Where Are They Now? returns with part two of 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…
Hatem Ben Arfa (Winger, Lyon/France)
Highly rated as youngster, Ben Arfa looked set to be France’s next great winger. Full of trickery and magic, the youngster impressed in the Lyon first team and was a part of four Ligue 1 wins as well as a French Cup victory during his time at the club. He only really established himself in the 2007/08 season but rumours of a rift with Karim Benzema were rife. He was eventually sold on to Marseille after a falling out with Sebastian Squillaci in the summer of 2008 despite having just won the UNFP Young Player of the Year. He would go on to help Marseille win Ligue 1 in 2010 but again he fell out with the club and was moved on to English side Newcastle United that summer, initially on loan. He started brightly for Newcastle but broke his leg after just four games. The club still made the move permanent and upon his return from injury, Ben Arfa showed class on the right hand side for the club. His form would blow hot and cold at times until 2014 when he, once again, fell out with management and was loaned to Hull City. He played just 9 times for Hull before his loan was terminated and Newcastle released him in January. He was unable to sign for a club having already played for two teams in the calendar year so sat out the rest of the season before joining current club Nice in the summer of 2015. Ben Arfa made his international debut in 2007 and has played 15 times for France, scoring twice.
Vagner Love (Striker, CSKA Moscow/Brazil)
Already a Brazilian international, Love had already helped CSKA to the UEFA Cup and Russian title. He would another the following season as the Brazilian continued to plunder goals for the Army Men. He would also win three more Russian cups and supercups in his first spell with the club. The goals dried up in 2009 and he had loan spells back in Brazil with Palmeiras and Flamengo before returning to Russia a year later. He would win another Russian Cup before a permanent return to Flamengo in 2012. However, despite a good season, he was back in Moscow just a year later and helped CSKA to a league and cup double. Despite another successful return, he left CSKA for Chinese side Shangdong Luneng in 2013, winning the Chinese FA Cup the following year. He rescinded his contract at the end of 2014 to return to Brazil and join Corinthians where his goals helped the club to the Serie A title. He recently joined current club AS Monaco of France. Love won 20 caps for Brazil and scored four goals and was part of the 2004 and 2007 Copa America winning sides.
Nicolae Mitea (Winger, Ajax/Romania)
The Romanian winger had been a starter for Ajax in the previous two seasons and was making an impression however 2005 would prove to be the peak of his young career. A serious knee injury destroyed his time at Ajax and he would play just nine more games for the club (winning a KNVB Cup in 2006) before leaving in 2008. He returned to first club Dinamo Bucharest but after 12 games he was released the following summer. Had spells with FC Ionikos in Greece and Petrolul Ploiesti in Romania but has been a free agent since his release by Concordia Chiajna in 2014. Mitea played nine times for Romania between 2003 and 2005, scoring twice.
John Heitinga (Centre Back, Ajax/Netherlands)
Already fought back from two serious knee injuries, Heitinga would establish himself as a fine young defender at Ajax. He would help the club win two more KNVB Cups before he left in the summer of 2008 for Spanish side Atletico Madrid. His time in Madrid only lasted a year as he moved to English side Everton. He was a regular in the Everton team until 2013/14 when he fell out of favour. He would leave Everton to join Fulham in January 2014 but the club was relegated and Heitinga released that summer. He would join German side Hertha Berlin but an injury hit season saw him return to Ajax in the summer of 2015 on a free. Injuries limited him to two matches and he retired on 1 February 2016. Having made his debut in 2004, Heitinga played 87 times for the Netherlands, scoring 7 times. He infamously was sent off in the 2010 World Cup final for two yellow cards becoming just the fifth player to be sent off in the game.
Lukas Podolski (Striker, FC Koln/Germany)
A phenomenon when he burst onto the scene, Podolski was from a young age making FC Koln a one man team. His international selections in the second tier were enough to show he was special and after Koln’s relegation in 2006, he joined Bayern Munich. Despite winning a domestic double in 2008, Podolski’s time at Bayern was difficult as he was often overlooked or coming off the bench. He returned to Koln in 2009 where he once again helped keep the team in the Bundesliga single handedly until 2012 when they went down once more. He left again to join English side Arsenal where he won the FA Cup in 2014. Despite a good start, his form tailed off towards the end of his spell at the club and he was loaned out to Italian side Internazionale in January 2015. His time in Italy was not an overwhelming success and he left Arsenal permanently that summer to join current club Galatasaray of Turkey. Podolski made his international debut in 2004 and has won 127 caps for Germany to date and scored 48 goals. He was part of the German World Cup winning squad in 2014.
Andre Bahia (Defender, Flamengo/Brazil)
Bahia’s impressive performances at the back caught the interest of Dutch giants Feyenoord who signed the defender at the end of the Brazilian season, a fact that left Bahia in the doldrums with Flamengo. He did help Flamengo survive before moving to Holland. He was a regular at the heart of the Feyenoord defence and won the KNVB Cup in 2008. He would leave Holland in 2011 to join Turkish side Samsunspor. He was a regular for one season but left due to money issues. He would return to Brazil with Botafogo in 2013 helping them win the Campeonato Carioca the same year. He joined current side, Shonan Bellmare of Japan, in 2015. Bahia never played internationally for Brazil.
Billy Jones (Right Back, Crewe/England)
Already a regular for Championship Crewe, big things were expected of Jones. Stayed at Crewe despite their relegation in 2006 before joining Preston in the summer of 2007. He was a near ever present for Preston over four seasons before earning a free transfer in 2011 to Premier League side West Brom. Jones would be a decent squad player for the Baggies before he was allowed to joined current club Sunderland in the summer of 2014. Jones has never played for England.
Cesar Fawcett (Left Back, Junior/Colombia)
A one club man, Fawcett has remained at Colombian side Junior for his entire career helping them to two league titles. He had loan spells with lower league sides Real Cartagena, Santa Fe and Deportivo Pereira. He has not played internationally for Colombia.
Edixon Perea (Striker, Atletico Nacional/Colombia)
A goalscoring phenom in Colombia, Perea’s big move came in the form of French side Bordeaux in 2006. He struggled in France, scoring just 3 goals before he was sold to Brazilian side Gremio. He did OK at Gremio but he was let go in 2010 and had a nomadic career, only finding success in Mexico with Cruz Azul. He had spells in Spain with Las Palmas; China with Changchun Yatai; Hungary with Honved and back home in Colombia with Deportivo Cali. Recently joined current club America. Perea made his international debut in 2004 and played 26 times over four years for Colombia, scoring nine goals.
Wesley Sneijder (Midfielder, Real Madrid/Netherlands)
One of the finest young midfielders in Europe, Sneijder was a full Dutch international and led Ajax to two more KNVB Cups before his departure in 2007 to Spanish giants Real Madrid. His time in Madrid him win a league title in his first season but a rough second season saw Sneijder sold to Italian giants Internazionale in 2009. It was an inspired move for Sneijder who led Inter to the league, cup and Champions League treble in 2010. They would win the World Club Cup that year as well as the Coppa Italia the following year but the decline of Inter was quick despite Sneijder’s best efforts. He joined Turkish side and current club Galatasaray in January 2013, winning two league titles and Turkish cups. Sneijder is still a Dutch international, winning 121 caps and scoring 29 goals to date. He also played in the 2010 World Cup final for his country.
Alessio Cerci (Winger, Roma/Italy)
A huge talent from the Roma academy, Cerci had three loan spells away from the club at Brescia, Pisa and Atalanta but those were a mixed bag. He played one full season in Rome but it was inconsistent and in 2010 he was sold to Fiorentina. His time in Florence was more renowned for erratic performances and behaviour and his career seemed to be going nowhere until his move to Torino in 2012. Here Cerci flourished and his performances drew attention from around Europe. He earned a big move to Spanish side Atletico Madrid in 2014 but could not settle and struggled under Diego Simeone. He was loaned out in early 2015 to AC Milan where he struggled for a whole calendar year before joining current side Genoa on loan in early 2016. Cerci made his international debut in 2013 and has played 14 times for Italy.
Rafael van der Vaart (Midfielder, Ajax/Netherlands)
Often controversial at Ajax, van der Vaart left in 2005 to join German club Hamburg. He would win two Intertoto Cups in Germany and his performances drew interest from Real Madrid who signed him in 2008. His time in Madrid was similar to Sneijder’s as he was underappreciated and after just two seasons, sold to English side Tottenham. His spell at Tottenham was a massive success as he was a huge part in their resurgence as a top side in English football. He left White Hart Lane in 2012 though to return to Hamburg. His second spell was less successful but he did help the club stay up in the Bundesliga before joining current club, Real Betis of Spain, in 2015. van der Vaart made his Holland debut in 2001 and played 109 games in 12 years, scoring 25 goals and playing in the World Cup final.
Robinho (Striker, Santos/Brazil)
The heir to Pele’s throne, Robinho would join Real Madrid in 2005 and would play quite well. Winner of two league titles, he had a successful time in Madrid but repeated broken promises led to him wanting to leave. He would join English side Manchester City in 2008 where he would start brightly but faded away badly. He was loaned back to Santos in early 2010 where he led the club to a state title and the Brazilian Cup. He would be sold that summer to Italian giants Milan where he won the Serie A in his first season but once again faded badly and was loaned to Santos in 2014. Another state title followed before he joined Chinese side Guangzhou Evergrande in the summer of 2015. He won the Chinese title before being released at the end of the year and recently joined Atletico Mineiro in Brazil. Robinho made his international debut for Brazil in 2003 and has won 100 caps, scoring 29 goals. He has won two Copa Americas and a Confederations Cup with his country and he was top scorer and best player when they won the Copa America in 2007.
Wayne Rooney (Striker, Manchester United/England)
England’s great hope, Rooney is currently Manchester United captain and has a trophy collection most would envy – five Premier Leagues, two League Cups, a Champions League and a Club World Cup. Rooney is also the second highest scorer in United and Premier League history and the scorer of most goals for a single club in Premier League history. Rooney is also the current England captain and record goalscorer with 109 caps to date and 51 goals.
Diego (Midfielder, Porto/Brazil)
A huge star at Santos, Diego struggled to show the same form at Porto and in 2006, despite winning a domestic double, he was sold to German side Werder Bremen. It was in Bremen he alerted Europe to just how good he was as he was the fulcrum of a team that won the League Cup, German Cup and almost won the UEFA Cup. His big money move came in 2009 to Italian giants Juventus but his time in Italy was miserable. He struggled to adapt and was often left out of the side. He returned to Germany with Wolfsburg in 2010 but again disappointed. He joined Atletico Madrid of Spain on loan in 2011 and was a key part of their Europa League winning side of 2012. He returned to Wolfsburg in fine form and played well for 18 months before his return to Atletico in early 2014. He helped Atleti win La Liga before being allowed to join Turkish side and current club Fenerbahce in the summer. Diego made his international debut in 2003 and won 33 caps in five years, scoring four goals. He was a part of the successful 2004 and 2007 Copa America sides.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Winger, Manchester United/Portugal)
A legend of football, Ronaldo blossomed from 2005 into one of the most deadly footballers of all-time. Three Premier Leagues, two League Cups, a Champions League and a World Club Cup as well as his first Ballon d’Or put Ronaldo down into the history books at Old Trafford. He would leave Manchester in 2009 for a world record fee to join current club Real Madrid where he has gone insane. Their record scorer at over a goal a game, Ronaldo has won two Ballon d’Ors as well as a La Liga title, two Copa del Reys, a Champions League, a UEFA Super Cup and a Club World Cup for Real. Ronaldo is the current Portugal captain with 125 caps to date and 56 goals making him their top scorer of all time.
Alan Kardec (Striker, Vasco/Brazil)
A massive talent in Brazil, Kardec would make his Vasco debut in 2007 (helping them to win the second tier title in 2009) where he showed enough to Portuguese giants Benfica to earn a move there in 2010 (after a short loan at Internacional in Brazil the previous year). He struggled in Portugal and despite winning the league and two cup medals and was loaned to Santos in 2011 winning a state title. His spell at Santos was poor and he returned to the Benfica reserves before he made his way back to Brazil in 2013 with Palmeiras. Kardec was more successful at Palmeiras, firing them to the 2013 Serie B title before Benfica sold him permanently to current club Sao Paulo in summer 2014. He has not played internationally for Brazil.
Anthony Le Tallec (Forward, Liverpool/France)
Already unwanted at Liverpool, Le Tallec would seasons on loan at Sunderland, Sochaux in France (where he won the French Cup) and Le Mans where he signed permanently in 2008. Le Mans were relegated in 2010 and Le Tallec moved to Auxerre whom were also relegated two years later. He would join Valenciennes in 2012 where he was a regular before his departure in 2015 to current side Atromitos of Greece. Le Tallec has not played internationally for France.
Lebohang Mokoena (Winger, Orlando Pirates/South Africa)
A quick South African winger, Mokoena made a good impression at giants Orlando Pirates but injuries restricted his impact and he was sold in 2009 to current club Mamelodi Sundowns. He has again found his time with Sundowns hampered by injury. Mokoena has played 8 games for South Africa.
Daniel Fredheim Holm (Midfielder, Valerenga/Norway)
Helped Valerenga to the league title in 2005 and Cup in 2008, Fredheim Holm was expected to do big things however they never materialised. Stayed with the club until 2009 when he had a poor stint with Aalborg in Denmark. He returned to Norway in 2011 with Rosenborg before rejoining current club Valerenga in 2013. Fredheim Holm played 3 times for Norway between 2007 and 2008.
Tom Huddlestone (Midfielder, Tottenham/England)
After a short loan at Wolves in 2005/06, Huddlestone would find himself in and out of the Tottenham line-up due to injuries and form. He would win the League Cup in 2008 at Spurs but was allowed to move on in 2013 and join newly promoted Hull City where he still plays. Huddlestone helped them stay up for one season before being relegated in 2015. Huddlestone made his England debut in 2009 and won four caps.
Evandro Roncatto (Winger, Guarani/Brazil)
Burst onto the scene as a youth international, Roncatto never really lived up to the hype. Left Guarani in 2006 for Sport Recife before moving to Europe in 2007 when he joined Portuguese side Belenenses. He struggled and was sold in 2009 to Pacos de Ferreira where he only played seven games. He was sold to Cypriot side Ermis Aradippou where his performances earned him a move to giants Anorthosis Famagusta in 2011. He would join Bulgarian side Beroe for a short stint in 2013 before a short spell with Greek side Niki Volou the following year. He returned to Portugal with Clube Oriental Lisboa in 2014 but left the following year for a short stint in Kazakhstan with FC Irtysh Pavlodar. He recently returned to Brazil to join current side Rio Branco.
Ederson (Midfielder, Juventude/Brazil)
The promising midfielder would quickly move to Europe in 2005 joining French side Nice, initially on loan. He impressed and grew into more and more of a quality midfielder and left in 2008 to join Lyon. Eyed as the replacement for Juninho, Ederson had a decent time at Lyon. While he won no majoy honours he did earn a move to Italian giants Lazio. His time in Italy was destroyed by injuries but he still won a Coppa Italia before leaving in 2015 to return to Brazil with current club Flamengo. Ederson played once for Brazil in 2010 but was injured after a couple of minutes and replaced.
Benedict Vilakazi (Midfielder, Orlando Pirates/South Africa)
A prodigious midfielder in South Africa, Vilakazi’s career was rocked by sex scandals with juveniles which he was acquitted of in court but blocked a move to Swedish side Djurgarden. He would leave South Africa in 2007 for Danish side Aalborg but it was brief due to homesickness. He returned to South Africa with Mamelodi Sundowns but was not the same player as before and struggled. He had a brief loan at Mpumalanga Black Aces before he was released in 2011. He had spells with Black Leopards, Swaziland’s Malanti Chiefs and Notwane FC of Botswana before joining current club Botswana Meat Commission (seriously) in 2013. Vilakazi played 31 games for South Africa between 2002 and 2007, scoring twice.
Jan Kristiansen (Midfielder, Esbjerg/Denmark)
Utility man Kristiansen would leave Esbjerg in 2006 and join German side Nurnberg. He would score the winner as they won the German Cup in 2007 but returned to Denmark in 2008 with Brondby. He was released by Brondby at the end of his deal in 2013 and he joined FC Vestsjaelland before joining current side FC Roskilde in 2015. Kristiansen made his international debut in 2003 and won 11 caps in four years.
Eddie Gaven (Midfielder, MetroStars/USA)
The youngest player in the MLS (before Freddy Adu), Gaven was a youngster featuring regularly for MetroStars in New York. He would leave in 2006 to join Columbus Crew where he became a legend, playing over 200 times and winning two Supporters’ Shields and the MLS Cup in 2008. Gaven retired at 27 in 2013 due to injuries. Gaven made his international debut in 2004 but only won eight caps in six years for the US.
Junior Khanye (Winger, Kaizer Chiefs/South Africa)
Another bright South African talent, Khanye’s career fizzled quickly mostly down to attitude. Left Chiefs not long after 2005 to join Platinum Stars before ending up at Maritzburg United in 2008. He joined United FC in 2009 before being released in 2011. He joined current club Malanti Chiefs in Swaziland in 2013. Khanye also won a solitary cap for South Africa.
Hossein Kaebi (Right Back, Foolad/Iran)
A league winner with Foolad, Kaebi made the surprise move to join UAE side Emirates in 2006. It did not last long and he returned to Iran with Persepolis. His stint was short and he moved to English side Leicester City in 2007. His spell there was awful as he played three games and left after seven months. He returned to Persepolis for a short stint to win another league title before spells with Saipa, Steel Azin, Rah Ahan, Sanat Naft and Esteghlal in his home country. Kaebi has been without a club since 2014. An Iran international, Kaebi debuted in 2002 and made 84 appearances in eight years, scoring once and playing at the 2006 World Cup.
Carlos Vela (Forward, Arsenal/Mexico)
See Where Are They Now? #12 – World Soccer’s Most Exciting Teen Footballers 2007 (#26-50). Vela recently returned to international football with Mexico and helped them win the Gold Cup in 2015.
Note: no details could be found on Alejandro Sanchez Fernandez.
That is all for this edition of Where Are They Now?. Do you remember these wonderkids? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.