10 Footballers That Made It Late (Part 1)

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There’s no recipe on how to become a professional football player. Some inspiring stories of players are showing you don’t always have to go one route to your ultimate destination.

This post was originally published on Nick Humphries’ blog: Chasing The Dream.

The most common way of becoming a successful professional football player would be to attend youth academies, and then hope that to break into the reserves and then the first team. But, here are the examples of 5 professional players – late bloomers – that didn’t necessarily go that way. And they still made it. If you think it’s too late to make it, think again! Other 5 players are published in Part 2.

1) Miroslav Klose – from builder & brick-layer to the World Cup scoring machine

While playing at FC 08 Homburg at the ages of 19-20 (who were in the 5th division of Germany when he played) in 1999, Klose worked as builder and brick-layer. After this initial phase of developing his foundations, his talents were fully fledged and demonstrated suddenly and dramatically on the world stage at the World Cup 2002, where he claimed the Golden Boot. He scored 14 goals in 3 World Cups altogether and has a great chance to become the best scorer of all times on the upcoming World Cup in Brazil 2014. He needs to score only one goal to join Ronaldo on the top of the list, or 2 goals to become the best scorer of all times.

2) Jay DeMerit – From the 9th tier of football to the World Cup

Jay played college soccer but wasn’t picked in MLS draft and failed at tryouts. He moved to England with hardly any money and played for Southall in the ninth tier at age 23, getting £40 a week. At 24 he joined Northwood in the 7th tier of English football where he played a preseason friendlyagainst Watford. DeMerit impressed then Watford manager Ray Lewington enough to earn a two-week trial. Following the trial, DeMerit signed a one-year contract with Watford to play in their 2004–05 season. The rest is history … Nowadays MLS’s Vancouver Whitecaps FC centre back played in World Cup 2010 for the US team, while his improbable career is the subject of the film, Rise and Shine: The Jay DeMerit Story.

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3) Dado Pršo – A car mechanic who scored 4 goals in single Champions League match

Croatian player Dado Pršo moved to France in 1993 to play for lower division team FC Rouen, and then moved to Saint Raphaël in 1995, where he worked as a car mechanic while he continued playing in amateur leagues. He was 25 when Tigana (Monaco manager) saw him play by accident and brought him to the team. After spending few seasons on loan he earned the place in the Monaco team and helped them to the UEFA Champions League final in 2004. He is perhaps best remembered for his four-goal performance in the 8-3 win over Deportivo La Coruña, which was the highest scoring Champions League scoreline. Pršo received 32 caps for Croatia and was part of the squad at Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006.

4) Luca Toni – Serie B & Serie C1 player who won a World Cup

Toni was a journeyman of Serie B and Serie C1 before signing for Palermo (then an ambitious Serie B team) in 2003. 30 goals in his debut season brought promotion and 21 goals the following year, his first in Serie A, brought acclaim. He scored 33 goals for Fiorentina and an incredible 39 goals for Bayern Munich in his debut seasons for the respective clubs. Luca Toni went from obscurity to being one of the most prolific goal scorers in Europe for five years. He was also a member of Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning squad, and scored two goals in the quarter-finals against Ukraine.

5) Sergio Torres – How brick maker realised Old Trafford dream

A little more than 10 years ago, on a cold November evening, Argentinean Sergio Torres was spending his first night in England, with $300 in his pocket, and sharing a bed with a man he had never met. “I was working in a brick factory with my dad and said: ‘I don’t want to be doing this all my life,’ remembers. “I suffered from cold, hunger, I had to sleep under the stands, work in a company, but I never stopped dreaming”, told Torres who often listened to: “You are not fast enough for English football.” Anyway, he never gave up and progressed step-by-step to reach over 200 Football League games for Wycombe, Peterborough, Lincoln and Crawley, as well as a League Cup semi-final outing and an appearance at Old Trafford against Man Utd.

Note: 10 Footballers That Made It Late (Part 2)

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