6 Players Who Benefitted From Leaving a Big Club Early in Search of More Playing Time

Life as a youth player has become increasingly difficult and frustrating. More often than not, youth players will either get released before they even have a sniff of first team action, or they’ll be loaned out to build their experience before signing permanently for another side.  

With so much money in the game nowadays, teams are happier to spend big on a ready-made star who will make an instant impact rather than nurture a younger talent into becoming a club legend. Some of the best names in footballing history came through their club’s youth system to be legends, Steven Gerrard, Francesco Totti, Paolo Maldini to name a few. 

But moving away from a big parent club doesn’t necessarily mean a step down. Here are six players who went in search of first team football and made it back to the top…

1. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Arguably one of the best strikers produced by Dutch football, Huntelaar started his career at PSV under Guus Hiddink. The striker made only one appearance before being loaned out to both De Graafschap and AGOVV. 

Huntelaar decided to then move to Heerenveen, where he was offered regular first-team football. 60 games and 36 goals later, he signed for PSV’s fierce rivals Ajax for £8m. The Dutchman went on to play for Real Madrid, Milan and Schalke before moving back to Ajax last summer. 

2. Samuel Eto’o

Most football fans will remember Eto’o as a prolific striker who tore La Liga up at Barcelona with Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and Thierry Henry. But the Cameroonian forward actually started his career at Real Madrid, although it was unsuccessful. The 36-year-old only made three first-team appearances for Los Blancos as he spent most of his time on loan during his three years at the Bernabeu. 

Following a successful loan move to Mallorca, he made the move permanent, where he continued to impress. Barcelona snapped him up four years after that, and the rest is history. Eto’o has gone on to play for Inter, Chelsea and Everton, and he currently plays for Turkish side Antalyaspor. 

3. Paul Pogba

We all know this story. Sir Alex Ferguson clearly didn’t rate Pogba enough to give him a regular chance in the first team – and when Rafael was selected over him to play in midfield, the Frenchman knew it was time to leave. 

Juventus snapped the 24-year-old up on a free transfer and transformed him into one of the best midfielders of today’s game. Pogba has since moved back to Old Trafford for a once world record fee of £89.3m, claiming he had unfinished business for the Red Devils. 

4. Nathan Ake

Nathan Ake was once part of Chelsea infamous youth system that focuses on sending as many young players as they can out on loan while signing expensive talent to make immediate impacts. 

Ake spent time on loan at Reading, Watford and Bournemouth before making his deal permanent with the latter. He was praised for being brave enough to make the switch, and following his move, he criticised the youth system in place at Chelsea, which has seen them loan out 33 players this summer. 

5. Gerard Pique

Another player to leave Manchester United in search of first team football, Gerard Pique moved on after Sir Alex Ferguson decided to pick Jonny Evans ahead of him. He also had Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic ahead of him, but Evans was the man used for rotation, so Pique packed his bags and moved to Barca. 

Following his £5m move, he has won six La Liga titles, three Champions League and numerous other trophies. It’s fair to say he made the right decision. 

6. Cesc Fabregas

After starting his youth career at Barcelona, Fabregas decided to move to arsenal in search of more first team football. The Spaniard quickly became a fan favourite at the Emirates before being made captain. He reached the Champions League final, eventually losing out to Barcelona, and also won the FA Cup in 2005. 

Much like Pogba, Fabregas decided he had unfinished business at his former club, and decided to move back to the Nou Camp in 2011. The 30-year-old has since moved to Chelsea. where he lifted his first and second Premier League titles. 


Real Madrid Boss Praises ‘Maestro’ Andrea Pirlo on Instagram After Italian Icon Announces Retirement

​Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane has taken to social media to pay tribute to Italian legend Andrea Pirlo, who retired last weekend after he played his final game for MLS side New York City. 

The 38-year-old old brought down the curtain on an illustrious career, which has seen him win two Champions League titles, six Serie As and a World Cup with Italy in 2006.

Zidane took to his official Instagram page to praise the retired midfield star, uploading a picture of both players wearing the now-iconic number 21 shirt at Juventus. The former France international’s caption reads “Grazie mille maestro”, which translates in English as “Thank you very much, maestro.”


Pirlo began his club career with Italian side Brescia, where he helped his side win Serie B and win a precious promotion to Serie A. After sealing big move to San Siro giants Inter Milan, Pirlo struggled to find form in his position behind the strikers, and eventually moved on to AC Milan after loans spells with Reggina and his former side Brescia.

The charismatic Italian seemed a player reborn in his new role with Milan, and in his new role as a playmaker from deep he became renowned as one of the finest central midfielders in world football. After being part of an iconic mid-00s Milan side, Pirlo went on to star for the dominant Juventus, who dominated Serie A for a number of years with their carefully assembled squad.

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While injury problems blighted the end of his career at MLS side New York City, Pirlo still played an important role at the club, making 62 appearances and contributing one goal and 18 assists for his side. 

Pirlo will long be remembered as one of the classiest passers in the game, and fans of the tenacious midfielders will be eager to see what his plans are for retirement.


Spanish Report Says Neymar’s Father Held Talks With Real Madrid President Over Future Transfer

Neymar’s father has held discussions with Real Madrid over a potential future transfer for his son, despite joining Paris Saint-Germain in a £200m move over the summer, according to Spanish publication Mundo Deportivo.

The former Barcelona forward was strongly linked with a move to Real Madrid before making Catalonia his home, leaving Brazilian side Santos for Europe in 2013.

Despite missing out on the forward, Madrid’s president, Florentino Pérez, is tempted to bring Neymar to the Santiago Bernabéu when Los Blancos begin their search for someone to replace Cristiano Ronaldo.

Neymar’s decision to leave Barcelona this summer was understood to be, in part, about escaping Lionel Messi’s shadow. Since moving to Ligue 1, the Brazilian’s quality has been clear to see and often at times it appears the 25-year-old is too good to be playing at that level.

With Neymar eyeing success with his club and country, as well as on a personal level, a move back to Spain could be what’s needed for Neymar to go down in history as one of the greatest players of all time.

Although many would argue that Ronaldo and Messi are still a cut above anyone else, at 32 and 30 respectively, it won’t be long before a new contender for the Ballon d’Or emerges.

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However, the chances of Neymar securing the personal honour could be hindered by his decision to move to France, with Ligue 1 believed to be less of a challenge that the other four top European leagues. 

If that is the case, the Brazilian international could be swayed in moving back to Spain and join the reigning European champions.


The Magnificent Seven: the 7 Men to Win the Champions League as Player and Manager

With qualification for the knockout stages almost complete in the Champions League, many players will have their eyes on a medal and a place in football history. Not least the likes of Sergio Aguero, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Gonzalo Higuain, who all have that honour missing from their trophy cabinet.

Manager Pep Guardiola on the other hand has won Europe’s most prestigious tournament as both player and manager and is just one of seven men to have lifted the cup from on the pitch and from the sidelines.

So who are the men who have achieved what so few have? We take a look at the Champions League’s magnificent seven…

Miguel Munoz

Miguel Munoz was a legend at Real Madrid both as a player and a manager, sadly passing away in 1990 aged 68.

He started life at the Bernabeu back in 1948, making 223 appearances in the heart of their midfield. He’d go on to lift three European Cups in consecutive years before retiring as a player and taking the reins as a manager.

Only a season separated his last European Cup trophy as a player and first as a manager, lifting the 1959/60 trophy with Madrid and going on to win one more, as well as nine La Liga titles, during his 14-year stint as manager.

Giovanni Trapattoni

Many of you will remember Trapattoni from his spell as Republic of Ireland boss between 2008 and 2013, but his biggest successes came as a player for AC Milan and as a boss with Juventus.

Lifting the cup in both 1963 and 1969 as a player, he was part of a squad that beat Benfica at Wembley, with Trapattoni man-marking the great Eusebio out of the game.

It was at Juventus where he’d build a team of champions however, marshalled by the great Michel Platini. His only European Cup medal as a manager would be marred however. Taking on Liverpool in 1985, Juventus would succeed 1-0, but incidents off the pitch would change football forever, with 39 people dying in the Heysel disaster.

Johan Cruyff

It can be argued that Johan Cruyff has won more than just the four European Cups as player and manager, with the Dutchman being the catalyst behind Barcelona’s meteoric rise to the top. 

His style of play transformed football, and while he was influencing the game as a player, he picked up three European Cups in the red and white of Ajax between 1970 and 1973.

By 1991/92 he was doing it again at the Nou Camp, only this time from the dugout. A master tactician, his coaching career, incredibly, matches up to his playing days and the man behind one of the most iconic pieces of skill in footballing history will go down as one of the finest of all time.

Carlo Ancelotti

Only Carlo Ancelotti stands next to Bob Paisley to have won the tournament on three occasions as a manager, but the great Liverpool boss, never lifted it as a player.

Ancelotti first picked up the European Cup as a Milan player back in 1988/89, and then again the following year in a team that also included Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit.

As a boss, his first European trophy arrived in 2002/03 with the same club, while also taking them to success once again four years later, beating Liverpool in Athens. Real Madrid came calling and the Italian lifted it again in 2013/14 making him part of an elite group of five to have won Europe’s top competition with two different clubs.

Frank Rijkaard

Like Johan Cruyff, Frank Rijkaard won his Champions League medals with both Ajax and Barcelona, with the great clubs’ style of play lending themselves well with each other.

He was part of that great Ajax side to lift the 1994/95 title under Louis van Gaal’s stewardship as Patrick Kluivert’s strike led them to victory over AC Milan in Vienna. 

Hanging his boots up following the title, he’d finally get another shot at winning the trophy as a manager in 2006 when his Barcelona side beat Arsenal 2-1 thanks to goals from Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti.

Josep Guardiola

One of the most respected coaches in world football, Pep Guardiola will be desperate to join Ancelotti as a manager to have won the trophy at two different clubs having failed at Bayern Munich previously.

We all know the Spaniard lifted the trophy as both player and manager at Barcelona, his first coming during Johan Cruyff’s reign as Barca boss back in 1991/92. He was a permanent fixture in that dominant side and after a successful stint as the B Team boss was promoted to first team manager in 2008.

His first Champions League title would come in his very first season, before lifting it again in 2011. Since then, he’s been on the hunt for his third as a manager. Can he win it at Manchester City? Only time will tell.

Zinedine Zidane

It was always going to be an interesting concept, Zidane as manager. A fiery temper, resulting in a certain headbutt, it was going to be intriguing to see whether he’d make that transition.

Now Real Madrid manager, and a Champions League winner in each of his seasons in the hotseat, he’s passed the test with flying colours.

As a player, he only won the competition once, but during the 2001/02 final, Zidane provided one of the Champions League’s most memorable moments. One of the most beautifully struck volleys you’ll ever see, his 45th minute strike was enough to defeat Bayer Leverkusen and deliver the Galacticos their second Champions League trophy in three years.


Kylian Mbappe’s Uncle Reveals Why They Turned Down Real Madrid in 2013

Pierre Mbappé, the uncle of Paris Saint-Germain loanee Kylian, has revealed that the young striker held talks with Carlo Ancelotti and Zinedine Zidane over a potential move to Chelsea or Real Madrid back in 2013.

Pierre also said that although the prospect of moving abroad to pursue a career in football was tempting, the decision to reject Real Madrid was actually an easy one to make.

I’m very grateful to Kylian,” Pierre told L’Equipe (via  AS). “I never imagined my 13-year-old nephew would take me to Real Madrid or Chelsea, but he did just that. From a selfish point of view, I had the huge pleasure of meeting trainers like Ancelotti and Zidane.”

Despite meeting two of the best managers in world football, the decision to stay in France to continue his development proved to be an easy one.

You can get to Madrid and start from the back of the queue. The whole world then forgets about you,” Pierre added. “I laugh when people say he chose PSG for the money.

“It’s easier to say no to Real Madrid when you don’t have to worry so much about money. That’s true, and Kylian has grown up in a comfortable environment.”

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The 18-year-old striker was voted into Ligue 1’s team of the week after his stunning performance against SCO Angers on matchday 12.

Mbappé, who is currently on loan in the French capital from AS Monaco, scored the first and last goals of PSG’s 5-0 win, with Julian Draxler notching the Parisians second of the match. A brace from Edinson Cavani helped round of the scoring and take the Uruguayan’s goal tally to 13 for the season.


Real Madrid 3-0 Las Palmas: Brilliant Blancos Find Their Magic Touch in Comfortable Win

Real Madrid defeated Las Palmas 3-0 at the Bernabeu on Sunday in an impressive display in a well needed victory for Los Blancos.

A stylish display with goals on the night from Casemiro, Isco and Asensio sent Madrid to second in the table, but only on goal difference.

Real went into the game with their worst start to a season in five years. The first half started as you would expect, with Madrid dominating possession and it didn’t take them long to create their first clear cut chance. 

In the third minute, the ball broke to Cristiano Ronaldo in the middle of the park and he slid the ball through to Karim Benzema, who found himself one-on-one with the Las Palmas keeper only to rush his shot and spurn a great chance early on. 

The Frenchman’s lack of confidence in front of goal was a theme of the first half for Los Blancos. Ronaldo came close twice, the first a left foot volley which rippled the side netting and another effort from outside the box which grazed the outside of the post. 

As for his strike partner, Benzema squirmed another great chance with a free header from ten yards out. The out of form front-man completely miss timed the header and the game remained level.


For a side in the lower region of the table, Las Palmas played some excellent passing football. Their only chance of the first half came from on loan danger-man Vitolo. He found himself one-on-one with Kiko Casilla early in the first half, only for his shot to be cleared by Vallejo on the line. 

The breakthrough for Real came in the 40th minute from a Marco Asensio corner which was inadvertently knocked on by a Las Palmas player to be eventually nodded in by the Brazilian Casemiro to put the Madrid side ahead. 

 A different, more confident Real came out in the second half. They pushed Las Palmas back, controlled the play and soon it was 2-0 to the home side. A cross from Isco was punched out by Raúl and from 35 yards out Asensio struck the ball on the half volley on his favoured left foot and it rocketed into the top corner of the goal. A truly sensational goal from an exceptional player.

From that point Real kicked on and began to show their class, with Asensio and his fellow Spaniard Isco controlling the game, and it wasn’t long before the former Malaga man got on the score sheet. 

Mid-way through the second half, a counter-attack from Madrid ended in a cross from Ronaldo, which picked out Isco perfectly who tapped in for Real’s third of the night. 

Even though Ronaldo set up the goal, it wasn’t his night as he missed chance after chance, while growing increasingly frustrated as the game went on. It wasn’t only Ronaldo who tried to get on the score sheet. With fifteen minutes to go, a deflected right foot shot from Sergio Ramos hit the bar after good wing play from Lucas Vasquez.


A comfortable win for Real who close the gap between Barcelona to eight points, and with a crunch fixture against Atletico Madrid on the horizon it was an important win and performance for Los Blancos. 


Real Madrid: Casilla; Nacho, Vallejo, Ramos, Marcelo; Kroos, Casemiro, Isco; Asensio; Ronaldo, Benzema.

Subs: Moha, Modric, Theo, Lucas V, Llorente, Mayoral, Ceballos

Las Palmas: Raúl; Lemos, Bigas, Navarro, D.Castellano, Macedo; J.Castellano, Aquilani; Gómez, Vitolo, Calleri.

Subs: Chichizola, Momo, Rémy, García, Hernán, Samper, Herrera. 



Serial Winner Pepe Twice Rejected New Deal at Real Madrid Before Finally Joining Besiktas

​Marca have recently reported that Pepe, who left the Spanish champions Madrid, for Turkish side Besiktas, rejected two new deals that would have seen him stay at the club.

The 34-year-old played nearly 350 games for the Spanish side after signing from Porto in 2007, winning three La Liga titles and three Champions Leagues.

Pepe left Real Madrid for Turkish side, Besiktas, despite being offered two new contracts to stay with the Spanish giants. 

Madrid offered Pepe a one-year contract in the summer of 2016, which he rejected, instead wanting a two-year deal, although Madrid rejected his two-year counter offer due to his age.


He was offered another deal before entering the summer as a free agent, which he failed to respond to. Besiktas stepped up and footed the two-year contract that the Portuguese defender was demanding at Real Madrid.

Madrid will lament the fact that they were unable to keep the services of Pepe, as last season he was critical to the club, winning a plethora of honours. Real won La Liga, again, as well as the Champions League, again, in what the Spanish call ‘La Decima’.

Malaga CF v Real Madrid CF - La Liga

His absence has been palpable this season, with Madrid showing a stark contrast to last season, already sitting 11 points behind rivals and leaders Barcelona. With their latest dismal showing midweek in the Champions League, it could see them qualify second from Group H.

Whereas, Besiktas are reaping the fruits of Pepe’s arrival that will leave a sour taste in Madrid mouths, as they they have already qualified from Group G.


Gareth Bale Told He Will Play No Part in Wales’ Upcoming Friendlies Despite Return to Fitness

Real Madrid star Gareth Bale has been told by manager Zinedine Zidane that he will not be going on international duty with Wales this week as the winger continues his rehabilitation from a calf injury.

Bale has been out since the 26th September, but the Welshman made his return to first-team training this week, alongside full-back Dani Carvajal, who is also making his return from injury.

However, despite his recent return to fitness, Bale has been instructed by Zidane that he will play no part in Real Madrid’s match-up against Las Palmas, and will not be able to play in either of Wales’ friendlies against France and Panama.

Wales v Republic of Ireland - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier

Though the 28-year-old knew he would not be included for the squad against Las Palmas, he had hoped that he’d be able to play for Wales during the international break, but Zidane has decided against it as Bale looks to return to full fitness.

Reported by ​The Sun, Zidane said: “He is fine but Gareth is not going to be in the squad (to face Las Palmas) and he is not going to go with his national team. He’s had two training sessions with us and we want him to remain with us so he is ready as soon as possible.”

Madrid have found themselves in poor form of late, suffering two successive losses against Girona and Tottenham respectively- only the second time Zidane has seen back-to-back defeats.

However, the Frenchman is determined to keep positive in spite of Real’s recent dry spell, looking to respond in style against Las Palmas later this evening.


“We need to think positively. It’s not going to change anything about what we want to achieve this season,” said Zidane. “This is football and sometimes you have bad spells. It’s nothing new, it happened to us last year and we achieved important things at the end of the season. We can play better, but I don’t think our problem is playing badly.”

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Madrid currently find themselves sitting in a humbling fourth place, 11 points behind league-leaders Barcelona with a game in hand. Meanwhile, Las Palmas are 19th in the table following six successive losses. They will look to beat Real for the first time in 16 years. 


Real Madrid Reportedly Keen on Signing Tottenham Ace Dele Alli But Daniel Levy Stands in the Way

Florentino Perez is reportedly paying close attention to Tottenham talisman Dele Alli after the youngster scored twice and showed impressive skills during Spurs’ Champions League win against Real Madrid last week. 

Los Blancos’ President is a great admirer of both him and his co-star striker Harry Kane, and is hoping to secure either of them by the end of the season. 

According to Marca, Real’s interest towards the duo is progressing fast, with both Perez and director general Jose Angel Sanchez pushing for a new deal for the 21-year-old playmaker. 

In the past few years, Zinedine Zidane has actively taken part in the club’s scouting and recruiting process – to the extent that he often pronounced himself against their transfer auctions – and Perez generally agreed with the Frenchman’s requests. 

However, the current Real Madrid’s situation may change how things are run. Having recently suffered two setbacks in a row, the Galacticos are going through a chaotic period and Zidane’s veto when it comes to transfers could be nulled. 

This would allow Perez to freely chase Dele Alli, whose signing, however, could still not be immediate. 

Were Real Madrid to bid for him, they would still have to deal with old acquaintance and ruthless negotiator Daniel Levy. 

Levy has been Tottenham’s chairman for the past 16 years and has ever since become famous worldwide for being one of the hardest and most impatient negotiators in the European scenes. 

Los Blancos still remember how expensive landing Luka Modric and Gareth Bale were.; Spurs pocketed a staggering, world-record €100m from selling the Welsh superstar striker to Madrid and previously, Luka Modric’s transfer in 2012 earned them around £30m. 

Levy’s tendency to always obtain what he wants would represent, according to Marca, a major obstacle were Tottenham to agree on a deal for Alli. 

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This summer, Neymar and Mbappe joined Paris-st-Germain for the astonishing price of respectively €220m and €180m and Spurs’ chairman won’t certainly expect any less for his English aces.


Zinedine Zidane Responds to Real Madrid Critics Ahead of Key La Liga Clash With Las Palmas

Real Madrid must win their upcoming La Liga match against Las Palmas in order to keep pace with first of the league Barcelona, who currently have an eight-point lead, and hope for an eventual remuntada. 

But securing three points does not seem as easy for Zinedine Zidane, whose Los Blancos have suffered two consecutive defeats in less than a week. 

Real Madrid were, in fact, caught by surprise last weekend when Girona scored their winning goal in the second half of the La Liga game, costing them to lose more points. Even more painful was being beaten by Tottenham at Wembley in the fourth Champions League group stage match. 

Criticism towards Zidane and his men quickly followed. However, the French manager, who last year led the team to win the Champions League and La Liga, promptly responded (via ​Goal): “These are things that I cannot avoid. I am not the best coach in the world, maybe, this season, I accept it.

“But neither am I the worst in the world right now. Whether it’s euphoria or if things go badly, I am always in the middle. It also happened when I was playing,” he added. 

“What my players and I are thinking at the moment is that we are the same people, we are not happy with the two games we lost but it does not change what we are trying to achieve.”

The team’s unfortunate moment is also due to the absence of some key first-team players who have been out injured for the past few games but will return soon: “We are happy now, both have come back, we’re still missing [Mateo] Kovacic but he will return next week.

“Carvajal trained normally and Bale too, he came through his second training session and we are working normally. They will not be called up (against Las Palmas), we need to go easy with Dani. Bale too, he won’t play with his national team.

“Now he has completed two sessions and we want him to stay with us so he returns as soon as possible – but with Madrid.”