It is a chain of events that happens all to often in soccer.
A club agrees a transfer for an attacking player, and fans flock to the Internet to check out the artistic video compilations made specifically by the countless unnamed. The clips perhaps show off some dazzling skill, or innate speed; and, more often than not, the astonishing goals the new man is capable of.
The excitement grows throughout the initial press conference, and the first training session. The day of the debut comes and goes, and little is seen from the new signing apart from the occasional flash of a first touch which has the crowd humming with anticipation.
The first season peters out, the player merely a bit part man, failing to take his chance to shine. But the seed remains, the interest with the player endures, and is passed onto the next club that decides to take a chance on him. Yet they never get out of first gear, only rarely displaying the raw ability found in such impressive videos on the web.
Years later, that same player comes up in conversation. The memory claws back the image, the man appearing from the bench, or mainly sat on it; the newspaper articles, the criticism and the eventual transfer away. The internet is again searched to find the current team with the necessary faith to take them on. And the subject is left, as will the player once more, sailing off into the sunset looking for pastures new, and a place to finally call home.
Here’s a short list of the drifters in the world of soccer, the ones who possess the talent, but fail to live up to the hype:
3. Valeri Bojinov, Striker
The balding, bulky Bulgarian washed up on English shores with Manchester City in 2007. A Sven Goran Eriksson signing made a year before the Abu Dhabi takeover at City, there was significant talk of his goal scoring ability, and knack for lighting up matches.
European football reporter Dave Farrar even forecast that Bojinov would “light up the Premier League.”
“Bojinov’s got all the talent in the world,” Farrar told the BBC,
“He’s one of those players around whom there is always something happening. He’s a fun signing.”
There was certainly cause for excitement over the new man. After making his Serie A debut at just 15 for Lecce, Bojinov had since played for Italian giants, Fiorentina and the then-relegated Juventus. Still only 21, this was Bojinov’s real chance at hitting the big-time.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, Bojinov made as much of an impact as a child does with a plastic mallet. Scoring one competitive goal for the Sky Blues, he was loaned back to Serie A with Parma in 2009. After a short spell here, he was on the move again one year later, this time to Portuguese side, Sporting Lisbon.
In January of last year, he was ‘exiled’ by the club because of a bizarre incident at the end of their match against Moreirense F.C, in which he missed a penalty at the end of the game, after furiously pushing his teammates away to take it. He had not scored a penalty for six years before this, and his actions incurred the wrath of the Portuguese club’s hierarchy.
Since then, he has been constantly thrown out on loan, spending time at his old club Lecce, Verona, and currently Vicenza.
Still only 27, Bojinov has never lived up to his early potential. A real shame, considering his eye-catchingly young debut, and thunderously aggressive goal scoring potential he has evidently lost.
2. Francis Jeffers, Striker
Joining Arsenal in the summer of 2001, Francis ‘Fox in the Box’ Jeffers had made a number of impressive performances with Everton, which prompted Arsene Wenger to shell out £8 million for the England man.
Much has been written about Jeffers, still one of the Gunner’s most expensive signings years on, and he remains possibly the biggest disappointment of Wenger’s signings.
The odds were stacked against the Liverpudlian from the start, joining up with a team which already boasted the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Sylvain Wiltord, and Thierry Henry on their books. A series of injuries didn’t help matters, and Jeffers found himself used sparingly from the bench.
After he was thrown back to his former club, Everton, for a brief loan spell in 2003, Jeffers’ career began to slowly spiral downwards.
He has since played for a host of different clubs, at home and abroad, never again finding the early form that saw him take the record for most goals scored for the England under-21 side, and the subsequently earned England cap and solitary goal.
Jeffers, now a relatively worldly 33-year-old, can now be found back in England, playing for League Two outfit, Accrington Stanley.
1. Ricardo Quaresma, Winger
Has there ever been a player so obviously brimming with fabulous talent, who let it all go to waste, than the Portuguese flyer, Quaresma?
A total livewire, with an array of tricks so effortlessly incorporated into his game that it seems impossible that he has consistently failed wherever he has gone. Quaresma is considered one of the all-time experts of the ‘Rabona’ and the ability to curl the ball with the outside of the foot. This makes him a dream subject for online videos, as Quaresma has a penchant for scoring stunning goals, and for showing off his tricks wherever he can.
Barcelona, Inter Milan, Chelsea and Porto have all taken Quaresma on over the years, and it was only in his native Portugal that he found relative comfort.
Quaresma holds a certain degree of arrogance, which undoubtedly is a helpful asset for flair players, as it provides often limitless confidence on the pitch. But this same attitude has also greatly aided his downfall. A double-edged sword, his selfishness has seen him fall out with managers wherever he has gone, including Jose Mourinho and Frank Rijkaard.
Quaresma is not a team player, and for all his deft trickery, it is his inability to blend into a team makeup that has hindered him throughout his career. His teammates have shown their frustration at his lack of integrating them into his act; the most recent of which was during his spell with Besiktas, where a scuffle broke out between him and Nihat after some typically selfish play from the Portuguese.
After alienating himself once more from Besiktas manager, Carlos Carvalhal, he was paid the remainder of his contract, and made a free agent. Now the occasionally world-beating Quaresma, still only 29, is playing in Dubai with Al Ahli.
The ultimate disappointment, it remains to be seen if Quaresma will stay long in the Middle East, but one thing is for sure, Quaresma is a one man circus. But although his act is full of excitement and jaw-dropping tricks, his role is rarely that of Ringmaster, but that of the Fool.
What do you think? Mido, Freddie Adu, and Andy Van der Meyde are just a few others lying just outside my Top 3. There are surely others who fall into this category? Comment if you can think of any good ones!
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