11 Football Players Who Wasted Their Talent Through Loyalty

Updated on April 7, 2020
adambarker97 profile image

I am a huge football fan. My favorite leagues are La Liga and English Premier League.

In this article, I have created a team's worth of loyal players who could have made a better career for themselves elsewhere. I would like to point out that I absolutely have the utmost respect for players who stay loyal to clubs and do not use them as a mere stepping stone to bigger and better things.

However, you have to feel that their personal careers may have benefitted from being selfish and looking to achieve more in terms of silverware.

Pepe Reina
Pepe Reina

1. Pepe Reina

Reina joined Liverpool in 2005, just after their UEFA Champions League triumph against Milan, and he would have thought he was joining a rising club that would hunt for trophies year in year out. However, all he has won is one FA Cup, one League Cup and a single Community Shield. For a goalkeeper of his calibre, his eight-year stint at Liverpool has been disappointing, to say the least, which is why it is understandable that he may leave and replace Victor Valdés at Barcelona, when he goes on to another challenge.


2. Cafu

You may think of Cafu as one of the best players ever in his position. He won the World Cup twice, which is probably reward enough for his fantastic ability; however, in 11 years in Italy—six with Roma and five with Milan—he only won a disappointing two Serie A titles and a single UEFA Champions League. If he had been able to cut the chord and join a club like Barcelona, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid, he might have been one of the most successful right-backs ever.

Jamie Carragher
Jamie Carragher

3. Jamie Carragher

After Jamie Carragher announced he was retiring, I couldn't help but think that his career, all of which was spent playing for Liverpool, had been slightly wasted. He has never won a Premier League title, leaving success to only cup competitions, with the highlight being the 2005 Champions League. If he'd had the ambition, he could have, one thinks, pushed to be signed for a more successful club, which would have lined his awards cabinet with a few more trophies.

Brede Hangeland
Brede Hangeland

4. Brede Hangeland

I am not too sure if this one is due to loyalty or just a lack of bids. However, since Brede Hangeland joined Fulham in 2008, he has impressed so much with his defensive abilities that only half a season in, he was being linked with teams such as Arsenal and Manchester United. He could have made a move that would have seen his career sky-rocket and could have won some trophies to go with his defensive talents. Of course, Arsenal has not won anything; however, if they had someone to fix their defensive frailties, they probably would have challenged for more trophies, or even won the League Cup they lost to eventually relegated Birmingham, at the very least.

Julio Arca
Julio Arca

5. Julio Arca

Julio Arca has recently left England to go back to his native Argentina. As an Argentinian Under-20 Captain, he joined Sunderland in 2001 in a deal that Sir Alex Ferguson described as 'the deal of the summer' (Ferguson being an admirer of Arca at the time). Sunderland seemed on the up at the time after two consecutive seasons at 7th place in the Premier League; however, they were relegated two years later. Roma had shown interest in Arca—and looking back, it would have been a very good move for him, as he could have marketed his talents in Top European football. However, due to his love for the club, Arca stayed another two seasons with a promotion in the first and another relegation in the second. He and his family were enjoying their time living in the Northeast of England, so when he made the hard decision to leave, he moved to rivals Middlesbrough who were currently a regular UEFA Cup club; however, the departure of Manager Steve McLaren led to Middlesbrough's demise and Arca stayed with the club until a month ago, never fulfilling his once talent-filled potential.

Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard

6. Steven Gerrard

Much like Carragher, Gerrard has spent his whole career at Liverpool, with only a single 2005 UEFA Champions League victory to truly look back on as a fantastic achievement. However, unlike Carragher, Gerrard has had world-class potential for many years, and many suitors to sign him for big money. The biggest blunder of his career, in my opinion, was when he turned his back on a move to Barcelona, which in hindsight would have given him the potential to put his stamp on a world-class player tag. He could have been considered as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation, if not all time.

Morten Gamst Pedersen
Morten Gamst Pedersen

7. Morten Gamst Pedersen

He's a Norwegian International who has notched up 74 caps so far and enjoyed a somewhat successful spell with his club Blackburn, reaching 6th and 7th in the Premier League within two seasons of each other. He was heavily linked with fellow Northwestern team Manchester United for a good number of seasons. However, his loyalty to the Blackburn cause, and the fact he was unsure that he would get regular first-team football, seen him stay, and sadly see their form demise after the purchase from Venky's. He is now plying his trade in the npower Championship after a disappointing season attempting to re-gain their Premier League status, finishing a dismal 17th and just avoiding relegation to League 1. A far cry from what his career could have been if he had of taken the plunge to join the Champions.

Landon Donovan
Landon Donovan

8. Landon Donovan

This is not loyalty to one particular club that has not led Donovan to be widely regarded as been successful, but loyalty to the American franchise league, MLS (Major League Soccer). His professional career started in Germany for Bayer Leverkusen. However, he only made seven first-team appearances in total, becoming unsettled and moving back to his native USA. He has an abundance of talent that could have flourished a great deal more than it has if he'd have stayed in the more competitive European game. He has had sporadic loan spells back in Europe, where he has impressed, so it seems a great shame that he never flaunted his talents in the Champions League. He has made four appearances in Europe; however, they were in Europe's secondary competition, the UEFA Cup/Europa League, and only four appearances are nowhere near enough for a player of his calibre. It's a shame for Europeans that Donovan is a patriotic star.

Matt Le Tissier
Matt Le Tissier

9. Matt Le Tissier

Le Tissier was a mercurial talent who played his full professional career at Southampton, and became legendary for doing so, both for Southampton and in Premier League folklore. It seemed every season performances from Le Tissier along with his goals, saved Southampton from getting relegated from the Premier League. He was at the height of his powers in the mid 1990s and could have easily joined a bigger club that challenged for titles, but as he was a life-long Southampton fan, he put his love before his career. He may one day wish that he had gone to a club and won a few trophies or Championships; however, everyone knows that he is proud of what he did in his career, and what he did for Southampton.

Francesco Totti
Francesco Totti

10. Francesco Totti

Totti has spent his entire career at Roma, winning only one single Serie A title. In the early 2000s, there was always speculation about the Roma all-time leading goalscorer leaving to play for Real Madrid's Galácticos; however, a move never came to fruition. For someone who could be considered as one of the best players of his generation, his trophy cabinet is very disappointingly sparse. He could have won at least 10 titles, and a Champions League or two with the talent he had at his disposal, but loyalty to his club went first for Totti—and sadly for the neutral, loyalty created another wasted star.

Alan Shearer
Alan Shearer

11. Alan Shearer

Alan Shearer's career got off to a flyer: He was one of the most promising strikers in English history and won his first Premier League title with Blackburn in 1995 at the young age of 24. Little did he know, that would be the last competition he'd ever win. In the summer of 1996, Manchester United was after the number one England striker; at the time, however, he made the surprise World-Record £15million transfer to his hometown club of Newcastle United. In a bid to become a legend at St. James' Park with a hope he could win things with the club he supported, he bit off his nose to spite his face, so it came to be. If he'd have joined Man Utd, he would have bagged himself countless titles and a Champions League victory, and would probably now be seen as a legendary world-class striker, rather than merely the Premier League's all-time scorer with only a single trophy to his name. This is probably the largest case of 'what could have been'.

The 'Loyal XI'

Can you think of any other wasted talents, due to their loyalty?

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    • profile image


      4 weeks ago

      Reus should be on this list

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Hmm. Not sure whether hometown club legends like Carragher, Gerrard and Shearer will regard their talents as being wasted!!!

    • Johan Smulders profile image

      Johan Smulders 

      5 years ago from East London, South Africa

      It all depends on what is really important in your life. Gerrard was totally committed to Liverpool and I have to admire that above seeking more glory. A good article however.

    • cfin profile image


      6 years ago from The World we live in

      To me these guys stand out for being legends to their respective clubs. Hardly wasted. Ravenelli and Klinsmann could be added to this list.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Cafu: I don't think 1 Champions League and 2 Serie A titles are disappointing, I'm sure there are better players that haven't achieved the same.

      Although I think you nailed it with Alan Shearer.

    • Hikapo profile image


      7 years ago from California

      Stevie should go to Chelsea :D

    • Rich W2K profile image


      7 years ago from Gold Coast

      Great hub. It's amazing that you're talking about loyalty in Italian players when they seem to be the most willing to switch clubs; even between the two Milans.

    • adambarker97 profile imageAUTHOR

      Adam Barker and Dean Barker 

      7 years ago

      I agree, however the reason Pirlo and Seedorf are not on is because Pirlo is now becoming successful after joining Juventus, and Seedorf if one of the most successful players in terms of trophies won with many different teams

    • plkshooter profile image


      7 years ago

      The whole Milan generation of Pirlo, Seedorf, Cafu, Ambrosini, Inzaghi, Kaladze, Nesta etc., even Kaka. All those guys hung around at Milan for the longest time it was a shame they could not get more donne.


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