From Kevin De Bruyne to Kylian Mbappe, we have seen the rise of some truly phenomenal footballers this decade, as well as the continuation of brilliance of the two finest footballers of this generation. As with any ten-year period, we’ve also seen many great footballers hang up their boots, whether it be Andrea Pirlo or Thierry Henry.
Today, however, I wanted to take a look at some players who have risen and subsequently fallen since the year 2010. Not everyone possesses the spell-binding consistency of some of the players I have already mentioned, but many make significant impacts over a much shorter period of time. Apologies to any of you who feel as though I’m getting a bit decade-heavy on the channel, but the start of a new decade is a pretty momentous occasion, and there are plenty of decade-based ideas that people seem to want to see. As always, if you have any video ideas, feel free to leave them in the comments and like any other suggestions you’d be keen to see on the channel, and obviously make sure you’re subscribed so you never miss them.
Contrary to what you may be thinking, Federico Macheda’s incredibly brief rise and fall almost occurred before this decade began. The Italian centre-forward scored that goal for Manchester United in April 2009, and by January 2010 he was already showing signs that he wasn’t necessarily the next Wayne Rooney. I only point that example out since I suspected it would crop up a lot in the comments if I didn’t, and the same goes for other pre-2010 demises that you may think ought to feature here without checking the actual dates.
Here are 7 dramatic footballing falls from grace this decade:
Getting us started in seventh place is a man whose candle shone bright for an especially brief period of time. Michu’s rise and fall were equally rapid and equally dramatic, and his demise came about largely through no fault of his own. Capable of playing as either an attacking midfielder, a second striker or as a centre-forward, Michu began his career with Real Oviedo, and he played for the club in the third and fourth tier of Spanish football. He stepped up to the Segunda Division with Celta Vigo, before a single season in La Liga with Rayo Vallecano.
Michu scored 15 La Liga goals for Vallecano, and Swansea quickly snapped him up for £2 million. It was a signing that garnered little press attention at the time, but Michu made an immediate impact. He got two goals and an assist in his full debut, and ended the season with a remarkable 22 goals. Swansea finished the season 9th in the Premier League, they won the League Cup and Sir Alex Ferguson quipped that he should sack his entire scouting team for not recommending Michu to him.
He was the fifth highest scorer in the Premier League, he won his first cap for Spain and Swansea were valuing him at £30 million. However, in his second season, Michu began to feel some pain in his right ankle. Injuries would persist throughout an underwhelming second season in South Wales, followed by a fully injury blighted season on-loan at Napoli. In 2015, Michu dropped down to Spain’s fourth tier with Langreo, a remarkable fall from grace, but his right ankle continued to trouble him. The Spaniard retired two-and-a-half years ago, aged 31.
6. Arda Turan
Arda Turan’s fall from grace hasn’t been as spectacular as some of the others in this seven, in the sense that he is still playing top flight football, but I believe it is still worthy of inclusion. Turan’s demise is among the most surprising of the decade as far as I’m concerned, since he looked so good during his four years with Atletico Madrid and there was no significant season or career-ending injury in his case. A really smart and technically gifted attacking midfielder, Turan was a key man in Diego Simeone’s Atletico side for four seasons, and he was pivotal in their 2013-14 La Liga title winning team. In the summer of 2015, Turan signed for Barcelona, although he wouldn’t be able to play for the club until the following January due to a transfer ban.
This spell on the sidelines would prove fatal to his career. Turan was an intelligent and hard working player with Atletico, but he also had an infamously short temper. During his six months out the picture at Barca, Turan piled on the pounds. Barcelona weren’t pleased and Turan never really got going at the Camp Nou, with his confidence on the pitch appearing dented. He’s still contracted to the club, but is now in the second of his two seasons on-loan with Istanbul Basaksehir, where he’s also been a little underwhelming. Turan recently received an almost three-year suspended sentence in Turkey for firing a gun in a hospital following an altercation with a singer, rather summing up his fall from grace, and I think he’s worthy of a place in this seven.
5. Jackson Martinez
A very good argument could be made for Jackson Martinez being the greatest flop in the history of world football following his move to Guangzhou Evergrande. The Colombian international was signed for €42 million by the Chinese Super League side, he made just 16 appearances for the club on a hefty salary and departed three years later on a free transfer. As with Michu, injuries played a major role in Martinez’s demise.
The 33-year-old had been a prolific goal scorer throughout his career, going from Colombia to Mexico, Mexico to Portugal and Portugal to Spain. He never showed any signs of letting up prior to his move to Spain, but having bagged 94 goals in 143 games for Porto, he made a slow start to life in La Liga. After just half a season in the Spanish capital, however, Atletico were offered €7 million more than they had paid for the Colombian from Guangzhou Evergrande.
Martinez left with Atletico’s blessing, briefly being the most expensive import in the Chinese Super League, but his time in China would prove more disastrous than his time in Spain. A chronic ankle injury sidelined him for two whole years, and he never played for Guangzhou Evergrande again. He spent last season on-loan with Portimonense, where he scored nine goals, but having signed for the Primeira Liga outfit permanently in the summer, he’s yet to score in 11 appearances so far this season.
There’s no plague in world football quite like being labelled the ‘next Messi’, but Spanish wonderkid Bojan certainly looked like the real deal as he came through the youth ranks at La Masia. A slight and diminutive footballer with excellent technique and the ability to play in a variety of positions, he played a lot of football for Barcelona at a time when they were the best club on Earth and Bojan was very young. In just four seasons of first team football at the Camp Nou, Bojan made 163 appearances and scored 41 goals, winning three La Liga titles and the Champions League twice as a pretty regular fixture.
Whilst all appeared to be rosy from the outside, on the inside Bojan was struggling. He had been catapulted into the spotlight at the age of 17, and the freakish expectations brought on by comparisons to Messi at every age began to take their toll. Bojan needed to get out of Barcelona, both to start playing regular 90 minutes and to escape the pressure cooker, so he headed to Roma. A season with Roma was followed by a season with AC Milan and then a season at Ajax, with Bojan’s stock plummeting at every turn. In 2014, the once £35 million rated youngster joined Stoke City for just £1.4 million, and his time in the Potteries would be a real mix of emotions. Bojan played some exquisite football at times, but injuries and a lack of confidence disrupted his progress. He left Stoke in the summer to join Montreal Impact, where he can hopefully discover his smile again if not Champions League form, since all indications suggest he is an eminently likeable character.
3. Joe Hart
I must thank the Twitterverse for this one, since Joe Hart wasn’t the first name that sprung to mind to me when planning this seven, but he’s actually an excellent candidate. If you don’t already follow HITC Sevens on Twitter, the username to do so is @HITCSevens, just so you know… Anyhow, Joe Hart began the decade with an outstanding season on-loan at Birmingham City, where he seemed destined to become England’s number one. Fabio Capello obviously thought he wasn’t quite ready for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, a decision which would come back to bite following Rob Green’s high-profile error against the USA.
Hart returned to Man City the following season, where he spent the next six seasons as the Citizens undisputed first choice. During that time, Hart won the Premier League Golden Glove a joint record four times, a tally matched only by Chelsea legend Petr Cech. He did establish himself with England, winning more than 70 caps before turning 30, but it was also before turning 30 that things started to sour for the former non-league man.
As soon as Pep Guardiola came through the door at the Etihad his mind already seemed to be made up on Hart. He was to be replaced, and Hart joined Torino on-loan. The decision seemed harsh at the time, but Man City and Hart’s respective trajectories since then somewhat justify it. The Englishman struggled in Turin, and he was no better at West Ham. In 2018, he left Man City permanently to join Burnley, where he now plays second fiddle to Nick Pope, and he hasn’t made an England squad since 2017.
2. Kevin Grosskreutz
Falls from grace don’t come much harder than Kevin Grosskreutz’s in recent times, and his demise is something I’ve twice planned to make a video about before twice deciding to put it off in fear no-one would watch it. The Dortmund-native was a favourite of Jurgen Klopp’s at the Westfalenstadion, and he spent more than five seasons as a virtual ever present for the German giants.
In total, Großkreutz played 236 games for Dortmund, helping them to two Bundesliga titles and a Champions League final. In 2014, he made Joachim Low’s 23-man squad for the World Cup in Brazil, which Germany obviously went on to win. Within two years of winning the most prestigious trophy in football though, Grosskreutz would be playing in the fourth tier of the German game.
Having fallen out of favour at Dortmund, Grosskreutz was demoted to the clubs reserve team before a move to Galatasaray. He was handed a lifeline at Stuttgart, but he couldn’t capitalise and found himself at Darmstadt in the 2 Bundesliga in 2017-18. In the summer of 2018, he dropped down again, this time into the third tier with Uerdingen. At the age of 31, Grosskreutz ought to be at the peak of his powers, but instead his career appears to be petering out in obscurity.
0. Honourable Mentions
It would be impossible to name every player who has suffered a significant fall from grace here, but I would advise you all to leave your suggestions in the comments, I’ve no doubt there are some really notable ones I have missed. In terms of the players just on my shortlist who didn’t quite make the cut, I had former Real Madrid signing Royston Drenthe, former AC Milan superstar Alexandre Pato, ex-Man City favourite Stephen Ireland, Rafael van der Vaart, Daniel Sturridge, Jese Rodriguez, Mario Balotelli, Gabriel Agbonlahor and Micah Richards. More debatable ones include the likes of Mario Gotze and Adnan Januzaj, who are still very good players, but not quite as good as some would have hoped, and Renato Sanches, who I would suggest is too young to feature at just 22.
A case could certainly be made for Kevin Grosskreutz topping this seven, but in the end, my choice is the former Manchester United star Anderson. Anderson followed in the footsteps of Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Aguero in the four years preceding him by winning the 2008 Golden Boy award, a year in which he won 8 caps for Brazil and turned 20 years old.
Anderson had joined Manchester United from Porto in 2007 for a reported €30 million, widely tipped as one of the best teenagers in world football. He made a big impression upon his arrival at Old Trafford, adding some real energy and dynamism to a midfield which already had plenty of technique and creativity with the likes of Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Michael Carrick. Anderson won two Premier League titles and a Champions League in his first two seasons, making a whopping 38 appearances in each of those two debut campaigns.
Anderson was a phenomenally talented young footballer, combining natural two-footed ability on the ball and when passing the ball with the ability to run the midfield a break up play. He suffered a nasty injury early in his United career which forced him to play a little deeper due to losing a yard of pace, but it was an ACL injury early in this decade that would really prove to be the beginning of the end for the Brazilian.
He suffered a car crash in Portugal during his injury lay-off, and once he returned, incoming managers David Moyes and Louis van Gaal were both unimpressed by his fitness and application. Anderson had put on weight, and his next few seasons were peppered by hamstring injuries. In his final season at Old Trafford in 2014-15, Anderson made just two appearances. A return to Brazilian football with Internacional saw Anderson playing regular football again, but it only compounded his misery, with fans critical of his poor displays and Internacional suffering a surprise relegation. Following a brief spell with Cortiba and six months as a free agent, Anderson joined Turkish second tier outfit Adana Demirspor in 2018, and the 31-year-old is still with the Turkish side who find themselves in the bottom half of the TFF First League table.