In 2007, World Soccer magazine released their list of the top 50 most exciting young prospects in world football. A lot of these players made it based on performances in the U17 World Cup just a few months earlier. Nearly 7 years on, we look back and see what has happened to them…
Note: list order, positions etc. is taken from here.
#1 – Sadick Adams (Striker, Atletico Madrid/Ghana)
One of the undoubted stars of the U17 World Cup, Adams was tipped by many to be one of the stars of the game and Ghana’s leading man in years to come. Sadly, his development stalled after his big move to Atletico Madrid where he couldn’t get out of the B team before joining Serbian side Vojvodina in December 2009. His spell there was short and unsuccessful and he left in 2010 for short spells at Etoile Sportive du Sahel in Tunisia, Al-Ansah in Saudi Arabia, Berekum Chelsea in Ghana, Saham in Oman and CFR Cluj of Romania before joining Saudi side Al-Nahda recently. He has still to play for the full national team.
#2 – Ismail Aissati (Attacking Midfielder, PSV/Holland)
The Dutch/Moroccan midfielder Aissati was too old to feature at the U17 World Cup but was making a name for himself in the first team at PSV and during his loan spell at FC Twente. 2008 would be tough with a number of managerial changes, contract disputes and a lack of regular game time saw Aissati sold to fierce rivals Ajax. Aissati was injured before he made his official debut with Ajax and when rehab took longer than expected he was way down the pecking order. Indeed, by the time he was loaned to Vitesse in 2010, he had only played 14 times for Ajax. Aissati’s form picked up at Vitesse but he couldn’t reach an agreement on personal terms with the Arnhem side and returned to Ajax to see out the rest of his contract. He left Holland in 2012 for Turkish side Antalyaspor before joining Russian side Terek Grozny in the summer of 2013 where he still plays. Aissati was never called up to the Dutch national team despite appearing for the Under 21s so instead opted to represent Morocco. He made his only international appearance for them in a 2011 friendly against Senegal.
#3 – Alexandre Pato (Striker, AC Milan/Brazil)
One of the most exciting talents in world football at the time was Pato who had just completed a big move from Internacional in Brazil to Milan. Pato made a good start to his career in Milan and was progressing well but he succumbed to injury after injury at the club which stifled his development and in 2013 he returned to Brazil with current club Corinthians. Pato made his international debut in 2008 and has scored 10 goals in 27 games thus far.
#4 – Anderson (Attacking Midfielder, Manchester United/Brazil)
Another Brazilian who had completed a big money move was Anderson who had left Porto for Manchester United. However, his progress stalled at United where a combination of a lack of game time, poor form and constant injuries saw him leave the club recently for a loan move to Italian side Fiorentina. Anderson made his international debut for Brazil in 2007 and has won 8 caps in total.
#5 – Giovani dos Santos (Attacking Midfielder, Barcelona/Mexico)
Many at Barcelona spoke of dos Santos as the heir to Ronaldinho’s throne. He was quick footed, skillful with an eye for a pass and a goal and only 18. It was a bit of a surprise when they sold him on to Tottenham in 2008 for a reported 6 million euros. His time at Spurs was a huge let down and he made only 31 appearances for the club in 4 years along with loan spells at Ipswich Town, Galatasaray and Racing Santander. He returned to Spain in 2012 with Mallorca and showed some of his ability as he became the focal point for the side which was ultimately relegated. He joined current club Villarreal in the summer of 2013. dos Santos made his international debut in September 2007 and has since gone on to win 73 caps, scoring 14 goals and winning the Gold Cup in 2009 and 2011.
#6 – Gareth Bale (Full Back, Tottenham/Wales)
Ah, the days when Gareth Bale was just a free kick taking full back that Spurs had overpaid for. Bale had only recently joined Spurs from Southampton in 2007 and took a while to settle in (so long that he was almost sold to Birmingham!). Eventually though he began to find his feet in the Premier League but it wasn’t until he was moved forward to the left wing that he began to break out as a real star. That hat trick against Inter in the Champions League helped and soon Bale was being hailed as one of the finest in the world earning Player of the Year honours twice and even making UEFA’s Team of the Year in 2011. However, he won nothing while at Spurs and in the summer of 2013, he joined current side Real Madrid for a lot of money (some say a world record, others don’t and it really depends on who you read). Bale made his Wales debut in 2006 and has won 43 caps, scoring 11 goals.
#7 – Sergio Aguero (Striker, Atletico Madrid/Argentina)
Aguero was already establishing himself as a regular at Atletico in 2007 and continued to progress with regular game time. His goal record was very consistent and he formed a deadly partnership with Diego Forlan which helped Atletico to the Europa League in 2010. He left Atletico Madrid for Manchester City in 2011 for £38 million. He quickly established himself as a City hero when he scored the last minute goal to secure the Premier League title in 2012 and has continued to be City’s regular goal scorer ever since. Aguero made his Argentina debut in 2006 and has got 47 caps to date, scoring 21 times.
#8 – Bojan Krkic (Striker, Barcelona/Spain)
Another Barcelona youngster that was held in high regard was young striker Bojan who in September 2007 became the youngest Barca player to ever play in La Liga after his impressive performances at the U17 World Cup. Bojan continued to play regularly for Barcelona and by the age of 20 had already racked up over 100 appearances for the Catalan side but many were from the bench and he wasn’t progressing as the club had hoped. He left for Roma in 2011 in one of the modern Barcelona buy-back deals. His time in Rome was a mixed bag and he was allowed to join AC Milan on loan in 2012. At Milan he didn’t play regularly and in the summer of 2013 Barcelona bought him back from Roma. Bojan immediately joined current club Ajax on loan. Bojan made his solitary Spain appearance in 2008 against Armenia. He has also played 7 times for the Catalan national side scoring six times.
#9 – Breno (Defender, Sao Paulo/Brazil)
Brazil’s biggest defensive prospect was the mature looking Breno who had made his name at Sao Paulo and attracted a number of very big suitors. He joined Bayern Munich in January 2008 after reportedly turning down Real Madrid because they wanted a bone sample to see if he was actually 18. His time in Munich was affected by a lack of playing time and in 2010 he was sent on loan to Nurnberg. His loan was quickly ruined by a serious knee injury which affected a lot more than his physical well-being. It was said that the injury affected Breno’s mind and in September 2011 he was arrested on suspicion of arson after hie rented apartment burned down. He was charged in April 2012 and sentenced to three years and nine months in jail in July 2012. Breno would also be deported back to Brazil at the end of his sentence where Sao Paulo tied him to a contract in December 2012 until 2015. Breno has recently been doing day release work helping with coaching the Bayern U23 side.
#10 – Gerardo Bruna (Attacking Midfielder, Liverpool/Argentina)
One of the youngest players on the list was Liverpool youngster Bruna who had recently been signed from the Real Madrid youth system. He failed to make the grade at all at Anfield and was allowed to leave for Blackpool in the summer of 2011. His time at Blackpool was not very successful either as he played just 4 games in two years. He joined current club Huesca of Spain in the summer of 2013.
#11 – Angel di Maria (Winger, Benfica/Argentina)
Signed by Benfica as a replacement for star man and captain Simao, di Maria quickly established himself as a leading light at Estadio da Luz. His partnership with star striker Oscar Cardozo blossomed leading the club to a league title and two league cups before joining current club Real Madrid in 2010. di Maria has developed into a key player at Madrid helping the club to a league title and cup win. He also made his international debut in 2008 and has won 44 caps to date, scoring 9 goals.
#12 – Diego Buonanotte (Attacking Midfielder, River Plate/Argentina)
Another Argentine starlet on the list was River Plate’s Buonanotte and quickly established himself as a vital piece of the River team as they won the 2008 Apertura. His development was stalled in late 2009 when he was involved in a serious car accident which killed three others. He returned to playing in April 2010 and in January 2011 he joined Spanish side Malaga. He appeared only sporadically for Malaga and was sold in January 2013 to current side Granada. Buonanotte has not broken into the national team but was a member of the gold medal winning 2008 Olympic squad for Argentina.
#13 – Franco Di Santo (Striker, Audax Italiano)
Striker Di Santo was a regular in the Audax side when the list came out and mere months later joined Chelsea. He played very rarely at Chelsea due to the presence of players like Didier Drigba and Nicolas Anelka and was loaned to Blackburn in 2009. His loan was disappointing with just one league goal to show for it. He joined Wigan in the summer of 2010 permanently and was usually the focal point of their attack during his spell there. He helped the team to a FA Cup victory in 2013 before leaving that summer following relegation. He joined current club Werder Bremen in 2013. Di Santo has won 3 caps for Argentina after making his debut in 2012.
#14 – Macauley Chrisantus (Striker, Hearts of Abuja/Nigeria)
One of the big talents to come from the U17 World Cup was top scorer Macauley Chrisantus. His 7 goals propelled the Nigerians to victory and earned the powerful striker a move to German side Hamburg. He never played for Hamburg but did enjoy reasonably successful loan spells at Karlsruher and FSV Frankfurt. He joined current side Las Palmas in Spain in the summer of 2012. He is yet to play for the full Nigerian international side.
#15 – Karim Benzema (Striker, Lyon/France)
One of the more well-known players on the list was Lyon striker Benzema who had taken Ligue 1 and the Champions League by storm. He was part of 4 league title sides at Lyon and fired the side toward a number of knockout round appearances. He was linked with big money moves to giant sides such as Manchester United for a while before joining current club Real Madrid in a big money deal in 2009. It took Benzema a while to find his feet in Spain but he soon became the number one striker and helped fire the Spanish side to a La Liga title and Copa del Rey. Benzema made his France international debut in 2007 and has won 64 caps, scoring 18 goals.
#16 – Dumitru Copil (Attacking Midfielder, Hearts/Romania)
The only Scottish based player on the list was a Romanian. Copil had joined Hearts earlier in 2007 despite interest from Liverpool and Celtic but no game time saw him go AWOL in early 2008. His homesickness and lack of games saw him return to Romania in 2009 with Atletico Arad. He had two loan spells at UTA Arad and FC Bihor. He currently plays for FC Ineu in the Romanian third tier.
#17 – Fabio (Left Back, Flamengo/Brazil)
Touted as Brazil’s full back of the future along with twin brother Rafael, Fabio was captain of Brazil at the U17 World Cup. Widely viewed as the better of the brothers, he joined Manchester United in January 2008 with Rafael. Injury and Patrice Evra kept Fabio out of the first team for long spells and he joined QPR on loan for the 2012/13 season. It was not overly successful for him as QPR were relegated and he returned to Manchester. Fabio made his international debut in 2011 and has won two caps.
#18 – Kermit Erasmus (Striker, Supersport United/South Africa)
The only South African on the list, Erasmus moved to Dutch giants Feyenoord in the summer of 2008. He very rarely played in the first team and was sent on loan to Excelsior to get game time in 2009. His loan spell was successful but he was allowed to return to Supersport United in the summer of 2010. He quickly became the focal point for Supersport and was even subject to an offer from Hungarian side Videoton. He joined current club Orlando Pirates in the summer of 2013. Erasmus has played 8 times for South Africa, scoring once.
#19 – Fabio Coentrao (Left Winger, Benfica/Portugal)
A winger at the time, Coentrao was struggling for game time at Benfica in 2007. He had loan spells with Nacional, Rio Ave and Real Zaragoza in Spain with varying degrees of success before being converted to a left back in 2009. Coentrao began to get a good run of games from then on and helped Benfica to the league title in 2010. He impressed at left back so much so that in 2011 he joined current club Real Madrid in a big money deal. He helped his new side to the league title in 2012 but has been unable to force his way into the first team as a regular. Recently, Coentrao has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United. Coentrao made his Portugal debut in 2009 and has won 43 caps, scoring two goals.
#20 – Marouane Fellaini (Midfielder, Standard Liege/Belgium)
Belgian midfielder Fellaini was quickly becoming a key man at Standard Liege, impressing as they won the league title and appeared in the Champions League. His form earned him a big money move to Everton in the summer of 2008 where he really honed his game and became one of the best players at Goodison Park. His form was good enough that he followed manager David Moyes to current club Manchester United in 2013. Fellaini made his Belgium debut in 2007 and has won 47 caps to date, scoring 7 goals.
#21 – Guilherme (Attacking Midfielder, Cruzeiro/Brazil)
Attacking midfielder Guilherme was Cruzeiro’s prized asset in 2007 and helped them to a Campeonato Mineiro in 2008. He left Brazil to join Ukrainian giants Dynamo Kiev in January 2009 but his time in Ukraine was notable for its lack of game time. He only played 11 league games in Kiev and had a year long loan that was moderately successful with Russian side CSKA Moscow before he returned to Brazil with current club Atletico Mineiro in 2011. He has helped Atletico to a Campeonato Mineiro and Copa Libertadores. Guilherme has not yet played for Brazil.
#22 – Damian Ismodes (Winger, Sporting Cristal/Peru)
The only Peruvian on the list, Ismodes had already been to the Copa America with Peru in 2007. He left Peru for Racing Santander in Spain in January 2008 but rarely played and was loaned out to Eibar, Sporting Cristal and Universitario Deportes. He returned to Peru in 2012 with current club Cienciano. Ismodes made his debut for Peru in 2007 and has won 5 caps to date.
#23 – Lorenzo De Silvestri (Right Back, Lazio/Italy)
The first right back on the list, De Silvestri had established himself in the Lazio side in 2007. However, contract wrangles and the losing of his place in the first team saw the full back sold to Fiorentina in the summer of 2009. De Silvestri was a regular for his new club but eventually lost his place and was loaned out to Sampdoria in 2012. He still currently plays for Sampdoria on loan. De Silvestri made his international debut for Italy in 2010 and has won two caps to date.
#24 – Nour Hadhira (Midfielder, Club Africain/Tunisia)
A surprise and very unknown part of the list was Tunisian midfielder Hadhira who had impressed at the U17 World Cup in the summer. He continued to impress in Tunisian football as well as he helped Club Africain to the league title in 2008. However, his progress stalled due to a lack of game time and in 2011 he left to join current club Bizertin Athletic Club, initially on loan then permanently. Hadhira is yet to play for the full Tunisian national team.
#25 – Rabiu Ibrahim (Attacking Midfielder, Sporting Lisbon/Nigeria)
A hugely touted talent was the impressive Nigerian Ibrahim. He progressed through the youth ranks at Sporting but never played for the first team and was loaned out for a while to Real Massama. He left Sporting in the summer of 2010 and after trials at various clubs, he joined Dutch giants PSV in January 2011. He only played two games for the Eindhoven club and left in January 2012 for Scottish giants Celtic. Like at PSV, his spell was characterised by a lack of game time and in January 2013 he was allowed to join Kilmarnock. His time at Rugby Park was marred by injury and he was even hospitalised after collapsing on the pitch. Recently, Ibrahim was released by Kilmarnock and he is currently without a club. He is yet to play for the full Nigerian national team.
That is the first half of the list. Be sure to stay tuned for the second half which is coming soon!