It’s a case worthy of a Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novel and a question that’s left everyone from pundits to amateurs baffled: where are all the footballers going?
The most recent man in question is italian forward Fabio Borini, of Liverpool (supposedly). After an unsuccessful period of almost two and a half years owned by the Reds, Borini is now an outcast banished to the bench or the stands to watch as a 20 year old plays out of position instead of him. But why? Most would agree that Borini has shown that he doesn’t have quite what it takes to play for Liverpool, but that shouldn’t hold his career back.
A season on loan with Sunderland proved he was more than capable of leading a forward line in the Premier League, scoring 10 goals to help keep Gus Poyet’s side out of the relegation zone. Upon his return to the training ground of Liverpool, Fabio is then told he won’t get the regular first team football he desires and that his future lies elsewhere. Now, six months on, he’s appeared only a handful of times and shown no sign of being able to meet the standards required of him. Here we are again in the transfer window, and Borini seems determined to stay despite this lack of game time stunting his development on the whole.
It just doesn’t make any sense. As noble it may seem that he is committed to the side, Borini – and a whole host of other players in the same position as him – needs to accept a failed venture and move on to a club where he will play often enough to prove that he has the talent worthy of a top side.
What he should be doing is taking a leaf out of the book of Daniel Sturridge. Arriving as a well hyped youngster through the ranks of Manchester City, he earned himself a move to Chelsea on the basis of potential. The inconsistency of games left Sturridge struggling in his development, and after showing he can cut it on a regular basis during his loan spell with Bolton he eventually moved onto Liverpool, a club willing to offer him weekly football and the chance he needed to kickstart his career. The result? Second top scorer in the Premier League in his first full season, and a fantastic goals to game ratio which literally set records at his new club.
In the modern game there are too many opportunities for the lazy players to sit back and earn a pay cheque whilst missing out on the chance to fulfil their potential and enjoy a decorated career, something that many of us can only dream of. There are far too many young players who ship out to big clubs while still in the vital stages of their career, and then falter when they aren’t offered the necessary consistency in game time that they need to grow.
Ask yourself this, particularly those of you who are fans of top four clubs: how many failed youngsters have you signed? As a Liverpool fan I can name a few. Kristian Nemeth, the prodigal striker who never made it. Joao Teixeira, the “next Deco” who’s currently enjoying life in the second division of England. I could go on.
More importantly, of those talented young players you can think of, how many of them now have careers worth mentioning? I’ll tell you which ones are doing well for themselves – the ones who accepted they need to move on. Andy Carroll for example, now flying high with West Ham United, and the recent departure of Suso – a player who always showed great promise, with limited chances – who has now joined Milan where he’ll play regularly.
Hindsight sure is a beautiful thing but looking back across each club – with their respective “next Messi” and so on – the amount of talent that has gone astray is shockingly disappointing. Players who are content with sitting on the bench at the likes of Chelsea could be running riot in a Newcastle shirt (I present to you evidence A, Loic Remy). It seems to me like the modern day footballer is scared of losing their “big break”, and would rather sit around being forgotten about in a reserve side of a big club rather than make a real name for themselves at a smaller club.
What’s also disappointing is the subsequent lack of quality across smaller teams, separating the so called big clubs even further from the pack. Football is the biggest sport in the world, and with literally millions of fans worldwide watching every game, there is always a chance for a player to go down in history for a club that they might not even consider playing for, and that’s a real shame.
Rather than fading into the background of their respective clubs, I believe the youth of the current game need to seek out opportunities rather than sluggishly waiting around for the odd chance at their big club. Go and demand games, earn a reputation and make a name for yourself. If we don’t see players accepting the necessity for a change of scenery at younger ages, we will continue to see the beautiful game’s biggest talents fade out with barely a whimper.