These players were thrust into the big time when they weren’t redy for it and it all went downhill thereafter.

Football can sometimes be a homicidal sport, preying on the minds of players day in and day out. With great hype, comes greater pressure. Some players live up to their expectations, while some just fade away into yjr sunset.

Think about former Ajax prodigy Sonny Pike. He was expected to be the next Diego Maradona. At 14, he was doing McDonald’s adverts, a few years later he was a taxi driver in London.

Sometimes, ill-planned transfers contribute to a player’s downfall. One day, the world will be at a player’s feet, the next it will be just loneliness. Young players sometimes find it hard to live up to their expectations. Then a sudden transfer to a big European club brings them into the limelight. But, then chances are hard to find, so they just come crumbling down. In this list, we look at five players who joined big European heavyweights a little too soon.

5. Renato Sanches- Bayern Munich

All has not been good for the 2016 Ruropean Golden Boy awardee. He is not like the previous two in this list. Sanches already has a senior international gold medal. For God’s sake, he won the 2016 European Championship with Portugal, and he wasn’t a fringe player. His decline can well be attributed to his transfer to Bayern Munich.

At Benfica, a lot was expected from him. They have all been disappointed. He hasn’t been able to dislodge Arturo Vidal yet. Vidal has always been in excellent form for the last few seasons.

Sanches couldn’t cut the mustard at Bayern Munich

Loaned to Swansea City for the 2017-18 Premier League season, he was expected to finally prove himself. From a European superstar, his performances in England made him subject to memes and trolls. In a match against Chelsea, he even made a pass towards an advertisement board, believing it to be a teammate. 

The 20-year-old is still young and has time. Bayern will obviously loan him out again, as they have invested quite a sum of money on him. He could turn out to be a terrific player for them in the future. He fits their philosophy. So, we just need to wait and watch for this Lisbon native to prove us wrong.

4. Memphis Depay- Manchester United

Memphis Depay took the world by storm during the 2014 FIFA World Cup. His stunners for the Netherlands bought him under the eye of every club in Europe with a fat wallet. He fit the bill. Depay could dribble, pass, cross and score screamers. Manchester United ( then managed by his national team manager Louis van Gaal) came calling for the PSV superstar. He was destined for stardom.

He began well for the Red Devils, but then suddenly just like Angel Di Maria in Manchester, everything came crashing down. It is true that he is talented and could have fared better. But, Lady Luck didn’t seem to favor him.

Depay flattered to deceive at Manchester United

Now in Lyon, he seems to be crawling back to prove his doubters wrong. The 24-year old has had a good season for Lyon, and could very well be sought after big clubs again.

3. Mario Gotze- Bayern Munich

From winning the 2014 World Cup for Germany to being excluded from the squad in 2018, it has been a downward spiral for Mario Gotze. The 25-year-old had a good start to his Bayern career. But, injuries played a part in him going down the pecking order. From being Pep Guardiola’s favourite to a benchwarmer, he became an invisible figure.

If one really examines his career, it has been one of broken promises. His performances for Borrusia Dortmund made us think that he would be a Germany superstar. Then he scored the winner in the final against Argentina.

Gotze had to return to Borussia Dortmund after an underwhelming spell at Bayern Munich

Now, plying his trade with Dortmund again, Gotze’s story is a perfect example of losing one’s way amidst stardom.

2. Alen Halilović- Barcelona

The 21-year-old has had a very up and down journey to date. From being a Dinamo Zagreb superstar to a Barcelona outcast and finally having a resurgence at Las Palmas. A lot was expected from Halilovic when he came to Barcelona in 2015. Everything seemed to be working fine. He was drafted into the reserves in the Segunda Division. But, what he didn’t realize is that there were more gems at La Masia who were fighting for the spot he wanted to play in.

Halilovic struggled to get into the first-team at Barcelona

Anyway, it just wasn’t possible for him to dislodge the likes of Andres Iniesta or Lionel Messi (or even Carles Alena). He got loaned to Sporting Gijon, where he had a decent time. Then Barca sold him to Hamburger with a buy-back clause, expecting him to take the Bundesliga by storm. But, his Bundesliga experience turned out to be a disappointment. He is currently on loan at Las Palmas, where he’s having a resurgence of sorts. This season, he racked up 35 appearances with two goals.

He has already missed out on Croatia’s World Cup squad, but he still has time. The next three to four years are going to be crucial for him if he really wants to prove his critics wrong.


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1. Dani Ceballos- Real Madrid

Some fairy-tales don’t have a good ending. This totally sums up Dani Ceballos’ career at Real Madrid. Last season’s champions bought the 2017 UEFA European U-21 Championship Player of the Tournament for £15m from Real Betis. Everyone knew Barcelona wanted him as an understudy to Sergio Busquets. However, Ceballos chose the capital club and had already expressed his love for the Madrista jersey. 

Fast forward to May 2018, he has played just 12 times for Los Blancos. Most of his appearances have been from the bench or in less important matches. Even though he scored a brace in his first start, it wasn’t enough to take him up the pecking order. In the eyes of Zinedine Zidane, he is way behind the likes of Casemiro, Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, and Mateo Kovacic.

Ceballos is undoubtedly talented, but this was a wrong decision. He could have flourished at Betis, who had an excellent season. Anyway, Madrid will likely loan or sell him next season, if they really want him to develop into a world-class player.

Notable Mentions: Andy Carroll, Javier Saviola, Ricardo Quaresma, Andre Gomes, Martin Odegaard, Anderson.