Unfulfilled promise

With the official resumption of the summer transfer window looming and Manchester City beginning to flex their buying muscles with a recent £25 million bid for Raheem Sterling, it looks like Liverpool will have a hard time keeping him. 
However, seeing as he wants to leave. it might be a good time to cash in on him. After all, it is only potential that they would be selling; a commodity which – as the careers of these players have shown – has the potential to flop.
Francis Jeffers
Younger readers may not remember this ”cult hero” who began his career so brightly on the blue half of Merseyside. With 18 goals in 49 games for Everton, it prompted Arsene Wenger to put his hand in his pocket and fork out a hefty £8 million to bring the England-born striker to Arsenal in the summer of 2001.
However, with the likes of Thierry Henry, Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord ahead of him in the pecking order, it was never going to be easy for him to break through and cement a starting place. 
Plenty of injuries didn’t help him either, but Jeffers admits himself that that was no excuse as he was “tossing it off in training because he always thought he wouldn’t play on Saturday”.
It wasn’t all bad for him though during his time at Arsenal. He did manage to pick up his first international cap – alongside Wayne Rooney – and bag England’s only goal coming off the bench at half-time in a 3-1 defeat to Australia.
Unfortunately for him, it was to be a case of what might have been as six months later his Arsenal career ended, with his last appearance coming against Manchester United in the 2003 Community Shield Final. As a second-half substitute, he lasted 12 minutes before being given his marching orders; an ominous sign as where his future lay.
He returned to Everton on loan for a season but failed to score in 18 league appearances suggesting his better days were most definitely behind him.
And that was to be the case as in the nine years that followed – including brief spells in Australia and Malta – he was only able to add 22 goals (in all competitions) bringing his career total to 52; a sad and lamentable end to the career of a player who still holds the joint record alongside Alan Shearer for most England U21 goals scored.
Michael Johnson
The name may ring bells with some people, but for others he is completely unknown, as if he never existed and fell straight from the face of the earth. And in some ways he did.
Given his debut at 18 by former Manchester City boss Stuart Pearce, he showed promise as a central midfielder featuring on ten occasions in his first senior year. Natural progression ensued the following year and he lined out for the Citizens 25 times (scoring twice) with an abdominal injury mid-season being the only reason he didn’t notch up many more appearances.
But it was a re-occurrence of that abdominal injury and a knee problem that meant this young English starlet tipped for greater things would never see those dizzy heights.
He dawned the light blue jersey nine more times before switching it for a darker shade when he went to the Championship on loan with Leicester City in his final full season.
But even that was cut short by injury and a 1-0 defeat by Leeds was to be his curtain call; he was released 13 months later after his fitness levels diminished and he suffered with mental health issues having been arrested for drink-driving three times within the space of six months.
At 18 Breno had the world at his feet. He was lauded as one of the best young defensive talents in the world and was snapped up by Bayern Munich for €12 million as a long-term replacement for his compatriot Lucio.
The German hills weren’t as green as he thought they’d be though. His struggles with the German language and his difficulty with adapting to a new lifestyle contributed to what were limited first-team chances and ultimately frustrated him.
Having appeared in just eight league matches for Bayern in a two year period he was sent out on loan to FC Nurnberg for the remainder of the 2009/10 season.
Things seemed to be looking up for him as a string of impressive performances showcased the reason Munich bought him in the first place. Disastrously for the Brazilian though, he sustained damage to his anterior cruciate ligament in early March which ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
He never got back to his best and a knee injury at the end of the 2010/11 season didn’t help his cause. His arrest for aggravated arson in September of 2011 finally signaled that his career in Germany was over.
He was sentenced 10 months later to almost four years in prison – the defense lawyer’s claims that he was depressed and drinking heavily having limited effect on the decision.
Having got out early on good behaviour, he is now on the books at his first club Sao Paulo and at 25 he may still be able to redeem his once potentially great, but now tarnished name.
Alexandre Pato
It is funny to think that such a formidable prodigy was reportedly offered to newly relegated QPR during the January transfer window gone. This is the same player who netted 63 times in 150 appearances for AC Milan in a five-and-a-half year stint.
Labelled the ”new Zico” by the Italian press, it was all to go wrong for this fresh-faced 17-year-old. He had to wait six months after his £20 million move to make his debut due to EU regulations, but it was worth the wait.
He managed to hit the back of the net in his first appearance for the club against Napoli and two weeks later scored twice in front of the home fans as Milan ran at 2-0 winners over Genoa. He added six more goals to that tally before the season was out and it seemed like the Rossoneri had a gem for the future.
He kept up his good form scoring almost a goal every other league game (41 in 84) in his first three full seasons at the club. However it was to be a vicious cocktail of injuries and a party lifestyle that would halt his progress.
Multiple muscles injuries, plus a highlife relationship with club owner Silvio Berlusconi’s daughter, Barbara, limited him to only 15 league appearances in two years where he only could score once; a dramatic fall from grace for an innocent teenager who wore braces as he smiled on his arrival in Italy from Brazil.
And that is where he returned back to after six years with the club and while his goalscoring record is credible since his move home over two years ago – a goal every 161 minutes – his reputation is not.
Bojan Krkic
In an era where Barcelona dominated club football while Spain held a firm foothold on the international scene, Bojan entered the record books by becoming the youngest ever Barca player (overtaking Messi) and the third youngest to play for La Roja.
One could have been forgiven for thinking that the 17-year-old was a surefire thing to replace a slowly aging Samuel Eto’o back in 2008, especially considering he had just finished his debut season with 10 league goals in 31 appearances (14 starts).
Surprisingly, that was the peak of his career in terms of goals scored and his decline is somewhat inexplicable. With a miserly record of two league goals, followed by eight the following season and six thereafter meant he was deemed surplus to requirements at Barca before agreeing to move to Roma in a deal with various buyout and buyback clauses.
While showing glimpses of form, he failed to impress and returned to Barca by means of a obligatory €13 million buyback. He then had consecutive season-long loan spells at AC Milan and Ajax respectively showing that his best days were behind him.
These days he can be found at the Britannia Stadium with Stoke City trying to resuscitate a career that promised so much.
Freddy Adu
No list of unfulfilled potential would be complete without this man. At 14 – and while other lads his age were still gaining the courage to talk to girls – he was a first draft pick for DC United in the MLS, thus making him the youngest ever person to be handed a major league professional sports contract in the US.
This came on the back of scoring four goals in the FIFA U17 World Championship, a competition which he shouldn’t really have featured in, let alone begin to make a name for himself for at least another two years. But he did, and the midfielder continued his impressive rise to fame with 11 goals and 17 assists in three seasons and 87 appearances for the Washington based club.
He arrived on European shores in 2007 – via a brief stop at American side Real Salt Lake – and expectations were high; the $2 million that Benfica shelled out for him didn’t even come close to reflecting the confidence in his future talents.
There was to be no future talents though and it was almost as if he was just another American tourist in his four years in Europe playing in Portugal, France, Greece and Turkey, but never setting anything alight.
Following these stints, the homeland called him back where he lined out for Philadelphia Union for two years. However, it wasn’t so much a case of a prodigal son returning, but rather a down and out looking for a second chance.
It never really came and upon his release from Philadelphia he spent seven months at Bahia before being again released in November 2013. It was to be a further eight months before another club came looking for his services with Jagodina of Serbia coming to his rescue with a six month contract.
This deal expired and wasn’t renewed and like many that taste success at such a young and tender age only to fall from grace at a later stage, he entered the doldrums.
In March of this year he was picked up by mid-table Finish side KuPS on a one-year deal, a far cry from where he thought he would be at 26. It looks as though the hype that proceeded him has ultimately been to his detriment, meaning he will ultimately be remembered as an example of unfulfilled potential rather than the superstar many had predicted him to become.