25 Biggest 'Has-Beens' in World Football

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistJuly 21, 2014

25 Biggest 'Has-Beens' in World Football

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    Time catches up to us all, but when you're a footballer that inevitability can become somewhat brutal.

    Suddenly the legs don't move as fast any more, the brain isn't quite as active and things that used to be so easy become so difficult.

    It can be harrowing to watch, but these players keep on trying and keep on looking to recapture former glories.

    It often just isn't there any more, though, and the results can be so disappointing.

    Here are 25 players who are no longer at the top of their game. 

Fernando Torres

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    Things have never been the same for Fernando Torres ever since he picked up an injury shortly before the 2010 World Cup, and you can now argue that he's been out of form for longer than he was ever in it.

    The Spaniard is now a long way from the player who scored 33 goals in his debut season for Liverpool in 2007/08, with his struggles since a £50 million move to Chelsea in January 2011 now well-documented.


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    Robinho is still only 30, but his career appears to have been in something of a downward spiral for the last few years now.

    Once believed to be the bright new hope of Brazilian football, he was left out of Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad for the summer's World Cup, with the Daily Mail now linking him with a move to the new MLS franchise Orlando City.

Rio Ferdinand

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    Age has caught up with Rio Ferdinand, a fine defender in his day but one who now finds himself at Harry Redknapp's Queens Park Rangers, the home of the has-been.

    Ferdinand will be 36 in November and was released by Manchester United this summer after 12 years' service. He's still got something to offer, but he isn't the player he once was. 


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    Some will argue that the now former Brazil forward is a "never has been," but Fred had a decent spell at Lyon and has scored goals in Brazil throughout his career.

    The World Cup showcased his lack of quality at the very top level, though, and as he bows out of international football for good, there aren't many Brazilians who are going to miss him.

Diego Forlan

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    As was made pretty clear during the tournament, Uruguay started and ended their World Cup without the services of Luis Suarez.

    On both occasions the new Barcelona forward was replaced in the team by Diego Forlan, the Golden Ball winner at the last World Cup in 2010 but now a pale shadow of his former self who is seeing out his career in Japan. 

    He didn't fare well.

Nemanja Vidic

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    Injuries seem to have caught up with Nemanja Vidic, who was allowed to leave Manchester United this summer without much effort from the club to get him to stay.

    Vidic is moving to Inter Milan, and perhaps the slower pace of the game in Serie A with suit a defender who seemed to find Premier League forwards harder and harder to keep up with.

Samuel Eto'o

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    It was a miserable World Cup for Samuel Eto'o, who only managed to feature in Cameroon's first game of the tournament before succumbing to injury.

    The forward performed admirably at Chelsea last season but is now on the lookout for a new club, and it appears as though age has finally caught up to him.

Julio Cesar

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    A couple of penalty saves in Brazil's second-round World Cup win over Chile briefly made goalkeeper Julio Cesar a national hero four years on from errors against the Netherlands, but he was soon to come back down to earth with a bump.

    Cesar conceded seven goals to Germany in the semi-finals, and after going out on loan to Toronto FC last season he is unlikely to be seen in the Queens Park Rangers side this time around.

Michael Carrick

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    Like many at Manchester United, Michael Carrick had a season to forget in the last campaign, with his underperformance resulting in his missing out on England's World Cup squad.

    Too often far too pedestrian in midfield, Carrick was frequently overrun by stronger and quicker opponents, and after picking up an injury ahead of starting pre-season under new United boss Louis van Gaal, he could find it tough to get back in the team. 

Landon Donovan

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    There was widespread shock when it was announced that Landon Donovan had been left out of the USA squad for the World Cup, but the USMNT's performances in Brazil underlined just why he wasn't there.

    They were all about youthful promise and vigour, both of which Donovan doesn't have any more, and it is easy to see just why he was left out.

Michael Essien

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    After featuring in Ghana's defeat to the USA in their first match at the World Cup, midfielder Michael Essien wasn't seen again as his barnstorming, strong midfield displays of the past are now a distant memory.

    Still just 31, Essien has one more year on his contract at AC Milan having joined them from Chelsea in January, but having been so restricted by injuries in recent years, it is highly unlikely that he'll star in Serie A.

Iker Casillas

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    Other than being saved by his team-mates in the Champions League final, the last few months have been a nightmare for Iker Casillas.

    Everything came to a head as the Spain captain had an absolutely shocking World Cup, ensuring that those who question why Real Madrid pick Diego Lopez ahead of him for league games were finally given their answer.

Joe Cole

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    You have to wonder what Aston Villa were thinking when they gave a two-year contract to the 32-year-old Joe Cole this summer, especially as the midfielder hasn't really shown anything in four years to warrant it.

    Once a fine player for Chelsea and England, things started unravelling for Cole after he joined Liverpool on a free transfer in 2010. He was sent off on his debut, picked up countless injuries and has never been the same since.


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    Once the world's most expensive player, Kaka is now a shadow of his former self and on the move again after his second spell at AC Milan came to an end.

    The 32-year-old Brazilian has joined the new Orlando City MLS franchise after leaving Italy, but he'll play for first club Sao Paulo on loan until 2015.


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    Surprisingly chosen over Dani Alves in Brazil's latter games at what became a disastrous World Cup for the hosts, Maicon is now a long way away from the "best right-back in the world" tag he used to hold in the eyes of many.

    The soon-to-be 33-year-old did have a decent season with Roma in the last campaign, but most of the pace and dynamism has gone from his game, and he appears to just be living out his days as a footballer with little fanfare.

Frank Lampard

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    After his disappointing World Cup, there will be plenty claiming that Steven Gerrard could be worth a place on this list, but the England captain was just nominated for the PFA Player of the Year.

    Frank Lampard, two years Gerrard's senior, has just left Chelsea, however, and is seeing the curtain come down on what has been a fine career by making a move to one of the world's less-demanding divisions.

Didier Drogba

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    On his day one of the most explosive and powerful forwards in the world, Didier Drogba is now getting less and less effective the older he gets.

    True, he did help turn the game against Japan in the Ivory Coast's favour when he came on in the World Cup, but having left Galatasaray and ahead of a potential move back to Chelsea, he's hardly the force he once was.

Nicolas Anelka

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    Now without a club having left West Bromwich Albion following the controversial "quenelle" gesture, Nicolas Anelka finds his career winding down in much controversy.

    The 35-year-old has represented the likes of Arsenal, Real Madrid, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool, Manchester City, Chelsea and Juventus during a rich and varied career, but it is a career that could end with retirement very soon.

Shay Given

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    Still contracted to Aston Villa at the age of 38, Shay Given's place in the team has long been taken by Brad Guzan, forcing him to make a loan move to Middlesbrough last season in search of regular football.

    When Given left Newcastle for Manchester City in 2009, he was regarded as arguably the best goalkeeper in the Premier League. However, since being usurped by Joe Hart at the start of his second full season his career has never really been the same.

Shaun Wright-Phillips

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    Now 32, the career of Shaun Wright-Phillips has stalled dramatically ever since he broke through at Manchester City and made a £21 million move to Chelsea in 2005.

    Capped 36 times by England, Wright-Phillips is a player who certainly achieved much in his career, but you get the feeling he could have done so much more.


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    One of the greatest players of his generation, Ronaldinho is now 34 and seeing his career fade away in Brazil.

    Having played for Atletico Mineiro since 2012, he renewed his contract with the club in January and seems happy to keep on playing in his home country instead of making a move back to Europe, where he thrilled the crowds playing for Paris Saint-Germain, Barcelona and AC Milan.

Damien Duff

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    Having left Fulham, former Blackburn, Chelsea and Newcastle winger Damien Duff has moved on to Australia, where he'll see out his career with the new Melbourne City club.

    The Irishman was regarded as one of the best wide men in the Premier League in the early 2000s, something that prompted Chelsea to spend £17 million on his in 2003. He won two league titles at Stamford Bridge.

Alvaro Recoba

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    Still playing at the age of 38, former Inter Milan star Alvaro Recoba is back in his native Uruguay with Nacional.

    Recoba won two Serie A titles and the UEFA Cup while with Inter, developing a reputation as one of Serie A's most watchable players.

Emile Heskey

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    Having left A-League side Newcastle Jets, Emile Heskey is a free agent again, but not many clubs seem interested in snapping up the 36-year-old.

    Once an effective player for club and country, the former Liverpool and England forward has now been linked with a move to League One side Leyton Orient by a local newspaper.

Marcos Senna

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    Now playing in the North American Soccer League for the New York Cosmos, Marcos Senna was a vital player for Spain when they first tasted tournament success at Euro 2008.

    Brazilian-born, Senna's calmness in midfield allowed for the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta to shine, and he spent 11 years at Villarreal helping the club from obscurity to the brink of the Champions League final.