Following on from part one of our look back at players whose careers took a turn for the worse having looked as though they were destined for the stars, in part two we profile the legacies of ex-Manchester City man Robinho and Denmark international Nicklas ‘Lord’ Bendtner.
There’s a bucketload of Brazilians we could have selected for this segment. Adriano, Ganso, Kleberson, Anderson and many more were all highly-lauded youngsters. However, each of them failed to capitalise on their immense potential as they matured. Some might say their failures arose because they in fact failed to mature.
In the modern era there have been many touted as the next Pele. Robinho was perhaps the first who had a valid reason to be compared to the all-time great. In 2002 he was given the famous number 10 jersey at Pele’s beloved Santos. By the time he turned 20, Robinho had led Santos to two Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A titles and a Copa Libertadores final.
A year later he moved from Santos to Real Madrid. Los Blancos fans and Brazilians were full of expectation. This was to be the next step in what would be the story of a future Brazilian legend and almost certain Ballon d’Or winner. However, unlike Ronaldinho, who flourished at Barcelona, Robinho suffered from inconsistency in Madrid. Brilliant one day, woeful the next. Perhaps he wasn’t helped by Madrid’s penchant for sacking managers, but history will not remember that. When Cristiano Ronaldo was signed for a then world record £80 million fee in 2009, it signalled the end for Robinho.
The Brazilian was still seen as talented enough to lead another major European side’s attack. Chelsea came calling but he inexplicably rejected them, instead opting to join nouveau riche Manchester City in a deal worth £32.5 million.
His idol Pele was confused and said (via The Telegraph):
“Chelsea are lucky. This boy needs some serious counselling. In my view he has been badly advised.”
The general manager of Santos at the time fumed:
“We are ashamed of producing such a player.”
His Madrid coach Bernd Schuster said Robinho had moved to City for “non-footballing reasons.”
Perhaps the surest sign of a poor decision came from his mother who said she could not understand why her son chose to join City instead of then Chelsea manager and World Cup-winning Brazil manager Felipe Scolari.
It’s not necessarily a bad thing for a player to chase money if that’s his ultimate objective but as we’ve seen so many times before, it came at the cost of his development. An initial bright start at City was marred by injury, poor form and indiscipline. Robinho went back on loan to Santos and then endured five unspectacular years at AC Milan before going back to Santos on loan.
He then made the move to China with Guangzhou Evergrande. At least he led the way with something. Now Robinho is back in Brazil playing at Atletico Mineiro. At 32, he has little acclaim and unfortunately very few will remember him for much. Another in the group of ‘next Peles’.
If there was anybody who failed to live up to the hype and hasn’t yet been mentioned, it’s Nicklas Bendtner. Better at banter than he is with the ball, Bendtner started his senior career at Arsenal before being loaned out to Birmingham, Sunderland, Juventus and Wolfsburg. Not a bad list of clubs by any means, but Bendtner failed to succeed everywhere but Birmingham, which leads the footballing world to wonder what he does exactly, which remains a mystery.
In his younger days Bendtner would make frequent remarks about his attacking prowess, comparing himself to the game’s greats and promoting his abilities to no end. Over the course of his career however, Bendtner has made just 307 appearances, scoring 77 goals and has just been released by Wolfsburg. At the tender age of 28 – when he should be in his prime – the Dane doesn’t have a club.
Bendtner’s career has been bizarre. At Arsenal he seemed full of potential, but his mentality was poor and seems only to have gotten worse in time. The number of weird incidents he’s been involved in are too numerous to list, but the one in which he drunkenly ground his genitals against a taxi probably topped them all.
Having a cult following is one thing, but one which bestows you the title of “Lord” as a joke is another – and Bendtner playing along with it on Instagram hasn’t helped convince people who already doubted where the man’s priorities lie.
Nicklas was never able to back up his words and failed to live up to his expectations in a professional sense. Where he will go from here one cannot be certain, but one can definitely be sure he won’t be winning the Ballon d’Or anytime soon.