Adnan Januzaj is a curious footballing case of ‘where did it all go wrong’. It’s very much like an episode of Eastenders: dramatic, but a little predictable in the modern game.
Putting the Pat Butcher earrings aside, Januzaj is a strange example of a youngster where so much was expected, but so little delivered.
Make no mistake about it, when the now 20-year-old burst onto the scene in October 2013, few would have questioned Januzaj was going to make it to the top. He single handedly ensured a 2-1 victory against Sunderland in his first start by scoring both goals as United came from behind to win.
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In an effort to stave off interest from other clubs who could have signed the Belgian for a minimal fee, United offered the former Anderlecht man a bumper five year contract.
In December that year, Januzaj was then nominated for BBC Young Sports Personality of the year, having featured on only 10 occasions for the Red Devils. Quite the start, right?
But with mighty highs come the terrible lows. Januzaj began to build a reputation for diving during the latter parts of the 2013-2014 season, which saw him booked three times for simulation after Christmas. The media erupted into frenzy, and you couldn’t help but think how such a young man could deal with the stardom that comes with playing for United.
After being handed the illustrious number 11 shirt at the beginning of the 2014-2015 campaign, one would have thought Januzaj’s form may have picked up. Sadly it didn’t and at the end of August 2015, he was loaned to German giants Borussia Dortmund, on a season-long deal.
What a place to reinvent yourself. Borussia Dortmund are easily one of Europe’s biggest heavyweights and to get the chance to go and play with one of the best side’s in Germany was a fantastic opportunity for Januzaj, who had become somewhat of an outcast at Old Trafford.
But it was a chance wasted, and another case of what could have been.
“It is a pity he did not show the desire and attitude you need to progress at his age,” said Dortmund manager Thomas Tuchel.
A damming verdict from one of Europe’s most admired managers. The problem with Januzaj is that he may have peaked too early. He came in and transformed United when he broke through a couple of years ago and fans instantly thought he could become the next Ryan Giggs. And he well and truly could have been.
But to become the next United prodigy you need a work ethic like no other. You need a desire to succeed that is so great, nothing will ever stand in your way of success, and it just doesn’t seem like Januzaj has that in his locker.
He was offered a lucrative contract, and at only 18-years-old, that is a big responsibility to look after. But that’s modern football, and it’s the only way big teams can protect their young stars from prowling rivals.
Whether Januzaj can recover? Only time will tell….