Sometimes, being considered the new (fill in the blank) doesn’t promise you success. You may get a lot of praise and money, but there are many players who just never live up to their potential and the transfer fee paid for them. Here are a few, with some still young and could get back on the right track, but it seems like they won’t be the stars of today and tomorrow.
Giovani dos Santos
Reunited last month with his former Barcelona coach, Frank Rijkaard, after getting shipped to Galatasaray (on loan) from Tottenham, maybe Dos Santos will get his career back on track. Despite his fantastic 2009 CONCACAF tournament, winning the MVP after beating the United States 5-0, and generally his good form when playing for the national Mexican team, Dos Santos hasn’t been able to produce the same quality of performance at club level. Considered a child prodigy from a young age, he was born in Mexico to Gerardo dos Santos, aka Zizinho, who played in the Mexican league during the late 80’s and early 90’s.
He moved to Barcelona and excelled at the youth ranks, making his debut for the team when he was 18. The season he got promoted to the senior squad wasn’t Barcelona’s best, finishing behind Real Madrid again while the super-team built by Frank Rijkaard was crumbling to the ground. Giovani did score a hat-trick during the final game of the season, but he hardly impressed in a season in which he mostly came off the bench. For some reason Tottenham, always the eager buyers, purchased him for 8.6 million pounds (based on appearances), where he got to play only six times during Spurs’ awful start in 2008-2009. He was loaned to Ipswich in the Championship where he enjoyed a successful couple of months. His return to Spurs wasn’t fruitful, and he has been shipped, as mentioned above, to Turkey, where he might just find and show something that made him look so promising not too long ago. Remember, he is only 20, but it seems that he won’t reach the heights expected of him.
When Freddy Adu signed a contract with DC United while he was only 14 back in 2004, who imagined he’ll be playing for Aris Thessaloniki in Greece. No disrespect intended, but much more was expected from the Ghanian-born American, who was compared to the great Pele when he was 13, chased by clubs like Inter Milan, Manchester United and other European giants.
His time with DC United was good mixed with bad, eventually getting traded to Real Salt Lake where he spent a short time before getting signed by Benfica Lisbon of Portugal. Although it seemed at the beginning that Adu had impressed his coaching staff at Lisbon, his playing time quickly dwindled and he has been moving from place to place on loans, still owned by Benfica, spending time in Monaco, Belenenses and currently Aris. He is only 20, but Adu is a perfect example of the need to let young players, extremely young in his case, grow up and mature in more confined and protected environments and not throw them to the sharks when they aren’t ready for it yet. Maybe Adu will prove us and others wrong, maybe he should return to the States, who knows, but right now it looks like a case of too much and too soon.
When you look past the dazzling dribbling and skills, it’s disappointing to find out that the player who was destined to lead Juventus in the days after Nedved and an aging Del Piero doesn’t seem to have what it takes. Otherwise, why would they have brought Diego? Giovinco started his career with the Juve senior squad at the end of the punishment season in Serie B, before being loaned to Empoli in the 2007-2008 season so he can get some playing time. He scored and created a few memorable goals during that year and came back to Juventus full of promise. But in the last 18 months of so his stature at the club has been relegated to that of a substitute mostly, with very few memorable moments. He is 23, which is an age you’d expect a player with such talents to start dominating. Maybe he doesn’t have it, like Juventus as a whole don’t seem to have it this season.
Although this season seems to be Saviola’s best in quite a while (13 goals in 27 matches overall for Benfica), I don’t think you’ll find too many people arguing against the fact that Saviola hasn’t lived up to the expectations. He is 28 years old, and has had some impressive seasons with Barcelona, but ever since his first year in Europe, it seems that he’s stuck, actually he’s regressed. Saviola made his debut with River Plate at the age of 16, scoring 44 goals for the club and by the time he was 19 he already moved to Spain, to play for Barcelona. He had a brilliant debut season with the club, but the next two years were disappointing, despite scoring over 10 goals in both. He got shipped around on loans – Monaco and than Sevilla before returning to Barca, who won two league titles and the Champions League while he was gone. From Barca he moved to Real, were he spent two, you guessed it, disappointing seasons. It seems that he’s found his scoring touch at Lisbon, but it won’t make up for a lot of lost years and the tag of an underachiever.
Denilson de Oliveira Araujo
Denilson has 61 caps for the Brazilian national team and was part of the 2002 World Cup winning side. He was at one point the most expensive player ever after moving from Sao Paulo to Real Betis for 50 million dollars. And he’s probably one of the biggest busts ever. He had flair, but not much more, and to cut in the big leagues, you need much more. Just a look at the list of clubs Denilson (32, not exactly a washed up kind of age) has played for lately – Itumbiara, third division side in Brazil, Xi Mang Hai Phong from Vietnam and currently for Greek side Kavala, not exactly a continental or local powerhouse. At least he made some money and won the World Cup, always coming on as a substitute and doing the pedalada and nothing more usually.
Now moving on to a Chilean disappointment (so far), the 23 year old Matias Fernandez. When Villareal purchased him in 2007 from Colo-Colo for 8.7 million Euro, it was considered a bargain by some, as he won the South American Player of the year award after he got transferred. He was considered to be the best young talent still playing in South America a fantastic spell with Colo-Colo. After the move to Spain, things having been exactly going smoothly for the player nicknamed Matigol in Chile, coming mostly off the bench for Villareal. Like Saviola, he’s moved West, to Portugal, currently playing for Sporting. It seems that the inferior league is easier for him, and he did score a fantastic goal against Everton this weekend. Things could be getting better…
We end this post with a Eastern European flavor, just for a change of pace, presenting Valeri Bojinov who was the hottest thing out of Bulgaria for a short while in the mid-2000’s, being part of the 2004 Euro Bulgaria Squad, playing one match, when he was only 18. After an impressive 2004-2005 season with Lecce, Bojinov began moving from club to club, switching to Fiorentina, on to Juventus and for the last three seasons he’s been with Manchester City, playing only 11 matches and scoring one goal for the club which is drowning with strikers. Right now he’s a loanee, back in Italy, playing for Parma, coming off the bench quite a lot.