Football is rich with tales of prodigious young players who burst onto the scene and announce themselves as the next big thing, only to slide rapidly into obscurity and mediocrity; burning brightly before quickly fading away.

Whether it’s down to an inability to handle pressure, the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ or early burnout, young players need to be handled with care if they are to fulfil their potential.

Here are five immensely talented players whose careers have stalled this season.

José Giménez – Atlético Madrid

Atlérico Madrid centre-back José Giménez came to prominence as a 19-year-old during the 2014-15 season, making 19 starts for Los Colchoneros.

Displaying a level of maturity and physicality beyond his years, the Uruguayan youngster looked like being the long-term partner and eventual heir to compatriot Diego Godín at the heart of the Atléti backline.

With 5.6 clearances and 2.1 tackles per game, Giménez was an impenetrable wall. Last season, his statistics remained stable, with 5.4 clearances, 2.5 interceptions and 2.1 tackles per outing, though he soon found himself out of favour.

Despite racking up 27 starts in La Liga and seven more in the Champions League, towards the business end of the 2015-16 campaign, Giménez lost his place to Stefan Savić, with the Montenegrin selected to partner Godín in the final of Europe’s Premier Club competition.

And the 21-year-old is yet to regain his place at the Vicente Calderón, having made one start in the Champions League and only a single substitute’s appearance in the league.

Now in his early twenties, Giménez has reached a crucial phase of his development. A lack of game-time now could see him fail to truly fulfil his potential.

A move away from Atléti would have seemed unthinkable a year ago, especially as he had just penned a new long-term contract. But out of the side and with no immediate route back to the starting line-up, Giménez has been linked with a January move to Manchester United.

Anthony Martial – Manchester United

In what was a frustrating season for Manchester United fans, French youngster Anthony Martial offered a shining ray of hope that things would soon look up.

Louis van Gaal’s side consistently produced a dour and uninspiring brand of slow, possession-heavy football. But with Martial, a £36 million signing from AS Monaco, either leading the line of dribbling in from the left-wing, the Red Devils had a dynamic and exciting ace in the hold.

A stunning solo goal against bitter rivals Liverpool marked a spectacular introduction to English football for the former Lyon academy player; a star was born.

Martial finished his first campaign in Manchester with 17 goals and an FA Cup winners’ medal. With goalkeeper David de Gea being voted the club’s player of the year for the third season in a row, Martial was easily the 20-time champions’ best outfield player.

This season, under José Mourinho, Martial has made just four starts in the Premier League, and looks bereft of confidence. Having netted just a single goal, Martial appears a shadow of the near-unplayable forward of last term.

Amid rumours of personal troubles and following a string of lacklustre displays on the pitch, the 20-year-old Frenchman has fallen down the pecking order at Old Trafford.

But Martial’s potential and pedigree is unquestionable; it would be foolish to bet against him returning to form in the near future.

Mahmoud Dahoud – Borussia Monchengladbach

Syria-born Germany under-21 international Mahmoud Dahoud has found playing time hard to come by at Borussia Monchengladbach this season.

After making 42 appearances in all competitions during the last campaign, Dahoud has started only four of Gladbach’s 10 Bundesliga games this term.

With five goals and eight assists to show for his efforts in 2015-16, the 20-year-old appeared set to develop into one of the finest box-to-box midfielders in Germany.

But manager Andre Schubert has pumped the breaks on expectations of Dahoud, often selecting the more experienced Christoph Kramer and Tobias Strobl as the central midfielders in his 3-4-1-2 system, with Lars Stindl and Thorgan Hazard tending to take up the more advanced midfield roles.

Despite being strongly linked with moves to Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund this summer, Gladbach resolved to hang onto Dahoud, which would suggest that, despite having fallen somewhat out of favour, he is still valued highly at the club.

Daniele Rugani – Juventus

Daniele Rugani has been one of the hottest defensive prospects in Italy for several years now.

The one-cap Azzurri international signed for Juventus from Empoli in 2013, but was immediately loaned back to the club of his youth for two seasons.

During this time, he impressed greatly with his calmness, maturity and ability to play the ball forward out of defence. Regarded as the future of the Italy defence alongside AC Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli, Rugani appeared to have the world at his feet.

But since joining up with his parent club at the start of last season, the 22-year-old has made only 13 Serie A starts.

The task of having to unseat one of the famous Juventus ‘BBC’ back three of Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini was made all the more difficult for Rugani when the Old Lady brought in Mehdi Benatia from Bayern Munich this summer.

During the last transfer window, Napoli were thought to be keen on signing the young centre-back, with Partenopei boss Maurizio Sarri having worked with Rugani at Empoli, but Juve were stern in their rejection, insisting that the player was not for sale.

Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri will understandably be reluctant to break up his experienced and outstanding defensive trio but, sooner or later, the former Milan coach may have to do just that in order to ensure Rugani blossoms into the player many believe he can become.

Gabriel Barbosa – Internazionale

Internazionale fought off interest from Barcelona, Juventus and Leicester City to sign Brazilian youngster Gabriel “Gabigol” Barbosa this summer.

The striker, who has also spent a large part of his fledgling career playing on the right wing, earned his nickname due to his coolness in front of goal while playing for Santos.

Inter snapped up the 20-year-old for around €30 million late in August, with the four-cap Brazil international fresh off the back of helping the Selecão win gold at the Rio Olympics.

There were high hopes that the 20-year-old would be able to ease the goal-scoring burden on captain Mauro Icardi, while adding another dimension to the Nerazzurri’s attacking play with his pace and deadly finishing ability.

But, to date, Gabriel has made just one appearance for his new club, coming off the bench for the final 16 minutes of the 1-1 draw with Bologna back in September, and is already being linked with a January loan move away from the San Siro.

About the author- Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midland’s based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications.

Twitter:  @RyanBaldiEFB


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This year’s summer transfer window looks set to be yet another transitional period for Liverpool, as the club looks to implement the ways of their new manager Jurgen Klopp. The objective for the next season is clear – return to the Champions League. However, that might prove to be the toughest job Klopp has ever had in his entire managerial career.

What follows are the five simple steps that could potentially return Liverpool to the Champions League.

5) Sell Martin Skrtel and Mamadou Sakho

When Jurgen Klopp took over Liverpool, Martin Skrtel quickly fell down the pecking order due to his inconsistency and troubling injuries, but he may now be gone for good, considering rumors that Besiktas is reportedly ready to offer as much as €9m to acquire his services. With Joel Matip already lined up to join Liverpool, it’s hard to see the Reds rejecting this sizeable offer.

Meanwhile, Mamadou Sakho should also be heading for the exit door this summer – and rightly so. Although his initial suspension has recently been lifted, Sakho is yet to stand trial for his reported substance abuse and the outcome is still anyone’s guess.

As far as Liverpool goes, the damage is already done and they might as well part ways with the talented center-back. This summer will represent the start of a new era for the Reds and they should be looking to avoid any potential controversy surrounding the team.

4) Sign a center-back

If Klopp decides to sell Skrtel and Sakho, he will be left with a gaping hole in the heart of his defense, which should undoubtedly prompt him to sign a new center-back. The aforementioned Joel Matip is a smart addition to the Liverpool backline, but the Reds will need at least one more defender in order to challenge for the top four.

Unsurprisingly, Neven Subotic has been linked with Liverpool ever since Klopp took over and it is not hard to see why the rumored transfer would suit all parties involved. Dortmund no longer need Subotic in their starting lineup and he will therefore be looking for a summer move. A reunion with Klopp might be the perfect solution for the towering Serbian center-back who was at his best when Klopp was in charge of Dortmund and in return, Liverpool could get a decent center-back in a cut-price deal.

Finally, if there is anyone who can help Subotic regain confidence in his abilities, it is Klopp and Liverpool should be trying to close this deal as soon as possible.

Read all about Liverpool target Mahmoud Dahoud in our Future Stars series

3) Sign a left-back

When Alberto Moreno joined Liverpool in 2014, many were hoping he would solve the left-back problem that has haunted almost every Liverpool side in the last 10 years.

The former Sevilla defender impressed in his early performances, but soon enough the honeymoon period was over and Moreno started struggling to recreate the heroics that dubbed him one of the most promising Liverpool players.

His forward runs may have left the Reds defense unprotected on numerous occasions, but it was his tendency to crumble under pressure that made him the biggest liability in the Liverpool starting XI. Klopp consequently tried moving Moreno further upfield and the Spaniard’s performances improved noticeably. However, that leaves the left-back position vacant once more.

As if Liverpool needed any more reason to find a new defender, Jose Enrique recently left Anfield, meaning that the Reds are now well out of their depth in the left-back spot.

FC Koln’s Jonas Hector could be the answer to the current Liverpool left-back problem, but his steep price tag (reportedly around €30m) might eventually put off the Reds. Nevertheless, if Liverpool truly want to challenge the top four next year, they will need to spend a lot this summer and Hector should be one of their priorities.

2) Do not sell Philippe Coutinho

This might seem like a no-brainer for most Liverpool fans, but the club might be tempted to sell Philippe Coutinho as Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly ready to offer €60m for the skillful Brazilian.

However, under no circumstances can Liverpool afford to lose their star player right now. If they decide to cash in on Coutinho, their position in the transfer market will be severely damaged and they might miss out on a number of transfer targets due to a simple lack of appeal.

Keeping Coutinho for at least one more year would be a strong statement of intent from the club and it might eventually prove to be the decisive move in the upcoming season.

1) Sign a defensive midfielder

It is common knowledge that Liverpool desperately need a holding midfielder who can bring some stability and consistency to the current side.

At the moment, Emre Can is covering the defensive midfield position for the Reds, but it is clear that he is far more suitable to play further upfront as a central midfielder. Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and James Milner are all players that can fill the necessary role, but neither of them is a natural holding midfielder, which was more than evident in their recent Europa League final. Lucas Leiva, meanwhile, is well past his peak and can no longer perform regularly.

That means Liverpool will have to sign a new defensive midfielder and Mahmoud Dahoud has already been tipped to join Liverpool this year. The youngster would be the perfect signing for Klopp, but it might be hard to pursue Borussia Monchengladbach to part ways with another midfielder following the departure of Granit Xhaka.

Nuri Sahin is another possible solution for Klopp, but it remains to be seen whether the player would like to return to a club that treated him poorly during his previous, temporary stay at Anfield a few years ago.

About the author – Dusan Lucic

Dusan has been writing sports-related article for 5 years and has a keen interest in the Premier League, Bundesliga and Serbian SuperLiga. He has previously written for Bleacher report, Arena sport,  Sportal and The News Hub. He is currently studying Serbian language and literature at the university of Belgrade.


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Mahmoud Dahoud made his debut for Borussia Mönchengladbach on 28 August 2014, aged 18, in a 7-0 win against FK Sarajevo during a Europa League play-off fixture. However, his Bundesliga debut didn’t come until April 2015 when he came off the bench against Borussia Dortmund.

Dahoud had long been talked about as one of the next big things in German football even before he made his debut for Gladbach, but the Syrian-born German was virtually unknown by many until this season.

Affectionately known as “Mo” by his team-mates, he has gone from strength-to-strength since making his first league start against FC Köln on 19 September 2015 and has since become a regular.

Having a technically gifted box-to-box midfielder on Soccer Manager can help you win games!

The box-to-box midfielder has put in eye-catching displays against both Eintracht Frankfurt and league leaders Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga, and he has also played with confidence against Juventus and Manchester City in the Champions League.

With 4 goals and 8 assists so far this season, on paper, his stats look very impressive, but they only paint part of the picture. Dahoud is technically brilliant and dictates play from deep in a similar style to that of Andrea Pirlo.

He plays with confidence, and he is always looking to receive possession. He possesses an amazing range of passing and can split open a defence with a killer pass. He’s an intelligent player that reads the game well, and he knows when to play short passes or play longer balls to set Gladbach up for a counter-attack.

His defensive work is also excellent as he is clinical in the tackle. He has a great positional sense and despite his slender frame, he manages to block multiple opponents.

Dahoud is quickly developing into the complete box-to-box midfielder and has been rumoured to replace İlkay Gündoğan at Borussia Dortmund. He has also caught the eye of Bayern Munich manager Pep Guardiola, who has identified him as his first Manchester City signing, but they also face competition from city rivals Manchester United and title-chasing Tottenham Hotspur.

Earlier in the year, Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl stated: “Dahoud is not for sale. We are a hungry club, and we need every good player.” However, a significant offer from England might persuade Eberl to change his mind, and if that happened then, the Premier League would be blessed with one of Europe’s best up-and-coming box-to-box midfielders next season.



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