Woeful Wonderkids: 5 potential world-beaters who turned out sh*te

They were the Next Big Thing once


Norwegian frontman Erling Haaland has exploded onto the scene in the past 12 months having come to fruition at RB Salzburg and carried on his blistering form at German side Borussia Dortmund.

All the talk at the moment concerns a mega-money summer move to one of football’s heavyweight clubs, but the youngster should be mindful of the fact that in this game, you can go from hero to zero in the time it takes the officials to decide on a VAR incident at Anfield, as these five players will testify to.

ROME, ITALY – MARCH 14: Federico Macheda of VfB Stuttgart in action during the UEFA Europa League Round of 16 second leg match between S.S. Lazio and VfB Stuttgart at Stadio Olimpico on March 14, 2013 in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Paolo Bruno/Getty Images)

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Back in April 2009, Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson threw young Italian striker Federico Macheda into his first team and the Roman born frontman made an immediate impact scoring a last-minute winner on his debut against Aston Villa. As the youngster celebrated with his father (who was an ice-cream seller in Manchester), many observers tipped Macheda to be the next big thing to come off the Old Trafford production line.

But those wild scenes in front of the Stretford End tunnel turned out to be Federico’s greatest moment in the famous red shirt and within two years and after suffering a catalogue on injuries, he was heading home on-loan to Sampdoria, where he would replace the wild man of Italian football, Antonio Cassano (for 11 games anyway). Spells at Queens Park Rangers, Stuttgart, Doncaster Rovers, Birmingham City and Cardiff City followed, before Macheda returned to Italy with Serie B side Novara; He is currently in Greece, where he leads the line for Athens club Panathinaikos.

Bordeaux’ forward David Bellion (R) controls the ball during the French L1 football match Bordeaux vs Brest on February 24, 2013 at the Chaban-Delmas stadium in Bordeaux. AFP PHOTO/ NICOLAS TUCAT (Photo credit should read NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP via Getty Images)


Having spent three years in the youth ranks at Cannes, French striker David Bellion, for reasons known only to himself, decided to swap the glam and glitz of the Cote D’Azur and continue his footballing education at Sunderland.

This was all part of the bigger picture for Dave, however, who was convinced that he could get himself a move to one of English football’s big hitters. Two years of putting up with living on Wearside paid off when he got his dream move to Manchester United in the summer of 2003. Sir Alex kept telling the Old Trafford faithful that he had got his hands on one of Europe’s best strikers, despite Bellion not being able to cement a place in the reserves, never mind the first-team and when Fergie finally realised that he’d made himself look a bit of a t**t in 2005, Bellion was back and forth to France more times than a cross-channel ferry.

Just like Macheda, somewhere in a charity shop in Surrey there’s a replica jersey with his name on it.


The cheeky scouse frontman looked like he’d spent most of his youth getting knocked about by Dennis the Menace in the Beano rather than sticking the ball into the back of the onion bag, but that’s exactly what he did at Everton between 1997 and 2001 which earned him a lucrative move to Arsenal.

On his arrival in North London, Gunners boss Arsene Wenger described him as a “fox in the box” kind of player but after a couple of seasons of failing to find any form, Arsene was ready to let the hounds loose on Jeffers, who was promptly sent back to Merseyside to re-join The Toffees where he scored precisely zero goals.

After more failure at Charlton, Rangers, Blackburn Rovers and Sheffield Wednesday, Franny packed his bags to head to Australia to represent Newcastle Jets but after only a few days, the rest of the squad complained that they couldn’t understand a fucking word he said so he headed back to the UK to play for Motherwell – where Jeffers couldn’t understand a fucking word anyone said to him. The shutters came down in 2013 when Franny finished his career at Accrington Stanley. He’ll be remembered as one of English footballs one-cap wonders.

CHESTER, PA – AUGUST 24: Freddy Adu #11 of the Philadelphia Union walks onto the pitch before the start of a Major League Soccer game against Real Salt Lake on August 24, 2012 at PPL Park in Chester, Pa. The game ended in a scoreless tie. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)


Poor old Freddy Adu never stood a chance from the moment he was referred to as the “New Pele”. The fact that it was later discovered that this accolade had been bestowed upon him by his dad made more sense for a player who got his 15 minutes of fame at the start of the 21st century, and who has gone on to play for some of the most bizarre named clubs in world football.

Now we all know Pele was a bull-shitter when it came to claiming how many goals he’d scored in his career, but even the Brazilian legend never turned out for clubs such as KuFu-98 or Las Vegas Lights.

To think it could all have been so different for Freddy who turned up for a trial at Old Trafford in 2006, but Fergie had already had his fingers burned by Bellion (see above) and wasn’t prepared to make himself look an idiot again so soon after so 14 days later, Adu was bid a fond farewell eventually arriving at Benfica in 2007. Freddy represented the USA on 17 occasions and can consider himself unlucky not to be picked up by Graeme Souness, who was a master at buying players of no fixed ability. Sadly, in the words of the great bard, it was “Much Adu About Nothing”.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – NOVEMBER 9: Reiziger of Barcelona and Denilson of Betis challenge for the ball during the Spanish Primera Liga match between Barcelona and Betis at the Camp Nou Stadium on November 9, 2003 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by FiroFoto/Getty Images)


Or surprisingly Denilson, as he’s most commonly known, became the world’s most expensive footballer in 1998 when he headed to Spain in a £21.5M deal. So where did the Brazilian end up? Barcelona, Real Madrid? Actually, it was Real Betis who somehow convinced the flying winger that his future was best served in Andalucía and who within a couple of years of his arrival, convinced him that his future would be best served back home in Brazil.

Despite spending most of his professional career being mainly shite, Denilson earned megabucks off the back of lucrative sponsorship deals with Nike and became the poster boy of the 2002 World Cup in Japan/South Korea. The record books tell us that the man from Diadema represented his country more than 60 times in a seven-year spell between 1996 and 2003, but we all know how much those Brazilians like to twist the truth when it comes to statistics don’t we.

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