Footballers Who Are Well Past Their Prime
Ah football, it brings great joys, both to those watching and of course to those producing said joyous moments.
However, as players get older, at the back of their mind there is always that worry: "How much longer do I have left? At one point will my levels decrease and I'll be unable to perform to my best?"
For some, the process is somewhat unnoticeable—they're the truly fortunate ones. For others, it's more gradual, taking place over a number of years as they move into their late thirties. However, for others, it can happen much quicker, and before you know it, they're past their peak despite having years ahead of them.
With all that being said, here's a look at five footballers across the footballing landscape, who have gone well past their prime:
Samuel Eto'o (Chelsea & Cameroon)
When a strikers greatest attributes are their pace, athleticism and sharpness in and around the penalty area, it's often more noticeable when they hit that glass ceiling and then begin their descent downwards.
Such a player would appear to be the 32-year-old Samuel Eto'o. Arguably Europe's premier centre-forward between 2004 and 2011 during his time at Barcelona and Inter Milan, a period which saw him win three Champions League crowns and score 182 goals in 302 matches for the two clubs.
Additionally, in his pomp, his vertical movement and ability to get a shot away in the tightest of areas were outstanding.
However, following a two-year stint in Russia with Anzhi Makhachkala, Eto'o has returned to one of Europe's top leagues with a move to Chelsea. Yet, his opening two appearances for the Blues have suggested that the player of old may well have been lost.
That sharpness appears to have gone, the breathtaking pace in behind opposing back lines appears to have been lost and the predatory No. 9 who so savaged European defences during his Barcelona and Inter heyday appears to have been replaced by someone looking to drop deeper and to continually receive the ball to feet. Such a style is neither what Chelsea need nor what brings the best out of arguably Africa's greatest ever striker.
Robinho (AC Milan)
When the uber-talented Brazilian arrived in European football from Santos in 2005, the heir apparent to Brazilian legend Pele appeared to have the world at his feet. Already a senior Brazilian international, Real Madrid paid £21.2 million to secure his services.
Three years, two league titles, 101 La Liga appearances and 25 goals later, Robinho was on the move again, the first marquee signing for Manchester City's Abu Dhabi owners as they splashed £37.8 million to bring him to the Premier League. However, despite a promising debut season featuring 14 league goals, things soon turned sour.
A loan move back to Santos was followed by a permanent move to AC Milan, but now aged 29—a point where Robson de Souza should be at his peak—he's nothing but a bit-part player with the Rossoneri, a mercurial talent whose poor days far outweigh the good.
A player with 90 international caps to his name, with his talent Robinho should be a key member of his country's squad for next summer's World Cup. Instead, he's largely considered to have seen better days and will be watching on as Brazil compete in front of their own supporters.
Diego Lugano (West Bromwich Albion & Uruguay)
The Uruguayan international skipper has long been a warrior on the international stage, an integral part of La Celeste's 2010 World Cup journey to the semi-finals and their 2011 Copa America success with 85 caps and counting as he leads the side in their quest for qualification to Brazil 2014.
On the club front however, Lugano is an interesting character. His peak years between 2006 and 2011 were spent with Turkish giants Fenerbahce, where he won two Super Liga crowns and became a fan favourite with his no-nonsense defending. Additionally, in 125 league appearances, the centre-back helped himself to 21 goals.
However, since leaving the club in 2011 at the age of 30, his club career has been pretty non-existent. Stints at PSG and Malaga followed with a total of just 22 matches in two years.
Lugano now finds himself at West Bromwich Albion, playing backup to Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson. Anyone who saw Jon Obi Mikel waltz past him to score during this summer's Confederations Cup will understand why.
Juninho Pernambucano (Vasco De Gama)
One of the greatest set-piece takers that the world of football has ever seen, Juninho Pernambucano has had a few sojourns during the latter part of his career.
Since leaving French club Lyon in 2009 following a glorious eight years filled with trophies and outstanding goals, the Brazilian took in a two-year spell at Al-Gharafa before returning "home" to Vasco De Gama for 20 months. With his playmaking ability from the centre of midfield, leadership and quality with a dead ball, he continued to be a key part of the Expresso da Vitoria.
After 13 league matches, where his performances were undistinguished to say the least and involved no goals and a single assist, the former Brazilian international was gone.
Quite simply, his lack of athleticism and inability to get round the field anymore meant that the hard-running nature of lesser players was too much for him. In the end, he was nothing more than a glorified place kicker, and his station at the centre of midfield was a hindrance to Mike Petke's side.
Thus, Juninho has returned to Brazil and the Campeonato Brasiliero for a third stint at Vasco. And while 13 games have encompassed two goals and five assists, the 38-year-old finds himself some way past his best.
Ricardo Carvalho (AS Monaco)
At his prime, the Portuguese international was one of the most intelligent, methodical defenders in world football whose reading of the game during his peak years at Chelsea was pretty much unrivaled.
His more cerebral style alongside the bulldog spirit of John Terry were a perfect match and earned him three Premier League crowns, three FA Cup and two League Cup trophies.
A move to Real Madrid followed in 2010 and after 33 league appearances in his debut campaign in the Spanish capital. However, he featured in just eight league matches in each of the next two seasons as Sergio Ramos, Pepe, Raul Albiol and Raphael Varane relegated him to fifth choice, with a combination of injury problems and his diminishing pace playing a key part in his demotion.
This summer saw Carvalho make a move to big-spending French club AS Monaco, but the 35-year-old is very much past his best.
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