Five ‘next big players’ who failed to deliver

Every now and again a wonderkid breaks onto the scene with youthful exuberance, stunning the masses.

But football doesn’t always have a happy ending.

Here are five wonderkids who failed to fulfil their potential and faded into footballing obscurity:

Sebastian Deisler

Former Borussia Mönchengladbach boss Friedel Rausch once said of Sebastian Deisler, “At some point, he will be mentioned in the same breath as Walter, Seeler and Beckenbauer.”

Unfortunately, the gifted attacker struggled with injuries and expectation, making just 130 senior appearances for Gladbach, Hertha Berlin and Bayern Munich during his short career.

“I felt like a sad clown,” he said, after retiring from football at the age of 27. It’s a quote that should offer us all some perspective on how we treat these players.


Top European clubs were on alert in 2009 after 19-year-old Keirrison scored 21 goals in 26 appearances during his first senior Brasileirão season.

FC Barcelona ended up winning the race for his signature – paying €14m to do so – but that was where everything peaked.

Keirrison failed to make a senior appearance for Barça, while struggling on loan at Benfica and Fiorentina before eventually returning to Brazil.

Ravel Morrison

Described as the “best kid you will ever see” by Sir Alex Ferguson, Ravel Morrison looked destined for greatness at Manchester United.

But a mixture of attitude problems, bad luck and some questionable transfer choices have derailed his career after spells in Italy, Sweden and even Mexico.

Back in England aged 27, Morrison joined Middlesbrough on-loan in January after making just one appearance for Sheffield United this term.

Hachim Mastour

In the era of social media, brand deals and YouTube, Hachim Mastour was arguably the poster-boy for 21st century wonderkids.

His skills went viral and there were constant calls for AC Milan to select their midfield prodigy but he left the club in 2018 without making a senior appearance, before tanking in Spain and Greece.

Mastour now plies his trade Serie C side Reggina.

Freddy Adu

Perhaps the ultimate case of too much, too soon?

Freddy Adu had the world at his feet after bursting onto the scene aged 14, but after trials with Manchester United and being dubbed “the next Pelé”, he struggled to make an impact in Portugal, France, Turkey and Brazil.

He was last seen playing for USL side Las Vegas Lights before being released in 2018 after making just 14 appearances.

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