May 19, 2024

The Premier League has produced some of football’s biggest stars of the last 30 years.

However, not all players that show amazing potential after bursting onto the scene go on to reach their ceiling and their careers instead fizzle out into insignificance. One player currently at risk of suffering from a similar fate is former England midfielder Dele Alli, who is set to move to Turkish side Besiktas from Everton at the age of just 26.

Dele Alli

The inspiration for this list, Alli burst onto the scene in 2015 after joining Tottenham Hotspur from MK Dons for £6million aged just 19.

After spending six months on loan at his former club, Alli enjoyed an impressive maiden Premier League season, scoring 10 goals and providing nine assists as Spurs finished third

He was named PFA Young Player of the Year in both of his first two years at Spurs and was part of England’s squad for back-to-back major tournaments.

However, his output soon began to decline and he fell out of favour with both Spurs and England. A move to Everton in January has failed to re-ignite his career and he is now set to head to Turkey after starting just one match for the Toffees.


Signed by Chelsea aged 20 in the summer of 2012, Oscar arrived in England as a promising young talent after starring for Brazil at the Olympic Games.

He went on to make over 200 appearances for the Blues, scoring 38 goals and providing 37 assists for the club as well as winning two league titles and the Europa League.

After just five years with the club, though, Oscar turned his back on European football and headed to the Chinese Super League aged just 25.

Although he has won a league title in China and is the captain of Shanghai Port, it remains to be seen what Oscar could have achieved if he stayed in Europe longer, with the Brazilian still only 30-years-old.

Adrian Mutu

Another former Chelsea star, Romanian striker Adrian Mutu moved to Stamford Bridge for £17million from Parma in August 2003.

Fans were excited for his arrival after his impressive goalscoring form in Italy and Mutu wasted no time continuing that form in the Premier League, scoring four goals in his first three appearances.

That would be as good as it would get for Mutu at Chelsea, though, as he added just six more goals in his next 35 appearances.

His time at Chelsea would then come to an infamous end after he tested positive for cocaine in September 2004 and had his contract ripped up by the club.

Adel Taarabt

Capable of producing moments of magic on his day, Adel Taarabt showed flashes of brilliance as a youngster at Spurs before being signed for Queens Park Rangers by Neil Warnock.

After his initial loan was made permanent in the summer of 2010, Taarabt’s flair and creativity helped fire QPR to promotion to the Premier League.

He struggled to maintain the consistency he had shown in the second tier, though, scoring just seven goals and adding 10 assists for a struggling QPR across two stints in the top flight.

A series of loan spells followed, including one at Fulham which was cut short after just six months, and he left for Benfica in 2015.

David Bentley

Sharing a first name and initials with David Beckham were not the only reasons Arsenal academy graduate Bentley was compared to the former Three Lions skipper.

Bentley also had similar prowess from free-kicks and had starred for Blackburn Rovers when he made his England debut in 2007. He continued to excite after moving to Spurs in 2008, famously scoring from halfway against Arsenal in a dramatic 4-4 draw.

His career soon began to stagnate, though, and he was loaned to West Ham United in 2011. However, less than two months into the loan Bentley suffered a devastating knee injury which would keep him out for six months.

Unable to bounce back after the injury lay-off and after falling out of love with the game, Bentley ultimately retired in 2013 at the age of 28.

Joe Cole

One of a number of exciting young players to emerge through the West Ham academy in the late 1990s, Cole’s performances for the Hammers earned him a move to Chelsea in 2003.

56 England caps and three league titles followed for Cole but by 2010 his career had already started to slow down despite him still being just 28.

A free transfer to Liverpool offered initial promise before spells with Lille, West Ham and Aston Villa failed to reinvigorate the midfielder.

Cole ultimately played out the remainder of his career with League One Coventry City and the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the USA before retiring in 2018.

Michael Bridges

An exciting prospect at Sunderland, Michael Bridges became a key member of Leeds United’s successful side in the early 2000s after moving to Elland Road in 1999.

After 21 goals in his first season with Leeds, Bridges’ career would take an unfortunate turn in October 2000 after he was forced off with a freak injury in a Champions League clash with Besiktas.

He would never score another goal for Leeds and failed to return to his former self after the injury. Spells with Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers in the top flight followed but Bridges soon dropped back into the Football League.

Bridges would go on to play until 2014 despite the effects of that injury, playing out the final five years of his career in Australia with the Newcastle Jets.

Ravel Morrison

Unlike most of the players on this list, it was not injuries or poor form which caused Ravel Morrison’s talent to be wasted but instead his own attitude.

An FA Youth Cup winner with Manchester United, Morrison was seen as one of the club’s most promising talents as a teenager.

However, less than a year later he was sold to West Hamm where he would show flashes of his enormous talent, before embarking on a nomadic career which has included stints in Italy, Mexico, Sweden, the Netherlands and the USA.

Describing Morrison in his 2015 autobiography, Sir Alex Ferguson said: “He possessed as much natural talent as any youngster we ever signed, but kept getting into trouble. It was very painful to sell him… he could have been a fantastic player. But, over a period of years, the problems off the pitch continued to escalate and we had little option but to cut the cord.”

Michael Johnson

Moulded by a unique career path as a youngster, which included spells in the academies at Leeds, Feyenoord and Everton, Michael Johnson broke into the Manchester City first team in 2006 aged 18.

He would soon impress in a City shirt and was tipped to become a star for England by Sven-Goran Eriksson when he took over as manager in 2007.

However, Johnson would endure two injury hit seasons, missing the entire 2008/09 season with a groin injury before a six month lay-off after damaging his knee.

Having struggled with injuries and his own mental health, Johnson ultimately retired from football in 2013 aged 24 after making just 54 senior club appearances.

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