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Where did it all go wrong for these players?

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One of the saddest and least talked about stories in this transfer window is the future of Mario Balotelli. Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has told the Italian that he is no longer part of the plans at Anfield. After his wonderful Euro 2012 performance the sky was the limit for Balotelli but since then he’s been cast away by Manchester City, didn’t light it up in Milan, failed at Liverpool and on his return to Milan he was almost invisible. Safe to say, Mario Balotelli’s career has been a flop. This got us thinking about other players who have failed miserably to live up to expectations. These are just a few that came first to our minds. Tweet us your favourite examples.

Where did it all go wrong for Joe Cole?

Joe Cole was supposed to be a lot of things. The next Gazza. A new breed of English player that could pass, shoot and really dribble past opponents. A pure #10 or a poly-positional magician, depending on who you listened to.

Amid interest from England’s biggest clubs, Cole broke through into the West Ham first team at just 18. Harry Redknapp said he was going right to the top, which is what you do when you’re a top top top player. He was certainly exciting. There hadn’t been an English player with the type of dribbling and elusive talent that Cole displayed probably since Steve McManaman, and he had ended up winning the Champions League with Real Madrid. How would Cole do?

Poorly, as it turned out. Chelsea came calling, but with Abramovic’s money flooding in Cole was just one of a a handful of stars brought into the club, and was never an automatic first choice.

He also suffered greatly from the tactical zeitgeist. In the early 2000s most English teams – and the national team – were employing 4-4-2, a system in which Cole did not fit in. Without the physicality or tackling ability of a central midfielder nor the pace of a winger, Cole was forever out of place. When Mourinho brought 4-3-3 to Chelsea and by osmosis much of the rest of the league, it helped a little. Cole would still usually play out on the left, but with perhaps a little more freedom afforded by the three central midfielders. His right-footedness and lack of pace however still rendered him a limited threat in that position, as the frequent jinking inside became predictable.

His stuttering Chelsea and England careers were sprinkled with moments of brilliance, patches of form and winners medals but Cole was never trusted enough to have a team built around him, and so he suffered personally. It always felt as if he had another two gears to move into.

A free transfer to Liverpool didn’t even help, despite Steven Gerrard’s surreal claims that “Messi can do some amazing things, but anything he can do Joe can do as well, if not better.”

Unwanted, he then joined Rudi Garcia’s Lille on loan where he actually had a very successful season playing as a #10 alongside Eden Hazard. It seemed like a renaissance was on the cards, but Cole’s following moves back to Liverpool, back to West Ham, on to Aston Villa and then Coventry became increasingly desperate and forlorn.

In May, Cole joined the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the North American Soccer League. It isn’t where most expected him to go out, and it’s hard not to think that Cole may have fulfilled his potential to a far greater extent were he either born somewhere else or ten years later. He must think it a cruel joke that most teams now play 4-2-3-1 and accommodate a #10.

Where did it all go wrong for Bojan Krkić?

 Bojan began his career at Barcelona after progressing through the youth ranks at La Masia, as they all do. He had everything it took to be a La Masia graduate; skills, soft touch, intelligence and an affinity to playing the game the Barcelona way. He was the next big thing to come out of there…by a mile.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Bojan personally but that didn’t stop me from appreciating the talent and potential he showed. But hey, what do I know? Here are a couple of glowing reviews from those around him.

Frank Rijkaard: “Bojan is a treasure”.
Pep Guardiola: “There are only a few players who have a magical touch, and Bojan is one of them.”

These are managers who at the time had the honor and privilege of coaching Ronaldinho and Messi, two of the world’s best ever players.

Bojan started his footballing journey in lightning fashion, every goal adding to the weight he carried on his shoulders as La Masia’s next biggest export to the Barcelona first team. Joining the academy at the tender age of 9, by 16 he had already amassed an astounding 850 goals to his name. That’s eight hundred and fifty.

At 15, he was top scorer of the 2006 U-17 European Championships. At 16 he scored Spain’s winning goal at the same tournament the next year, and a year after that he scored the winning goal in a Champions League quarter final, at 17 years of age. Other small accomplishments included beating Messi’s record as the youngest La liga scorer for Barca. Please forgive anyone who thought they were witnessing the next Lionel, as Bojan was often referred to.

The 2007/2008 season was his breakthrough in Barcelona’s first team under Rijkaard where he featured over 40 times, scoring 12 goals and providing 6 assists – a very commendable return for a youth player surrounded by world superstars. Life was going very well for the 17 year old and as he described it himself, “Overnight, I couldn’t even walk down the street, I couldn’t go to a birthday party or to the cinema.”

This is the point where it all broke down, at the  unfortunately early age of 18. Rijkaard left the club and Pep was appointed manager at the start of the 08/09 season. Bojan fell down the pecking order under Pep due to anxiety issues that had begun to surface and also the emergence of a ready made harder-working replacement in Pedro. The anxiety attacks Bojan suffered had started in 2008 when he was called up to the Spanish squad. As he describes them, they would set in during practice and before big games where he had to be on medication to control them. They were so severe that he could not physically join the national side at the Euros of 2008, a moment he regrets immensely.

As his playing time got less and less under Pep, they had a public falling out and as Bojan describes, “Guardiola is the best coach in the world, but personal things that have happened to me [that] were hurtful. He was not fair with me on several occasions, and this is one of the reasons that I decided to leave.”

The next few years were tumultuous for Bojan and he never really cemented a place anywhere. He followed Luis Enrqiue to Roma, then came a loan move to Milan and another to Ajax. Nothing materialized and none of the clubs wanted to make the move permanent. Since leaving Barcelona in 2011 he had scored a measly 14 goals in 76 appearances. It wasn’t good enough.

Currently at Stoke, a move which was surprising to many, his first two seasons were alright – but just alright – scoring 11 goals in 43 appearances in a withdrawn forward position. He does seem much happier though as the weight of expectation has now receded. He is at a club that is not expecting the world from him, and at a stage of his career where, unfortunately, he isn’t very relevant  on the international stage. Hopefully these factors help him find a good run of form to entertain in the Premier League and rediscover the talent that once made him Europe’s golden prodigy.

Where did it all go wrong for Robinho?

There’s a bucket load of Brazilians we could have selected for this segment. Adriano, Ganso, Kleberson, Anderson and many more were all highly lauded youngsters. Each failed to capitalize on their immense potential as they matured. Some might say their failures arose because they in fact failed to mature.

In the modern era there have been many touted as the next Pele. Robinho was perhaps the first who had a valid reason to be compared.I n 2002 he was given the famous number 10 jersey at Pele’s beloved Santos. By the time he turned 20, Robinho had led Santos to two Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A titles and a Copa Libertadores final.

A year later Robinho moved from Santos to Real Madrid. Madrid fans and Brazilians were full of expectation. This was to be the next step in what would be the story of a future Brazilian legend and almost certain Ballon D’or winner. However, unlike Ronaldinho who flourished at Barcelona, Robinho suffered from inconsistency in Madrid. Brilliant one day, woeful the next. Perhaps he wasn’t helped by Madrid’s penchant to sack managers, but history will not remember that. When Cristiano Ronaldo was signed for then world record £80m fee in 2009, it signaled the end for Robinho.

The Brazilian was still seen as talented enough to lead another major European side’s attack. Chelsea came calling but he inexplicably rejected them instead opting to join nouveau riche Manchester City in a deal worth £32.5m  His idol Pele was confused and said “Chelsea are lucky. This boy needs some serious counseling. In my view he has been badly advised.”

The general manager of Santos at the time fumed: “We are ashamed of producing such a player.” His Madrid coach Bernd Schuster said Robinho had moved to City for “non-footballing reasons.” Perhaps the surest sign of a poor decision came from his mother who said she could not understand why her son chose to join City instead of then Chelsea manager and World Cup winning Brazil manager Felipe Scolari.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing for a player to chase money if that’s his ultimate objective but as we’ve seen so many times before, it came at the cost of development. An initial bright start at City was marred by injury, poor form and indiscipline. Robinho went back on loan to Santos and then endured five unspectacular years at AC Milan before going back to Santos on loan. He then made the move to China with Guangzhou Evergrande. At least he lead the way with something. Now Robinho is back in Brazil playing at Atletico Mineiro. At 32, he has little acclaim and unfortunately very few will remember him for much. Another in the group of ‘next Peles’ bit the dust.

Where did it all go wrong for Nicklas Bendtner?

If there was anybody who failed to live up to the hype and hasn’t yet been mentioned, it’s Nicklas Bendtner. Better at banter than he is with the ball, Bendtner started his senior career at Arsenal before being loaned out to Birminghan, Sunderland, Juventus, and Wolfsburg. Not a bad list of clubs by any means, but Bendtner failed to succeed everywhere but Birmingham, which leads the footballing world to wonder what he does exactly, which remains a mystery.

In his younger days Bendtner would make frequent remarks about his attacking prowess, comparing himself to the game’s greats and promoting his abilities to no end. Over the course of his career however,  Bendtner has made just 307 appearances, scoring 77 goals and has just been released by Wolfsburg after missing training one too many times. At the tender age of 28 – when he should be in his prime – the Dane doesn’t have a club.

Bendtner’s career has been bizarre. At Arsenal he seemed fulled of potential, but his mentality was poor and seems only to have gotten worse in time. The number of weird incidents he’s been involved in are too numerous to list, but the one in which he drunkenly ground his genitals against a taxi probably topped them all. Having a cult following is one thing, but one which bestows you the title of “Lord” as a joke is another – and Bendtner playing along with it on Instagram hasn’t helped convince people who already doubted where the man’s priorities lie. Nicklas was never able to back up his words and failed to live up to his expectations in a professional sense. Where he will go from here one cannot be certain, but one can definitely be sure he won’t be winning the Ballon D’Or anytime soon.

Get ready for the upcoming season and subscribe to the Coshcast on Itunes.

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