Whilst natural ability and talent always come in handy, mental fortitude, steady discipline and unwavering consistency are key to any footballer aiming to reach the astronomical heights of footballing immortality.
A footballer’s career can best be described as fleeting moment in the sun. Some weather the storm and make it to the top while others tumble and fail to live up to expectations.
Below are three players whom have lingered in minds and left them wondering ‘what could have been’
ADRIANO (The emperor)
A blend of electrifying pace, startling power, nimble footwork and a ferocious left foot are mind-boggling attributes that Adriano Ribeiro possessed in abundance.
At the tender age 17, Adriano was already a member of the first team at Flamengo. Two years later aged 19 years old, Italian giants Inter Milan signed him for over €13 million.
With starting opportunities hard to come by at San Siro, the youngster was sent on Loan Parma, where he scored 26 goals in 44 matches warranting a move back to the Nezzurri.
Meanwhile, he was already starring for his national team, winning the golden boot in Brazil’s successful triumph of the Copa America tournament in 2004. In the subsequent year, the man touted to be Ronaldo Nazario’s heir won the golden boot and golden ball at the Confederations cup.
Despite excelling for both club and country, there were disturbing concerns over his exuberant life outside the pitch.
In 2006, he was caught partying in nightclubs and dropped from the Selecao squad, with coach Dunga warning that he needed to tidy up. The death of his father had left him a depressed man, fanning the flames of his already dire personal life.
Notwithstanding his goal-scoring form that saw him lift four consecutive scudettos, Inter felt that he was becoming a liability to the club. Eventually patience grew thin and he was shipped out to Sau Paulo in his native Brazil.
A successful season with Flamengo in 2009 was the only highlight of his career afterwards. Goals dried up and he began succumbing to injuries. Spells at Roma and later at a succession of Brazilian clubs proved futile in reviving a once glitering career.
The emperor had fallen.
Even before making a single first team appearance for Barcelona, Bojan was already a household name around the renowned La Masia academy.
His intrinsic speed, exquisite close control, deft dribbling and eye for goal led to fans and pundits comparing him to arguably of the greatest player of all time and Barcelona legend, Lionel Messi. To top it all of, he had scored over 850 goals in his youth career.
He eventually made his first team debut in September 2007 aged 17 years and 19 days, becoming the youngest player to ever represent the catalan side, a record previously held by Messi.
It didn’t take long for both Spain and Serbia to try and persuade the youngster to represent either in International level, with Bojan choosing opting to pan out for the Spanish National team.
Despite his tender age, he had 12 goals and 6 assists in 48 appearances in his first season. And to even make the bench in a side comprising of Ronaldinho, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o was no easy task, let alone rack up the number of appearances that the youngster managed to
His failure to build on the first season led many to believe that the excitement around the youngster’s talent was unfounded.
His fortunes took a nosedive following limited action and the signing of David Villa speeding up his exit from Barca after four years at the club.He endured difficult spells at Roma, AC Milan and Ajax before signing for Stoke City in 2014. He spent five years in England though the last two seasons he was away on loan.
The unfortunate series of event have led to the once colossal talent from the Nou camp to end up plying his trade for MLS side Montreal Impact.
Portugal is a nation that has been blessed with awe-inspiring attacking footballing greats, from the great Eusebio to the Iconic Luis Figo. At the turn of the the millenium, two exciting talents, Ricardo quaresma and Cristiano Ronaldo were fast rising in the famed Sporting CP academy.
Quaresma, a year and a half Ronaldo’s senior, was considered more naturally gifted of the duo. A dazzling winger, full of flair and a repetoire of tricks was handed a first team debut by Laszlo Boloni at the start of the 2001-2002 season.
He made 28 apperances that season, scoring thrice in an eventual conquest of the league and cup double. After two seasons in Portugal the mercurial starlet continued his meteoric rise sealing a €6 million transfer to one of football’s biggest establishment, FC Barcelona.
Then Blagaruna coach frank Rijkaard, tried to instill tactical vision and discipline in Quaresma to no avail. The Portuguese’s petulant attitude, work rate, mentality and inconsistency caused disharmony within the dressing room.
He discounted his manager’s coaching deeming it patronizing and eventually declined to play for Rijkaard ever again. His fallout with the coach and players resulted in him being swiftly sold back to his native Portugal for €15 million.
His attempts to rekindle his form and once again rise to the pinnacle of football were impotent. He moved to a host of european clubs, playing for six clubs in the span of a decade.
And while he was part of the Portuguese side that won the Euro in 2016, one is left wondering what could have become of the mercurial winger who had the world at his feet.