Every single day football players get released and transferred, sometimes these moves stay under the radar and legendary players are forgotten and cast out to the lower leagues.
Gael ClichyEmbed from Getty Images
French footballer Gael Clichy is widely regarded as one of the best left-backs in Premier League history. Clichy began his professional career with third-tier side Cannes. After three seasons with Cannes, in 2003, he was convinced by Arsène Wenger to join Arsenal. Clichy was part of the legendary invincible and took over the starting position from Ashley Cole after only 3 years.
Following 8 years, 264 appearances, an FA Cup, Community Shield and Premier League for the Gunners, Clichy was enticed to join Manchester City in a £13 million transfer. Clichy would go on to have his most successful spell with the Cityzens where he won 2 league cups and 2 Premier League titles in 203 appearances.
Clichy would retain the starting spot for the first year of Pep Guardiola’s tenure. However due to his age and lack of pace he was soon sold to Basaksehir for only £6 million. Clichy played for three seasons in Turkey leaving with another league title before being released. It didn’t take long for Swiss Super League side Servette FC to sign him in 2020 and the 36-year-old remains in Switzerland to this day
Martin SkrtelEmbed from Getty Images
Martin Skrtel began his playing days at Slovakian side AS Trencin before securing a move to Russian giants Zenit St Petersburg in 2004. Impressive performances over the next 4 years would catch the eye of Liverpool who would eventually sign the towering centre back in 2008 for roughly £8 million.
Skrtel made a name for himself at Anfield as one of the toughest defenders in the Premier League. Skrtel gave eight-and-a-half years of service in Liverpool’s defence, making 320 appearances and lifting the 2012 League Cup during his time at Anfield.
However, following the appointment of Jurgen Klopp, Skrtel struggled to find a place for himself in the starting 11. In 2016 Skrtel signed for Turkish side Fenerbahçe for £6 million. After 3 solid years in Turkey, he secured a move to the Italian side Atalanta on a free. His contract was terminated three weeks later by mutual consent as he struggled to adapt to the new environment, conditions and training methods.
In 2019 he returned to Turkey signing with İstanbul Başakşehir; where he would go on to help lead the club to their first-ever League title. He reached an agreement to leave Başakşehir in January 2021, with less than six months remaining in his contract, after suffering an Achilles tendon rupture in the previous month. He soon decided to return home and signed for Slovakian side Spartak Trnava in August 2021.
Mousa DembéléEmbed from Getty Images
Dembélé started his career at Belgian Pro League team Germinal Beerschot before spells at Eredivisie sides Willem II and AZ. These years would see Dembélé’s only silverware with a Belgian Cup in 2005 as well as an Eredivisie title and Dutch Super Cup with AZ. Impressive performances led to Fulham buying the midfielder for £6.75 million. Dembélé would only last two years at Fulham before Tottenham triggered his £15 million release clause in 2012.
Dembélé reached the pinnacle of his career at Tottenham where he made 249 appearances. Tottenham’s manager Mauricio Pochettino described Dembélé as a “genius” and once said “If we had taken you at 18 or 19 years old, you would have become one of the best players in the world.”
After recurring injuries, he began to lose his place in the squad to younger, fitter players. So in January 2019, he was sold to Chinese side Guangzhou R&F for £11 million. He has so far made 47 appearances for the club and the 34-year-old looks set to stay there for the time being.
Keisuke HondaEmbed from Getty Images
Keisuke Honda has had a very turbulent career with his longest spell at a club only lasting for 4 years. Honda began his career at Japanese side Seiryo HS where he would stay until 2005 before making a move to Nagoya Grampus. In 2008 Honda got his first taste of European football when he signed for VVV-Venlo in the Netherlands.
After an impressive 2 years he got his first big break with a £3 million move to CSKA Moscow in 2010. 4 years, 2 Russian titles and 2 Russian Cups later; Honda made a big £18 million move to AC Milan. He would last 3 years at the San Siro before being sold to Mexican side CF Pachuca in 2018.
Over the last 4 years, Honda has played for Melbourne, Vitesse, Botafogo, Neftchi Baku and currently Suduva. Despite this ridiculous list of clubs, Honda’s most bizarre career move was becoming the manager of Cambodia in 2018 whilst he was still a player. So currently Honda is a player in the Lithuanian A Lyga whilst also the manager for the Cambodian national team.
Ricardo QuaresmaEmbed from Getty Images
Quaresma was once one of the most popular players in the World his tricks, including the rabona and trivela attracting a large audience now he is a forgotten player approaching retirement. Quaresma began his career at Sporting CP before securing a £6 million move to Barcelona in 2003. After only a year at the Camp Nou, he announced his refusal to play for the Spanish club as long as manager Frank Rijkaard was in charge. So he was promptly sold to Porto.
He went on to have a great 4 years with the Portuguese giants as he won 3 League titles and 5 different Cups. These performances led to a move to Italian giants Inter Milan where he immediately flopped. At the end of the 2008-2009 season, Quaresma was given the Bidone d’oro award for the worst footballer in the Italian top division. He was promptly sent on loan to Chelsea where his fortunes didn’t change.
After failing to regain his spot in the Inter lineup, Quaresma was sold to Besiktas in 2010 for £6.5 million. Following an altercation, with manager Carlos Carvahal he was suspended indefinitely and was released on 20 December six months before his contract was due to expire. He would go on to play for Al Ahli, before making returns to both Porto and Besiktas.
He then made a move to Kasimpasa in Turkey where he played for a single season. In 2020 Quaresma agreed to a two-year deal with Vitória de Guimarães where he still plays at the age of 38.
John Obi MikelEmbed from Getty Images
Mikel started his football career at the age of 12 when picked as a talented footballer by over 3,000 young talents to play in Pepsi Football Academy before joining professional side Plateau United. Following the Fifa U17 World Championships, he joined Norweigan side Lyn Football. The early stages of his career were marred by a transfer controversy as he claimed to have joined United before later signing for Chelsea in 2006.
His first season at Stamford Bridge started of badly as José Mourinho was believed to have strong reservations about his lifestyle outside of Stamford Bridge, and the club was reportedly considering offloading the player. But after an improved attitude, he became a crucial part of the club’s midfield and would go on to win 2 Premier Leagues, 4 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, 1 Champions League and 1 Europa League in 372 appearances for the blues. Following the 2016-17 season, Chelsea decided not to renew Mikels contract.
From here he bounced around leagues starting with Tianjin TEDA in China. After 2 years in China he joined Middlesbrough on a short term contract and after an average display in 19 games he was released. Following this, he signed for Trabzonspor in 2019 but he left by mutual consent in 2020 over concerns of Covid in Turkey. At the start of the 2020 season, he signed a one year contract with Stoke and was offered an extension. Instead the 34-year-old opted to sign for Kuwait SC.
Bradley Wright-PhillipsEmbed from Getty Images
Bradley Wright-Phillips is the son of legendary arsenal striker Ian Wright, but he never managed to live up to his fathers legacy. He began his career in Manchester City’s youth academy where he bagged goals for fun in the reserve team. However, this didn’t translate to his first-team football as he scored only 1 goal in 40 appearances.
After many frustrating appearances for Manchester City, with few goals, he was sold to Championship team Southampton for £500,000 in 2006. His fortunes slightly turned at St Marys as the striker 25 goals in 121 appearances. At the end of the 2008–09 season, following Southampton’s relegation to League One, Wright-Phillips was released from his contract at the club. But it didn’t take long for the striker to secure a contract with Championship side Plymouth Argyle.
In 2011 he would move to Football League 1 side Charlton Athletic where he scored 31 goals in 87 appearances before going on loan to Brentford. After some decent performances, Phillips was signed by New York Red Bulls in 2013. He soon became one of the best players in the MLS as he became a 2 time all-star whilst also winning the MLS Golden Boot twice. He helped Red Bull win 3 Supporters Shields in 240 appearances whilst bagging 126 goals before signing for Columbus Crew in 2020 where he remains.
Jack RodwellEmbed from Getty Images
Jack Rodwell always looked like a bright football star in the early years of his career, but he soon faltered under the pressure and went under the radar. Rodwell began playing for Everton at 7 years old and would make his first-team debut at only 16 years old. He would continue to impress the Toffees over the next 4 years as he made 109 appearances for the club.
But in 2012 the calls of Manchester City were too hard to resist and Rodwell signed for £15 million. His performances dropped at the Etihad and he soon lost his place due to hard competition in midfield. Rodwell lasted only 2 years in Manchester making a measly 25 appearances before signing for Sunderland in 2014 for £11 million.cHe soon became a first-team regular in Sunderland and spent the next 4 years in the North as he made 76 appearances for the Black Cats.
Following Sunderland’s relegation to the Championship Rodwell asked to leave and then following their relegation to League 1 his contract was terminated by the club on 27 June 2018. He then bounced around signing short term deals with Blackburn and Sheffield United. After playing professionally in England for 15 years, Rodwell took up a new challenge by moving to Australia with his Australian wife and son to play for Western Sydney Wanderers.
Javier PastoreEmbed from Getty Images
Javier Pastore is a midfielder who has played for some of the biggest teams in Europe but now finds himself playing for mid-table contenders. Pastore began his career with Talleres and then Huracán in his native Argentina before moving to Serie A team Palermo in 2009 for a reported transfer fee of £4.5 million
2 excellent years with Palermo led to PSG spending £40 million to bring the midfielder to France in 2011. He won numerous domestic honours with the club, including 5 Ligue 1 titles, 4 Coupe De France and 5 Coupe Da Ligue in 269 appearances for the Parisians.
Following the arrival of Neymar and other stars, Pastore left the club in 2018 and signed for AS Roma in Italy. He struggled for playing time making 37 appearances in 2 seasons and mutually terminated his contract in August 2021. Pastore then signed for La Liga side Elche where he is still playing.
RafinhaEmbed from Getty Images
Similar to Gael Clichy, Rafinha was widely regarded as one of the best right-backs in European football during his prime. He began his career with Brazilian side Coritiba before attracting the interest of Schalke following the 2005 Under-20 World Championship for around £5 million. Rafinha would go on to make 198 appearances over 5 years before being sold to Genoa for £8 million in 2010.
He would only last a year in Italy before being snapped up by German giants Bayern Munich for a measly £5 million, probably one of the biggest bargains in history. Rafinha would go on to 266 appearances and help Bayern win 7 Bundesliga’s, 4 DFB Cups and a Champions League amongst others.
Following the 2018-19 season Rafinha decided to leave Bayern and joined Brazilian side Flamengo. This only lasted one year before he returned to Europe to play for Greek champions Olympiacos. Yet again he only lasted a year before being released and the 36-year-old now plays for Brazilian side Gremio.