Where Are They Now? returns with a Football Manager theme as we look at the players termed “wonderkids” by the game. All players have been taken from this list which is also the order being used here. So, how did the players get on…
Philipp Lahm (Defender Stuttgart/Germany)
Entering the final season of his two year loan at Stuttgart, Lahm was already a full German international and considered the finest young defender in German football. His second season at Stuttgart was not as impressive as his first and was disrupted by foot and knee injuries in the end as he returned to Bayern Munich in the summer of 2005. When Lahm returned from injury he was thrust into the first team and never looked back winning six Bundesligas, five German Cups, two German Super Cups, the Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and World Club Cup as well as being club captain since January 2011. Internationally, Lahm appeared 113 times for Germany and scored five times before retiring after captaining them to the World Cup in 2014.
Vincent Kompany (Defender, Anderlecht/Belgium)
Possibly the best young player in Belgium, Kompany was highly touted in his homeland and was a regular for Anderlecht in his teens and helped them win the Belgian league in 2006. He left his boyhood club that summer to join German side Hamburg where he struggled with injury first before establishing himself as a first choice defender and earning himself a move in 2008 to English side Manchester City, days before the now famous billionaire takeover. Kompany has become something of a hero to City fans, captaining them to two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and League Cup. Internationally, Kompany has played sixty times for Belgium, scoring four and being named captain in 2011 and lead them to the quarter finals of the World Cup in 2014.
Fernando Torres (Striker, Atletico Madrid/Spain)
An established, lethal striker in just his early twenties, Fernando Torres was coveted by a number of big clubs around Europe. It ended up being Liverpool who were the ones that secured his services in the summer of 2007 and he repaid them handsomely. He scored 24 league goals in his debut season and was at the forefront as the Reds almost won the league in 2009. Injuries hampered him throughout his time at Anfield until his controversial departure from Anfield for £50 million to Chelsea in January 2011. His time at Chelsea was a massive disappointment despite one season with 22 goals in all competitions (from 64 games) but Torres won the Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League at the club. He joined AC Milan on loan in the summer of 2014 which became permanent in January 2015 when he then returned to Atletico on loan until the end of the 2015/16 season. Torres has earned 110 caps for Spain, scoring 38 times including the winner at Euro 2008 and has also won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 with his country.
Carlos Tevez (Striker, Boca Juniors/Argentina)
See Where Are They Now? #21 – South American U20 Championships 2003 (Argentina). Tevez has also recently rejoined Boca Juniors from Juventus after helping the Italians win Serie A and reach the Champions League final.
Obafemi Martins (Striker, Internazionale/Nigeria)
A talented striker in Italy, Martins would technically help Inter win Serie A in 2006 (thanks to the match fixing scandal it was awarded to Inter). He would leave that summer for English side Newcastle United where he helped them win the Intertoto Cup in 2006 and was a regular if not prolific scorer. He couldn’t help Newcastle avoid relegation and left in the summer of 2009 to join German club Wolfsburg. He never really impressed in Germany and left after a season to join Russian side Rubin Kazan. He struggled even more in Russia scoring just five goals in his time but winning Russian Cup and Super Cup. During that stint in Russia he spent six months on loan at Birmingham City, scoring the winner in the League Cup final. He joined Levante in the summer of 2012 and his decent form prompted MLS side and current club Seattle Sounders to buy him in March 2013. He has been excellent in the US and has won the Supporters Shield and US Open Cup with the Sounders. Martins’ international career has been shrouded in controversy and he has only played 39 times for Nigeria, scoring 18 goals.
Javier Mascherano (Midfielder, River Plate/Argentina)
See Where Are They Now? #21 – South American U20 Championships 2003 (Argentina). Mascherano recently helped Barcelona complete the treble of La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League.
Freddy Adu (Attacker, DC United/USA)
Tipped to be the next Pele, Adu’s career disintegrated after leaving DC United in 2006. He had disappointing spells at Real Salt Lake and Philadelphia Union in the MLS; Benfica and Belenenses in Portugal; Caykur Rizespor in Turkey; Aris in Greece; Bahia in Brazil; Jagodina in Serbia and KUPS in Finland. He recently joined American side Tampa Bay Rowdies. Adu also played internationally for the USA between 2006 and 2011, winning 17 caps and scoring two times.
Fernando Cavenaghi (Striker, Spartak Moscow/Argentina)
See Where Are They Now? #21 – South American U20 Championships 2003 (Argentina). Cavenaghi recently helped River Plate win the Copa Libertadores before joining Cypriot side APOEL.
Anthony Vanden Borre (Defender, Anderlecht/Belgium)
With a similar career trajectory to his good friend Kompany, full back Vanden Borre was also hotly tipped to be a big star. He would leave Belgium in 2007 for Italian side Fiorentina but he would rarely play for the club. He was sent to Genoa in 2008 in a co-ownership deal where he played regularly but never really impressed. He joined English side Portsmouth on loan in 2009 where he was relegated and made famous by Chris Kamara missing his red card on live TV. He left Genoa in 2010 to return to Belgium with Genk, helping them win the title in 2011. He left in 2012 to join Ukrainian side Tavriya Simferopol but only spent months with the club before returning to Anderlecht. His form for Anderlecht has seen him return to the international fold where he currently has 28 caps for Belgium with one goal.
Cesc Fabregas (Midfielder, Arsenal/Spain)
Deemed a wonderkid by FM around the same time he broke into and established himself in the Arsenal first team, Fabregas would very quickly become the star man in midfield for the Gunners even with the exodus of big names from the club. He would win the FA Cup with the Gunners and help them reach the Champions League final in 2006 but his time at Arsenal is more remembered for the glorious failures and falling short at the final hurdle. Fabregas would eventually return home to Barcelona in 2011 where he would win La Liga, the Copa del Rey, two Spanish Super Cups, UEFA Super Cup and the Club World Cup. However, his form was not quite at the level it was at in England and he found himself in and out of the side. He left Barcelona in 2014 to return to England with current club Chelsea where he recently won the League Cup and Premier League. Fabregas made his international debut in 2006 and has 97 caps and 14 goals for Spain. He has been a part of the two wins at Euro 2008 and 2012 and provided the crucial assist for Andres Iniesta to win the 2010 World Cup for Spain.
Gael Clichy (Defender, Arsenal/France)
Technically a member of the Invincibles, Clichy spent much of his early Arsenal career as back-up to Ashley Cole at left back. Cole’s departure in 2006 saw Clichy promoted to being a regular and he succeeded beyond expectations. However, silverware proved elusive and, like Fabregas, he left Arsenal in 2011. Clichy went to Premier League rivals and current club Manchester City and has won two Premier League titles and a League Cup with the club. Clichy made his international debut in 2008 and has won 20 caps for France.
Freddy Guarin (Midfielder, Envigado/Colombia)
A regular in Colombian domestic football, Guarin’s performances attracted the attention of a number of clubs but Boca Juniors won the race to sign him in 2005 – albeit on loan. He played mainly youth football and the odd first team game but Boca failed to secure him permanently so Guarin left Envigado on loan again in 2006, this time to French side Saint Etienne. He did well in France despite being in and out of the side and Saint Etienne made his loan permanent in the summer of 2007. Another decent season drew the interest of Portuguese giants Porto who signed Guarin in 2008. It was at Porto where Guarin made his name with his combative style and eye for a spectacular goal. He helped Porto win three league titles, three Portuguese Cups, three Portuguese Super Cups and the Europa League during his stint in Portugal. He moved to Italian side Internazionale in January 2012 and has played over 100 games for Inter before recently moving to the big spending Chinese Super League with Shanghai Shenhua. Guarin debuted for Colombia in 2006 and has won 55 caps and scored 4 goals.
Libis Arenas (Goalkeeper, Envigado/Colombia)
Breaking into the Envigado side at just 17, Arenas was tipped to be the answer to Colombian goalkeeping for a while. His career stalled however when he moved to Italian side Lazio in 2007. He only stayed at the club for a year before leaving to embark on a nomadic tour of South America to play – Sportivo Luqueno of Paraguay; Penarol (where he won the league title) and Villa Teresa in Uruguay and Patriotas, Deportivo Pereira, America de Cali, Santa Fe and current club Fortaleza in his homeland. Arenas has also made three appearances for Colombia back in 2006.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Midfielder, Bayern Munich/Germany)
Fresh off impressing for Germany in the Confederations Cup, Schweinsteiger would suffer the ignimony of being demoted to reserves by Felix Magath. Brought back up quickly however, Schweinsteiger continued to turn in impressive performances for Bayern and, in turn, began to move inside from his original wide role. Cementing himself as a key cog in the Bayern machine, Schweinsteiger’s trophy haul is as impressive as his ability – 8 Bundesligas, 7 German Cups, a Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup. Schweinsteiger left Bayern in the summer of 2015 to join former manager Louis van Gaal at English side Manchester United where he currently plays. Schweinsteiger has also been a regular for Germany since his debut in 2004 and has won 114 caps and scored 23 goals. He has helped the Germans to two third places at World Cups (2006 and 2010), runners-up at Euro 2008 and to win the World Cup in 2014. Schweinsteiger was named captain after the victory following Lahm’s aforementioned retirement.
Alexander Kerzhakov (Striker, Zenit/Russia)
Already a regular for Russia and Zenit, Kerzhakov remained Zenit’s main man up top until the arrival of Dick Advocaat in 2006 saw his game time limited and he eventually decided to move on in January 2007. He joined Spanish side Sevilla but was never a regular for the club and after just over a year and less than fifty games in all competitions, Kerzhakov returned to Russia with Dynamo Moscow. His return was not a spectacular one with just eight goals in his first season before he returned to form in 2009 and hit fifteen before leaving Dynamo for nothing to rejoin Zenit in 2010. He was immediately Zenit’s main man again and bagged over 40 goals in two seasons for the club. His play time has decreased since due to age and the influx of expensive foreign talent but Kerzhakov remains at Zenit. Kerzhakov has 90 caps for the Russian national team and is their record goalscorer with 30 goals since his debut in 2002.
Igor Akinfeev (Goalkeeper, CSKA Moscow/Russia)
First choice at CSKA since 2003, Akinfeev is a one-club man and has made over 450 appearances before he has even hit 30. Highly rated as a youngster, he has remained with his first club helping them win five Russian titles, six Russian cups, six Russian Super Cups and the UEFA Cup. Akinfeev made his international debut in 2004 and has earned 85 caps despite occasionally losing his place as number one.
Kostadin Hazurov (Striker, CSKA Sofia/Bulgaria)
A full international, league winner with CSKA before 20 and the youngest scorer of a hat-trick in the Bulgarian top flight, Hazurov’s career stalled badly after his move to Litex Lovech in 2005. Injuries and a lack of playing time stunted his development despite loan spells at Dunav Ruse, his first club Pirin Blagoevgrad and Vidimia-Rakovski. He left Litex after just 15 games and no goals in 2008 for Minyor Pernik where he found goals hard to come by with just six in two years before his release in 2010. He found a club in early 2011 in the form of Israeli side Bnei Sakhnin where he found a semblance of form again before he left Israel in the summer of 2012 to join Belgian side Lierse. His goal record was far from convincing to say the least and he left Belgium in 2014 to join Israeli side Maccabi Petah Tikva but left after a season and just a solitary goal. He returned to current club CSKA Sofia in 2015. Hazurov has failed to add to his single international cap he earned in 2004.
Johan Vonlanthen – (Striker, PSV Eindhoven/Switzerland)
Debut in the Swiss Super League at 16, big move to PSV less than a couple of years later, youngest player and goalscorer at the European Championships – it’s fair to say that Johan Volanthen had an eventful start to his career. Switzerland’s boy wonder was highly rated but 2005 saw his time at PSV go south as his form deserted him quickly. A spell in Serie A with Brescia didn’t help before a mixed season on loan at NAC Breda left PSV deciding to cut their losses with Vonlanthen. He found a home in Austria with everyone’s favourite club Red Bull Salzburg. However, his three full seasons at the club were another mixed bag with some injuries and mixed form and, despite a decent season on loan at FC Zurich, Vonlanthen was no longer wanted in Austria and left in 2011. He made the interesting move to Colombia with Itagui but a knee injury saw him decide to retire at just 26. He was tempted back into the game by Grasshoppers in his homeland where he rarely played, spending time on loan at second tier Schaffhausen before he joined current club Servette in the summer of 2014. Vonlanthen was a regular in the Switzerland side for a number of years, going to Euro 2008 and earning 40 caps, scoring 7 goals.
Ciprian Marica (Striker, Shakhtar Donetsk/Romania)
Plucked from his homeland by Shakhtar, Marica would make a name for himself as a potentially top class striker with the Ukranian side despite never being overly prolific. 24 goals in 119 games is not exactly world class however it was Marica’s all-round game and contributions to Shakhtar’s two league titles and Ukranian Cup that earned him a move to top Bundesliga side Stuttgart in 2007. Marica struggled in Germany initially, scoring just 6 league goals before eventually making a breakthrough in his third season, reaching double figures in the league and attracting interest from across Europe. He would eventually leave Stuttgart in January 2011 for Bundesliga rivals Schalke where Marica would struggle for goals. He would only score 9 in 18 months in Gelsenkirchen before being released and joining Spanish side Getafe in September 2013. His six goals helped Getafe stay in La Liga but he was released at the end of the season and made the move to Turkish side Konyaspor. His time in Turkey was miserable – injuries restricted Marica to just seven games and a solitary goal before he was released in October 2015. He recently signed with Steaua Bucharest in his homeland, the fierce rivals of his first club Dinamo. A regular still at international level, Marica has scored 25 goals in 70 appearances for Romania.
Jonathan Legear (Winger, Anderlecht/Belgium)
Another exciting prospect from Anderlecht, Legear would take a while longer than Kompany and Vanden Borre to break fully into the first team. Once he did, Legear became a first choice on the right wing, playing over 120 league games for Anderlecht before being sold in 2011 to Russian side Terek Grozny. His time in Russia was a disappointment as he only made 22 league appearances before his contract was mutually terminated in January 2014 after he fell out with the club. He would return to Belgium with KV Mechlen on a short-term deal but he was released that summer after just 3 games. Legear would move to English side Blackpool in late 2014 but never played for the club and was released in January 2015 before he returned to current club Standard Liege (where he spent five years in their academy) that same year. Legear earned two full international caps for Belgium in 2010.
Valeri Bojinov (Striker, Lecce/Bulgaria)
Discovered at 14 by Lecce, Bojinov was highly rated in Italy. He would make the step up in 2005 with Fiorentina but he would only manage 10 goals in 18 months before he was loaned out in 2006 to Calciopoli-hit Juventus in Serie B. While Juve sauntered to the title, Bojinov was a bit part player and struggled and Fiorentina made the decision to sell him in 2007 to English side Manchester City. His time in England was a disaster as long-term injuries destroyed his time there before it could really begin and he would only score one league goal before he was let go to Parma in 2009, initially on loan. After a poor second season back in Serie A, Bojinov would be sold to Portuguese giants Sporting where he would play 15 games before being deemed surplus to requirements. Loan spells at Lecce, Verona and Vicenza would follow before he returned to Bulgaria with Levski Sofia in January 2014. He rediscovered some form in his homeland before returning to Italy with Serie B side Ternana in September of the same year. His solitary season with the club was unspectacular and he left to join Serbian giants and current club Partizan. Bojinov has made 43 appearances for Bulgaria, scoring six goals since his debut in 2004.
Jeremy Mathieu (Defender, Sochaux/France)
A member of Sochaux’s League Cup winning side, Mathieu attracted interest from around Europe before joining Toulouse in the summer of 2005. His consistently excellent performances continued (despite a season ending broken foot in 2006) and he left in the summer of 2009 for Spanish side Valencia. During his time at Valencia, Mathieu continued to perform to a high standard and his reputation in Spain and across Europe grew especially after an impressive 2013/14 season. He would be bought in the summer of 2014 by current club Barcelona where he was a regular as the Catalan giants secured a La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble as well as the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup in 2015. Mathieu made his international debut in 2011 but has only earned 4 caps for France.
Nelson Valdez (Striker, Werder Bremen/Paraguay)
A title winner with Bremen in 2004, Valdez would leave the club where he made his breakthrough and join Borussia Dortmund in 2006. However, his time at Dortmund was a mixed bag as, despite a severe lack of goals, he was always an excellent team player. He was eventually allowed to leave Dortmund following the 2010 World Cup and he has since went on a rather nomadic existence. Valdez has had spells at Hercules in Spain (where he scored a decisive brace in a win at the Nou Camp); Rubin Kazan in Russian(a Russian Cup and Super Cup winner in his time there); Valencia (on loan); Al-Jazira of the United Arab Emirates; Olympiacos in Greece (winning a league title while on loan) and Eintracht Frankfurt in Germany before joining current club, MLS side Seattle Sounders in 2015. Valdez made his international debut in 2004 and has played 74 times for Paraguay, scoring 13 goals.
Steven Taylor (Defender, Newcastle/England)
Hometown boy and nearly one club man (blame those six games on loan at Wycombe in 2003/04), Steven Taylor has stuck with Newcastle through the thick and mostly thin in his decade in the first team. Now a bit part player, Taylor has been a solid servant at the back for the Magpies and helped the club win the Championship in 2010 and Intertoto Cup in 2006. More famous for his attempts to avoid a red card for handball by acting like he’d been shot, Taylor was a regular for the England youth teams but has never earned a full international cap.
Kostyantyn Yaroshenko (Midfielder, Shakhtar Donetsk/Ukraine)
A regular feature in the youth and reserve sides in Donetsk, Yaroshenko would never make the breakthrough into the Shakhtar Donetsk first team. He would spend seven years on loan from Shakhtar at clubs around Ukraine – Metalist Kharkiv, Arsenal Kiev, Chornomorets Odesa, Vorskla Poltava and four years with Illichivets Mariupol – before he would leave permanently in 2012 and sign for Illichivets. He would be on the move a year later, signing with Sevastopol for a season before he joined current club, Russia’s FC Ural in 2014. Like Taylor, Yaroshenko was a regular youth international but he has not won a full Ukraine cap.
A incredibly prolific goalscorer for Cruzeiro and Brazilian international, Fred’s big move to Europe would come in the summer of 2005 when he signed for French champions Lyon. His first two seasons in France were successful, with plenty of goals and three consecutive Ligue 1 titles and a French Cup. However, injuries and the emergence of a certain Karim Benzema saw Fred pushed to the side and he was released in early 2009. That paved the way for his return to Brazil with current club Fluminese where he was rejuvinated, winning two league titles, a state championship and being named the league’s best player in 2012. Fred would make his international debut for Brazil in April 2005 and played 39 times, scoring 18 goals. He was a member of the Copa America winning side of 2007 and Confederations Cup winning side of 2013 but saw his international career ended after he was singled out for criticism after Brazil’s failed World Cup campaign in 2014.
Jhon Jairo Mosquera (Striker, River Plate/Colombia)
Mosquera’s footballing education finished with River Plate before he joined Atletico Nacional in his homeland before his performances at the U17 World Cup convinced Werder Bremen to sign him in 2006. He played just three games for Bremen and spent much of his time out on loan – he had spells at SonderjyskE (twice), Alemania Aachen, Wacker Burghausen and Union Berlin and would have joined Carl Zeiss Jena had he not suffered a heart attack in 2007 – before he left permanently in 2011 to join Union Berlin. He would leave in 2012 and have spells in China with Changchun Yatai; Germany with Energie Cottbus and Portugal with Gil Vicente before returning to Colombia and joining current club Envigado in 2014.
Nilmar (Striker, Lyon/Brazil)
Despite a debut brace, Nilmar’s much hyped move to Lyon fell very flat as he never scored again in France despite winning Ligue 1. The arrival of Fred forced Nilmar out the door and back to Brazil with Corinthians where he returned to the form that prompted Lyon to buy him from Internacional. He fired Corinthians to the title in 2005 but had his contract cancelled in 2007 as the club owed him nearly two million dollars. He returned to Internacional that year and continued his fine form, winning two state titles and the Copa Sudamericana. He left Brazil again to sign for Spain’s Villarreal in 2009 and formed a lethal partnership up front with Italian Giuseppe Rossi. However, he was unable to stop the club from being relegated in 2012 and left to join Qatari side Al Rayyan that summer. He won two Qatari cups with the club before a brief spell with El Jaish preceded a second return to Internacional in 2014. Another state title win followed in 2015 before he joined current side Al-Nasr of UAE. Nilmar won 23 caps for Brazil, scoring eight goals and winning the Confederations Cup in 2009.
Note: Alexandr Chernov of Russia’s Arsenal Tula was on that list however I have been unable to find any records of him which might say a lot for how his football career panned out.
That is all for part one of this look back at the wonderkids of FM past. Check back for part two coming very soon including footballing luminaries such as Wayne Rooney, Cristiano Ronaldo, Anthony Le Tallec, Eddie Gaven and… Billy Jones?!