25 World Football Players Bound For a Letdown This Season
The start of the football season will always be welcomed by those who are excited to see the World's greatest appear on stage again.
However, the likes of Lionel Messi will also be flanked by those who will fail to make the grade and those who promised so much early in their career, but have nevertheless started their decline.
These are the 25 footballers who are most likely to be a letdown this season.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy: CF Malaga
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Big spenders Malaga have been acquiring talent from all over Europe and specifically the Spanish Liga.
The former Real Madrid and Manchester United striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy, was brought in from Hamburg as the focal point of their attack.
From first impressions on their opening game against Seville, Van Nistelrooy will take some time to settle into this new-look Malaga side. He did not appear to link up well with Salomon Rondon and his age was certainly telling.
Unless his role in this side is an impact sub with a target of 10-12 goals over the course of the season, he will not come anywhere near the great heights achieved in the past.
Johan Djourou: Arsenal FC
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Johan Djourou formed a very promising partnership with Laurent Koscielny last season for Arsenal in the absence of Thomas Vermaelen.
This season, however, he has looked a shadow of the player he was.
The player really started to tail off towards the end of last season as Arsenal struggled to maintain a grip on the Premier League title. This pre-season and leading into their season, he made a number of amateurish mistakes, more so evident in Arsenal’s humiliating 8-2 loss to Manchester United.
With Arsene Wenger on the search for a new centre back and Vermaelen and Koscielny already forming a good partnership, it’s unlikely we’ll see Djourou given the game time he was allowed last year.
A player with all the right physical attributes to succeed as a defender, unfortunately does not have the mental capacity to handle the rough and tumble of a Premier League campaign.
Doni: Liverpool FC
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A player who for so long was the Roma No.1 goalkeeper, he is certain to be on the Liverpool bench for much of the season.
Liverpool have been short of a decent back-up to Pepe Reina for much of his career at Anfield, and picking up Doni on a free transfer will look like a good piece of business for the club.
For Doni, however, he may have laid to rest his career in the short-term, barring an unlikely freak injury to Reina.
An accomplished and experienced goalkeeper will no doubt be looking to be a starter for his club, and unfortunately Anfield is not the place Doni will get regular games.
Heurelho Gomes: Tottenham Hotspur
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Heurelho Gomes' ability as a goalkeeper has never been the topic for debate; it’s his lack of consistency and proneness for letting in incredibly soft goals.
Much of this was displayed in Tottenham’s loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League last season, allowing a Cristiano Ronaldo shot to slip out of his hands and into the Spurs net.
With the signing of 40-year-old Brad Friedel from Aston Villa, Spurs boss Harry Redknapp has surely signalled his lack of faith in Gomes.
Unless a transfer deadline-day can be secured to move Gomes away from White Hart Lane, it’s likely the player will spend much of the season on the sidelines.
Hamit Altintop: Real Madrid
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I’m sure I’m not the only onlooker who was left scratching his head when Real Madrid signed Hamit Altintop on a free transfer.
Not only does he not represent the glamour that is so favourable at Madrid, but he also has to force his way into a midfield that already has Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Nuri Sahin as guaranteed starters ahead of him.
His work-rate and commitment has never been in doubt, and maybe that’s what drew Jose Mourinho to signing the Turkish international.
But with mentions of a move to the Turkish league as soon as January, it’s unlikely Altintop will feature heavily for Madrid this season.
Jordan Henderson: Liverpool FC
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The problem with Jordan Henderson is not his ability; he is a bright, young England international who could have a successful future in the game.
However, it seems Liverpool have paid heavily for the player not knowing what their intention is for him.
Henderson has been deployed wide-right for Liverpool’s first few games of the season—a position often occupied by the industrious Dirk Kuyt.
But this role is unfamiliar to Henderson, playing largely through the middle for Sunderland.
With a price-tag in the region of £20 million, the expectations for Henderson will no doubt be high.
It will be down to Kenny Dalglish to get the best out of the player and find the winning formula to get him playing to his maximum potential.
Kaka: Real Madrid
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The former World Player of the Year and £56 million signing by Real Madrid has had a torrid time in Spain so far.
A season ridden by injury, Kaka could only make a handful of appearance last year for the club.
Along with the impressive form of both Angel Di Maria and Mesut Ozil, it will be a difficult road regaining his starting position even for a player of his calibre.
There have been a number of rumours linking with Kaka with a move away from Madrid, possibly to England, but the player and club insist he is going nowhere.
But unless Kaka can stay free of injury and manage to force his way into the Madrid starting 11, this will no doubt be another frustrating year for the Brazilian.
Joris Mathijsen: CF Malaga
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Another of Malaga’s summer signings, the player goes straight into the first team as centre back partner for Martin Demichelis.
The problem with the Mathijsen is that he is not the quickest, and with the calibre of player he will be facing in La Liga, there is a very real possibility the player could fail to live up to expectation.
Abou Diaby: Arsenal FC
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It is a mystery what exactly is going on with Abou Diaby.
The player has been absent from pre-season for Arsenal and there has not even been a mention of him by Arsene Wenger over the course of the summer.
The player was one who Wenger put huge faith in to, hoping he would fulfil his potential as a powerful, attack-minded midfielder.
The injury-ridden Frenchman, however, was on the treatment table for the majority of last season, and it now seems as though he is destined to fail to live up to the high expectations set by his manager.
Roman Pavlyuchenko: Tottenham Hotspur FC
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Even with the misfiring duo of Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe ahead of him, Roman Pavlyuchenko has failed to convince manager Harry Redknapp he is the man to lead Tottenham’s attack.
A player with undoubted ability as a strong finisher, he has often failed to deliver where Tottenham have been looking to close out games.
Now with the loan signing of Emmanuel Adebayor, Pavlyuchenko slips further down the pecking order and will be another who remains of the Tottenham bench for much of the season.
Kieron Dyer: QPR
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Just when it seemed someone was about to reinvest some faith in one of the most injury-prone players in recent memory, Kieron Dyer breaks down two minutes into his debut for the newly-promoted side.
Unfortunately for Dyer, his playing days may be coming to an end as yet another injury could see him miss a large part of the start of the season.
Joey Barton: QPR
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Another new signing for the London side, Barton will arrive at the club with many question marks over his ability to stay out of trouble.
His ability in the football pitch, however, has never come into much question, performing incredibly well for Newcastle last season, he was often the driving force for the team going forward.
However, all will be looking on to see if Barton can settle at his new club and not surround himself in controversy. That means avoid training ground bust-ups with team-mates, punching opponents and quite clearly badmouthing his employers on social-network sites.
Marouane Chamakh: Arsenal FC
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Another Arsenal player who has failed to live up to his early promise. Chamakh arrived at Arsenal last year as a free signing from French club Bordeaux.
He immediately hit the ground running, being the primary outlet for goals in the absence of Robin Van Persie.
However, the turn of the year saw a huge nose-dive in Chamakh’s performances.
It seemed as though the player had lost confidence in his ability and possibly the loss of form following Van Persie’s return was a contributing factor.
Going into this season, he has remained the shadow of his former-self, performing well below average in pre-season and prompting rumours of a move away from the Emirates.
Jerome Boateng: Bayern Munich
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While Jerome Boateng will be more than happy to return to Germany following an unsuccessful spell at Manchester City, he is not exactly what Bayern Munich have been looking for at centre back.
I don’t doubt Boateng’s ability to perform as a defender, but Bayern were desperately in search of a commanding, experienced centre back to partner Holgar Badstuber.
Boateng arrives at the club as a player often deployed as a full-back during his time at Manchester City and on the international stage for Germany.
He may not fail to perform for the Bundesliga giants, but he will certainly not rise to the expectations many had of a dominant leader at centre back.
Jonathan Woodgate : Stoke City
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Another player who’s career of late has been ridden by injury.
Jonathan Woodgate spent a lot of the last 18 months on the sidelines as a result of a number of injuries.
The player, who now arrives at Stoke City from Tottenham Hotspur, will be given a “pay-as-you-play” contract with an option to extend if he proves his fitness.
Most likely signed as a back-up to the first choice defenders at the club, Woodgate will struggle to have any impact at this team other than as a voice in the dressing room for their Europa League adventure.
Gareth Bale : Tottenham Hotspur FC
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It may come as a surprise to feature Gareth Bale in this list of players bound for a letdown, but since he won the award for Player of the Year in the Premier League, the whole world has gone quiet on the phenomenon that is Gareth Bale.
The player who terrorized Maicon in the Champions League last season was mooted as a big money signing for one of Europe’s giants.
But with a lot of the Spurs transfer talk focusing on the want-away Luka Modric, Bale has managed to get on with his football fairly comfortably.
Unfortunately, it seems he has not been able to reach the dizzying heights of last season as of yet, going almost unnoticed in Spurs’ match against Manchester United last week.
For me, this is a player who performed to those heights last year on adrenaline and pure excitement around his ability.
I don’t question his potential to play to that level again, but many will be left disappointed if they expect him to have a similar season once more.
Adam Johnson: Manchester City
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Adam Johnson may be one of those player that almost any team in the Premier League would love to have in their squad.
A flying winger with bags of ability and an eye for goal, he is someone who is seemingly at the wrong club if he wants to build on his talent.
While Johnson has never been one to sulk at being left out of a starting line-up, and will always put in a good shift when he does make an appearance, I fear that the lack of a “superstar” name on the back of his shirt will impede his progress at Manchester City.
With players like Samir Nasri, Sergio Aguero and David Silva ahead of him in the pecking order, Johnson will find it incredibly hard to make any kind of impression at the club.
Royston Drenthe: Real Madrid
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A player that promised so much at the European U21 tournament in 2007, he was loaned out to newly-promoted Hercules last season as Jose Mourinho could find no place for him in his squad.
Now with the signing of Fabio Coentrao from Benfica, the Dutch left-back finds himself without a squad number going into the season and with little sign of interest from other clubs.
Raphael Varane: Real Madrid
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A young, French centre back highly sought-after in Europe this summer chose to go to Real Madrid and ignore the advances from Manchester United and Arsenal.
How we may look back to this summer as the do or die moment for a prospect destined for big things.
Jose Mourinho has never been a manager who has looked to develop young players, opting rather for the established, experienced players in his squad.
Sergio Canales is evidence of a player who made the wrong move in deciding to sign for Real Madrid, barely getting a game for Los Blancos. The player now finds himself loaned out to Valencia and I fear Varane is destined for the same path.
When young players talk about signing for Real Madrid as the pinnacle of their careers, they should really look at establishing themselves at the top level at clubs that will allow them to reach their potential.
Hopefully the player will blossom into an outstanding centre back under the guide of Mourinho, but I fear he will be relegated to a place in the stands, hoping for a team to take him on loan at the next available opportunity.
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A player who was destined to follow other great Brazilian names and take Europe by storm, Diego unfortunately started the process of killing off his career by moving to Juventus in 2009.
He never really made the grade in Turin and quickly moved back to the Bundesliga the following year, signing for Wolfsburg.
Again, he has never really managed to display his ability as he did while at Werder Bremen, it’s likely that his time at Die Wolfe will be another short-lived affair with the player possibly moving to Atletico Madrid before the end of the transfer window.
Alex Hleb: CF Barcelona
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It remains to be seen whether Alex Hleb will ever manage to re-start his career following his career-suicide move to Barcelona in 2008.
Since then he has been loaned out to former club Stuttgart and Birmingham City—both unsuccessful spells.
Another loan may have to be on the cards for Hleb as he is nowhere near Pep Guardiola’s plans for this season.
And with one year remaining on his contract, he’ll do well to find a club willing to invest in a player who has had so little playing time over the past couple of years.
Carlos Vela: Real Sociedad
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Arriving in Spain for another loan spell from Arsenal, the Gunners forward really impressed the last time he was in Spain playing for Osasuna.
Never really able to force his way into the Arsenal starting 11 and appearing as a substitute every five games or so, Vela arrives at Real Sociedad as a focal point for their attack.
It may be that Vela is more suited to the Spanish Liga, with his small build and trickery never quite working in England.
But this is a player who will need to apply himself over the coarse of the season if he is ever going to achieve the promise he showed as a teenager.
Connor Wickham: Sunderland
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While Conor Wickham’s arrival at Sunderland may have gone seemingly under the radar, there will still be a lot of interest from those in England to see if the young player has what it takes to achieve on the big stage.
Playing in the Championship for Ipswich Town, and only just having turned 18, there will be a lot of pressure on Wickham—coupled with the £8 million price tag.
He is definitely not in the same class as Wayne Rooney or Michael Owen when they were his age, but he has potential to be a top striker for England in the future.
The real question is how will he adapt to the rigors of the Premier League and can Steve Bruce get the best out of him.
Kolo Toure: Manchester City
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Kolo Toure will return to the Manchester City setup this week following a six month suspension for failing a drugs test.
The real test for Toure will come as he tries to re-establish himself in the City starting line-up.
Vincent Kompany has been a revelation in the Premier League since his arrival and there is a lot to look forward to in young Stefan Savic.
Toure could end up going the way of his former team-mate Emmanuel Adebayor, seeking loan moves to get first team football.
A player who gave so much at Arsenal and took over captaincy at Manchester City may have a battle on his hands to convince Roberto Mancini he is the man to partner Vincent Kompany in defence.
Steven Gerrard: Liverpool FC
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It seems with all the transfer activity at Liverpool and the early hype about a sustained title challenge, any memory of Steven Gerrard has been shunned to the back of people’s minds.
He has been playing with a number of injuries over the past few seasons and that drive and ability he had to take Liverpool forward seem all but gone.
Along with injuries, the arrivals of players like Stewart Downing and Charlie Adam mean it will be difficult for the club captain to take back his starting position.
It looks like the days of Steven Gerrard screamers from 30 yards are all but over.