For a plethora of reasons, Premier League clubs have frequently tried to cherry-pick the world’s best young talent. With young players often available at the fraction of the cost of more established names, the benefits of such a policy can be plentiful. However, such transactions are fraught with danger. There is always the risk that such a player may not develop as anticipated or adapt to the rigours of the Premier League. For every Cesc Fabregas, there’s a Jérémie Aliadière…
Current club: Unattached
French striker Jérémie Aliadière is living proof that Arsene doesn’t always know. Aliadière failed to follow the path of previous Arsenal striking sensations Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka, and left North London in the summer of 2007 after scoring just once in 27 league appearances for the Gunners in six years as a senior player at the club. Aliadière moved north to Middlesbrough prior to the 2007/08 season, where he managed to bag a more respectable 11 goals in 78 appearances before departing the Teesside club at the end of last season.
Current club: Bordeaux
Signed during the same summer as infamous Manchester United flops Eric Djemba-Djemba and Kleberson, former Sunderland man David Bellion failed to justify the lengths the Red Devils went to to secure the Frenchman’s signature. Bellion managed just four league goals for the Old Trafford outfit, and was sent out on loan to both West Ham United and Nice, where he enjoyed varying degrees of success. After impressing whilst at Nice, Bellion was snapped up by Bordeaux, where he won the French league title in 2009.
Giovani dos Santos
Current club: Tottenham Hotspur
Hailing from the esteemed Barcelona youth academy, Giovani dos Santos appeared to be a major coup for Spurs when he arrived at White Hart Lane from Catalonia in the summer of 2008. Two seasons on, and the Mexican has appeared just 15 times for Spurs, with the midfielder enduring underwhelming loan spells at both Ipswich Town and Galatasaray. Still only 21, dos Santos still has time on his side, and could yet make an impact at White Hart Lane.
Current club: Retired
Having led Ghana to the 1991 FIFA U-17 World Championship title, big things were expected of midfielder Nii Lamptey. Lamptey managed to display similarly dazzling form at club level with Belgian side Anderlecht, where he was hailed as the new Pele. After a brief spell at Dutch side PSV, Lamptey was brought to Aston Villa as a 20-year-old, where many expected him to light up the Premier League. After a failed season at Villa Park, Lamptey followed club manager Ron Atkinson to Coventry City, where he endured another miserable term. Lamptey left England in the summer of 1996 after making just 16 appearances in two seasons.
Anthony Le Tallec
Current club: Auxerre
Similarly to the aforementioned Nii Lamptey, Le Tallec was tipped for greatness on the basis of form displayed at a FIFA U-17 World Championship. During the 2001 instalment of the event, Le Tallec and then Le Havre team-mate Florent Sinama Pongolle won the Silver Ball and Golden Ball respectively, leading to a transfer to Gerard Houllier’s Liverpool. Initially loaned back to Le Havre for two years, Le Tallec failed to make an impact at Anfield, racking up a mere 17 league appearances during the course of five seasons upon Merseyside. During his time as a ‘Liverpool player’, Le Tallec was loaned out on no less than four occasions, before permanently joining French outfit Le Mans in the summer of 2008.
Current club: Jermaine Pennant
Everyone’s favourite formerly-electronically-tagged winger became Britain’s most expensive trainee when Arsenal shelled out £2m for the then 16-year-old in 1999. The former Notts County man made a bright start to his Arsenal career, scoring a hat-trick on his full league debut against Southampton, but succumbed to a string of disciplinary problems. Failing to impress Arsene Wenger, Pennant was loaned to Birmingham City, where he was arrested and convicted for drink-driving. This did not perturb the Midlands side, who signed Pennant permanently in 2005. Following the St. Andrews’ side’s relegation, Pennant moved to Liverpool, where he made 55 league appearances in three seasons before switching to Spanish side Real Zaragoza.
Current club: Fulham
A friend of mine once joked that whilst Philippe Senderos knows six languages, not one of them is defending. Whilst this may be a tad harsh on the Swiss defender, one would be hard pressed to state that he has been a resounding success in England. As a youth player, Senderos was courted by the likes of Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. His move to Arsenal was initially hailed as a masterstroke, with former Arsenal defender Martin Keown stating (of Senderos), “For me, he has what it takes to go all the way.” Despite featuring as a prominent part of the Arsenal rearguard that recorded ten consecutive Champions League clean sheets in 2005/06, Senderos’ form deteriorated soon after, with his mental resolve seeming increasingly fragile. Senderos endured something resembling a minor breakdown after Arsenal’s Champions League exit to Liverpool in 2008, and his Arsenal career declined soon afterwards. Senderos made 17 appearances over the course of the last two seasons during loan spells with both AC Milan and Everton, before departing for Craven Cottage earlier this month.
Florent Sinama Pongolle
Current club: Sporting Lisbon
Like cousin Anthony Le Tallec (see above), Florent Sinama Pongolle joined Liverpool on the basis of tremendous performances at the 2001 FIFA U-17 World Championship. During his time at Anfield, Sinama Pongolle endeared himself to the Anfield faithful more so than Le Tallec, famously scoring the equaliser in Liverpool’s 3-1 win over Olympiakos during the club’s triumphant Champions League campaign of 2004/05. Following a brief loan spell at Blackburn Rovers, Sinama Pongolle was sold to Spanish side Recreativo in the summer of 2006, where he finished as the club’s top scorer for two seasons running. This form attracted the interest of Atletico Madrid, and the Frenchman made the move to the capital club in the summer of 2008. Despite a bright start at the club, Sinama Pongolle fell out of favour and was transferred to Sporting Lisbon earlier this year.
Current club: Tottenham Hotspur
Yet another French-African midfielder billed as the ‘new Zinedine Zidane’, 21-year-old Adel Taarabt arrived at White Hart Lane on loan in early 2007. Despite exhibiting early promise under Martin Jol, Taarabt has failed to endear himself to both Juande Ramos and Harry Redknapp, managing just 16 appearances at White Hart Lane over the course of three and a half seasons. Taarabt has however, impressed on loan at Championship side Queens Park Rangers, where he established himself as one of the best players outside of the Premier League. With QPR unable to afford to secure Taarabt’s signature, his future remains unclear. Having stated that “The big mistake was to sign for Tottenham and not go to another club when I first came over”, and expressing a preference for fierce rivals Arsenal, it seems as though Taarabt’s White Hart Lane career is over.
Current club: Arsenal
A controversial selection given his undisputable quality, but it is safe to say that Theo Walcott has yet to justify his £12m price tag. After just 21 league appearances for Southampton, Walcott swiftly became the nation’s most coveted young talent. Arsene Wenger managed to fend off the interest of Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United to land Walcott in January 2006. Whilst Walcott has managed to rack up over 100 appearances for the London club and shown flashes of his brilliance for England, he has yet to develop consistency and has failed to progress at the rate expected. Like Giovani dos Santos (above), time is on his side, and Arsenal and England fans alike will be hoping that Walcott can build upon his early promise.
Any glaring omissions? Let me know below…
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