The scriptwriters have been cooking...

8 ballers so freakish that they must be industry plants: Endrick, Mainoo…

While most footballers have very human flaws – a bad temper, a scandalous personal life, an on-pitch kryptonite – there is an exclusive club of ballers who are simply flawless from every angle.

Media darlings, insane amounts of aura, always brilliant to watch – something’s up and we’ve grown suspicious of it. What if – like in music – there were industry plant ballers, generated in a lab, nurtured by the footballing powers that be and dropped into our game without a trace to control the narrative? It’s entirely possible.

At the expense of sounding a little too much like Matt Le Tissier, we’ve put together a list of footballers who simply feel too good to be true and are thus confirmed industry plants from above. Or is that what they want us to think?


Starting with the obvious choice, everybody knows the game is lacking superheroes to replace Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s as football’s immortal juggernauts, transcending human abilities.

Ever since Endrick burst onto the scene at Palmeiras, the storyline has been perfect. Suspiciously perfect. There’s not a single image of him that doesn’t look iconic and he’s already on a path to stardom from humble beginnings to teenage Galactico.

Ahead of joining Real Madrid in the summer of 2024, he’s bagged on his debut for the Brazil national team at Wembley and become the youngest player to score for the Selecao since R9 in 1994. Combine the story with the iconic images, the popped collar and tucked shirt and the New Balance deal and it all becomes a little bit fishy.

He’s the biggest industry plant of them all. Fans of Dune may even call him the Lisan al Gaib.


If you could generate the perfect deep-lying playmaker from the ground up in some sort of spooky, high-tech lab, Rodri would emerge from the smoke in the chamber at the end of the experiment.

He’s got height, physicality, the mental temperament and the connection between brain and feet to sew it all together. He’s genuinely flawless.

Combine those freakishly robotic performances with his ability to evade yellow cards and score absolute screamers exactly when Manchester City are under pressure, and it makes you think.

This is what the footballing gods wanted. They wanted a side to disrupt the traditional big clubs, so they dropped the Spaniard in at City, made him elite and made them the new face of the sport. It stinks.

Paolo Maldini

We should’ve been onto Paolo from the moment he broke through, considering the success of his father Cesare.

The storylines are just too clean with those two. Captain, leader, legend at Milan through the 1960s before returning to manage the club later on, one of the godfathers of Italian football had his legacy succeeded by his son, who became arguably the greatest one club man in the history of the sport.

Someone had a hand in this. Between the outrageous ability on the pitch, the legacy at a footballing behemoth and Paolo’s devilishly handsome looks, it’s all too good to be true.

Giving 22-year-old Daniel Maldini industry plant treatment to secure the bloodline would’ve raised too much suspicion. It all makes sense.

Kobbie Mainoo

In the genre of football heritage, it felt inevitable that Manchester United got in on the act and found themselves an industry plant.

Mainoo has been nothing short of sensational since bursting onto the scene under Erik ten Hag and the stars all seem to be aligning. A young lad from Stockport emerging in a time of need, fixing a position that’s been an issue for as long as Paul Scholes has been retired, primed and ready to spark a revival under new owners.

The game needs a resurgent United and a young, local hero leading that resurgence is the icing on the cake. We’ve cracked the code. Arda Guler, Kobbie Mainoo, Lamine Yamal

READ: The 6 wonderkids with a greater potential than Kobbie Mainoo according to GOAL

Erling Haaland

We’re all in agreement that Haaland is a complete and utter freak and quite possibly an alien, right? Good.

If we’re talking about industry plants, Haaland simply has to be in the conversation. There has never been a more perfect and purpose-built forward.

Nobody would’ve suspected such an outrageous footballer to be Alfie Haaland’s son, either. It’s genius. They’ve plucked him at a young age, moulded him and thrown him into the game to write the script for the next generation of Messi vs Ronaldo alongside Mbappe – and Endrick, of course.

Not even peak Attitude Era WWE could’ve whipped up storylines like this. Rock vs Austin who?

Florian Wirtz

Yeah, sorry, we’re not buying it. It all seems too good to be true. Stick with us, here.

Germany have been a shambles ever since they became world champions in 2014 and have been unable to stop the haemorrhaging. So, what do you do? Easy – pick out a random German kid with the looks, summon the scriptwriters and cook up a redemption arc that will save lives and feed German football fans forever.

Wirtz burst onto the scene as a teenager, always looks iconic like Endrick does and battled adversity by recovering from an ACL tear already in his career, only to come back better and carry Bayer Leverkusen to a first-ever Bundesliga before carrying Germany on home soil at Euro 2024.

They called us mad, but it’s right there for us all to see. Confirmed industry plant.

Jude Bellingham

The debut at 16, the dream footballing pathway, the now-iconic celebration and championing the return of the adidas Predator, we’re onto you Jude.

He’s living out every football-obsessed child’s wildest dreams and perhaps that isn’t a coincidence. Football needed a new Zinedine Zidane, and the powers that be plucked out a boy from Birmingham to answer our prayers. Nobody suspected a thing. Genius.

Alvaro Morata

We’re finishing with football’s failed industry plant. Morata has long been top of people’s lists when it comes to football conspiracies and we’re no different.

Emerging at Real Madrid, the Spanish striker has spent the best years of his career being thrown from top club to top club without ever really warranting it, playing twice at Real, Atletico Madrid and Juventus, with an inevitable spell at Chelsea in between.

Football tried its very best to force Morata down our throats and turn him into the game’s next great striker, but it didn’t pay off and now their secrets are out.

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