Footballers Who Failed to Fulfill Their Potential

Mon 05 April 2021 | 13:30

Some football players don't live up to their full potential for various reasons such as injury, bad attitude, or poor career decision. Keep reading to find out more about the biggest unfulfilled talents in world football history.

Every year we read about new emerging talents within the world of football on the media. Players with exciting prospects from which a lot are expected by the fans. People seek new Peles, Maradonas, Messis, and Ronaldos as the promising youngsters take their first steps into the football field.

There have always been many teenagers who seem to be destined to become a superstar, having world at their feet, yet, not ready to carry the heavy burden of fans' pressure on their shoulders from very young age.

Although some of these young talents are able to cope with the stressful situation and go on to achieve their desired greatness, many are not capable of fulfilling their potential that is reaching the summit of success in the world of football.

Aptitude alone cannot guarantee success, not only in football, but in every other field. The inner talent must be combined with a powerful mind and great fortitude to lead a player to glory.

Sadly, many of the mentioned promising youngsters lack this kind of trait, and although they are expected to have a shining future, they gradually and quickly fade away.

To glitter on higher levels of the sport and, and for the continuity of it, the youth have a long and difficult path to go through.

Footballers who failed to fulfill their potential:

The players who are now referred to as "the greatest soccer players who never met their potential" are listed in the following article, alongside a brief overview of their career. The ones who had something special in them to become one of the biggest players in the world, but could not realize their true potential.

Jack Wilshere

  • Full name: Jack Andrew Garry Wilshere

  • Date of birth: 1 January 1992 (age 29)

  • Place of birth: Stevenage, England

  • Height: 5 ft 8 in (1.72 m)

  • Position(s): Midfielder

Jack Andrew Garry Wilshere

, born 1 January 1992, is an English professional footballer who plays as midfielder for Championship side

AFC Bournemouth


Wilshere is one of the most remarkable

footballers who failed to fulfill their potential

. The English wonder kid showed outstanding potential in his early years with


, but numerous major injury problems did not let him reach his full potential.

In the September of 2008, when he made his debut for Arsenal at the age of 16 years and 256 years, Wilshere became Gunner's youngest-ever league debutant.

The talented midfielder was said by many as the Arsenal and English national team's future captain, but his struggles with injuries stood in his way. He currently plays for AFC Bournemouth in English Championship.

Freddy Adu

  • Full name: Fredua Koranteng Adu

  • Date of birth: June 2, 1989 (age 32)

  • Place of birth: Tema, Ghana

  • Height  5 ft 8 in (173 cm)

  • Position(s): Attacking midfielder, forward

Freddy Adu is one of the most notable instances of when aptitude alone does not lead to a successful career, and one of the biggest unfulfilled talents in world football history.

Dubbed "the next Pele", Adu signed a contract with Nike worth more than 700,000 Dollars at the age of 14, alongside making his professional debut in the USA's Major Soccer League.

The Ghanaian-born American was expected to take MLS and American football to a next level, but he never managed to reach the lofty expectations that had been set for him at a very young age.

Many prominent European clubs became interested in signing him, but he could not get a work permit to make a move to Europe before he turned 18 and was signed by



However, the excitement around him died down significantly as his performances were not satisfying. He experienced playing in many different clubs and became a "Journeyman".

His career did not continue as football fans had expected, and he became one of the first names in every list of

soccer players who never fulfilled their potential


Alexandre Pato

  • Full name: Alexandre Rodrigues da Silva

  • Date of birth: 2 September 1989 (age 32)

  • Place of birth: Pato Branco, Brazil

  • Height: 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)

  • Position(s): Forward

The Brazilian wonder kid came into prominence in a very young age playing for

AC Milan

. He seemed to have a very promising future, but his career turned the wrong way.

Similar to other players in the list of footballers who failed to fulfill their potential, his descend was as quick as his rise in the world of football. At the age of only 21, Pato was a regular at Milan, helping them to the conquest of their first

Serie A

title in 7 years.

He seemed to have that something special within himself that could lead Pato to become one of the world's best. However, the sunshine of his great start met an end very soon due to injuries, and the lack of focus they brought about.

He returned to Brazil, yet again, did not manage to replicate his brilliant performances. Therefore, after experiencing some loan transfers and a quick spell at Europe with




, he spent 2 years and a half in Chinese Super League.

Pato joined the American club

Orlando City

in the February of 2021. He will forever be remembered one of the most talented and

top promising footballers who never made it



  • Full name: Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira

  • Date of birth: 13 April 1988 (age 32)

  • Place of birth: Porto Alegre, Brazil

  • Height: 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Position(s): Midfielder

Anderson Luís de Abreu Oliveira, born 13 April 1988, commonly known as Anderson, is a Brazilian retired footballer and currently the Assistant Manager of Adana Demirspor. He played as a midfielder and known best for his tenure with

Manchester United


The Brazilian midfielder showed such an astounding performance in the early years of his career that earned him the 2008 Golden Boy award, a trophy which is given to a young footballer (under the age of 21) playing in Europe that has had the most impressive performances in a calendar year as seen from sports journalists' point of view.

He is one of the best examples of when the expectations are set high too early, and the youth cannot meet them. His career fell abruptly, and after a few unsuccessful moves he hung his boots in 2019. He was a precocious player with great ability in taking free kicks and notable dribbling skills.

Sadly, we have to name the talented player in the list of

footballers who failed to fulfill their potential


Micah Richards

  • Full name: Micah Lincoln Richards

  • Date of birth: 24 June 1988 (age 32)

  • Place of birth: Birmingham, England

  • Height: 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m)

  • Position(s): Right back

The British defender shined in the

Premier League

at a very young age but things did not work out for him as expected and he went on to become one of the

greatest footballers who never met their potential

. Richards showed absolutely great potential to have a bright career in the future by performing outstandingly in the

Manchester City

youth teams and making his way through senior team at the age of 17.

His astounding performance during the 2005-6 Premier League season made him the youngest defender to have played for English national team by making his debut in the November of 2006. Moreover he was a regular both at England and Manchester City.

Richards was Roberto Manchini's first choice for the right back position in the 2011/12 season when City win the title. However, things continued differently when he only made 19 appearances during the next 3 seasons and his promising career started to fall down.

Richards was loaned out to


in 2014, and was sold to

Aston Villa

a year after that, but it could not save his manager either. His did not manage to get to their squad even though they were competing in the English Championship.

The career of Richards met an end very sooner than expected in 2019, and is considered a failure compared to what was expected based on his start. Richards is definitely one of the top promising footballers who never made it.

Federico Macheda

  • Full name: Federico Macheda

  • Date of birth: 22 August 1991 (age 30)

  • Place of birth: Rome, Italy

  • Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)

  • Position(s): Striker

Federico Macheda

, born 22 August 1991, is an Italian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Super League Greece club Panathinaikos.

The Italian striker is one of the most notable players in the list of

footballers who failed to fulfill their potential

. His start at Manchester United was amazing, especially with him scoring a late minute winner goal in his debut against Aston Villa in 2009.

However, Macheda could not cope with the intense pressure of lofty expectations that surrounded him at a very young age that started from his first match. He did not succeed in living up to the expectations, and faced so many loan moves until 2014 that Cardiff City signed him from the Red Devils.

After an unsuccessful spell with Cardiff he returned to his country to Play for Novara in 2016. Macheda has been playing for the Geek club Panathinaikos since 2018.

Bojan Krkic

  • Full name: Bojan Krkić Pérez

  • Date of birthL: 28 August 1990 (age 31)

  • Place of birth: Linyola, Spain

  • Height: 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)

  • Position(s): Forward / Winger

A pure talent from Barcelona's football academy "La Masia", Bojan Krkic was once known as the "new Messi". He is perhaps among the most remarkable European

football players who never fulfilled their Potential

, with the very lofty expectations was set for the Spanish player at the age of 17, a burden he could not carry on his shoulders and fell down.

He broke

Lionel Messi

's record to be the youngest player ever that has made an appearance for Blaugrana, by achieving the feat at the age of 17 years and 19 days.

He scored 10 goals in his debut season. The potential Bojan showed persuaded people that he was going to be something special in the world of football, but the fall of one of the most talented players in recent years proved the fact of when expectations set on a player are too high, especially on a teenager can be a perilous thing. Krkic has never been able to replicate his glittering career in his first season.

He left Barcelona in 2011, after scoring 41 goals in 163 appearances and winning numerous prestigious titles in Barcelona's golden years, and moved to several clubs ever since he left his country, such as AC Milan,

AS Roma


Ajax Amsterdam


His last club was the Canadian club Club de Foot Monetreal.  Krkic is unquestionably one of the top promising footballers who never made it and will always remain in football fans' minds, especially


fans that had seen his luminous performances that one day drew comparisons to their idol, Lionel Messi.


  • Full name: Adriano Leite Ribeiro

  • Date of birth: February 17, 1982 (age 39)

  • Place of birth: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

  • Height: 1.89 m (6 ft 2 in)

  • Position(s): Striker

The Brazilian man had the potential to be remembered as one of the best striker of all time, but the universe did not went on in his favor and made him one of the footballers who failed to fulfill their potential.

Adriano was a non-stoppable striker in his prime at Inter Milan, mostly renowned for his long range extra-powerful shots with his left foot. Adriano helped Inter won a number of titles including 4 consecutive Serie A trophies. Moreover, he scored 74 goals in 177 appearances for nerazzurri.

He made his debut for Brazilian national team in 2000 when he was only 18, and was regarded a long-term successor to the great


. Furthermore, Adriano led Brazil to the conquest of 2004 Copa America where he won the Golden Boot as the top scorer of the tournament. Additionally, he was 2004 Confederations Cup top scorer as Brazil won the title in the absence of Ronaldo.

However, his majestic success did not last long. His career faced a downhill since his father passed away. Adriano has never been the same and went through a spiral depression which he was not able to recover from. Thus, he gradually faded away from the top level of football.

He gained weight and problems with his attitude came into existence. He lost his drive to play football and go further than where he had reached, given his full bank account and the loss of his father. Adriano returned to Brazil but the problems followed him.

Football fans will forever be imagining about the beast he would have become if the circumstances had gone on a little differently. Adriano definitely had the potential to be a very special player in football's history book.

"The Emperor", as he was nicknamed while playing for Inter, is indubitably one of the

biggest unfulfilled talents in world football history


Mario Balotelli

  • Full name: Mario Balotelli Barwuah

  • Birth name: Mario Barwuah

  • Date of birth: 12 August 1990 (age 30)

  • Place of birth: Palermo, Italy

  • Height: 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in)

  • Position(s): Striker

Mario Balotelli

's natural aptitude is undeniable, but for some reasons, he has never been far from the focus of public attention, and this resulted in him being included among the The

greatest soccer players who never met their potential


The Italian striker came into prominence at a very young age while playing for

Inter Milan

where they gained success under Jose Mourinho and Robero Mancini. The lack of discipline in his football, which made several problems for him especially with Jose Mourinho, was said to go away as he matured, but the problems stick with him. Balotelli's off-field activities have always stood in his way of becoming what he had the potential to be.

He later played for Manchester City,


, AC Milan,


, Marseille,


, and he is currently playing for Monza in Italian Serie B. Regarded as one of the most talented footballers who failed to fulfill their potential despite the promising start, Balotelli is Italy's top scorer in European Championship tournaments and in FIFA Confederations Cup (both jointly with other players).

Balotelli has astonishing technical ability and great strength which scares every defender. However, constant suspensions and fines, especially in Manchester City and Inter prevented him from having the career his talent deserved.

The most remarkable moment of his career is when he scored 2 goals against Germany in Euro 2012 semi-finals and sent Italy to the final match. Additionally, he provided a memorable assist for Sergio Aguero's late Premier league-winning goal in 2012. Although his career cannot be described as a total failure, "Super Mario" surely did not live up to his true potential.

Ravel Morrison

  • Full name: Ravel Ryan Morrison

  • Date of birth: 2 February 1993 (age 28)

  • Place of birth: Wythenshawe, Manchester, England

  • Height: 5 ft 9 in (1.75 m)

  • Position(s): Midfielder

If you asked somebody who has seen the young

Ravel Morrison

play, they would probably say with certainty that the kid was destined for stardom. He was a product from Manchester United youth academy who made himself through the senior team.

It is said by Rio Ferdinand that Sir Alex Ferguson once pulled him, Ryan Giggs, and Wayne Rooney aside in training sessions just to show them Morrison.

He was unquestionably a talent that was expected to have an exhilarating career, but instead, his name is now mentioned in the list of footballers who failed to fulfill their potential.

Due to some problems which stemmed from his rough upbringing in Manchester, he was sold to Westham United. He later played for Cardiff, Queens Park Rangers, Birmingham City,


etc. However, he never became the superstar that he had the potential to be.

Mario Gotze

  • Full name: Mario Götze

  • Date of birth: 3 June 1992 (age 29)

  • Place of birth: Memmingen, Germany

  • Height: 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Position(s): Attacking midfielder, forward

Mario Gotze is regarded as one of the biggest unfulfilled talents in world football history. There is a big unanswered question in every football fan all around the world: what happened to Mario Gotze that stopped him from becoming one of the best players in the world?

Gotze, who is a product of

Borussia Dortmund

's youth academy, attained great fame due to his astonishing performances for the club's senior team in the years between 2009 and 2013, where he played a pivotal role in achieving 2 Bundesliga titles and reaching the final of UEFA Champions League in 2013.

The point which destroyed his potentially-bright career was his move to

Bayern Munich

in 2013, where he stayed until he returned to Dortmund in 2016. Although he managed to win some trophies with Bayern including 3 consecutive League titles, he was never considered as a successful signing for them.

Undoubtedly, the highlight of his career is scoring Germany's 2014 World Cup winning goal in the extra times against


, where he received Andre Shcurrle's cross, controlled it with his chest and shot the ball before it hits land.

Moreover, a metabolic disorder which was later diagnosed to be myopathy (that is a muscular disorder which has impacts on muscles fibers) was a huge obstacle in his way of becoming a superstar.

After returning to Borussia Dormtund, he had great hopes of getting back to his form in his first spell, but he never managed to be a regular starter again. At the end of 2019/20 season, at the age of only 28, Gotze moved to PSV


. He was once referred to as the "new Messi", but right now will forever be remembered as one of the footballers who failed to fulfill their potential.


Read More: 



 for the 

latest football news

source: SportMob