Football careers rarely follow a straight path, with all players experiencing various high and lows during their years on the pitch. For some, it’s more extreme than others, with some returns to the top more akin to a rising from the dead than a simple upturn in form.
To celebrate Halloween, here’s a look at 8 careers that seemingly died, only to somehow resurrect – Zombie-like – into something glorious (or at least decent)…
8. Francis Coquelin
After making his debut in 2009, Francis Coquelin broke into the Arsenal first-team as an exciting star of the future in 2011. But by the time he joined Charlton Athletic on loan in 2014, the French midfielder’s promise looked to be in danger of burning out.
It was only a string of injuries that saw Coquelin return to the Gunners and get an unlikely opportunity midway through the 2014/15 campaign that has given him the chance to become an established and important member of the squad.
7. Victor Moses
Between lighting up the Championship as a teenager with Crystal Palace and joining Chelsea, only to spend time on loan unsuccessfully at Liverpool, Stoke and West Ham, it was hard to anticipate where Victor Moses’ career was heading.
That was, until he was unexpectedly handed a chance back at Chelsea by new manager Antonio Conte.
The Nigerian has played in nine of the club’s 10 Premier League games this season and suddenly looks every bit the bright spark he once was. The fact he’s doing it at right wing-back (he’s predominantly a winger) is a testament both to his ability and Conte’s vision.
6. Mohamed Salah
A rising European star with Basel, Mohamed Salah’s career took a swift nosedive when he moved to Chelsea in January 2014 and was subsequently starved of genuine opportunities in a side that already boasted the likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian.
It took the Egyptian winger to move on loan to Fiorentina, before making the permanent switch to Roma, to get his career back on track. He’s since scored 21 goals in all competitions for the Giallorossi in just over a single season.
Manchester United fans were perplexed when Nani was rewarded with a new five-year contract at Old Trafford in 2013. He’d been struggling for over a year and the initial promise he once showed had long since become sporadic at best.
Since moving on, initially on loan in 2014, the winger has enjoyed something of a resurrection, scoring 12 goals each for Sporting CP and Fenerbahce, and now starting the 2016/17 campaign well with Valencia.
Oh, and he also became a Euro 2016 champion in the summer.
4. Javier Hernandez
Pushed out at Manchester United and a disappointment on loan at Real Madrid, Javier Hernandez saw his career at the top level teetering on the brink as he chose his next move in the summer of 2015.
Chicharito ended up in Germany at Bayer Leverkusen and actually enjoyed the most prolific season of his career in 2015/16, scoring 26 times in all competitions.
He’s already scored seven goals so far this season as well.
3. Angel Di Maria
Angel Di Maria’s sole season at Manchester United following a British record move in 2014 can now best be described as a ‘blip’ in an otherwise excellent career for the flying winger.
He arrived at Old Trafford as the Man of the Match in the Champions League final when Real Madrid sealed the elusive Decima, while he marked his first season with Paris Saint-Germain with 15 goals in all competitions and a domestic treble.
2. Mario Balotelli
After joining Nice on a free transfer in August, Liverpool flop Mario Balotelli is proving that all he really needed was some love, faith and a platform on which to perform.
The enigmatic Italian, once billed as a future superstar such was his natural ability, scored just two league goals in two seasons during his spell at Liverpool and a loan back at Milan. That stint at the San Siro was supposedly the final nail in his coffin, but he’s now scored more than a goal per game since heading to the south of France.
1. Juan Sebastian Veron
Juan Sebastian Veron disappointed at Manchester United after completing a British record move from Lazio in the summer of 2001 at a time when he was recognised as one of the very best midfielders in the world. His career took another downturn after joining Chelsea.
Veron next headed back to Italy on loan and hadn’t played for the Argentina national team in four years by the time he linked up with boyhood club Estudiantes. Back home, he enjoyed a glorious twilight, collecting two Primera Division titles, a Copa Libertadores trophy and earned 17 more international caps, including selection for the 2010 World Cup.