In the spirit of Children's Day, let us today remember some of the best African youngsters in the game whose football careers never materialised as expected.
‘Little Messi’, Chrisantus Macauley and other unfulfilled African child prodigies
In honour of the Children's Day celebration, here are 5 players who won our hearts as kids but failed to fulfil their enormous potential.
So, in no particular order, here are 5 child prodigies in recent history who for whatever reason did not have the football career they were projected to.
Nigerian striker Chrisantus Macauley burst onto the scene at the 2007 FIFA U-17 World Cup in Korea where he scored seven goals to win the Golden Boot and Silver Ball awards en route to Nigeria winning the title.
He then signed for German club Hamburg as a 17-year old but failed to make an impact and was subsequently loaned out to begin a journeyman career.
Now 31 years old, Macauley plays for FF Jaro in the lower divisions of Finland, his 14th club of an ultimately disappointing career.
Stanley Okoro dazzled as a 16-year old at the 2009 FIFA U-17 World Cup as the hosts, Nigeria finished as the runners-up, earning the nickname ‘Little Messi’ for his skillful left foot which was similar to Argentine star Lionel Messi.
Okoro earned a move to Spain shortly after and failed to break into the Almeria first team and was soon back in the Nigeria Professional Football League where he still plays as a 29-year old.
Ghanaian striker Nii Lamptey drew global attention at the u-17 World Championship in 1991 and even received the blessing of the legendary Pele who dubbed him as his successor.
But as you can probably already guess, it never quite worked out for Lamptey who failed to make an impact at Anderlecht, PSV, Coventry and Aston Villa, he played for 14 total clubs before retiring in 2008.
Despite being the brother of Super Eagles legend, Tijani Babangida, Haruna Babangida had talents of his own and was snapped up by Ajax as a 13-year old.
A move to Barcelona soon materialised and the 15-year old became the youngest player to feature in a pre-season game for the Catalan giants but it all soon came crashing down.
Haruna played most of his time for Barcelona B, followed by moves to nine more clubs in a career that ended in Malta in 2015.
Another gem from the FIFA U-17 World Cup, Souleymane Coulibaly was the star of the 2011 tournament in Mexico where he scored nine goals for Ivory Coast and was dubbed ‘the next Drogba’.
The 16-year old was immediately snapped up by Tottenham but he never played a single game for them and was eventually released and now plays for Tunisian club Etoile Du Sahel, his tenth club as a 27-year old.