We’ve become accustomed to seeing promising footballers making their debuts at the age of 16 or 17 for massive clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona, aren’t we? We also tend to think that the best of the best come from the biggest player development programmes in Europe, but today the Fan Park crew takes a look at footballers who made their names a little later in their twenties.
It’s almost difficult to remember Yaya Toure playing at Catalan club Barcelona, even though he was there for three years. In 118 games for the Spanish giants, he found the net only six times, whereas at Manchester City, with whom he joined in 2010 when he was 26, and scored 61 goals and provided 38 assists in 209 appearances for the club. It’s safe to say that the Ivoirian peaked at the right time, helping his team win the Premier League on two occasions.
In 1999 the retired German international started plying his trade in Germany’s 5th division when he was 19-years-old. Just three seasons later when he was still relatively unknown, he finished as Germany’s top goal-scorer in the 2002 World Cup. This came when he was playing for FC Kaiserslautern and it was only in 2007 when he made the move to a much bigger club, Bayern Munich, at 28-years-old.
The Italian international played for several third division sides in Italy before gaining recognition by Juventus. He bounced around a few clubs until the age of 23 and it was only later on when he managed to help get Cesena promoted into the Serie A. At 26, he was signed by the Italian giants and spent three seasons in black and white.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
In 2001, the Dutchman moved to Manchester United after scoring a tremendous amount of goals for Dutch side PSV Eindhoven. At the time, van Nistelrooy was already 24 – a late bloomer if there ever was one. At the Red Devils, he took the Premier League by storm, scoring 95 league goals in his five years at the club before moving to an even bigger club, Real Madrid, at the age of 29-years-old.
Quite remarkably, the Ivoirian only started training full-time at the age of 21-years-old – an age where some of today’s talents have already established themselves on the biggest stages in Europe. Drogba never attended a footballing academy and, today, he holds the record for the most Champions League goals by an African footballer with 44.
Can you name any other well-recognised footballers who blossomed late? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.