20 Starlets Whose Stock Has Plummeted in the 2016-17 Season
It has become part and parcel of football to spot a young, prodigious talent and begin imagining the feats they might achieve. Alexander Isak is the next Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Romelu Lukaku was the next Didier Drogba...positive comparisons fuel positive narratives, and we latch onto them as football fans.
But sometimes careers don't go to plan. Even at 20 or 21 years of age, alarming slides can occur and players' stocks can fall through the floor. That, sadly, is the focus of this article: players who have promised so much, yet in 2016-17 have taken at least one step backward.
Only players who will be 21 or younger by June 1, 2017 are eligible, and the players are ranked in accordance with how far they've fallen.
20. Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Chelsea
Perhaps now Oscar and Mikel John Obi have departed for China, Ruben Loftus-Cheek will get a little more game time. He's getting a run out in the FA Cup, which is great, but if Chelsea exit the competition and manager Antonio Conte does not wish to play him in the league, his season is over.
Despite signing a long-term contract in 2016, his stock has fallen since the Blues made their latest managerial switch. Conte's 3-4-3 system requires immense discipline and tactical understanding from its two central midfielders—traits that Loftus-Cheek has not showcased as yet.
Many remain unsure as to what position he even plays, given he spent a chunk of pre-season playing as a support striker. There are so many questions regarding Loftus-Cheek, and the fact that Chelsea have so few games to play means the player is unable to answer them.
19. Jason Denayer, Sunderland (on Loan from Manchester City)
Jason Denayer's loan move to Sunderland this season hasn't gone well. He and Manchester City might have been hoping for a Nathan Ake-AFC Bournemouth-style marriage, but so far it's been anything but.
Denayer's been moved around the pitch, playing at centre-back, full-back and holding midfield. On occasions, he's done just fine; on others, he's struggled.
Playing for a club fighting relegation is hard, and he hasn't been able to gain traction in any position, as injuries to other squad members necessitates manager David Moyes' chopping and changing.
While this hardly represents curtains for Denayer's career, his 2016-17 tape is not one City manager Pep Guardiola will watch and think, "I have to fit this guy into my plans for next year."
18. Ruben Duarte, Espanyol
Last season, Ruben Duarte broke out, making 21 La Liga starts for Espanyol and impressing with some assured play from left-back.
But this season, he has just a single start to his name, having failed to break back into the team following some niggling injuries earlier in the campaign.
In his place, 19-year-old Aaron Martin Caricol has stepped, and it's clear now that Quique Sanchez Flores prefers the new boy to the old (we say old, but remember that Duarte is only 21).
17. Zakaria Bakkali, Valencia
Despite the many injury issues Valencia have faced in the striker and wing positions this season, Zakaria Bakkali is yet to start a La Liga game. He has 145 minutes to his name, but they're borne from 10 substitute appearances.
It's the latest sad chapter in what has been an incredibly alarming career to date. Bakkali, now 21, broke out in style in 2013-14 with PSV Eindhoven but has since tailed off dramatically, with behavioural issues plaguing what could have been a stunning few years.
Los Che are an unstable club at the moment, so it's not surprising that he's been unable to rehabilitate there. Joining Valencia was one of many questionable decisions he's made in the last two years.
16. Lys Mousset, AFC Bournemouth
Few in England knew anything about Lys Mousset when he joined AFC Bournemouth last summer, and given the fact he hasn't started a single Premier League game yet, we remain none the wiser as to how he plays, what his style is, or even remotely how good he is.
The French striker isn't happy about that, understandably; he criticised Eddie Howe in December when speaking to Paris-Normandie (h/t ESPN FC), suggesting he'd broken a promise about involvement in the game against Southampton earlier that month.
Perhaps, in light of Callum Wilson's season-ending injury, he'll make a few more squads from here on.
15. Brendan Galloway, West Bromwich Albion (on Loan from Everton)
Managers need to be very, very careful when considering whether or not to loan players to West Bromwich Albion manager Tony Pulis. He doesn't seem to play them much.
Brendan Galloway is the latest in a line of players (that features Serge Gnabry) who have joined up with him and not featured. Everton will likely be irritated that Galloway is on the bench every week, having made just three league appearances—all of which came before the close of September.
There's a chance the young defender learns plenty from Pulis' coaching, but wouldn't it have just been better to have him train under Everton boss Ronald Koeman—one of the best centre-backs this world has ever seen—and under veteran Ashley Williams?
14. Hervin Ongenda, PEC Zwolle
Back in April 2014, this writer was sat in the Parc des Princes stands as Hervin Ongenda entered the fray against Stade de Reims. It was three days after Paris Saint-Germain had beaten Chelsea in the Champions League and then-boss Laurent Blanc was testing out some of his star youngsters.
Ongenda was viewed as one of the finest players ever to emerge from PSG's academy, with his blend of close control and small, muscular frame making for a bullet-like presence in attacking midfield.
But senior football's been tough for him; he only scored one goal for his beloved PSG, spent half a year on loan with Bastia goalless and now finds himself at PEC Zwolle on a permanent deal.
13. Riechedly Bazoer, Wolfsburg
Things went sour for Riechedly Bazoer at Ajax in 2016.
Ruud Gullit alleged that manager Peter Bosz informed the player's agent that he would have no need of him in 2016-17, per Football-Oranje.com, and then backed this up by only giving him 236 Eredivisie minutes.
Bazoer, seen as one of Ajax's top prospects during his rise in 2015, had been stymied by Frank de Boer's negative tactics, and when Bosz came in, he wasn't given the chance to open his game back up.
A €12 million January move to Wolfsburg gives him the chance to resurrect his career, but he hasn't joined a club in serene, calm waters. You could argue Bazoer should be higher on this list given his potential, but the fact Die Wolfe made the move proves there's still belief in him out there.
12. Adalberto Penaranda, Malaga (on Loan from Watford)
So far, 2016-17 has been a complete waste of a season for Adalberto Penaranda.
He joined Watford from Granada last summer with a reputation as one of the finest young South American forwards around, but understandably, he was sent out on loan as his skill set is quite raw. Udinese might have been an easy choice given the Pozzo family runs both Watford and the Zebrette, but Penaranda barely played and has now been sent to Malaga.
Things have improved—he's close to surpassing his league-minutes total in Serie A (156) in Liga Liga (148) already—but six crucial months of improvement time have been wasted. Those who heard his name mentioned in the summer as a future star have forgotten who he is.
11. Kenedy, Chelsea
Kenedy's loan move to Watford this season was a complete disaster. He made one appearance that lasted 15 minutes off the bench, then was recalled in December by Conte.
Appearing for the Blues in the FA Cup against Brentford put paid to any chances of him embarking on a second loan this season, and he'll now have to make do with a role that will leave him out of the 18-man matchday squad on most occasions.
We're not even sure what his best position is at this point. Advertised as a forward who can play centrally or wide, former Blues boss Jose Mourinho used him as a left-back more often than not.
10. Max Meyer, Schalke
Max Meyer was part of an excellent Germany side at the Rio 2016 Olympics, with his slick movement and good passing impressing in a very, very strong midfield.
There were many who hoped Meyer would use that tournament as a springboard to greater things at Schalke, but while he has, in fact, played plenty of football (over 1,000 Bundesliga minutes this season), he's kind of just...faded into the background.
We're talking about a player who was fancied to reach Julian Draxler's level and beyond when he came through. Now, when Schalke's good young players are discussed, it's Johannes Geis, Leon Goretzka and Nabil Bentaleb who are mentioned, not Meyer.
9. Ruben Neves, FC Porto
Back in August 2014, when Ruben Neves made his FC Porto debut and became the youngest to do so, big things were being dreamed up for him. By 2017, he was expected to be a Portuguese national starter and leader of FCP—if he hadn't already gone to Real Madrid, that is.
But right now, Neves' stock is falling; he's struggling to start for FCP, and it's been a while since he played for his nation. He didn't make the Euro 2016 squad because, frankly, there were so many other, better central-midfield options to choose from. He didn't even play much at the under-21 Euros the year before either.
8. Sinan Kurt, Hertha Berlin
Sinan Kurt signed for Bayern Munich at 18 years of age for a fee reported by Express (h/t Bavarian Football Works) to be €2.5 million in 2014, but last month, he departed the club for Hertha Berlin without much fanfare.
Kurt's one and only senior Bayern Munich appearance came against Hertha and didn't amount to much. According to FCB.tv (via Goal.com), he had shirked the idea of defending (not a good thing to do when Pep Guardiola is in charge), and sporting director Matthias Sammer also told of how Kurt boasted to the youth squad about how good he is during his time there.
Those are not attractive traits, and it comes as little surprise that Bayern have moved him on. Kurt needs to rebuild his own career and image in Berlin.
7. Bartosz Kapustka, Leicester City
We're yet to see Bartosz Kapustka play in the Premier League. Signed from Cracovia last summer after an incredibly impressive campaign with Poland at Euro 2016, the best we've been given was 81 underwhelming minutes against Derby County in the FA Cup.
Leicester City have been unable to send him out on loan this year because he can't play for three clubs in the same season, meaning a chance for him to go and play has been squandered. That said, maybe his chance will arrive at the King Power Stadium from here, as Claudio Ranieri admitted after last weekend's Swansea City defeat that he'd been too loyal to last season's heroes, per the Guardian.
6. Alen Halilovic, Las Palmas (on Loan from Hamburg)
Alen Halilovic is on loan at Las Palmas from parent club Hamburg. Three years ago, had you told us this would transpire, you'd have been laughed out of the room.
But that's what has happened, and it neatly marks the fall of the diminutive Croatian this season. Two Hamburg managers didn't want much to do with him this season despite the fact the club are embroiled in their usual relegation fight, so what does that suggest?
Halilovic is a dainty little playmaker who showed real promise at Sporting Gijon last season. Where has that kid gone?
5. Gerson, Roma
Gerson flashed brilliance at Fluminense during 2016, convincing Roma to splash €15 million on him. On paper, it seemed the perfect transfer, as the Giallorossi have consistently shown aptitude in plucking talents from South America and fashioning them into stars.
But with just 132 Serie A minutes under his belt this season and a failed attempt to move him to Lille on loan during January, it hasn't been the dream move many anticipated.
Gerson has plenty to prove to Luciano Spalletti and the club this year, but first, he's got to earn the chance to grab a bit of playing time among some brilliant players.
4. Jordon Ibe, AFC Bournemouth
Jordon Ibe's £15 million move to AFC Bournemouth last summer raised a fair few eyebrows. Eddie Howe's record in the transfer market isn't that good, and this was a lot of money to stake on a prospect.
The knock on Ibe's game at Liverpool was that while he dribbled a lot and flashed eye-popping quickness in the process, he didn't do it in the right areas, frequently made bad decisions at the end of them and rarely threatened the goal.
That hasn't changed on the south coast, but what has changed is the perception of the player. Ibe is no longer an academy graduate whose mistakes are forgiven; he's a £15 million man whose errors attract collective sighs of grief.
3. Gabriel Barbosa, Inter Milan
Why has it gone so wrong for him at Inter Milan? Is he willing to give up easily, suggesting a lack of fight? In December, his former club Santos' president Modesto Roma told Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t ESPN FC) that "if it were up to him, he would already be training with us," intimating an exit is already firmly on the player's mind.
Talent doesn't disappear overnight, and Gabigol is just 20 years of age. There's a road back for him at Inter, but it hasn't been a happy story for him since he won gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
2. Dominic Solanke, Chelsea
Dominic Solanke was once the apple of Chelsea's eye. He scored more than 40 goals in 2014-15, has two FA Youth Cups to his name and a Europa League winner's medal, too.
But 2016-17 has been a complete waste for him, and he's going to leave the Blues at the end of this season, according to the Telegraph. Tammy Abraham is the youth striker Chelsea fans celebrate now.
Solanke, still just 19, has time on his side, but he may have to take a sizeable step down the footballing ladder in order to begin making his way back up.
1. Luke Shaw, Manchester United
According to The Independent's Miguel Delaney, Luke Shaw could be on his way out of Old Trafford this summer. Without a Premier League appearance to his name in months, it's been clear for a while Mourinho doesn't trust him.
It wasn't long ago that Manchester United dropped in the region of £30 million on the left-back, with his blistering form for Southampton under Mauricio Pochettino catching the eye of many. His blend of physical defending and powerful attacking hinted at a complete package.
But Mourinho has put the finishing touches on one of the biggest falls from grace in recent memory. He doesn't include Shaw in his matchday squads at all anymore, preferring Daley Blind, Marcos Rojo or Matteo Darmian there while likely perusing the market for a summer addition.
Where he goes is a difficult question to answer, as Manchester United will likely refuse to sell to rival domestic clubs, and the price tag will rule out a number of continental options, but a move of some form must materialise if Shaw is to realise his vast potential.
All statistics via WhoScored.com