Football: Top 10 teenage flops

 

1. CARLOS ROA (above)

After a succession of fine displays at the 1998 World Cup in France, the Argentina goalkeeper was courted by Manchester United and Arsenal.

However, he then went AWOL for two whole years, joining a religious cult that predicted the end of the world.

When that didn't happen, he returned to football, turning out for a handful of lowly Spanish sides. By this time, however, his time had gone.

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2. PHILIPPE CHRISTANVAL

An athletic and gifted defender whose reading of the game and defensive poise propelled Monaco to the French League title in 2000.

A £6.5 million ($13m) move to Barcelona soon followed, but his career nosedived as he struggled to cope with the weight of expectation and a series of injuries.

By 2005, he was turning out for Fulham reserves and, four years later, he retired after failing to find a club willing to give him a game. He was 30 years old.

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3. JOHN WELSH

The "Next Steven Gerrard" made his Liverpool debut in a League Cup tie against Ipswich in 2002 at just 18.

He moved to Hull City in January 2006 for regular first-team football, but broke his leg in a challenge with former Liverpool teammate Neil Mellor, and was never the same again.

He turned out for Chester, Carlisle, Tranmere and Bury over the next few years, and is now battling away for League One side Preston.

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4. BRUNO CHEYROU

Gerard Houllier was convinced that he had signed the new Zinedine Zidane for Liverpool back in 2002 when the young Frenchman joined from Lille.

Thirty-nine below-par performances over the next four years suggested otherwise. Spells at Marseille, Bordeaux, Rennes and Nantes followed, but he failed to recapture his youthful form.

His only honour remains the 1999-2000 French Second Division title.

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5. SONNY PIKE

Seven-year-old Sonny was invited to train with Ajax's academy of excellence in the early 1990s after appearing on TV juggling footballs like a seal.

He was swiftly compared with Diego Maradona, but the pressure proved too much and he failed to progress beyond non-league football in England.

The boy wonder then suffered a nervous breakdown at the age of 20, but clawed his way back from the brink and went on to study for a psychology degree.

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6. NICOLA VENTOLA

Inter Milan splashed out heavily on the Bari teenager who had been described as the heir apparent to Roberto Baggio in the Italian national side.

However, in seven years at the club, Ventola managed a grand total of 37 appearances. Now aged 35, he's still waiting for that elusive first international cap.

After being banned for 42 months for match-fixing in June 2012, it's safe to say that we'll never see him turning out for the Azzurri.

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7. IBRAHIM BA

AC Milan beat off strong competition from Barcelona and Manchester United for world football's newest star in 1997.

A year later, Ba was devastated to be left out of France's World Cup winning squad, and his career never recovered.

In the following decade, he turned out a few times for a variety of clubs, but after failing to impress at Swedish side Djurgardens IF, he hung up his not-so-golden boots.

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8. NII LAMPTEY

"Lamptey is my natural successor as the greatest player of all time," said Pele, after seeing the 15-year-old Ghanaian light up the 1989 World Youth Championships.

He was soon smuggled out of Africa to sign for Anderlecht, and went on to dazzle at PSV Eindhoven for a season.

However, by the time he joined Aston Villa as a 19-year-old in 1994, he was all but burnt out. He is now back in Ghana breeding cattle.

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9. DENILSON

The Brazilian became the world's most expensive player when joining Real Betis for £21.5m in 1998, but soon became a regular on the subs bench.

A nomadic footballing journey followed after his release in 2004, then on June 2, 2009, he became the richest player in Vietnamese football history when he signed for Xi Mang Hai Phong.

He even scored on his debut against Hoang Anh Gia Lai, but left after only three weeks and has barely been seen since.

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10. FREDDY ADU

Freddy was tipped to be the United States' first-ever football superstar after making his MLS debut at the tender age of 14, but it proved to be a case of much Adu about nothing.

Three years later, he joined Portuguese giants Benfica, but failed to set the world alight.

Subsequent spells at Monaco, Belenenses, Aris Salonika, Caykur Rizespor and a trial at Manchester United failed to work out, and he's now trying to rebuild his career in Brazil with Bahia. He's still only 24.


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