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Denilson de Oliveira, simply just known by his first name, is a retired Brazilian player who never lived up to high expectations. Denilson first broke through the scene with his hometown club Sao Paulo at the age of 17, and made his debut with the Brazil national team in 1996 when he was just 19. After playing every game in the 1998 World Cup for Brazil, where they finished as the runner up, La Liga side Real Betis broke the world record in transfer fees by paying £21.5 million for his services.
However, he never got settled in Spain and was one of the most disappointing players for Betis as they were relegated from La Liga in 2000. He did play well in the Segunda Division and helped the club earn promoting back to top flight. He also played for Brazil in the 2002 World Cup, appearing in five games. That was as high as his career would get, though, as the winger was never called up again by the national team and became a benchwarmer at Betis. He left Spain in 2005 and played in seven different clubs, including a stint in Major League Soccer and the Vietnamese League. Denilson retired from football in 2010, after being released from Greek club Nea Kavala.
9. Royston Drenthe
After amazing performances with Feyenoord and the Netherlands U-21 side, Royston Drenthe had the world at his feet when Real Madrid came calling in 2007. He made his debut with a spectacular fashion as well, scoring from 40 yards out in a Spanish Super Cup against Sevilla. Drenthe was featuring regularly for Los Blancos, until then manager Bernd Schuster started picking another newcomer Marcelo over him.
The Dutchman became very unhappy with his situation at Madrid, even storming out of the training ground after being excluded in a game against Valencia. He also started suffering from anxiety issues in 2009 after being booed by the club’s supporters during a 1–0 home win against Deportivo La Coruña and did not feature for the club for a period. He eventually left to Hercules on loan in 2010, and then Everton in the following season before leaving permanently to Russian club Alania. After being unable to find a club in 2016, Drenthe retired from football to become a rapper instead, releasing his first song last February.
Robinho emerged as a talented youngster in Santos during his teens, and scored 47 league goals for the Brazilian club by the time he was 21. He was chased by multiple European clubs in 2005, before signing with Real Madrid for €24 million. Although he had a decent spell at Madrid, scoring 35 goals in 135 games for the club, Robinho didn’t quite live up to expectations and was used as a part of the deal to sign Cristiano Ronaldo.
Manchester United refused the offer. However, the angry Robinho decided to leave the club after feeling unappreciated by Madrid and signed with Manchester City in 2008. He never settled in England after dealing with injuries, and returned to Santos in the winter of 2010 on loan. The Brazilian came up to Europe in the same year with AC Milan, where he stayed for five years before leaving again for Santos. His career went on a downward spiral afterwards, with stint at China and Atletico Mineiro. The 34-year-old currently players for Turkish club Sivasspor.
7. Giovani Dos Santos
Giovani Dos Santos was predicted to do great things when he first broke through the Barcelona at 19 years old. He scored a hat trick against Real Murcia in 2008, but was surprisingly sold to Tottenham Hotspur when Pep Guardiola took over from Frank Rijkaard. Dos Santos never quite settled with life in England, and made just 15 Premier League appearances for Spurs in four years. He was loaned out to Ipswich Town, Galatasaray, and Racing Santander, before permanently joining Real Mallorca in 2012.
The Mexican recovered his form at Mallorca, and scored six times and made seven assists in 29 games for club in his lone season with them. After Mallorca was relegated from La Liga in 2013, he joined Villarreal for €6 million. The 28-year-old helped the club consistently finish top six in the league during his two seasons with them, but made a shock decision to join LA Galaxy in 2015 — when he was just entering the prime of his career with so much potential left to still do big things in Europe.
6. Federico Macheda
Federico Macheda was compared to the likes of Ruud Van Nistelrooy after impressive displays with the Manchester United youth sides, and was given first team opportunities by Sir Alex Ferguson in 2008. The Italian became instantly famous after scoring in his first two appearances for United, and was expected to become a star one day.
However, he got caught up in the pressure, and was eventually loaned out to Sampdoria in 2011. After four other loan stints, Macheda left the club permanently in 2014 for Cardiff City. But he couldn’t even perform at the Championship level, and now plays for Novara at the Italian Serie B.
5. Ibrahim Afellay
After impressing at PSV, Pep Guardiola decided to bring in Ibrahim Afellay during the January window in 2011. Afellay was highly rated at the time in Europe, with videos of him scoring tremendous goals in the training ground going viral. Although he was signed during midseason, the Dutchman immediately became an important squad player, making up to 28 appearances in the 2010/11 season. He was most famous for assisting Lionel Messi’s first goal against Real Madrid in the semi final of the Champions League, which Barcelona went on to win 3-1 in aggregate.
However, the following season would be a nightmare for Afellay as the arrival of Alexis Sanchez, combined with multiple injuries limited him to just five appearances for the club. He was sent on to two different loan spells afterwards, and Barcelona released him in 2015 after running out of patient with his injuries. Afellay joined Stoke City after leaving Spain, where he initially became a star player of the club before injury issues started haunting him again.
Anderson was signed for€30 million by Manchester United back in 2007, after becoming a star with FC Porto. Although he never became an undisputed starter at Old Trafford, Anderson was given plenty of chances to prove himself, and made 181 appearances in eight seasons. His best season was his debut season with United, where he played in 38 games and scored during the Champions League final penalty shootout versus Chelsea.
However, Anderson never became a world class player he was expected to be, and fell out of favor when Sir Alex Ferguson retired. David Moyes loaned him out during the winter of 2014, and Louis van Gaal never included the Brazilian in his plans. He returned to Brazil with Internacional, and is a free agent as of this moment.
3. Bojan Krkic
Just like Giovani Dos Santos, Bojan Krkic graduated from the famous La Masia and made his debut at just 17. He ended up scoring 12 goals in his debut season with Barcelona, and was picked by the Spanish national team for their Euro 2008 squad. However, Bojan refused the call up due to anxiety issues, and missed out on the opportunity to win a silverware with his country.
Although there was so much potential for him at Barcelona, the arrival of Pep Guardiola slowed down his progress as he was given less opportunities. After scoring just seven goals in 37 games in the 2010/11 season, Bojan left for Roma for €12 million. After spells with four more clubs, the striker eventually returned to Spain this season with Alaves, but is yet to score a league goal for playing 10 games so far.
2. Alexandre Pato
After the retirement of Ronaldo and the decline of Adriano, Alexandre Pato was expected to be the leading striker for Brazil. He became a key player for a star studded AC Milan squad in 2007 at the tender age of 18, and scored nine goals in 18 league games for the Rossoneri. He was an undisputed starter in the following season, scoring 18 goals in 42 games.
However, injuries started slowing down his career by 2009, and limited him to just 15 appearances in his last two seasons at the club. Pato returned to Brazil in 2013, and made a shock comeback to Europe by joining Chelsea in the winter of 2016. The Brazilian, though, just made two appearances for the Blues and signed for Villarreal in the summer.After scoring six games in 24 appearances for the Yellow Submarines, Pato made another shocking decision by leaving La Liga to sign for Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian for £15.5 million.
1. Freddy Adu
Freddy Adu was the ultimate wonderkid. He signed his first ever professional contract with the MLS side DC United at age 14, which shocked the entire sporting world. Adu was even compared with the likes of Pele for being so talented at such a young age, and earned interests from several European clubs, including Chelsea. Unable to join the Blues due to work permit issues, the American opted to join the Portuguese giants Benfica in 2007, who are known for grooming young players.
However, his career would soon turn into a nightmare as he was unable to hold down a starting position in Europe. He was played for 11 different clubs in the last 11 years, and just signed with the newly formed Las Vegas Lights FC — who will start playing in the United States second division.
VIDEO: 10 Hugely Hyped Players Who Faded Away!