Footballers who would have been even better without injuries, including Jack Wilshere, Marco Reus, Michael Owen and Ronaldo


The West Ham midfielder faces more time on the sidelines and, although his career has been a good one, imagine if fitness issues had not been a part of his career?

It’s very frustrating. The following players are/were so talented and so enjoyable to watch, but they became far too friendly with the physios.

Injury has played havoc with their careers and when news of Jack Wilshere being sidelined for six weeks emerged it made us think of the levels certain players could have reached if they remained fit.

Jack Wilshere has suffered a fresh injury blow

Some have won major honours, so this isn’t saying these footballers didn’t reach the top of their profession, but imagine a dodgy knee hadn’t hampered Roberto Baggio from the age of 18 or Marco Reus’ career hadn’t stalled? That’s what is being pondered here.

1. Marco Reus

1. Marco Reus – When given the opportunity, Reus has proven he IS among the best players in the world. It’s just that fitness has often been a concern for him and injuries have cruelly sidelined him from representing Germany on the World Cup and European Championship stages. If he’d played against Brazil in 2014, it could have been even more embarrassing than a 7-1 thrashing for the hosts. Similarly, could his trickery have been the difference in France in 2016? We’ll never know.

2. Jack Wilshere

2. Jack Wilshere – Wilshere promised so much when he burst onto the scene as a teenager in 2008. Since then a number of different injuries ranging from ankle, knee, foot and hamstring prevented the midfielder from kicking on in the manner he would have liked. He left Arsenal for West Ham in the summer and has had minor surgery on an ankle injury.

3. Roberto Baggio

3. Roberto Baggio – Baggio is already considered one of the greatest and classiest players in history, so imagine the levels he could have reached had knee injuries not hampered him. It started when he was 18 in 1985 and persisted throughout his career, later calling the physical pain ‘torture’. “When I was playing for Brescia [2000-2004], I struggled to walk for two days after each game. When I got home, I couldn’t get out of the car, as I had to put one foot down on the ground and haul myself up hanging on to the door. The next Sunday, I would play again. Packed full of painkillers, but I’d play.” He still played at three World Cups, won Serie A titles, the UEFA Cup and the Ballon d’Or.

4. Ledley King

4. Ledley King – On his day, King was up there with the best of them. Unfortunately a chronic knee condition restricted the amount of football the centre-back could play and he often had to train alone in order to stay in shape, unable to partake in the usual fitness regime of a footballer. Injuries appeared to start getting the better of him in his mid-20s, just as he was nearing his peak. “There wasn’t really any pain. It was more of a restriction. I couldn’t bend the knee past 90 degrees and that would limit what I could do.” In 2012 he retired from playing at 31 and England and Tottenham fans were denied a truly a great defender.

5. Michael Owen

5. Michael Owen – Owen’s career was a good one. He played for Liverpool, Real Madrid and Man United as well as earning 89 England caps and scoring 40 goals for his country. When he retired from playing in 2013 at the age of 33, though, the striker claimed a hamstring injury he suffered when he was 19 had robbed him of his speed. “From that moment on my career as a professional footballer was compromised.” Owen revealed the pride he felt in still playing at the highest level despite not being fully fit. “I have no doubt that, had I not suffered those ‘pace-depriving’ injuries, I would be sat here now with a sack full of awards and a long list of records.” A Ballon d’Or, the FA Cup, UEFA Cup, three League Cups and a Premier League winner’s medal isn’t bad, is it?

6. Ronaldo

6. Ronaldo – Knee injuries plagued Ronaldo throughout his career stretching back to his days as a teenager at PSV in 1994 yet he is still the greatest striker of the last 20 years. Despite fitness issues in the Netherlands, he scored 54 times in 58 games for the Dutch club and he continued to score regularly at Inter between 1997 and 2002 after a spell at Barcelona. The same injury plagued him in Italy, though, and they didn’t completely go away in Madrid, while at Milan in 2008 he suffered another serious breakdown. He saw out his career at Brazilian club Corinthians before eventually retiring in 2011 Fast, strong, balanced, with a cushioned touch and a deadly finish with either foot or bonce – the mind boggles as to what he might have achieved had Ronaldo stayed fit.

7. Jonathan Woodgate

7. Jonathan Woodgate – If it wasn’t for a succession of back and leg injuries then Woodgate would be remembered as one of England’s classiest defenders. However, he only played eight times for his country. This is a man who Real Madrid deemed good enough to play for them when they paid Newcastle £13.4m for the 24-year-old in August 2004. A thigh injury meant he didn’t make his debut until September 2005 and in three years he only played 14 games for the club. Injuries followed him when he joined hometown club Middlesbrough in 2007 as well as in subsequent spells at Spurs and Stoke. He finished his career at Boro in 2016, having played once for the club during the 2015/16 season.

8. Marco van Basten

8. Marco van Basten – Like Ronaldo and Baggio, Van Basten is considered to be one of the greatest ever players. The talent he displayed at Ajax saw him snapped up by Italian powerhouse AC Milan in 1987, for whom he eventually scored 124 goals in 201 games. In Italy he won three league titles and two European Cups to add to the Euro ’88 medal he won with the Netherlands. However, he was 28 when he played his last professional game in 1993, with persistent knee and ankle problems forcing him to call time on an illustrious career two years later when he should have been terrorising defenders. “After three years of pain I wanted a normal life again,” he said. “Just imagine feeling pain every minute of the day, somewhere in your body.”

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