Brazil and football is synonymous. Without the country, the world would not have Joga Bonito – that means to ‘play beautifully’, a trait commonly associated with ridiculously talented Brazilians. Stepovers, llip-flops, three touch roulettes – you name it, and they’ll show it to you on the street. The talent in the country is absurd, and time and again, the world sits up and takes notice of someone who strives to join a long list of Brazilian greats.

However, some amazing talents over the years have not been able to realize their full potential for several reasons. We take a look at five such Brazilians who could not utilize their worth.

Denilson de Oliveira

A rare talent, Denilson was signed by Real Betis in 1998 as the Spanish club paid a then-world record fee of £21.5m. He had everything you expect a winger to have – vision, trickery, pace and a first touch that made the ball stick to his feet. He was a master of the feint dribble and he performed regularly at the international level.

At the club level, he could not reach his potential to the fullest, first becoming a bench-warmer at Betis and then a journeyman across the globe. He hung his boots in 2010.


He was earmarked by Pele himself as his heir apparent at a tender age of 15, such was the promise showed by Robinho. With unparalleled dribbling skills and immaculate vision to find a player in the box, Robinho had all attributes to become the world’s best. The forward made waves at Santos, and Real Madrid were quick to secure his signature in 2005. Short and insignificant stints at Manchester City and Milan didn’t help, and he turned into a journeyman.

He was convicted of sexual assault in the gang-rape of an Albanian woman in 2017. He was even accused of sexual assault by an 18-year-old woman in 2009, but Robinho denied those charges. His troublesome off-field image meant that the man never managed to fulfill the aura that surrounded him in his younger days.


Signing for Manchester United in July 2007 from Porto, such was Anderson’s potential that his initially rejected work permit was granted because of the ‘exceptional talent he will bring to the Premier League’. Named the best player at the Under-17 World Cup in 2005, he was widely viewed as a star in the making. His through balls were perfectly weighted and he created chances and almost forced strikers to score, like in United’s win against Blackpool.

But all of this didn’t last long. A well-documented fallout with Sir Alex Ferguson, an ACL injury and a 7 AM car crash saw him fall off the radar. He was then confined to the bench mostly, and didn’t play enough. His weight issues, too, contributed in his fall from grace.

Alexander Pato

His 24 second goal against Barcelona in a Champions League encounter for Milan showed what he could do, but couldn’t do on a regular basis. Robinho may have been anointed Pele’s successor by the man himself, but Pato started off by breaking his records. The forward became the youngest player to score in a FIFA organized competition with his goal against Al Ahly at the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup, a tournament he helped his club win.

Injuries were his undoing, but so was his ability to handle pressure. He signed for Chinese Super League side Tianjin Quandian and cost them a maiden Chinese Super League title when he missed an 88th-minute penalty in the title-deciding match.


Brazil had lost Ronaldo, one of the best strikers of all time, and was looking up to Adriano, who looked worthy to take over the baton. At just 22, Adriano claimed the Golden Boot in the Copa America and led his nation to the famed continental championship. He doubled it with a similar feat in the 2005 FIFA Confederation Cup.

However, he told his father, an individual who was very close to the striker emotionally. What followed was a period of terrible depression, a heinous drinking habit and a tendency to party ‘hard’ that derailed his blossoming career. He showed some flashes of brilliance at Flamengo, but they were too far and few between.


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