Eleven players who may have some fans in England wondering how the hell they ever made it to football’s grandest stage
Last seen … at Liverpool in 2009, acting the goat at the 20th Hillsborough memorial service. He said he was “deeply sorry” afterwards but it didn’t prevent the reserve goalkeeper, who made seven unconvincing domestic cup appearances in 2007-08, from being fined and bombed out of Anfield soon after. He rebuilt his career in the Greek Super League at Atromitos and PAOK, but has since been loaned out to Konyaspor in the Turkish top flight.
Last seen … at Fulham in January 2011, when he made two substitute appearances – against Peterborough in the FA Cup where he gave away a penalty for tripping Craig Mackail-Smith and against Stoke when he barely touched the ball. That was all that was seen of the former Benfica defender in England. He took his baggage back to the Portuguese top flight, where Académica Coimbra gave him a home. In 20 appearances last season he was booked five times and sent off twice. A casual approach to discipline hasn’t stopped Vahid Halilhodzic from calling him up, however.
Last seen … replacing Tony Hibbert in the 76th minute of Everton’s 1-0 defeat to BATE in the Europa League at Goodison Park in December 2009. His career in the Everton first-team consists of just those 14 minutes. After a couple of years knocking around the reserve team David Moyes let him join Sampdoria on a free transfer. Italian football has suited him. He’s been a fixture in the Serie A side ever since and caught Joachim Löw’s attention last season. He made his Germany debut against Chile in February and, after replacing the injured Marco Reus in the squad for Brazil 2014, he made his World Cup debut as a substitute in the 4-0 defeat of Portugal. He’s come a long way.
Last seen … shambling around in Liverpool’s defence during the 1-0 Premier League defeat to Fulham in May 2007 – one of just eight nervy displays he made in a short-lived Anfield career. The gangly Argentinian was sold to Boca Juniors, where he bulked up and found form, helping them to win the league and cup in 2008. He has thrived at Parma, who he joined in 2010, so much so that the Italy coach, Cesare Prandelli, checked on his availability. Paletta had an Italian grandfather to thank for his Italy debut against Spain in March 2014 and he has since been fast-tracked into the first XI, where he impressed during the 2-1 defeat of England on Saturday. His long hair may have thinned in the seven years since he was at Anfield, but his growing confidence and assuredness have certainly made up for that loss.
Last seen … sitting on the Liverpool bench in Lithuania watching Liverpool beat FBK Kaunas 3-1 in the qualifying stages of the Champions League in July 2005. Signed by Gérard Houllier in 2003, the centre-back never played for the first team in three years at Anfield. He was loaned out to Metz and Ajaccio and signed permanently for Lorient in 2006, where he struggled with injury. Most of his career has been spent at Ajaccio, in Ligue 2, where he found form and drew the interest of Claudio Ranieri at Monaco. His performances there helped the club to achieve promotion to Ligue 1 and also cemented his place in the Algeria squad. He spent last season on loan to Olympiakos and Valenciennes.
Last seen … trotting on to replace Aaron Lennon as an 84th-minute substitute during Tottenham’s 2-0 win over Blackburn at White Hart Lane in April 2012. There were high hopes for the Mexican when he joined for £4.7m from Barcelona in 2008 but his career never took flight. He made just two Premier League starts in a forgettable four years. La Liga has been his saviour, where he top-scored for Mallorca before joining Villarreal last season and helping them to finish sixth with 11 goals and eight assists. Never the luckiest lad, he had two goals wrongly ruled offside during Mexico’s 1-0 win over Cameroon.
Last seen … at Barnsley, on loan from Fulham, in 2009 where his four-year crack at English football fizzled out. It was Sam Allardyce who first brought him over to Britain, signing him for Bolton in 2006, where he dirtied his boots in the Reebok Stadium battlegrounds. Despite showing flashes of quality he could never dislodge Kevin Nolan and co. He went back to Iran in 2010, where he’s jumped from club to club while maintaining his place in the national team as a doughty midfielder. His effective breaking up of play in Iran’s 0-0 draw with Nigeria was all thanks to Big Sam, of course.
Last seen … coming on for Steven Gerrard as a 62nd-minute substitute in Liverpool’s 2-0 Europa League defeat of Rabotnicki in August 2010. A rare moment in a Liverpool shirt when the £20m signing from Roma was actually fit. Many Liverpool fans would have liked to have seen him get a decent run in the team but injuries, illness and a general malady of spirit did for his chances at Anfield. It didn’t help that the club was going through the ringer under Hicks and Gillett. Loan spells at Juventus and Milan helped him get back into the Italian national team. And since signing permanently for Fiorentina, the once-sickly Liverpool lad is now in rude health, passing the ball well, playing regularly – even getting sent off – and is a good option off the bench if Andrea Pirlo needs a breather.
Last seen … wandering around the KC Stadium like a confused tourist as Fulham were handed their backsides by Hull during a 6-0 defeat last December. He was loaned out to PSV Eindhoven soon after. It was probably for the best. Costa Ricans are known for being a happy-clappy lot and his spirit might have been irreversibly crushed had he been put through the wringer of relegation. His five goals in 14 games helped PSV to finish fourth and did wonders for his mood. So did Costa Rica’s 3-1 victory over Uruguay, in which he was captain.
Last seen … trotting on for the last minute of Manchester City’s 2-1 defeat to Everton in May 2011. The £18m signing scored just six goals for City in 41 appearances. A glimpse of his potential was seen on loan at Everton, but that’s all it was. A laissez-faire attitude towards his own career painted the picture of a footballing drifter, happy to wear a shirt and run about a bit without having to take on too much responsibility. It’s worked for him. He’s drifted into the Brazil squad after setting down roots back in Brazil at Atlético Mineiro, who won their first Copa Libertadores title in 2013.
Last seen … being touted by Manchester City officials as “one of the great South American talents” in 2008. He wasn’t. He did score eight goals in 27 appearances, and had City not become superwealthy, he may have had a few more chances to turn out at the Etihad. As it happened he was loaned out to Sporting, Málaga, Levante and Lokomotiv Moscow. He’s ultimately ended up taking the Abu Dhabi shilling at Al Jazira, where he signed after failing to make an impact in Moscow.