Football is full of great stories of players emerging from nowhere and becoming big stars. However, the game is also full of just as many youngsters who showed promise only to burn out after a few seasons. In some cases, we remember those who burned brightly and finished quickly more than others.
Here is a look at 5 teen football stars failed to reach their potential.
5. Jack Grealish
Aston Villa named Jack Grealish in their Premier League team when he was just 16. The Englishman went on to play at Notts County on loan before returning to Aston Villa and impressing.
Unfortunately, Grealish hasn’t continued on his meteoric rise. Often times, he has failed to hold down a place in the Aston Villa first-team. It may surprise many football fans that he hasn’t moved on, but certain scandals and controversies have plagued him, and other teams may want to steer clear.
4. Denilson Pereira
Denilson Pereria debuted for Sao Paulo at the age of 17 after graduating from the club’s youth academy. Despite playing just 13 times for the first-team, Arsene Wenger paid £3.4 million for Denilson.
Wenger played Denilson as a defensive midfielder, but he showed an inability to tackle. His passing was also an issue. He was often criticised by fans and pundits. Still, Denilson played 153 games for Arsenal before going on an around the world tour of clubs.
3. Ravel Morrison
Sir Alex Ferguson believed Ravel Morrison had more talent as a kid than Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney or Ryan Giggs had when they were young. Talent isn’t the only thing a player needs to succeed, however.
Morrison never played for Manchester United’s first-team. He did get time on the pitch for West Ham, Birmingham City, and Lazio to name a few clubs. Unfortunately, he was a failure everywhere he went. More recently, Morrison has been playing for Sweden’s Ostersund.
2. Fran Merida
Fran Merida joined Arsenal from Barcelona at the age of 17. Big things were expected from him. However, Merida played just 16 times before being sold to Atletico Madrid. He didn’t last there long either. Merida currently plays for Osasuna in the Segunda. Despite coming through both Barcelona and Arsenal’s youth academies, Merida was unable to fulfil his potential.
1. Freddy Adu
There is no bigger failure in pro football than American Freddy Adu. The forward was rushed into Major League Soccer team DC United’s first-team at the age of 14. The marketing behind Adu was strong and he was called the “next Pele”. Turns out, Adu was great against teens, but average against men. Still, he did decently in the young MLS.
In 2007, Adu left MLS and moved to Benfica. Since then, he has played for 11 other teams and it hasn’t taken long to wear out his welcome at each. Adu most recently played for American team Las Vegas Lights in the USL Championship, which is the second division of U.S. and Canadian soccer.
Was Adu ever as good as advertised? Probably not, but MLS desperately wanted a young kid to be the poster child of the league to sell tickets.