The Pitch of Barriers



By. Rania Elhilali


Does this sound familiar? “Oh you’re determined for greatness”, we hear this in the classroom, at work and in sports in general. But if we were to be more specific, in football, it’s used way more often. We all know to become one of the top footballers in the world it’s necessary to have talent, attitude, skill and a bit of luck. But in many cases, players who are gifted with surreal and raw talent sometimes fail to live up to the hype and in fulfilling their potentials as well as expectations set on them by the fans and media alike as soon as they set foot on the pitch.


Nonetheless, what do high expectations and fulfilling potential even mean in a sport like Football? In the great game, high expectations can be a result of what is created by the spectators of the sport. An expectation is for example, in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, the German side were preferable favourites after winning the 2014 World Cup beating the Argentine side 1-0. High expectations is the term used for all athletes to potentially “shoot for the stars” And most of the time when athletes focus on the expectations they tend to forget their potential for their future.


Unfortunately, players with this mentality who yearn for optimal performance will have setbacks. The reality of the situation is when you have a need to meet or surpass these expectations they rarely result in high-level performance. When the predictions are set so high, so is the pressure to fulfill them.


Large predictions tend to lead to a major increase of pressure on the player. But athletes are known for keeping calm under pressure because they have the right attitude and vision of the game. Aside from that, players usually come across two barriers that stop them from achieving the desired results. The first complication is injuries. The physical challenge itself of an injury is difficult to manage, but to most, the psychological impact during and after injury may be more of an obstacle than the injury alone. A couple of questions that pop into the players' minds after sustaining an injury are:


  • When will I be able to play again?

  • Will I be able to play again?

  • If I get back to action, will I ever be the same player I was again?


Overall, dealing with the loss of participation, the burdensome physical rehab, and the fear of re-injury can be the downfall to some sporting careers.


What we know for sure is the physical challenges and the psychological factors do play a role in the reasons why an athlete may not be attaining certain results. Many times, even as of recent, football players who have such high praise and potential, unfortunately, faced some struggles with coping with the injuries. This isn’t saying these football players didn't reach the top of their professional peak. It’s more of wonder and thought of mind about what other milestones could they have conquered as an individual and with the team they were playing for if the injury did not come in the way. It’s very frustrating to have seen these athletes with such talent be blighted by injury.



Jonathan Woodgate

(TheseFootballTimes)


Jonathan Woodgate was the man who Real Madrid deemed good enough to play for them when they paid the price of £13 .4 million to Newcastle in 2004. Even then, a thigh injury pushed away Woodgate's debut for Madrid until September of 2005. The injuries Woodgate sustained at Madrid in his three years with the Spanish giants gave him 14 games for the club. Even then, injuries followed him when he joined Middlesbrough, Tottenham Hotspurs and Stoke City. But one thing I consider is if it wasn’t for a sequence of back and leg injuries then Woodgate would have been remembered as one of England’s sophisticated defenders. However, he played only eight times for his homeland.


Jack Wilshere

(Independent)


Jack Wilshere was someone that was meant to be when he burst onto the professional pitch as a 16-year-old for Arsenal in 2008. But having several encounters with injuries ranging from ankle, knee, foot and hamstring injury have delayed the midfielder's career in football from progressing. Now at 30 years old, spells at Bournemouth and West Ham could not spark any hope for the midfielder who is now a free agent.


Ledley King

(Cloudfront)


In the mid-2000’s Ledley King was talked about with the best of the best in the Premier League. Unfortunately, a chronic knee problem restricted the Tottenham defender’s playing time from continuing to the point where he often trained alone. Injuries were getting the best of him in his mid-20’s. And as King said himself “there wasn’t really any pain, it was more of a restriction. I couldn’t bend my knee past 90 degrees and that limited me from what I knew I could do”. Nevertheless, England and Tottenham fans were denied a truly great defender that could have been.


Martin Ødegaard

(Managing Madrid)


The Norwegian Real Madrid prodigy, who is now 23 years old has sadly been sustaining multiple injuries, one of them being a fractured metatarsal. But to this day Ødegaard still plays but he will look back to his form that made Real Madrid buy him at the age of 15. However, from a positive standpoint, Ødegaard is still young, which means he has time to turn things around and become a spectacular footballer; with good performances for Arsenal, a promising future may still be ahead for club and country.


Jozy Altidore

(Major League Soccer)


Jozy Altidore being on this list can be greatly argued as he has quite a successful record with MLS club Toronto FC. Winning the MLS championship with them in 2017 as well as winning the Canadian championship title multiple times and scoring several goals throughout each season. Altidore has proven that he is capable of being a striker that can net the goals regardless of the angle, just ask CF Montreal as he always seems to score against them no matter if it's him starting in the XI or coming off the bench. Yet, Jozy being on this list is a result of his most recent years as he has been forced to the sidelines due to multiple injuries missing countless important appearances. Leaving us the viewers wondering how many more titles could Jozy have lifted if not for his setbacks. The potential for more goals will always be the pondering what-if questions that the skirts of lakeshore Toronto will always ask?



These are just a few of a list of players who could have succeeded more without the sequences of injuries. That being said, there is a second barrier, those failing to fulfill the big expectations of transfers.


You see, there are hundreds of football transfers across the world each year, and it’s not very surprising that many of them can turn out not as promising as initially thought. Football is not a predictable sport, so whatever transfers that seemed right at the time can end up being the opposite equally for the player and club. For one reason or another, these players were delayed in attaining their potential due to transfer failures.



Fernando Torres

(EuroSport)


At one point El Nino was the hottest scorer on the planet during his time with Liverpool between 2007 and 2011 and internationally with Spain. Finding the net 65 times in 102 games, as Torres' peak was heating up, he transferred to rivals Chelsea in January of 2011. The transfer was a total of £50 million. But Torres' form struck down at Stamford Bridge. Torres scored 45 in 172 games with the blues. This leaves one to wonder, would he have continued his goal run if he stayed with the reds, his career never recovered to those heights and after 3 more clubs, he retired in 2019.


Andy Carroll

(Telegraph)


This transfer in many ways is related to the Fernando Torres transfer, when Liverpool sold Torres to the blues in 2011, manager Kenny Dalglish had no top striker. He then spent 35 million out of the 50 received from Torres on Andy Carroll of Newcastle United, who at the time was putting up excellent numbers for Newcastle United like never before. The injury-prone Carroll was not a fit at Anfield, with scoring just six goals in 44 games after notching 31 in 80 matches for Newcastle, one may wonder what Carroll’s success with Newcastle United could have looked like if his move to Liverpool did not get inked.


Denilson de Oliveira

(Planet Football)


Denilson had just come off a great World cup performance in 1998 when Real Betis decided it was worth breaking the World transfer record with the price of 31.5 million Euros. After seven years at Betis, Denilson managed a modest 13 goals in 186 games. But may he have done better if he stayed in Sao Paulo? Another ‘what if’ transfer that never lived up to the hype.


Dmytro Chygrynskiy

(UEFA)


Dmytro Chygrynskiy was the first Ukrainian to play for Barcelona when he got a contract of five years to play center of the Catalan defence in 2009. But just as stated before, football is not a sport that can be predicted. The former Shakhtar Donetsk defender made only 12 appearances for Barcelona. A combination of early injuries and the pressure by the fans and the Spanish media's expectations alike was too much for the Ukrainian. Ultimately this led to Chygrynskiy moving back to Shakhtar after failing to live up to his titled £25 million valuation, another Barcelona risk that hadn’t paid off.


Robinho

(BBC)


In the crazy summer of 2008, Robinho failed contract negotiations at Real Madrid. The Brazilian made a public statement saying he was looking to move to the Premier League side, Chelsea. Robinho made it to the Prem, but he would wear a lighter shade of blue with Manchester City. Robinho had a solid first season, finishing as City’s top scorer with 14 goals. After that, it started going downhill, Robinho was unfortunately plagued by injuries in his second season with the citizens, and he only featured in 12 games and scored just one that year. He then transferred back to Brazil in the January 2010 transfer window, when coach Roberto Mancini ultimately decided that he was not satisfied with the big money move they believed would work out.



In the end, everyone has their own opinions on why certain players did not live up to their potential. Whether it be a “transfer flop” that had miscalculations, or the complication of injuries and the psychological impact on the player. The barriers of hype and expectations of players won’t always be as they seem and can very much ruin the beautiful game of football we all love to watch.


Because at the end of the day the weakest team can always still overcome the giants. So even if a player is good and has the trio of talent, skill and attitude. In many ways, these barriers of failed transfers, injuries and high expectations trailed by pressure are unfortunately one of the many flaws in this beautiful sport of football. The expectations and pressure can be a map to one's failure and the mere fact that in a quick-paced and fast-changing sport like football, no predictions can be made on which player will succeed and which will fail.