Being a football star is wonderful, but as good as it looks, players often have to give their everything, and more, in order to become successful in the football world. Moreover, it is easier to get to the top than staying there, and some players know that very well. It’s a very common thing seeing youngsters failing to thrive when a big club signs them, but when a player who has shown his quality over and over again ended up being a flop for their new team, that’s when things got hard.
These episodes aren’t as common as others, but this happens and it always shocks everybody. We have witnessed very good players who went from zero to hero within just a season, inscribing their name in a list where nobody would want to be. Perhaps being transferred against their will faded out their confidence or the hype surrounding their signings had a major role in decreasing their level.
Either way, we have seen players that looked ready to take it all in a new team and display all the good of their game and failed at it big time. Here are 10 football stars who surprisingly lost their good levels after a transfer.
Honorable Mention: Samuel Eto’o (from Barcelona to Inter)
10. Joe Cole
Joe Cole was always seen as a very talented midfielder and people expected a lot of things from him; following good years with Chelsea, Cole landed in Liverpool in order to continue his good times in England football, but contrary to what many would believe, Joe failed to have a good run at Anfield Road, letting the Reds down and going out the back door.
Maybe the hype around him and all the good stuff people expected to see from Cole had big roles in how bad he performed for the Merseysiders. Even former teammate Steven Gerrard dared to say “Messi can do some amazing things, but anything he can do Joe can do as well, if not better.”
Joe only collected 26 caps in three years for Liverpool before being loaned out to Lille and leaving on a free transfer to West Ham United. If there was something he could do better than Messi, that was fading away.
9. Angel Di Maria
Di Maria had a wonderful time during his days with Portuguese side Benfica before Real Madrid decided to sign Angel as one of the most prominent players in the world. The Argentinian winger made an instant impact in the team, earning the love of fans week after week; the biggest moment of Di Maria came when Real Madrid won the 2013/14 Champions League, where he had a big role.
As good as that moment was, it was the last time we got to see Di Maria wearing a Real Madrid kit. With the arrival of players like Mesut Ozil or Gareth Bale, Angel thought his times at Santiago Bernabeu were done and demanded to be sold. He landed in Manchester to play for the Red Devils and his performances decreased in a dramatic fashion. He could never be the same guy he was with Los Blancos and after that, he’s been wandering around trying to find his old shape.
8. Mario Gotze
One of the starring characters of that Borussia Dortmund that took Europe by storm and reached the Champions League final against all odds, Mario Gotze was one of the most promising youngsters in the world when he introduced himself to the elite of football. He had a bright future ahead of him, but things fell apart for Mario within a couple of seasons.
Gotze had good terms with Dortmund, getting better and better as the seasons came by until German giants Bayern Munich decided it was about time to sign him. Pep Guardiola couldn’t give him proper use and ultimately relegated him to the bench, leaving Mario with no choice than to come back to his former club.
He came back to Borussia Dortmund after three years with the Bavarians, but he hasn’t been able to replicate his good performances; body issues have taken their toll, too, and now Gotze remains as a big question mark.
7. Roberto Soldado
During a time the Spanish national team had strikers of the caliber of Fernando Torres and David Villa, there was a guy in Valencia who appeared to take the reins of the team after the first two decided to step aside. Roberto Soldado was a Real Madrid product that couldn’t succeed in the club’s first team and tried to make his way to the top playing in little teams.
His chance to play for a big club arrived when Valencia decided to acquire his services and Soldado didn’t disappoint. He had amazing performances with the Spanish team, becoming one of the most interesting strikers in the old continent. Tottenham Hotspur turned their eyes to him and purchased him, believing they had found the proper replacement for Gareth Bale.
Well, that didn’t happen and Soldado went from being one of the most hyped players in the history of the club to a be complete flop that barely scored goals in White Hart Lane, leaving the team with more grief than glory.
6. Gaizka Mendieta
Gaizka Mendieta was the leader and cornerstone of that Valencia team that made it to the Champions League in consecutive years and lost against Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, respectively, becoming one of the best midfielders not only in Europe but the world, turning everybody’s eyes to him.
He decided to leave Valencia and joined mega-rich Lazio in 2001, boosting the ranks of the Romanian club, apparently. Little they knew that Mendieta was not going to be the same he used to be in Valencia, struggling to recover his old shape and disappointing Lazio fans, who had lost big names like Pavel Nedved or Sebastian Veron.
Mendieta was eventually given on loan to Barcelona, where he didn’t have much participation, either, before leaving Catalonia and ending his career in England with Middlesbrough.
5. Fernando Torres
This has to be one of the prime examples when you think about players who were expected to succeed with a new club and winded up being complete flops. Following good seasons with Atletico Madrid, Fernando Torres landed in Liverpool, where he displayed all the best of his game, becoming one of the deadliest strikers in Europe.
Things were great for Torres and the Reds, but he surprisingly asked the team to be sold and they did so on 2011 deadline day. The Spaniard took his talents to London and everybody believed he was going to be even better than he was at Anfield, but the reality was extremely different. Torres only scored 45 times and even though he had a few good moments, he never scored more than eight goals in a Premier League season with the Blues.
He left the club in 2014 to make his return to Spain, never being able to recover his old self.
4. Radamel Falcao
This Colombian striker was delighting proper and strangers both in Porto and Atletico Madrid, where he collected silverware and earned the right to be called the best striker in the world by the vast majority of football fans after he scored more than 30 goals for four consecutive seasons between 2009 and 2013.
New-Rich Monaco disbursed a big amount of money for the Tiger and acquired their services from Atleti. For most people that was a mistake, but Falcao seemed to be sure about his decision. He started well his tenure in Monaco, but a knee injury interrupted his good time with the Monegasque; he came back and decided to go on loan to Manchester United trying to revamp his career; he couldn’t do it and decided to keep trying.
He then went to Chelsea, but things were even worse at Stamford Bridge. Falcao took his talents to Monaco, where he continues playing right now as a good striker and not the one that was dominating the continent at the beginning of the decade.
3. Bastian Schweinsteiger
The German midfielder is seen as one of the best in his generation, and some dare to call him one of the best ever, following very successful tenures with both Bayern Munich and the German national team. Things were pretty great for Bastian, but after seeing the plan new Bayern boss Pep Guardiola had for the thing, he decided to part ways.
Manchester United showed up and signed Bastian, who was set to continue his good level with the Red Devils. Unfortunately, Jose Mourinho didn’t have any plans with his team involving Schweinsteiger, leaving the German player helpless and looking for a new team. Ultimately, he left the club and went to play for MLS side Chicago Fire.
Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, also known as Kaka, has to be one of the most talented and fluid players in football history. This guy was ridiculously good during his prime, taking AC Milan to play and win important things. He was named Ballon d’Or in 2007 and the future looked great for the Brazilian, as he was on top of the world.
However, Real Madrid showed up and just like they had done with other players, signed Kaka as a big star and ended up making him a regular player. He landed in the club in 2009 and injuries, struggles to adapt to the team and bosses not giving him many chances to demonstrate his level made Kaka leave the club to return to Milan in 2013. It’s not necessary to say that he never was the same and now he remains as one of the biggest “what if?” in football history.
Ronaldinho Gaucho was the best player in the world at the beginning of the 2008/09 season. Dinho had won back-to-back Ballon d’Or leading Barcelona to win the La Liga and Champions League in the process, as well as winning big teams with the Brazilian national teams.
When everything pointed out Ronaldinho was going to continue his world-class level at Camp Nou, new manager Pep Guardiola told otherwise, stating he had no plan on using Ronaldinho as an important part of his team. Besides, his controversies with Samuel Eto’o left no choice for the 2002 World Champion, who decided to sign with Italian side AC Milan. Ever since that Ronaldinho couldn’t get back his old form and started play for several teams in various continents.