When young players are beginning to make their name in the game, or display a sublime piece of skill, they are often touted by the media, or in some cases fans or managers as ‘The New…’ (insert name of all time great here) that most can never hope to justify. In this list Football Fancast picks out ten of those most woefully mislabelled players.
1. Bruno Cheyrou (Zinedine Zidane)
Bruno Cheyrou was a very average midfielder. Unfortunately for him Liverpool supporters were expecting great things from the Frenchman when Gerard Houllier infamously labelled him the ‘new Zidane’. However, Cheyrou was not in the same stratosphere as Zidane and he endured a poor career at Anfield, where highlights such as scoring the winner against Chelsea in the 2003-04 season were all too rare. When Rafael Benitez took charge in 2004, Cheyrou was promptly shipped out.
2. Nii Lamptey (Pele)
Nii Lamptey is not a name that will be known by many followers of modern football, but in 1991 Lamptey was being compared to the greatest player of all time, Pele, who himself said “Lamptey is my natural successor”. The Ghanian had lit up the 1991 FIFA Under-17 World Cup which his country won, with some stellar performances. Sadly, his career never matched the promise he showed and he became a journeyman player in Europe, making a handful of appearances for Aston Villa and Coventry in the 90’s.
3. Pablo Aimar (Diego Maradona)
Many Argentinian players have struggled with the tag of being ‘the next Maradona’, but perhaps none more so than Pablo Aimar. The diminutive attacking midfielder had immense talent, and at the great Valencia side of the early 2000’s he looked destined to become one of the world’s best players. Instead of progressing however his career stagnated and he was sold to Real Zaragoza. Now at Benfica, Aimar is still a good player but he never fulfilled the potential he once displayed.
4. Jeremie Aliadiere (Thierry Henry)
Jeremie Aliadiere signed for Arsenal at the age of just 16, after graduating from the presitgious Clairefontaine academy. During the early part of his career for the Gunners some dubbed him the ‘new Thierry Henry’, due to his blistering pace. This unfortunately was the only similarity he had with Henry and Aliadiere only managed 8 league goals in his entire Arsenal career. The 27 year old is now without a club after being released by Middlesbrough in 2010.
5. Freddy Adu (Pele)
As a 14 year old Freddy Adu was a footballing sensation, with many proclaiming him as the next Pele and a future great. Adu had signed a professional contract with American side DC United at the age of just 14, making first team appearances and scoring a goal in his debut season. A trial at Manchester United followed, but he did not do enough to impress Sir Alex Ferguson and instead joined Real Salt Lake. Adu eventually made the move to Europe in 2007 with Benfica but he has not yet become a first team pick and has been sent out on loan to Monaco, Belenenses and now Greek side Aris. Still only 21, Adu can still make an impact in football but it does not seem likely that he will reach the lofty heights that were once predicted of him.
6. Salif Diao (Patrick Vieira)
Gerard Houllier made another gaffe when he boldly named £5 million signing Salif Diao ‘the next Patrick Vieira’, Liverpool fans were probably not so sure. Diao was brought to the club after some impressive international form for Senegal, along with El-Hadji Diouf who had been the man of the tournament in the 2002 African Cup of Nations. Both turned out to be flops, and Diao failed utterly to justify Houllier’s wildly inaccurate claims. Diao now plies his trade at Stoke.
7. Eric Djemba-Djemba (Roy Keane)
Eric Djemba-Djemba was another player who had live up to the name of a Premier League midfield general, in this case, Roy Keane. Although Keane was already at the club, when Man Utd signed Djemba-Djemba he was hailed as Keane’s eventual successor, however it soon became apparent that the Cameroonian would never come close to matching Keane’s prowess. Djemba-Djemba made few appearances in his two year United career, and was shipped off to Aston Villa, where he also bombed. Djemba-Djemba now plays for Danish outfit Odense BK.
8. Javier Saviola (Diego Maradona)
Javier Saviola is another Argentinian wonderkid who suffered from comparisons to the great Maradona. When he signed for Barcelona from River Plate at the age of 19 for the eyewatering amount of £15 million, many expected him to become a world class striker. It did not materialise however, and he played two disappointing seasons for arch-rivals Real Madrid before moving to current club Benfica.
9. Anthony Le Tallec (Michel Platini)
Anthony Le Tallec was dubbed the ‘new Michel Platini’ when Liverpool signed him from Le Havre as a teenager, along with Florent Sinama-Pongolle. It was a ridiculous comparison and appearances in a red shirt were very rare during his time at Anfield, and he was loaned out to five different clubs before eventually being sold to Le Mans in 2008. Although he is unlikely to match Platini, Le Tallec is now at Auxerre, and at 25 his career may be picking up.
10. Robinho (Pele)
Named by Pele himself as his heir at the age of just 15, Robinho had indeed shown great talent for Santos and looked like he would be a world star. It was no surprise when Spanish giants Real Madrid signed Robinho for £20 million, but while he played well he did not quite reach the levels that were expected of him when he signed for the club. Robinho had a torrid time in England at Manchester City and will now be looking to rebuild his career at AC Milan, at 26 he can still do this, but the comparisons with Pele now seem misjudged.
Have you got any other suggestions? Let us know.