As a young footballer making their way in the game, which is more important; consistent football at a club or a move to a big side where opportunities are sparse?
The three examples we will look at all point to the fact that a move to the established ‘big boys’ may do more than harm than good.
Wilfried Zaha in the 2012-13 season, was playing the best football of his young career. He was spearheading his Crystal Palace side to promotion and was undoubtedly one of the best talents outside the top division and arguably the best in the whole country.
When Manchester United came knocking in January 2013, offering to buy the winger and loan him back to Palace, the deal seemed perfect for both parties. Sir Alex Ferguson was clearly a fan and could take the mercurial wide man under his wing and possibly turn him into one of the best players in Europe.
However, as we now all know, Ferguson was to leave Old Trafford and his replacement, David Moyes, never seemed to rate Zaha as highly. His opportunities were extremely limited in Manchester and he soon went from the potential future of English football, to another player seemingly destined to waste their talent.
Nearly two years after signing for United, he now finds himself permanently back at Selhurst Park and finally enjoying his football again and beginning to replicate the form he shown that earned him the move in the first place. But there is no doubt his move to Old Trafford stalled his career dramatically.
The next case is Jack Rodwell, a man who burst onto the scene at Everton and found himself on the cusp of the England team. A multi million pound move to Manchester City followed and similarly to Zaha, his career stopped. Almost a two year break in his career.
Only sixteen appearances in two years meant Rodwell has almost had to restart his burgeoning career from a lower point than when he left Goodison Park. He is slowly rebuilding his career at struggling Sunderland but at least he is playing football. Whether he can fully recover from his two year hiatus is yet to be seen.
The final case, although of course there are many more is Scott Sinclair. This one is arguably the most peculiar as it could be argued he has found himself in the same position twice. After spending his formative years at Chelsea, he forged his whole reputation away from Stamford Bridge on loan. After finally leaving the West Londoners for Swansea he regularly gained plaudits for his outstanding performances. So when the opportunity to go to Manchester City it was one simply too good to turn down.
However, his career at City has resembled his one at Chelsea perfectly. Only 13 times has he made it onto the pitch in City’s Sky Blue. His recent loan move to Aston Villa is enabling him to play consistent football and he is beginning to get him back to the level many have seen him reach before. His career at City appears to be over, so his next move may be his most vital.
Now moving to a big club doesn’t always end in disaster for young players, but there are certainly plenty of examples to point at where it has gone wrong. Although the opportunity may be too good to turn down, sometimes simply playing football is vital for a young player.