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Ten Spectacular Talents That Never Made It Big in Football

You often hear about Messis and Ronaldos making it big because of their talent and skill with the ball. However, the harsh reality is that talent alone does not guarantee a successful career. To shine on the biggest stages, you must combine your talent with mental toughness.

Unfortunately, an unusually large number of players lacked that trait, and despite their talent, their careers never reached the astronomical heights of superstardom that were once expected of them.

Footballers who fail to live up to their potential are burdened with the question of what if from themselves and others for the rest of their lives.

There are numerous factors that contribute to a player failing to live up to his potential. Injuries can derail a player’s career, a player’s lifestyle can harm his talents, and sometimes a player’s talent is largely based on media hype.

Whatever the case may be, fans are always left disappointed by players who possessed talent but were unable to translate it into greatness. Players, too, are left to ponder what might have been.

Ten Spectacular Talents That Never Made It Big in World Football History.


Ravel Morrison was a Manchester United youth academy product who worked his way up to the senior team. Rio Ferdinand claims that Sir Alex Ferguson once took him, Ryan Giggs, and Wayne Rooney aside during a training session just to show Morrison.

He was undeniably a gifted player who was expected to have an exciting career, but his name is now added to the list of footballers who did not live up to their full potential.

He was sold to Westham United due to some issues stemming from his rough upbringing in Manchester. He went on to play for Cardiff City, Queens Park Rangers, Birmingham City, Lazio, and other clubs. However, he was never the superstar he had the potential to be.


Mario Gotze was selected for the German national football team for the first time in 2010 at the age of 18. He was named to the UEFA Euro 2012 squad and scored the game-winning goal in the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final two years later. He rose to prominence as a result of his outstanding performances for Borussia Dortmund’s senior team between 2009 and 2013.

The highlight of his career was undoubtedly scoring Germany’s World Cup-winning goal in extra time against Argentina in 2014, when he received Andre Shcurrle’s cross, controlled it with his chest, and shot the ball before it hit the ground.

However, a metabolic disorder that was later diagnosed as myopathy (a muscular disorder that affects muscle fibers) was a huge impediment to his becoming a superstar. Despite having high hopes of regaining his form in his first spell, he was never a regular starter again.


Freddy Adu was nicknamed “the next Pelé” even before signing with D.C. United at the age of 14. He was expected to take MLS and American football to new heights, but he never lived up to the lofty expectations that were placed on him at such a young age.

However, the excitement surrounding him waned significantly as his performances were unsatisfactory. Many prominent European clubs expressed interest in signing him, but he was unable to obtain a work permit to relocate to Europe before turning 18 and signing with Benfica.

He became a journeyman, playing for fifteen teams in nine countries: the United States, Portugal, Monaco, Greece, Turkey, Brazil, Serbia, Finland, and Sweden.


Ariel Ortega was a highly creative player with excellent technical ability, known for his pace, mobility, dribbling, and dead ball skills, as well as his ball trickery, clever body feints, and lobbed shots. At his peak, he was one of the best dribblers in the world; primarily used as an attacking midfielder.

He was an effective playmaker thanks to his vision and passing ability, which earned him comparisons to Diego Maradona as a young man. Ariel Ortega never lived up to the promise he showed as a youngster emerging from the shadows of Diego Maradona; he never established himself as one of the world’s top two or three players, as he should have given his talent. In fact, his European career was fairly underwhelming, with less than 100 appearances for Valencia, Sampdoria, Parma, and Fenerbahce combined.


Joe Cole was well-known for his dribbling abilities, and he was capable of both scoring and creating goals thanks to his vision, passing, and striking ability. During Cole’s time at Chelsea, Pelé praised his dribbling and overall flair, saying, “He has the skills of a Brazilian.” Despite his talent, some critics argue that he failed to live up to the promise he showed in his youth, owing in part to the recurring injuries he suffered throughout his career.

He may have disappointed the average England fan by failing to fully utilize his playmaking abilities.

Cole only played 26 times for Liverpool in three years before being loaned out to Lille and eventually leaving on a free transfer to West Ham United.


Elvir Baljic’s most notable achievement was winning the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid in the 1999–2000 season. After a solid first match, the Bosnian’s radiance faded as he did not appear to be up to the required standard. Baljic’s long-term injury didn’t help matters, and when Vicente del Bosque took over, he was deemed surplus to requirements.

“The new Rivaldo” finished his Turkish league career in 2008, but not before attempting to break into the music industry. He released an album in 2005, but it was also a flop.

  1. GUTI

During Guti’s career, he almost exclusively played for Real Madrid, appearing in 542 official games and serving as vice-captain, and helping the club win 15 trophies, including three Champions League titles and five La Liga titles. He also played professionally for Beşiktaş in Turkey.

He was expected to become Real Madrid’s manager for the next 15 years and to lead Spain to international prominence. He didn’t reach his full potential because he was out partying, not training, and knowing he was talented but taking it for granted.


Javier Saviola played for Barcelona and Real Madrid, as well as Benfica and Olympiacos, and was the youngest player on Pelé’s FIFA 100 list of the 125 greatest living footballers in 2004. During his playing career, Saviola won league titles in Argentina, Spain, Portugal, and Greece, as well as a UEFA Cup.

For seven years, he was an Argentine international, appearing in the 2006 World Cup and the 2004 Copa América, where Argentina reached the final. He also won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics. He was expected to be the best player in the world, but instead he was fantastic at the youth level but did not translate to the pro level.


Bojan Krkic, At the age of 17 years and 19 days, he broke Lionel Messi’s record for the youngest player ever to appear for Blaugrana.

In his first season, he scored ten goals. The potential that Bojan displayed convinced people that he was going to be something special in the world of football, but the fall of one of the most talented players in recent years demonstrated that when expectations are placed on a player, especially a teenager, it can be a dangerous thing. Krkic has never been able to replicate his illustrious debut season.


Alexander Pato’s fall was as quick as his rise in the football world. Pato was a regular at Milan when he was only 21 years old, and he helped them win their first Serie A title in 7 years.

He seemed to have something special within himself that could propel Pato to the top of the world’s rankings.

However, the glimmer of his promising start faded quickly due to injuries and the resulting lack of focus. He returned to Brazil and, once again, was unable to replicate his brilliant performances. As a result, after a few loan moves and a brief stint in Europe with Chelsea and Villareal, he spent two and a half years in the Chinese Super League.


Here’s a recap of ten Spectacular Talents That Never Made It Big in Football despite their talents;

  • Ravel Morrison
  • Mario Gotze
  • Freddy ADU
  • Ariel Ortega
  • Joe Cole
  • Elvir Baljic
  • Guti
  • Javier Saviola
  • Bojan Krkic
  • Alexander Pato

Comment below if we missed any of your all-time favorite football players who never made it big.