 21. Which club he chooses to join next season will be critical.
Kerlon’s seal dribble, where he repeatedly bounced the ball on his head while running round opponents, was precisely the kind of trick that would garner the attention of the footballing world, and after performing it at the 2005 South American Under-17 Championships he became a media phenomenon. Brazil won that tournament, and Kerlon was named both top scorer and best player.
After a couple of years with his hometown team Cruzeiro, a move to Italy followed via an agreement between Chievo and Inter Milan. By this time though, opponents had figured the best means to stop Kerlon’s seal dribble was by taking him out of the game through somewhat illegal means, and a series of knee injuries meant he played very little football in Italy. Like so many players, a series of loans only harmed his career further, and he is now playing for Fujieda MYFC in Japan’s 3rd tier.
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