This season we have seen the unexpected return to form of Victor Moses. He has excelled as a right wing-back, as opposed to his former role of right wing, in Antonio Conte’s very successful new 3-4-3 system. With the reliable and disciplined Nemanja Matic and N’Golo Kante happy to fill in when Moses propels himself down the wing, there is a new fluidity and freedom to his game. Before this season he had not played for Chelsea for more than three years and had endured unsatisfying loan spells at West Ham, Stoke and Liverpool. Now a fairly integral player in a side at the top of the Premier League, Victor Moses’ return has been fairly remarkable.
However, Victor Moses is not alone in this category of players who have moved from the periphery to the limelight. Riyad Mahrez also fits the bill. Before signing for Leicester City in January 2014 for a mere £400,000, the Algerian international had been struggling to stay afloat in France’s Ligue 2. His former coach, Erick Mombaerts, said it was hard to persuade the club that playing Mahrez in the first team was the right decision. His tribulations at Le Havre must seem like a distant memory. Now worth £35 million, playing regular Champions League football and PFA player of the Year 2015-16, Leicester are having fight off interest from the so-called ‘bigger clubs’. A dramatic transition indeed.
Another player who must be considered in this category is Mahrez’s teammate, Jamie Vardy. Again, before quite spectacularly finding his feet at Leicester, Vardy had been playing for non-League Fleetwood Town. Signing for what now seems like a bargain of £1 million, also a non-League record fee, Vardy arrived at Leicester in the 2012-13 season. However, it was his 24 goals in the 2015-16 season that got the whole world watching. His goals were a crucial contribution to a quite unbelievable title winning season. For that season he was rightly named the Barclays Premier League Player of the Season and fittingly was selected in the PFA Team of the Year. Now worth £25 million and, like Mahrez, about to play in the Champions League last 16, with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich amongst the possible opponents, the name Jamie Vardy now holds legendary status. A quite remarkable change of fortunes.
SOMETIMES THE PATTERN CAN BE REVERSED
However, sometimes the pattern can be reversed. This certainly has been the case for Bojan Krkic. After progressing through the ranks of Barcelona’s prestigious La Masia academy, there was a lot of hype surrounding the youngster. He received his debut at just 17 years and 19 days. Yet Bojan found it hard to live up to the reputation he had acquired. He was never quite as prolific as some had hoped and he endured several moves around Europe until he found his feet again at Stoke City. In Mark Hughes’ new-look team, Bojan excelled and quickly became a fan favourite. He will be one to watch this season.
So, with Moses finally emerging from the wilderness, Riyad Mahrez appearing out of the depths of Algeria, Jamie Vardy going from non-League to Champions League and Bojan going from Barcelona’s prodigal son to Stoke City star it is important never to write off a footballer; it could come back to haunt you.