Revisiting World Soccer’s 50 most exciting teenagers, 10 years on

Quick Reads

Former Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal starlets featured among World Soccer’s ’50 Most Exciting Teenagers On The Planet’ – but how have they fared over the past decade?

The magazine published the list in November 2007, and we’ve revisited each of the 50 players to see how they have developed over the intervening period.

If we’re being honest, there are plenty of names we’ve never heard of…

1. Sadick Adams – Atletico Madrid

Adams never appeared for Atletico’s first team and is now onto his 12th club in Ghanaian outfit Asante Kotoko, although the forward did make his international debut earlier this year and has scored once in two appearances for Ghana.

2. Ismail Aissati – PSV Eindhoven

A somewhat nomadic career in Holland, where he won the Eredivisie three times, is being followed by something of a nomadic career in Turkey. Aissati decided to switch international allegiance to Morocco in 2011, earning two caps

3. Alexandre Pato – AC Milan

Pato was indeed an incredibly exciting teenager, but few would have predicted those would be the peak years of his career. The Brazilian is now enjoying the riches of the Chinese Super League with Tianjin Quanjian.

4. Anderson – Manchester United

The Brazilian managed to stick around for eight seasons at Old Trafford, though no one is quite sure how. In that time, he won four Premier League titles and scored his spot-kick in the penalty shootout win over Chelsea in the Champions League final in 2008. He returned to Brazil in 2015, since when he has drifted with Internacional and Coritiba.

5. Giovani Dos Santos – Barcelona

The attacker racked up 100 appearances for Mexico but struggled to settle anywhere at club level until moving to MLS with LA Galaxy in 2015. He left Barcelona for Tottenham, where Harry Redknapp became frustrated with Dos Santos’s love of the London nightlife and revealed he was often late for training on Mondays. Loan spells followed at Ipswich, Galatasaray and Racing Santander before permanent moves to Mallorca and Villarreal preceded his switch to Galaxy.

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6. Gareth Bale – Tottenham

You might have heard of him. Broke the world transfer record in 2013 when he joined Real Madrid for £85million.

7. Sergio Aguero – Atletico Madrid

Left Atletico in 2011 to join Manchester City, where he has recently broken the club’s goalscoring record. Would have been worth the £38million just for his injury-time title clincher in 2012 alone.

8. Bojan Krkic – Barcelona

After breaking Lionel Messi’s record as the youngest player to score for Barca, the Spain attacker could not handle the pressure of expectation. Had spells at Roma, AC Milan and Ajax before joining Stoke, where he again struggled to nail down a first-team place. Loan moves to Mainz and Alaves followed.

9. Breno Borges – Sao Paulo

Breno’s big move to Bayern Munich came shortly after the publication of this list but to say it did not go well is a huge understatement. Injuries sent the centre-back into a downward spiral, resulting in him spending a year in prison after his villa was torched. According to the police statement: “Mr Borges was covered from head to toe in soot, had three lighters in his pocket and asked if he could go back to Brazil now that the house had burned down.” He has since returned home to Brazil, attempting to turn his life around at Sao Paulo and Vasco da Gama.

10. Gerardo Bruna – Liverpool

The midfielder, who Liverpool snatched from Real Madrid, says Rafael Benitez’s exit ended his hopes of breaking through at Anfield. He subsequently joined Blackpool before spells at SD Huesca, Tranmere, non-league Whitehawk and Accrington Stanley before moving to Canada with Ottawa Fury.

11. Angel Di Maria – Benfica

Di Maria currently plies his trade at PSG having made his name at Real Madrid before phoning it in while at Manchester United in 2014-15.

12. Diego Buonanotte – River Plate

The playmaker moved to Europe after being involved in a car crash as the driver of a vehicle which hit a tree, killing Buonanotte’s three passengers. The Argentina Under-23 international represented Malaga, Granada and AEK Athens before returning to South America with CD Universidad Catolica in Chile.

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13. Franco Di Santo – Audax Italiano

The centre-forward joined Chelsea in 2008 but struggled to nail down a place in the Blues’ first XI. He stuck around in the Premier League with Blackburn and Wigan before moving to Germany with Werder Bremen and Schalke. Was always good value to sign from Audax Italiano on Football Manager, too.

14. Macauley Chrisantus – Abuja FC

The former golden boy of Nigeria moved to Hamburg but he failed to convince any of the 10 coaches he had in six years that he was worthy of regular action. Two years at Las Palmas followed a couple of loan moves in Germany but Chrisantus now plays in Greece with PAS Lamia.

15. Karim Benzema – Lyon

A probably justified entry. Yeah, fair enough.

16. Dumitru Copil – Hearts

Hearts – yes, an actual Hearts player from the Scottish Premier League – beat Liverpool and Celtic to the midfielder but they need not have bothered. After failing to breakthrough at Tynecastle, Copil returned home to Romania where he has drifted ever since.

17. Fabio – Manchester United

Not even the best player in his family but still going steady at Middlesbrough.

18. Kermit Erasmus – SuperSport United

It’s probably not a good sign when the football club sounds even more made up than the player. Moved to France with Rennes, who then shipped him out on loan to Lens.

19. Fabio Coentrao – Benfica

Left Benfica to join Real Madrid in 2011 but never convinced anyone he was good enough to nail down the left-back spot. Still, he won two Champions League titles while earning over a half-century of Portugal caps and he still has 18 months left on his contract at the Bernabeu.

20. Marouane Fellaini – Standard Liege

We can’t actually imagine Fellaini being young, still all elbows and hair but fresh faced. It just doesn’t work. Went on to become Jose Mourinho’s favourite son.

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21. Guilherme – Cruzeiro

Moved to Dynamo Kiev then CSKA Moscow before returning to Brazil. The striker tried his luck in Europe once more in Turkey but wound up back in Brazil with Corinthians.

22. Damian Ismodes – Club Sporting Cristal

The attacking midfielder managed a solitary appearance in La Liga with Racing Santander before returning to Peru.

23. Lorenzo Di Silvestri – Lazio

One of only two Italians to make the list, Di Silvestri managed six Azzurri caps after leaving Lazio in 2009. The right-back now plays for Torino, following spells at Fiorentina and Sampdoria.

24. Nour Hadhria – Club Africain

Failed to make it out of Tunisia.

25. Rabiu Ibrahim – Sporting Lisbon

Once dubbed the ‘new Jay-Jay Okocha’, Ibrahim turned down a pro deal at Sporting before he was shuffled off in the direction of PSV. He then cobbled together 17 SPL appearances with Celtic and Kilmarnock and now plays for Slovan Bratislava.

26. Kerlon – Cruzeiro

Once known for the seal dribble where he ran with the ball balanced on his head, Kerlon tried his luck in Europe with Inter Milan where he teamed up with Mario Balotelli. “Mario had a habit of arriving at training before anyone else and peeing on all the players’ boots,” he once told ESPN. “It was very funny.” Banter. Now retired after playing for 10 other clubs, at least half of which you’ve probably never heard of.

27. Toni Kroos – Bayern Munich

Still bossing Real Madrid’s midfield after having the intelligence and vision to say no to David Moyes.

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28. Juan Mata – Valencia

Unlike Kroos, Mata took Moyes’ offer to play for Man Utd, but it has worked out pretty well. Unlike during his time at Chelsea, he is now trusted by Jose Mourinho. And why wouldn’t you trust the lovely little Spaniard?

29. Lulinha – Corinthians

Drifted around Brazil before joining Pohang Steelers in South Korea.

30. Sapol Mani – Maranatha

Currently a free agent having wandered through Libya, Togo and Moldova looking for employment. Exciting as a teenager though, apparently.

31. Cristian Nazarit – America de Cali

The best it ever got for the Colombian was a year at Chicago Fire in 2011.

32. Ransford Osei – Medeama SC

A decade on, the striker is yet to reach double figures for senior goals having tried his luck in Ghana, Israel, Holland and South Africa.

33. Aaron Niguez – Valencia

Saul’s older brother failed to make a senior appearance for Valencia but represented both Old Firm clubs during loan spells in Glasgow. Now playing at Real Oviedo.

34. Daniel Opare – Ashanti Gold

The right-back moved to Europe to join Real Madrid Castilla and now plays at Augsburg having called at Standard Liege, Porto, Besiktas and Lens on the way to Germany. Another Football Manager gem.

35. Fran Merida – Arsenal

Failed to make the breakthrough at Arsenal before an equally unsuccessful stint at Atletico Madrid. Has been linked with Leeds while playing for Osasuna.

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36. Nikolay Mihaylov – Liverpool

The son of wig-wearing ex-Bulgaria stopper Bobby Mikhailov never got near the Liverpool first-team. Indeed, fans at Levski Sofia, whom Liverpool bought the keeper from, believed he only ever got kept their goal on the basis of his parentage.

37. Mesut Ozil – Schalke

Like No.42 on the list, currently waiting for his Arsenal contract to expire. It’s not been a bad decade, mind.

38. Andrea Russotto – AC Bellinzona

Flirted briefly with Serie A in spells at Treviso and Napoli but has since spent most of his time in the Italian second and third tiers.

39. Renato Augusto – Flamengo

The Brazilian had a satisfactory five year sin Germany with Bayer Leverkusen before returning to Brazil on the way to China, where he currently plays for Beijing Guoan.

40. Henri Saivet – Bordeaux

Ask Newcastle fans just how exciting Saivet has become given he has made five appearances for the Magpies since joining the club almost two years ago.

41. Micah Richards – Manchester City

Richards was sussed early by Fabio Capello and the ex-England defender has struggled to convince anyone since. Still at Aston Villa despite being rarely able to train due to a chronic injury.

42. Alexis Sanchez – Udinese

There threatens to be a queue across Europe when Sanchez’s Arsenal contract expires next summer. Wasn’t as exciting a teenager as Kermit Erasmus, though.

43. Sergio Tejera – Chelsea

Once one of Chelsea’s loan stars, the midfielder failed to make the grade in the top tiers in England and Spain, and now plies his trade at Gimnastic in the Segunda Division.

44. Marek Suchy – Slavia Prague

The centre-half has carved out a decent career for himself, earning 31 Czech Republic caps during subsequent spells CSKA Moscow and Basel, where he still features.

45. Ivan Rakitic – Schalke

They did get a fair few right.

46. Abdou Razack Traore – Rosenborg

The striker is currently playing in Turkey having arrived there via Poland after failing to make the required development at Rosenborg.

47. Carlos Vela – Arsenal

Another Arsenal wonderkid that never fulfilled his potential, despite impressing at Real Sociedad. Currently waiting for Los Angeles FC to begin their existence.

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48. Theo Walcott – Arsenal

The 28-year-old is currently in his 12th season with Arsenal and he has amassed 47 England caps. We’ll leave you to pass judgement on his development.

49. Gergory van der Wiel – Ajax

Left Ajax after seven years for a four-season stint at PSG. Now at Cagliari after an unsuccessful year with Fenerbahce but still has 46 Holland appearances to his name.

50. Ever Banega – Boca Juniors

The midfielder moved to Europe with Valencia not long after the publication of the list. Managed to run himself over with his own car, but on the pitch, he distinguished himself at Los Che and Sevilla, where he returned this summer after an unsuccessful year at Inter Milan.


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