FIFA U-17 World Cup: Former superstars - Where are they now?
The FIFA U-17 World Cup has witnessed plenty of stars who have gone on to make a big impact on the national stage. Here is a list of the major superstars.fifa u17 world cup 2017 Updated: Oct 28, 2017 14:11 IST
The FIFA U-17 World Cup is the thriving ground for the future superstars of football. Players who have performed in this tournament have made a great impact in international football and in leagues all over the world, be it the Premier League, Bundesliga, La Liga and the Serie A.
The 2017 edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup will see Brazil take on Mali for the third place while the big match will feature England take on Spain in the final. Both England and Spain will be vying for their maiden title and it will usher in a new era of superstars.
Ahead of the final, here is a look at the former superstars of the FIFA U-17 World Cup and where they are now.
Nii Lamptey (Ghana 1991)
Having played at the U16 tournament two years earlier, Nii Lamptey inspired Ghana to glory at the U17 finals in Italy, scoring four goals to help them to the trophy.
Lamptey was rewarded with the Golden Ball after outshining the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron, Marcelo Gallardo and Alessandro Del Piero, with big things predicted for the then-Anderlecht man.
It didn’t quite go to plan, though. After failing to convince in loan spells with PSV and Aston Villa, he took in spells at clubs including Coventry City, Venezia, Union Santa Fe, Greuther Furth and Shandong Luneng in a varied and rather uninspiring career.
Landon Donovan (United States 1999)
Brazil retained their crown in New Zealand in 1999 but the best-player prize was awarded to United States unknown Landon Donovan, who scored three times in their run to the last four.
The forward joined Bayer Leverkusen’s academy that year but never quite managed to establish a career in Europe, despite further spells with Bayern Munich and Everton.
Instead, Donovan reserved his best form for his senior national team, for whom he won 157 caps, and MLS. A six-time champion in his homeland, he holds the record for goals (145) and assists (136), and the league’s MVP award was renamed in his honour in 2015.
Florent Sinema Pongolle (France 2001)
Le Harvre youngster Florent Sinama Pongolle looked to have the world at his feet when he left the 2001 finals with the Golden Ball, Golden Shoe - he scored nine times - and a winners’ medal.
Unfortunately, his career rather peaked in Trinidad and Tobago. His move to Liverpool that year ended in frustration (despite winning the Champions League in 2005), and loan spell at Blackburn Rovers didn’t do much to help.
The forward had a happier time in Spain with Recreativo and Atletico Madrid before drifting into relative obscurity. Now 33, he most recently played for Chainat Hornbill in Thailand.
Cesc Fabregas (Spain, 2003)
The first player on this list who would go on to follow up sparkling displays at the U17 World Cup with a senior title, Cesc Fabregas teed up Andres Iniesta for the winner in the 2010 final in South Africa.
That triumph came between honours at two European Championships and Fabregas’ club career has been similarly glittering.
The Spain midfielder joined Arsenal in the weeks after the 2003 tournament and went on to captain the club, winning the FA Cup and reaching the Champions League final.
A return to boyhood club Barcelona followed - as did six more trophies - before Fabregas stunned Arsenal fans by moving to rivals Chelsea and twice claiming the Premier League.
Like the previous four players on this list, success at a young age took Anderson to the Premier League.
And at Manchester United his samba skills led to a ditty that rather unkindly referenced the aforementioned Fabregas.
But the Brazilian never quite hit the heights expected, departing Old Trafford after eight years but just over 100 league appearances.
The skillful midfielder has since plied his trade for Internacional and is now - at just 29 - on loan at Coritiba, who are battling relegation from Brazil’s top tier.
Carlos Vela (Mexico 2005)
While Anderson claimed the Golden Ball, the Golden Shoe belonged to Carlos Vela after his five goals at the 2005 tournament.
The reward for the Mexican’s fine performances was a move to Europe and Arsenal, but he never managed to establish himself in England - either with Arsene Wenger’s men or after joining West Brom on loan.
Vela’s European career has not been without successes, though, and he sparkled for a time at Real Sociedad, while becoming a key figure for Mexico.
As of next year, the 28-year-old will hope to further delight California’s large community of Mexican descent as he signs up for MLS expansion outfit LAFC.
Toni Kroos (Germany 2007)
Toni Kroos is without doubt the best example in recent memory of a player who starred at the U17 World Cup and went on to live up to his potential.
The elegant midfielder made his Bayern Munich debut at the tender age of 17 and, either side of a loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen, won everything he could with the Bavarian giants.
Then came his move to Real Madrid in 2014, where he has since become a crucial part of Zinedine Zidane’s immense side that won back-to-back Champions League titles this year.
We cannot forget there was also the small matter of winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Germany.
Haris Seferovic (Switzerland 2009)
A star for champions Switzerland in Nigeria in 2009, Haris Seferovic caught the eye as the tournament’s joint-top scorer on five goals.
His early promise brought about a move to Fiorentina in 2010, but in three years there he struggled to make the grade, with a trio of loan spells proving his best option for first-team football.
A year at Real Sociedad in LaLiga was not much better, but at Eintracht Frankfurt he found himself a home for three years.
He opted to run his contract down in Germany and in pre-season signed for Benfica, where he has six goals in his first 12 appearances in all competition.
Julio Gomez (Mexico 2011)
Julio Gomez’s contribution to Mexico’s triumph on home soil in 2011 was remarkable, scoring once in the group stage before netting a double in the semi-final win over Germany.
But it was his second against Germany which was particularly notable as he produced a sensational bicycle kick late on, despite previously suffering a head injury. He was only still on the pitch because Mexico had used all of their substitutes.
However, his professional career at club level has been rather less impactful, struggling to make a telling contribution in a series of loan moves away from Pachuca.
Kelechi Iheanacho (Nigeria, 2013)
Kelechi Iheanacho was an easy choice as Golden Ball winner in 2013, playing a vital role as Nigeria won the competition for the fourth time.
His haul of six goals was impressive enough, but he also recorded seven assists for the champions.
Still just 21, the striker has shown plenty of promise at club level, scoring 21 goals across all competitions for Manchester City in the last two seasons.
Now at Leicester City following a reported £25million move, Iheanacho has endured a few injury problems this season. However, he looks likely to make a real impression on the Premier League over the coming years should he remain fit.
First Published: Oct 28, 2017 14:09 IST