Ronaldo, Adriano, Sturridge: 12 players whose careers were wrecked by injuries

Ronaldo, Adriano, Sturridge: 12 players whose careers were wrecked by injuries

Less than 10 years ago, Daniel Sturridge had the world at his feet. As part of a prolific partnership with Luis Suarez at Liverpool, the pair put fear into Premier League defences up and down the land. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the former England man was struck down by injuries.

In his first 18 months at Anfield, Sturridge was in ridiculously good form, notching 35 goals in 49 games. Once his fitness woes began, though, he never recovered that same blistering ability to find the back of the net.

By the time Sturridge departed Merseyside at the end of the 2018/19 season, he had contributed just 32 goals in the previous five years.

Having faced no less than 15 spells on the sidelines due to injury in his Liverpool career, Sturridge was rarely able to enjoy a consistent run in the side – something which undoubtedly affected his form.

Spells with West Brom and Trabzonspor failed to reignite Sturridge’s fortunes post-Liverpool, but his move to Australian A-League side Perth Glory in October last year handed the player a fresh platform to prove himself once again.

It wasn’t to be. Sturridge represented Perth for a grand total of 138 minutes across six games. A groin injury in February of this year saw him spend even more time on the treatment table.

Sturridge at Perth Glory
PERTH, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 20: Daniel Sturridge of the Perth Glory waves to the crowd as he warms up during the A-League match between Perth Glory and Adelaide United at HBF Park, on November 20, 2021, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by James Worsfold/Getty Images)

Unsurprisingly, after his underwhelming stint in Western Australia, the club announced on Friday that it had cut ties with Sturridge.

Only 32 years old, Sturridge once possessed the potential to be one of Europe’s top players. His rotten run of luck with injuries, however, has left his once-promising career in tatters.

Regrettably, he’s far from the first player to be betrayed by his body in this fashion.

Below, we’ve taken a look at 12 other top-flight players who saw their careers ravaged by injury.

12 footballers whose careers were wrecked by injuries

Michael Owen

Another former Liverpool frontman cut down in his prime, Owen was so phenomenal at his peak that he was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 2001.

Muscle and joint issues robbed Owen of his electric pace and forced him to modify his playing style in order to try and extend his playing days.

Even after making those adjustments, Owen seemed to be cursed when it came to injuries and was never close to his best again.

Michael Owen injured on England duty
COLOGNE, GERMANY – JUNE 20: Michael Owen of England is seen to after going down injured during the FIFA World Cup Germany 2006 Group B match between Sweden and England at the Stadium Cologne on June 20, 2006 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Jonathan Woodgate

Unfortunately probably best remembered for his disastrous Real Madrid debut when he managed to both score an own goal and get himself sent off, Woodgate’s La Liga nightmare began long before he ever stepped foot on the pitch.

Joining from Newcastle for a fee of £13.4 million in August 2004, Woodgate was injured when he arrived at the Bernabeu and didn’t pull on a Los Blancos shirt for 13 months.

A fine defender at his best, Woodgate would continue to be blighted by fitness issues throughout his career.

Woodgate endured a dreadful Real Madrid debut
MADRID, SPAIN – SEPTEMBER 22: Jonathan Woodgate of Real Madrid reacts after a Athletic Bilbao goal during the Primera Liga soccer match between Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao at the Bernabeu stadium on September 22, 2005, in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

Micah Richards

A Premier League winner with Manchester City, Richards’ move to Aston Villa in 2015 saw the beginning of a drastic decline in the former England right-back’s fitness record.

A severe knee injury saw him barely feature for Villa in the final two years of his contract. He retired in 2019 aged just 31.

Jack Rodwell

Sunderland still bitterly regret splashing out £12m on Rodwell back in 2012 to this day.

He barely played, thanks largely to injuries, while still pocketing a reported £70,000-a-week.

When the Black Cats needed to offload Rodwell after being relegated in 2017, his combination of sky-high wages and a patchy track record of fitness combined to put off any interested parties.

A massive fall from grace for a former England international who was raved about during his younger days at Everton.

Rodwell playing for Sunderland
LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 21: Jack Rodwell of Sunderland fouls Eden Hazard of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 21, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Owen Hargreaves

When Hargreaves was fit, he was everything a manager could wish for in a defensive midfielder. Unfortunately, he was hardly ever available.

Somehow able to feature for a full 120 minutes in Manchester United’s Champions League triumph over Chelsea in the 2008 final, Hargreaves’ persistent knee problems meant he played only nine more times before retiring in 2012.

Abou Diaby

There’s bad luck – and then there’s Diaby’s luck at the Emirates.

Known to have suffered a colossal 42 injuries during his time with Arsenal, dynamic box-to-box midfielder Diaby saw his career ruined by a horror challenge from Sunderland’s Dan Smith in 2012. The Frenchman was never the same again.

Abou Diaby injured
LONDON – JANUARY 31: Vassiriki Diaby of Arsenal lies injured on the pitch before being stretchered off during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and West Ham United at the Emirates Stadium on January 31, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Dean Ashton

The unfortunate Ashton made such a splash when he signed for West Ham in 2006 that he received an England call-up for his efforts.

In a cruel twist of fate for the striker, it was while training with his country that he suffered a devastating ankle injury that eventually forced him to retire at the age of just 26.

Dean Ashton fouled while playing for West Ham
SUNDERLAND, UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 29: Dean Ashton of West Ham is tackled by Nyron Nosworthy of Sunderland during the Barclay’s Premier League match between Sunderland and West Ham United at the Stadium of Light on March 29, 2008 in Sunderland, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Marco van Basten

Another striker forced to retire due to injury at a criminally young age due to an ankle injury was Dutch legend Van Basten.

By the time he hung up his boots at 28 years old, Van Basten had a haul of three Ballon d’Or trophies to his credit. Only Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi can say they own more, which speaks to the striker’s sheer quality.

Had fate been kinder, Van Basten might well have rivalled those two legends in terms of his overall legacy.

Ledley King

Multiple knee problems eventually left Tottenham legend King unable to train during the final years of his career. In a testament to his incredible strength of character, though, the defender still gritted his teeth and gave his all for Spurs on matchdays.

A warrior all the way to his retirement in July 2012, aged 31.

Ledley King suffers injury
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 16: Ledley King of Tottenham Hotspur looks on after sustaining an injury during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur at St James’ Park on October 16, 2011 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)


Borderline unstoppable in his prime, Brazilian striker Adriano had it all.

Power, pace, sublime footwork and a shot so powerful it could almost burst the back of the net, Adriano’s unique package of assets was massively diminished by a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Already hit hard by the untimely passing of his father, Adriano never managed to get his career back on track. The former Inter Milan man will forever be a case of what might have been.

He certainly had the talent to become a great of the game.

Adriano at Inter Milan
MILAN, ITALY – DECEMBER 11: Adriano of Inter celebrates after scoring during the Serie A match between Inter Milan and AC Milan played at the Giuseppe Meazza San Siro stadium on December 11, 2005 in Milan, Italy. (Photo by New Press/Getty Images)

Jack Wilshere

Still only 30 years of age, Wilshere’s career seems to have been blighted by injuries from the very beginning.

A fantastic player at his best, former Arsenal man Wilshere still managed to win a creditable 34 caps for England despite his fitness woes. By rights, better luck with injuries would surely have seen him claim far more.

Wilshere continues to defy his poor fortune by continuing to play the game he loves – most recently turning out for Danish outfit AGF Aarhus.

Wilshere injured at Arsenal
LONDON, ENGLAND – NOVEMBER 02: Jack Wilshere of Arsenal reacts to going down injured during the UEFA Europa League group H match between Arsenal FC and Crvena Zvezda at Emirates Stadium on November 2, 2017 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Ronaldo Nazario

One of the greatest strikers to ever play the game, ‘R9’ suffered some catastrophic injuries fairly early in his career, but still managed to carve out an exceptional legacy for himself.

Battling back on two occasions from a ruptured tendon in his knee, Ronaldo continued to find the back of the net with alarming regularity.

His knee issues undoubtedly stopped him from reaching his absolute full potential, though. With a clean bill of health, it’s pretty scary to think about how good the former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Real Madrid man might have been.

Ronaldo Nazario injured at Real Madrid
MADRID, SPAIN – OCTOBER 15: Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts after getting injured while scoring his third goal against Atletico during a La Liga match between Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid at the Calderon October 15, 2005, in Madrid, Spain. (Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

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