Unfortunately, Africa’s starlets of the U-17 World Cup haven’t always realised their potential at senior level.
Too often, a star turn at the biennial youth tournament has represented a premature career highlight for precocious talents who never managed to translate their qualities to senior level.
Unlike those African superstars who introduced themselves to a global audience at the World Cup before going onto build stellar careers in Europe, this quartet will forever be remembered as child prodigies whose trajectories stuttered.
Souleymane Coulibaly: Once upon a time, Coulibaly was hailed as the ‘New Didier Drogba’ after an outstanding showing at the U-17 World Cup in 2011.
He scored nine goals in four games – including an outstanding against Brazil – as the Ivorians reached the Round of 16.
The forward picked up the Golden Shoe at the competition for his contributions in front of goal, and subsequently earned a move to Tottenham Hotspur.
However, while the likes of Gareth Bale and Harry Kane established themselves as top-tier talents after arriving at Spurs as youngsters, Coulibaly’s progress more closely mirrored the fortunes of Tomas Pekhart or Mbulelo Mabizela, neither of whom realised their potential.
It’s not all over for Coulibaly, now 22, as he attempts to revive his career at Al-Ahly after stints with Kilmarnock, Peterborough United, and Newport County among others.
However, after fleeing Egypt for England earlier in the year – complaining of ill treatment in Cairo – the striker’s current standing is a world away from what was once anticipated for him.
Macauley Chrisantus had the world at his feet back in 2007, when he top-scored at the U-17 World Cup as Nigeria picked up their third title.
His showings during the tournament in South Korea – notably scoring five in three group-stage matches – reportedly attracted interest from teams of the calibre of Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea, and duly, some eyebrows were raised when he opted for Hamburg.
Perhaps, one could reason, that the German club would offer him a quicker route to the first team than some of his other more heavyweight suitors.
Chrisantus himself was optimistic, and later blamed the club’s significant turnover of managers – 10 in six years – as the key reason for his stagnation.
He netted 20 goals in 67 appearances with Las Palmas, and recently joined up with compatriot Suleiman Omo at Greek side PAS Lamia 1964 following a trial at Wisla Krakow.
Ishmael Addo looked set to become Ghana’s next attacking sensation – following in the footsteps of Abedi Pele and Tony Yeboah – when he won the Golden Shoe at the 1999 U-17 World Cup, becoming the fourth African player to clinch the award.
Alongside the likes of Michael Essien and Razak Pimpong, he struck seven as Ghana finished third, and turned on the style during the latter stages of the competition as he netted four in three knockout games.
The fleet-footed Addo won a quintet of Ghanaian titles at Hearts of Oak, and retains the record for the most single goals in a Ghanaian top flight season after scoring 22 in the 2000-01 campaign.
His achievements on home soil and at the U-17 World Cup in Argentina were never replicated during the rest of his club career, as things petered out in Israel after a promising start to life with Maccabi Netanya.
His meteoric rise and subsequent toil were replicated – a decade later – by another Ghanaian wonderkid, Dominic Adiyiah, who’s still to truly demonstrate the class he showed at the U-20 World Cup in 2009 on a consistent basis.
Nii Lamptey memorably dazzled spectators at the 1991 event in Italy as Ghana clinched the title, and was once tipped by Pele as his successor.
During the youth-team showpiece, he outshone the likes of Alessandro Del Piero and Juan Sebastian Veron and appeared set for a long and glittering career at the pinnacle of the game.
Indeed, for the Black Stars, the prospect of Lamptey lining up alongside Abedi Pele was a mouth-watering prospect.
However, after being smuggled to Europe after being passed off as the son of Nigeria legend Stephen Keshi, Lamptey’s career declined.
He struggled to adapt to life in England after starring in Belgium, and later explained how a combination of exploitative agents, the loss of his support network and unrealistic expectations prompted his downfall.