Players who left big clubs early – Top 10
There are some big names in this list. We look at the top 10 players who left big clubs early in their careers and are now benefiting from it.
Top 10 players who left big clubs early and benefited from it
10. Adrien Rabiot (Manchester City)
Perhaps he was put off by the weather, but Rabiot didn’t seem too keen to stick around in Manchester in 2008 (mind you, he didn’t seem keen to stick around anywhere during his youth career). The midfielder spent just six months at Manchester City’s academy before returning home to France, with his mother later claiming that her son was mistreated.
Rabiot thought he’d got his own back when he scored against the Citizens in a crunch Champions League tie in April 2016. Unfortunately for the PSG man, though, Manuel Pellegrini’s side prevailed and advanced to the semi-finals. He’s just joined Juventus on a free after a bitter end to his career at PSG.
9. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (PSV)
He may be a fan favourite at Ajax, but Huntelaar actually began his career at fierce rivals PSV. Signed in 2000, the striker made his senior bow (and only appearance) under Guus Hiddink before heading out on loan to De Graafschap and AGOVV.
The Dutchman’s quest for regular football led him to Heerenveen on a permanent basis in 2004, and 39 goals in 60 games persuaded Ajax to fork out €9m for his services two years later.
8. Juan Mata (Real Madrid)
Mata is best associated with Valencia in Spain, so it’s easy to forget that his senior league debut came with Real Madrid Castilla in 2006. Ten goals in 39 matches sparked interest from Los Che, who signed the playmaker by triggering a release clause in his contract.
Mata then swapped Spain for England in 2011, joining Chelsea for £23.5m. Now he features for their rivals, Manchester United.