In this article I take an in-depth look at 12 players who never quite reached their full potential in their career.

Every league has them, be it the Premier League, Serie A or La Liga – players who were excelling at one point in their career, but then it all went horribly wrong. It could be for financial, personal or medical reasons, but the end result is still the same: they were not able to fulfil their potential and continue their fine form for a sustained period of time.


Hatem Ben Arfa

Hatem Ben Arfa is a French footballer who plays as a winger or an attacking midfielder for Ligue 1 club, Rennes, and the France national team. He’s most notably remembered for his time at Newcastle United. He has previously been described as “one of the best-rated talents in modern French football”. However, he has been criticised by the media and players alike for lacking discipline and having a poor attitude.

He had the potential to hit untold heights in English football, but a lucrative move away from the Magpies hindered his progress. Since then, we’ve not been able to see his ability shine through like what we know he can do.


Adel Taarabt

Adel Taarabt is a Moroccan professional footballer who plays as an attacking midfielder or as a winger for Portuguese side, Benfica B, and the Morocco national team. Previously at Queens Park Rangers, he excelled there, showcasing his silky skills, brilliant passing and a good shot.

Then, the big move to Spurs occurred and following that, like Ben Arfa, he hasn’t reached his full potential. Adel was a player who majorly frustrated fans. His ability was evident, but his attitude was something that many clubs couldn’t deal with.



Michu is a Spanish former professional footballer who played as a striker, notably for Swansea City. He had a dream season in 2012/13, scoring 18 times in 35 appearances. Following that, he seemed destined for Premier League greatness and a big move.

The following season, however, he couldn’t play like he previously did and went to Napoli, which didn’t work out. Following that, he became something of a nomadic striker, gradually falling down the levels of Spanish football.


Pappis Cissé

Papiss Demba Cissé is a Senegalese footballer who plays as a striker for Alanyaspor and the Senegal national team. At Newcastle United, he had a brilliant 2014/15 season, scoring 11 goals in 22 appearances.

His most famous goal came against Chelsea, an outrageous finish from an impossible angle with the outside of his foot. Then, as often happens, money called, and he moved away from the Premier League. Following the move away, he has been unable to build upon that previous form, and fulfil the potential many expected of him.


Odion Ighalo

Odion Jude Ighalo is a Nigerian professional footballer who plays as a striker for Chinese club Changchun Yatai and the Nigerian national team. During his spell at Watford, him and Troy Deeney had a brilliant partnership and terrorised many defences.

Ighalo scored 33 goals in 82 games and had the potential to score many more. He received offers from bigger Premier League clubs, where he could’ve progressed and played for a Champions League club. However, like Pappis Cissé, he decided to follow the money and leave the demands of England’s top division.


Bryan Ruiz

Bryan Ruiz is a Costa Rican professional footballer who plays for Brazilian club Santos and captains the Costa Rica national team. He’s a left-footed attacking midfielder and during his time at Fulham, him and Dempsey formed an unstoppable partnership.

He was blessed with a cultured left boot and scored and assisted regularly in a fairly average team. He went abroad after Fulham but nothing was ever heard of him after this.



Robinho is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays for Turkish club İstanbul Başakşehir as a striker. An extremely talented footballer who played for clubs such as Real Madrid, AC Milan and Manchester City, he is also known as a journeyman who followed the money.

He never settled in one place and concentrated on his football. He had all the attributes you could want to be a world class player, but his attitude along with personal, legal allegations against him, halted his progression.


Federico Macheda

Federico Macheda is an Italian professional footballer who plays as a forward for Superleague Greece club Panathinaikos. He most notably scored a brilliant finesse shot on his debut for Manchester United against Aston Villa when he was only eighteen years old.

He was part of a brilliant team consisting of Rooney, Ronaldo, Vidic, Van Der Sar etc, but he never took his opportunities after this and his talent was wasted.



Bojan is a Spanish footballer who plays as a forward or winger for Stoke City. He began his career at Barcelona after progressing through the youth ranks at La Masia.

Many people predicted him to be the next Messi as he has similar attributes to the Barcelona superstar. A lack of effort, however, along with an unwillingness to play when called upon has meant he’s not benefited from the media praise. He is now playing in the Championship, for Stoke City.


Alexandre Pato

Alexandre Pato is a Brazilian professional footballer who plays for Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian as a forward. Pato arrived in Italy from Internacional amidst a blaze of publicity in the summer of 2007, touted as the most exciting teenage talent in world football. He formed a wonderful attacking triumvirate with Ronaldo and Kaka.

Over the past seven seasons, Pato has been beset by injuries. In January, 2010 he became the first Brazilian to be named Serie A Young Player of the Year. Even by then, though, there was concern about how often he was struck down by muscular problems. When fit, Pato continued to sparkle – he netted 14 times in 25 Serie A appearances during the 2010-11 campaign. Sadly, he hasn’t been able to muster a better season since then, and now plies his trade in China.



Adriano, is a Brazilian professional footballer. A powerful striker known for his long range left footed strikes, Adriano’s career was however marked by inconsistency.

He had the potential to be the best striker of his generation, better than Brazilian Ronaldo. Unfortunately, a combination of injuries along with poor attitude meant he never went on to be a world class, consistent player maybe expected him to be.



Denílson Pereira Neves is a Brazilian footballer who plays for Cruzeiro on loan from Al-Wahda F.C. In fact, Denilson was the most expensive player in the world at one time. He impressed so much, in fact, that Spanish club Real Betis were persuaded to give Sao Paulo a world record £21.5 million for his services.

However, Denilson seemingly took that as his cue to put his feet up and enjoy the contract he had earned rather than honour it as Betis would have intended.


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