A look at football superstars who were passed up by some famous clubs early in their career
Antoine Griezmann started his career playing for French club UF Macon. He had a number of trials with other clubs, including Lyon, but was rejected because of his size and slight frame. It was in 2005 that Real Sociedad scouts spotted Griezmann’s talent and gave him an opportunity.
Chelsea could have had French star Kylian Mbappe as early as 2012. At the age of 13, Mbappe impressed during a trial with the Blues but they reportedly upset his mother by requesting a second trial. He ended up with Monaco and the rest is history.
Argentine great Lionel Messi played for Newell’s Old Boys, that’s well known. But in 1995, the then eight-year-old was scouted by Buenos Aires club River Plate. They pulled out of a deal to sign Messi, expressing their inability to pay the $1000-a-month bill for growth hormones. As luck would have it, Barcelona sporting director Carlos Rexach flew in to watch him and “snapped him up there and then” in 2000.
Arsenal’s former academy director Liam Brady revealed the Gunners released Harry Kane from their youth set-up at the age of eight because he was “a bit chubby” and “not athletic”. Kane later joined Tottenham where he would go on to become a prolific goalscorer.
When Mario Balotelli was just a 16-year-old playing in Serie C for Lumezzane, he was given a trial with Barcelona. He even impressed head of the youth team Jose Ramon Alexanko. However, the deal did not materialise because his agent reportedly demanded too much money.
An eight-year-old Luke Shaw played at Chelsea’s development centre in Guildford, but he was not offered a spot in the academy. He then developed at Southampton before joining Manchester United in 2014.
As a teenager, the ‘original’ Ronaldo tried to get signed by Flamengo, but it didn’t materialise. According to the Washington Post, Ronaldo was asked to come back for a second trial but he didn’t have enough money for the bus fare, which ended his dreams. He then joined Cruzeiro instead, before moving to PSV Eindhoven at 17 and started his journey to greatness.