25 Best—Yet Most Injury-Prone—Players in Soccer History

Dan Talintyre@@dantalintyreSenior Analyst IIApril 4, 2013

25 Best—Yet Most Injury-Prone—Players in Soccer History

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    Injuries are just a natural part of football, but unfortunately for some players, they're just a little bit more common and frequent than they are for other players.

    Sometimes it's just a little thing that refuses to go away; other times it's a big thing.

    But either way, injuries are a very common thing throughout the world of football, and certain players just seem to be a little bit more injury prone than others.

    Read on to see the 25 best—yet most injury-prone—players in world football.

    Note: This list is no particular order, with various factors considered in determining what defines being "injury-prone." All statistics and details via Transfermarkt.

Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    One glance at Arjen Robben's injury history and it's fairly safe to conclude that the Dutchman can be considered injury-prone, with over 22 different injury incidents recorded.

    Knees, back, groin, Achilles—heck, even the flu and a hernia.

    You name it; Robben's had it. 

Thomas Vermaelen, Arsenal

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Gunners captain and defender Thomas Vermaelen might not seem like one of the more injury-prone players in world football, but the numbers don't lie.

    Especially earlier on in his career, the Belgian would be missing two or three months at a time—regardless of whether he was playing at Ajax or at Arsenal.

    A malleolar injury has been the latest injury for Vermaelen this year.

Harry Kewell, Free Agent

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Australian attacker Harry Kewell promised so much in his time at Liverpool, Leeds and Galatasaray. And yet you just got the sense that he never truly delivered on that promise.

    Perhaps it had something to do with the injuries.

    Kewell missed at least two weeks of action seven times between 2009 and 2010, and whilst that might not seem like much, it's enough to keep him from being his best.

Alexandre Pato, Corinthians

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Alexandre Pato is just 23, and yet his injury list reads longer than his goalscoring or achievement list—especially over the past three years in world football. Ankle and muscular problems have been Pato's undoing, with 13 different recorded injury incidents in just the last three years.

    For a promising player, those injuries are seriously holding him back, and you wonder whether that will be the case for the majority of his entire playing career.

Michael Essien, Real Madrid

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien—who is currently on a season-long loan at Real Madrid—might not have had a plethora of injuries throughout his career, but what he does have is very significant injuries.

    When he gets injured, he gets injured for a serious length of time, and it's probably the reason why Essien never quite made the jump into the class of elite midfielders.

    Six months for a cruciate ligament in 2009. Then another month injured later that year. Six months off in 2010 for meniscal damage in his knee. Six months off again in 2011 for another cruciate ligament.

    At least he's consistent?

Jonathan Woodgate, Middlesborough

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    This was an image that was all too common with Jonathan Woodgate—him emerging up the tunnel during games after picking up some sort of a knock or injury.

    The former Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur man just never seemed able to finish a game and was forever dealing with niggling injuries that would keep him out for a week or two.

    At 33, it's hard to see his body getting any better with it, either.

Steven Gerrard, Liverpool

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Steven Gerrard will go down a Liverpool and England legend—no doubt about it—but there's also no doubting the fact that the midfielder is seriously injury-prone.

    Battling groin issues throughout the past five or six years, Gerrard has constantly seen time on the sidelines, and he's missed some serious playing time as a result.

    And yet he's still brilliant.

Abou Diaby, Arsenal

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Every time Abou Diaby takes the field, you end up hearing reports about just how good and promising he could be if he didn't get injured and could stay healthy.

    The problem is, that almost every time Diaby takes the field, he leaves the field injured.

    Eleven injury issues in the past three years is not what you'd call promising.

    Especially given he's out until Christmas with a cruciate ligament injury.

Louis Saha, Lazio

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Louis Saha has moved on from the Premier League to Italian club Lazio after unsuccessful stints at both Everton and Tottenham. And as cruel as it seems, his injuries have played a large part in his failure to truly establish himself as an elite, world-class striker.

    Between 2007 and 2009, Saha had several different injuries force him onto the sidelines for significant portions of time. And since then, he's just never been the same.

Wes Brown, Sunderland

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Wes Brown was another one of those guys who didn't get injured as much as others, but he did find himself spending some significant time on the sidelines.

    Three months off in 2009 with a malleor injury. Two months off in 2010 courtesy of a fractured foot. Three months off in 2011 with a knee injury.

    And after sustaining a ligament injury in October 2012, Brown hasn't played since—making it six months and counting for the injury-prone defender.

Cesc Fabregas, Barcelona

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Now at Barcelona, Cesc Fabregas is another example of the "Arsenal injury curse" (as we'll continue to see) with a career absolutely filled with injuries.

    The Spanish midfielder has shown his skills and prowess on the pitch, but he's also showed a number of injuries, with 14 separate cases in the last five seasons. What's more, there's been some key injuries in there too, with Fabregas spending more than three weeks out of action on 10 of those 14 occasions.

Wayne Rooney, Manchester United

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Manchester United fans might want to deny it, but striker Wayne Rooney definitely falls into the category of injury-prone, given all the times he's gone down hurt.

    The England international has struggled with malleolar injuries, knee injuries, ankle injuries, groin injuries and having his leg sliced open against Fulham earlier in the year. 

    Which made for a truly pleasant picture indeed.

Kaka, Real Madrid

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    At 30 years of age, it's a little understandable that Kaka's body is getting old.

    And whilst Kaka's injuries sustained at AC Milan and Real Madrid weren't that frequent or that serious, they were just substantial enough to keep him from truly establishing himself.

    A World Player of the Year, sure, but he couldn't get a starting position?

    Over a year on the sidelines between 2008 and 2011 will do that to you.

Andy Carroll, Liverpool

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    You've got to feel for Andy Carroll, in a way.

    I mean, it wasn't his fault that Liverpool decided to pay far too much for him one transfer window and thus increase the expectations on him tenfold.

    And it's not really his fault that his ankles, knees and hamstrings all decided to give up on him around the time that he made his move to Anfield.

    He's just injury-prone, and he's been a huge transfer flop as a result.

Alberto Aquilani, Fiorentina

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Italian midfielder Alberto Aquilani has hopped his way around Liverpool and Serie A for some time now, but not because he was never good enough to play.

    No, he just couldn't stay healthy long enough for it to be worth it.

    Ever since 2009, Aqualiani has been struck down with various injuries, and they've been a big hindrance to the progress of an extremely talented midfielder.

Kieran Gibbs, Arsenal

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Ahhh, the Arsenal injury curse in operation once more as we look to England international Kieran Gibbs, who already has a substantial injury history at just 23.

    Eight separate injuries have seen Gibbs miss a chunk of time over the last three years, with his recent thigh muscle strain arguably the most significant of them all.

    After all, they did only lose to Bayern on away-goal difference.

Kieron Dyer, Middlesborough

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Ever since hitting his mid-to-late 20s, Kieron Dyer has been struck down by the injury curse time and time again, and it's forced him to spend some serious time on the bench.

    Injured every year since 2007, Dyer has missed over 12 months of action with various injuries, and it no doubt saw him leave West Ham and QPR when he did.

    He's a good player, but he's very injury-prone.

Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    It might not have been as pronounced at the start, but given what we've seen in the last two years, it's fairly safe to say that Nemanja Vidic is injury-prone.

    What's more, the United captain often seems to go down in big games—Champions League games, FA Cup, local derbies—that make his impact even more missed as a result.

    Vidic is now 31, so his body isn't going to get any younger. What it is doing, however, is becoming more and more susceptible to injuries.

Jack Wilshere, Arsenal

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Jack Wilshere is a supremely talented midfielder for the Gunners, but the North Londoners are seriously starting to get fed up with his constant injury woes.

    Since July of 2011, Wilshere has spent over a year on the sidelines—all with different injuries that have caused serious ramifications for Arsene Wenger's men.

    The Arsenal injury curse strikes again.

Carles Puyol, Barcelona

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Carles Puyol has definitely fallen under the category of injury-prone in the last few years, with a myriad body injuries and general issues keeping him out of the Barcelona starting side.

    Seven separate incidents since the end of 2010, and over four months in this year alone, it's clear that Puyol's 34-year-old body isn't as strong as it used to be.

    Now it's just injury-prone.

Ibrahim Afellay, Schalke

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Dutch 27-year-old Ibrahim Afellay might not seem like he's a guy who's struggled with injuries a great deal throughout his career, but the reality is that he's spend a great deal of time away from the starting team at either PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona or Schalke.

    Since just July 2011 alone, Afellay has spent time on the sidelines for muscular injuries (two months), a cruciate ligament injury (seven months) and further muscle injuries (two months, and then another four months in recovery from those muscular injuries).

    They just aren't going away for Afellay, who is seriously talented with the ball at his feet. We can only hope his career won't be too badly affected by injuries like so many others on this list.

Ledley King, Retired

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Ledley King truly could have been a premier defender if it wasn't for his knees and the constant problems they caused him throughout his time at Tottenham Hotspur.

    King spent three serrate periods of six months on the sidelines in the space of three years, and you'd argue that his career never really recovered from that point.

Michael Owen, Stoke City

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Set to retire at the end of the year, Michael Owen's footballing career might forever be summed up in the words "what if," for he never quite delivered on the potential he showed as an up-and-coming star striker.

    Muscular problems, knee injuries and several groin strains continued to plague Owen right as he seemed to have made it to the top in world football—bringing about his fall from Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and last of all at Stoke City.

    He was just too injury-prone, and it cost him completely living up to his potential.

Owen Hargreaves, Free Agent

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    In his time at Manchester United and even before that at Bayern Munich, Owen Hargreaves showed plenty of reasons to suggest he could be a top-class midfielder.

    Unfortunately, his knees did not quite agree.

    From July 2008 to July 2011, Hargreaves spent 10 months on the field and 25 months off it—dealing with ongoing knee issues on both legs.

    In hindsight, his career was over five years ago.

Robin van Persie, Manchester United

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    Injury History (per Transfermarkt)

    Whatever you've made of the rest of this list, there can be no disputing the fact that Robin van Persie is without doubt the best—but most injury-prone—currently existent in world football.

    He's perhaps the greatest of all time.

    Let's just have a look at his major injury spells.

    • January 2008 to March 2008
    • April 2008 
    • August 2008 to September 2008
    • December 2008
    • March 2009 to April 2009
    • April 2009 to May 2009
    • April 2010 to September 2010
    • September 2010 to November 2010
    • February 2011 to March 2011

    And there are many, many more.


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