Just how did former West Ham prodigy faster than Gareth Bale end up at non-league strugglers?

Matthias Fanimo - England U16 (L) in action

A former West Ham United academy prodigy hailed for being faster than Wales and Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale has signed for non-league strugglers.

Matthias Fanimo - England U16 (L) in actionMatthias Fanimo in action for England

It has become tougher than ever for young English players to make the grade at Premier League sides.

And at West Ham it is no different, just ask Matthias Fanimo.

Two years ago Fanimo was on top of the world, quite literally, when his chart-topping sprint speeds made the national and international sports news.

A list comparing the running speed of Fanimo and his then Hammers Youth Academy hopefuls - measured using GPS tracking systems - with the top players on the globe appeared online and caused quite a stir, as reported by the likes of the Daily Mail.

Gareth Bale celebrates with Cristiano Ronaldo after scoring the first goal for Real MadridGareth Bale celebrates with Cristiano Ronaldo

Faster than Bale and Ronaldo

Lambeth-born Fanimo, now 22, had a reading of 9.8, the same as Manchester United star Antonio Valencia who was the fastest player clocked on the list.

That made the winger 0.2 of a second quicker than Bale and 0.5 of a second faster than none other than Cristiano Ronaldo.

But while those two are currently lighting up the European Championships in France, Fanimo's star has faded so much and so quickly that he now finds himself playing for National League South side Margate.

That is by no means meant as a disrespect to either the National League or Margate, who attract around 3,000 supporters.

Matthias Fanimo - West Ham UnitedMatthias Fanimo while at West Ham United

How has such a bright prospect fallen so far, so quickly?

But quite how a player who was highly regarded by the Hammers - a club with a proud tradition of bringing through academy players to the first team - who represented England at under 16,17 and 18 level and possessed globally unrivaled pace has fallen so far in just two seasons is a concern.

It is not through a lack of confidence if the Tweet he posted when his speed stats were published is anything to go by.

"No doubt who’s the quickest in the world," Fanimo posted online back in May 2014.

The boy wonder had actually made his senior West Ham debut in 2012 when he played the last half an hour of the Hammers' 2-0 League Cup win over Crewe.

His progress was halted under Sam Allardyce and the pressure to be promoted straight back to the Premier League, though.

A loan spell at Tranmere Rovers in September 2014, three months after the speed test results were made public, yielded just one appearance as he came on as an 80th-minute substitute in a 1–0 away defeat to Carlisle United.

Matthias Fanimo (L) - England U16 celebrates after scoring his teams second goal with Jack BarmbyMatthias Fanimo celebrates after scoring for England

From the Premier League to non-league, but Vardy offers hope

Five months later he was released by West Ham and joined Bishop Stortford where he failed to make a single competitive appearance before moving on to Eastleigh where he managed just three games.

In truth Fanimo has barely had a chance to show what he can do at senior level but it is a sad state of affairs that a player so young and talented is now plying his trade for a side which only stayed in the National League South on goal difference last season.

There is a lot more to being a successful footballer than simply being an athlete but Hammers fans, who always look out for one of their own, will hope to see Fanimo reestablish himself and work his way back up the leagues in the coming seasons.

After all time is still on his side and the likes of Jamie Vardy give everyone hope.

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