Wonderkids who vanished as youngest Liverpool scorer Woodburn has Preston trial

It wasn't all that long ago that Ben Woodburn was Liverpool's next big thing.

The midfielder became the club's youngest ever goalscorer in 2016 after netting against Leeds as a 17-year-old – breaking Michael Owen's long-standing record – and apparently impressed manager Jurgen Klopp so much that the German began easing him into the senior side there and then.

But six years and four underwhelming loan spells later, the Welshman was released without any fanfare, with his stock so low that even Preston North End didn't have the confidence to hand him a contract without taking him on trial first.

With Woodburn's downfall in mind, Daily Star Sport has taken a look back at seven other wonderkids who inexplicably fell off the face of the earth.

READ MORE: Liverpool release forgotten star Jurgen Klopp used to rave about as departures confirmed

Freddy Adu

In 2004, Freddy Adu was America's answer to Lionel Messi.

Dubbed "the next Pele" after making his professional debut at just 14-years-old, Adu looked to have the world at his feet with clubs across Europe eagerly tracking his progress.

He went on trial with Manchester United in 2006, though work permit issues scuppered a potential move, and was forced to wait another year until Benfica came calling to get his shot at the big time. Though sadly for the Ghanaian-born attacking, his spell in Portugal was a disaster.

He featured just 11 times for the club before being shipped out on loan and spent the next four years nomadically hopping around Europe like a party-hungry gap year student. Drab stints in Brazil, Serbia, Finland, Sweden and back in the US followed and now, aged 33, Adu is out of contract and without a club.


Josh McEachran

Josh McEachran looked a potential world-beater after debuting for Chelsea as a 17-year-old back in 2010.

He immediately raised Carlo Ancelotti's magnificent eyebrows after exhibiting poise and passing ability beyond his years and was thrust into the first-team picture without a second thought. But his Chelsea career began falling apart when Ancelotti was sacked at the end of the season.

The Italian's replacement, Andre Villas-Boas, didn't fancy McEachran at all, playing him just twice in the league before allowing him to leave for Swansea on loan – though he barely got a look in there either!

With his momentum severed and confidence shot, McEachran's talent began to fade, and four uninspired loan spells later the London club released him. Spells with Brentford and Birmingham City followed and the 29-year-old now turns out for MK Dons in League One.

Jack Rodwell

Despite getting a high-profile move to Manchester City and winning the Premier League, Jack Rodwell still managed to find a way to fall off the face of the earth.

The midfielder was meant to follow Wayne Rooney's footsteps out of Everton's academy and into the arms of superstardom, but his Toffees career never really got out of third gear.

He moved to City in 2012 but was handed next to no game time for two miserable seasons before jumping ship to Sunderland. There, Rodwell faded into insignificance and struggled for minutes ever after the Black Cats were relegated to the Championship. Moves to Blackburn and Sheffield United followed and the former England international now plies his trade in Australia with the Western Sydney Warriors.

Giovani dos Santos

Once upon a time the future of Barcelona lay at the feet of two prodigious teenagers; Lionel Messi and Giovani dos Santos. *Spoiler alert – only one of them made of them made it to the top – we'll tell you who later.*

So after nabbing Dos Santos for just £5 million in 2008, Tottenham fans thought they'd hit the jackpot – but it didn't take long for them to realise why the Catalan giants were happy to let him leave.

The Mexican forward was a bag of tricks, but never really seemed able to convert his natural ability into on-field effectiveness. He was loaned out to Ipswich Town, then Galatasaray and finally Racing Santander before being released by Spurs in 2012 – having failed to score a single goal for the club.

He spent three seasons in La Liga, followed by a decent four-year spell at LA Galaxy, and the 33-year-old now plies his trade at Mexican club America (because that's not confusing at all).

* P.S – it was Messi.

Adnan Januzaj

Adnan Januzaj was the one shining light in an otherwise gloomy season for Manchester United during David Moyes' ill-fated nine-month spell in charge.

The young Belgian featured a whopping 35 times in all competitions over the course of the campaign – at the end of which he was handed Ryan Giggs' old No 11 shirt. But just like McEachran, his career began to unravel following a managerial change.

Louis van Gaal wasn't super keen on him and soon Januzaj was struggling for both form and game-time. He was loaned out to Dortmund the following season, but failed to impress, and his spell at Sunderland the season after was no better.

With his reputation in pieces, Januzaj was released in 2017, but after five solid seasons at Real Sociedad he's started to finally make something of himself, and the 27-year-old has even managed to worm his way back into the Belgium national team set-up. Go Adnan!

Ravel Morrison

As United fans will remember, it was Ravel Morrison, not Paul Pogba, who was the club's most exciting prospect back in 2010.

Sir Alex Ferguson described the then 17-year-old as "the best player he'd seen at that age," but troubles in his personal life began souring his relationship with the club and he left for West Ham in 2012.

Having failed to knuckle down, Morrison coasted through a hat-trick of loan spells in the Championship before being unceremoniously released by the Hammers in 2015. Serie A side Lazio then took a punt on him, but after just eight appearances and two more failed loan spells later he was on the move again – this time to Sweden with Ostersund.

Later, he tried his luck at Sheffield United, Middlesbrough and ADO Den Haag before eventually finding himself at Derby County – under the tutelage of former team-mate Wayne Rooney – where he appears to finally be playing with some consistency. But with Rooney now gone, how long will that remain the case?

Alexandre Pato

Alexandre Pato was once the envy of Europe after bursting onto the scene as a teenager with AC Milan in 2009.

He was the latest exquisite piece of craftsmanship from Brazil's inexhaustible conveyor belt of talent, and appeared to have the world at his feet after taking Serie A by storm with his explosive pace and sharp eye for goal. He duly won the prestigious Golden Boy award and global superstardom felt somewhat inevitable. But then the injuries began.

After spending two seasons in and out of Milan's treatment room, Pato decided to up sticks and move back to his native Brazil in search of fitness and first-team football – aged just 23. A couple of years later he returned to European football after securing a short-term loan spell at Chelsea – though bizarrely only made two appearances for the west London club before shipped back to his homeland.

With his shot at redemption gone, Pato cut his losses and headed for the Chinese Super League – where he bagged an impressive 36 goals in 60 matches. A short stint back in Brazil followed and the 32-year-old now turns out for MLS side Orlando City.


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