Footballers who did not live up to the hype

by Otsile Mabote


Contrary to popular belief, talent alone does not guarantee a fulfilled career. The combination of talent and mental resilience is what's crucial to excelling on the big stage. Unfortunately, a large number of players have lacked that trait and for all the talent they had, their careers never reached the heights of greatness that were once expected of them.


Sometimes injuries or psychological issues cause a player's career to take a nosedive but other times it is simply a matter of the media and fans overestimating the players abilities or potential.


Along with massive hype comes massive pressure and while some footballers embrace the attention, others simply fade away into mediocrity. With that being said, let’s take a look at a few players that have not fully lived up to the hype created around them.


Jack Wilshere


Wilshere captaining the Arsenal team.

Jack Wilshere, known to some as Uncle Jack, is a football player who didn’t fulfill his full potential because of major injury problems throughout his career. He was Arsenal’s youngest – ever league debutant making his debut in September 2008, at the age of 16 years and 256 days.


The midfielder bossed the midfield with not only his amazing technical abilities but also his passion and grit. Fans and spectators of the game predicted that Jack was going to be future captain of Arsenal and the England national team, but his injury struggles have halted what might have been a spectacular career. He now plays for Championship side AFC Bournemouth.


Mario Gotze


Who can forget the attacker that scored the last minute goal against Argentina to gift Germany their fourth FIFA World Cup title in 2014? However, disappointingly, that became Mario Gotze’s only career highlight, as the German failed to create an impact despite playing for the 2 best teams in Germany, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund for years.


Gotze started his football career at Borussia Dortmund before switching to arch-rivals Bayern Munich in 2013. This was huge for Gotze, it was a sign of things to come as the football player won his country the World Cup the next year, before playing a role in the Bavarians’ Bundesliga and DFB Cup wins in the next two seasons. However, a metabolic disorder which was later diagnosed to be myopathy (a muscular disorder which affects the muscle fibres) meant that he could never reach the heights he was supposed to reach.


Mario Balotelli


Mario Balotelli was never too far away from the limelight, either for one reason or another. The Italian forward was a raw but exciting talent during his time at Inter, bagging a host of trophies under Roberto Mancini and Jose Mourinho. His discipline was always questioned, but it was always assumed that those issues would be sorted out as Balotelli matured. Unfortunately, those issues would follow him for the majority of his career.


On his day Balotelli was unplayable; his technical ability and flair together with his strength made him a handful for any defender. He reunited with Mancini at Manchester City, and his time at the Etihad was mixed with success and controversy. Balotelli helped the team to their first Premier League title, playing the ball to Sergio Aguero who struck their famous winner. However his off field antics received just as much attention.


His ill-discipline was starting to affect his time on the pitch as well. Suspension after suspension, fine after fine, and a training ground altercation with his manager meant that Balotelli's playing time was restricted, and his place in the City squad became more toxic as time passed.


Balotelli’s famous celebration against rivals Manchester United. Image via Twitter.

He returned to Italy with Milan and enjoyed a career resurgence, scoring 30 goals in 54 games for the club. His second stint in England with Liverpool was less successful, as he scored just one league goal in 16 matches.


The Italian has taken his talent back to Italy and is now playing for Serie B club AC Monza. While Balotelli has enjoyed a good career by any measure, it hasn't quite been the great one that his talent suggested was possible.


Marco Reus


You can’t underestimate the impact that a lengthy spell on the sidelines can have on a footballer, physically and mentally. Marco Reus is one player who knows the cushioned base of the treatment table all too well.


At his prime, Reus was one of my favourite players to watch. I was always in admiration of his speed, ever so smooth dribbling and eye-for-goal. The Germans talent is undisputed.

However the 31-year-old has had an injury cursed career, and all of his suffering has caused him to become one of football’s most frustrating cases. With the exception of those two ever-present campaigns, the German has been an embodiment of unfulfilled potential.


Numerous setbacks through muscular problems have caused two lengthy spell outs during his time at Dortmund. A serious groin injury sustained in 2016 put him on the treatment table for over 170 days. No sooner had he recovered from that before he was struck down by a cruciate ligament rupture that ruled him out of action for just shy of a year.


Marco Reus being treated for a possible injury off the field of play. A familiar sight for many.

For other players, two back-to-back injuries of such severity could well have been the final nails in their footballing coffin. Not for Marco Reus though. Despite injury troubles in 2019/20, he still produced 11 goals and five assists in 19 league matches. It is without a doubt that Reus would be one of the best players in the game right now if he was not so unfortunate.


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