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Five former wonderkid flops who failed to live up to hype

Following Martin Odegaard’s record breaking appearance in the Euro 2016 qualifier for Norway against Bulgaria, which made him the youngest player in European Championship history, Coral make a list of five flops who shone so bright too early.

Odegaard, who is being linked with virtually all of Europe’s elite clubs, came on as a substitute in his side’s 2-1 victory for his second cap at the age of just 15 years and 300 days. We hope he doesn’t go the way of these following flops who peaked too early.

Jermaine Pennant
Pennant has the perhaps unwanted tag of being the only English player in history to have played in a Champions League final but not called up by the Three Lions.

Now 31, and without a club following his release from Stoke City, it is difficult to see how his career declined so much, after being signed for a record fee as a trainee of £2m at the age of 15 by Arsenal from Notts County.

At one point, Pennant’s pin-point crosses were likened to David Beckham’s, but the winger’s somewhat controversial life outside of the game has no doubt affected his footballing career.

Freddy Adu
Adu was supposed to be the next big thing for soccer after becoming the youngest player in MLS history, at 14, to sign a professional contract (with DC United), even earning comparisons to the great Pele.

A few years later, he was linked to top clubs in Europe such as Manchester United, and gained his first USA cap aged just 16. However, after being put in the limelight at such a young age and earning so much money, the attacker suffered when Adu eventually moved to Europe for clubs in Portugal, France, Greece and Turkey, making only a handful of appearances.

It’s hard to believe he is still just 25 years old, but now you can find him playing in Serbia’s top-flight for Jagodina, after another poor spell at Brazilian side Bahia.

Francis Jeffers
Former striker Jeffers last played football in 2013 for Accrington Stanley, but the 33-year-old was once an £8m signing for Arsenal back in 2001 after highly impressing for his boyhood club Everton as a teenager. He scored 18 goals in 49 matches for the Toffees.

It is during his spell with the Gunners, though, that the decline began. Injuries were his main issue, but Jeffers had the momentous task of having to displace French duo Thierry Henry and Sylvain Wiltord when he was eventually fit.

A goal in his only England cap represents such a small consolation of what he could have achieved in his career.

Michael Johnson
Another who suffered so heavily with injuries, which eventually forced him to retire at the age of only 24. Johnson, who was also involved in some off-field controversies, was tipped for stardom during his time at Manchester City.

Many in the game lamented his departure from football, but the former midfielder is now trying his hand in restaurant management.

Bojan
After coming through Barcelona’s famed La Masia youth academy, and being the son of former Serbia international Bojan Krkic Sr, the diminutive forward, now 24, was another who had so much promise.

Bojan broke records, such as being the youngest Barca first team and then Champions League dubutant after just turning 17, to beat Lionel Messi’s achievement. That same 2007/08 campaign also saw him become the youngest club goalscorer, and was soon drafted into the senior Spain set-up to earn his first cap.

That game against Armenia, when he was 18, remains as his only appearance for La Roja as Bojan’s career has made a dramatic slide. Failing to dislodge the Catalan club’s star strikers, he was sold to Roma, where he rarely impressed, and has had unsuccessful loan spells at AC Milan and Ajax. He recently signed for Stoke City, but has yet to score in his four games.