Top 10 Players Who Never Reached Their Potential with Madrid and Barcelona
Starting this weekend, fans of football will get to witness four El Clasico matches before the end of the year. The league meeting at the Bernabéu, The Copa del Rey Final, and a home-and-away tie in the Champions League semi-finals.
Some of the most talented professionals have graced the Camp Nou and the Bernabéu. Ronaldo, Beckham, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho are examples of the types of talent associated with these historic and dominant sides.
The illustrious history of these two clubs is well known, and their style of play and market appeal spans the globe.
However, as highly regarded as these clubs are, Madrid and Barcelona for some reason or another also boast a high record for having young and promising players fail to live up to their potential.
Maybe its the pressure, the price tag, or in some cases the attitude of the player. Some of the most sought-after youngsters have donned the colors of Madrid and Barcelona, only to fail to live up to the hype.
At one point or another, many of these players were considered "the next big thing," only to be found playing in Greece or Turkey sooner rather than later.
One thing is certain, after leaving for greener pastures in Spain, many players found out the cold hard truth. The grass is not always greener on the other side.
Here is the list of the top 10 players who never quite made it with Madrid and Barcelona.
Ricardo Quaresma – Barcelona 2003-2004
Clive Mason/Getty Images
Ricardo Quaresma joined Barcelona in 2003 from Sporting Lisbon after mesmerizing audiences with his trickery and flair. A string of promising performances prompted Barcelona to spend 6 million on the gifted 20-year-old.
Under the guidance of Frank Rijkaard, Quaresma failed to replicate the same form in his native Portugal.
The egotistical Portuguese felt that his time under Rijkaard was being jilted, which prompted Quaresma to declare that he would not be willing to play for Barcelona as long as Rijkaard was in charge.
Quaresma's power play did not pay off, as he was sent back to Portugal to play for FC Porto the following summer.
After four years of his self-absorbed and arrogant performances, Inter Milan overpaid by about 18.6 million to land Quaresma. Quaresma spent much of his time from 2008-2010 rotting in the reserves in Italy, and a brief cameo on Chelsea's bench.
Often the question surrounding Ricardo Quaresma is "what could have been?" Unfortunately, many will never see the 27-year-old's potential.
Currently playing for Besiktas in the Turkish league, Quaresma can now be found entertaining easily amused fans with YouTube highlights, and a barrage of step-overs.
Jonathan Woodgate: Real Madrid 2004-2006
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Jonathan Woodgate signed for Real Madrid in August 2004 for a transfer fee of £13.4 million. Many viewed this as a surprise, simply because Woodgate was constantly injured during his time at Leeds United and Newcastle United. At the time of his transfer, Woodgate was also injured.
Woodgate failed to make any appearances for Real Madrid during his first year, as injuries kept him sidelined.
Woodgate got around to making his debut on Sept. 22, 2005, in a league match against Athletic Bilbao. The game didn't go very well for him, and he embarrassed himself by scoring an own goal and was later sent off for a second bookable offense.
In the summer of 2006, Woodgate was signed by Middlesbrough for a one-year loan deal. The following summer, the deal was made permanent.
In July 2007, Woodgate was voted the worst signing of the 21st century by users of the website of Spain's leading sports daily Diario Marco, polling 37 percent of the votes cast.
Juan Román Riquelme- Barcelona 2002-2003
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
After seven seasons with Boca Juniors, Barcelona decided to purchase the 20 year old Argentinian for a fee reported to be around 11 million.
Then coach Louis van Gaal described Riquelme as a "political signing." The move was a failure and was a signing that came from within the club, not his, and he treated the new arrival with indifference. On the rare occasions Riquelme played, it was usually out of position on one of the flanks.
It is hardly Riquelme's fault for failing to find his form in Barcelona, but when he did play he never recaptured the form which saw Barcelona seal his signature.
Riquelme described his move to Villarreal the following year as a rescue to him and his career.
Michael Owen- Real Madrid 2004-2005
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
After making a name for himself as one of the greatest English strikers of the modern game at Liverpool, Michael Owen failed to replicate the same form at Madrid.
Owen often drew criticisms for his lack of form and constant injuries. Owen was often relegated to the bench despite scoring 16 goals in 45 games.
The arrival of Julio Baptista and Robinho put speculation around Owen's future in doubt. The summer of 2005 Owen was sold to Newcastle United and has still failed to recapture the form of his early years for England and Liverpool.
Alexandr Hleb – Barcelona 2008 – Currently on Loan at Birmingham
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Alexandr Hleb had what every footballer could want. A lucrative contract, and an important role in a top team. However, Hleb bought into the hype and believed he was better than he actually was. The lure of trophies, fame and success prompted Hleb to make a decision he must surely regret.
At Barcelona Hleb was not a star, and had no important role in the team. He has since then joined Stuttgart and Birmingham City on loan deals, where he has still failed to feature regularly. Hleb has bemoaned his decisions to leave Arsenal and expressed his regret in leaving the north London club.
Barcelona still owns Hleb's contract, but he is unlikely to return to the Blaugranes.
Thomas Gravesen – Real Madrid 2005 -2006
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Danish tough tackling midfielder Thomas Gravesen, joined Madrid following the 2000 European Championships. A successful spell for Everton prompted Madrid to move for the holding midfielder.
Gravesen took his new found role at Madrid, and went slightly over board with it. With Madrid Gravesen racked up 17 yellows and two red cards. It's safe to say Gravesen ended up being slightly crazy and often took his destructive role to the next level.
Los Blancos eventually ended their interest in the ruthless, borderline reckless Dane. Gravesen sealed his own fate when he cracked Robinho in a pre-season training session. The following day Gravesen found himself in a different atmosphere and climate, employed by Celtic.
Fabio Rochemback – Barcelona 2001 – 2005
Firo Foto/Getty Images
Brazilian footballer Fabio Rochemback joined Barcelona following a string of impressive performances at Sport Club Internacional in Brazil. Rochemback possed the ability to shoot from anywhere on the pitch, and he often did which prompted Barcelona to spend 8 million to acquire his services.
19 year old Rochemback was billed as being the successor to Pep Guardiola, however things failed to take off for the attacking Portuguese play-maker.
A loan spell at Sporting Lisbon and a stint with Middlesbrough, before returning back to Sporting Lisbon, took Rochemback to Gremio in Brazil where he is currently still trying to hit the target from anywhere on the pitch.
Julio Baptista – Real Madrid 2005 -2008
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Julio Baptista, or "the Beast", made a name for himself as a attacking midfielder at Sevilla, his 50 goals in two seasons, and physical fitness prompted Madrid to pay 20 million to land the promising young Brazilian.
At the Bernabeu, the Beast was often played out of position, and was forced to make room for the more marketable Galacticos like Zinedine Zidane and Guti.
After a string of unimpressive performances for Madrid, Baptista's career failed to pick up again despite transfers to Arsenal and Roma. Baptista has now come full circle to La Liga, but now back with relegation battling Malaga.
Geovanni – Barcelona 2001 – 2003
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images
Geovanni was full of promise and potential, but the 21 million Barcelona shelled out on the talented 21 year old failed to materialize into anything.
The Brazilian midfielder fell off the radar before he enjoyed the best years of his footballing career playing for Hull City seven years later.
Antonio Cassano- Real Madrid 2006-2008
Denis Doyle/Getty Images
Antonio Cassano had a history of trouble at Roma but his performances often allowed him remain in good standings. Madrid still decided to gamble on the 23 year old Cassano in hopes that they would be able to unlock the Italians potential.
However, four months into his tenure with the club, he began gaining weight due to poor eating habits. Madrid began fining him for every gram he remained over his playing weight.
Following his weight fines, he was suspended for disrespecting then coach Fabio Capello. Numerous public outbursts about Real Madrid, saw president Ramon Calderon state that Cassano's behavior had become disastrous and unacceptable, and that Cassano would soon be departing the club.