On Thursday, Royston Drenthe called an end to his footballing career which started with so much promise but ultimately ended in failure. Michael Bell takes a look at the former Real Madrid winger and five other Dutch talents from the same generation who haven’t lived up to their wonderkid status.

Royston Drenthe

In 2007, Drenthe had the world at his feet. He had come off the back of a good season with Feyenoord, lifted the U21 European Championship title and sealed a €14 million move to Spanish giants Real Madrid.

The dreadlocked left-back/winger dazzled in the Eredivisie and got off to a decent start in Spain, but during his second season anxiety issues crept in and pressure from the fans took its toll. Drenthe barely featured and in his third season was loaned out to Granada. That move started the downfall of his career, and a short spell with Everton couldn’t get it back on track. Drenthe then moved to Russia and the English championship before ending his career with UAE side Baniyas.

At 29-years-old, Drenthe has now finished with football and will concentrate on his rap career. Ex-Netherlands boss Bert van Marwijk, who handed Drenthe his only Oranje cap, said on his retirement,  “I saw in him a guy who had the potential to become a Roberto Carlos- or Marcelo-like left back. It is very unfortunate that is not true.”

Career path: Feyenoord, Real Madrid, Granada (loan), Everton (loan), Alania Vladikavkaz, Reading, Sheffield Wednesday (loan), Kayseri Erciyesspor, Baniyas

Hedwiges Maduro

The versatile defensive midfielder, who could also slot into centre back was named Ajax talent of the year in 2004 and soon after was a regular in the Amsterdam side’s first team and even earned his first Netherlands cap a year later. Foppe de Haan named Maduro as the best talent in the Netherlands after Arjen Robben and he earned his first big move abroad in 2008, joining Valencia.

However, teaming up with Ronald Koeman in Spain didn’t go to plan with the club failing to impress and after the coach was sacked, Maduro fell out of favour. Maduro spent four years at Valencia, but only made 69 league appearances before leaving on a free transfer to fellow La Liga side Sevilla. Despite featuring regularly in his first season, Maduro was quickly on the sidelines again at Sevilla and a move to Greek side PAOK followed. In 2015, Maduro returned to the Netherlands with Groningen but he is now a bench-warmer at the Euroborg. Still only 31, Maduro has 11 caps for Netherlands, but his last one came six years ago.

Career path: Ajax, Valencia, Sevilla, PAOK, Groningen

Ismaïl Aissati

In 2005, a 17-year-old Aissati debuted in PSV’s first team and became the youngest Dutchman to appear in the Champions League. It seemed that the Eindhoven club had a gem on their hands, but in his second season, the midfielder appeared less and less and was loaned to FC Twente to gain regular football. On his return to Eindhoven, Aissati expected to be first choice but only made 16 appearances.

However, Aissati was still seen as a major talent, that had helped Netherlands U21’s win both the 2006 and 07 European Championships. He was also named second in World Soccer magazine’s top 100 teens to watch in 2007. That’s why it came as a shock when PSV agreed to sell the youngster to rivals Ajax in 2008 for around €4 million.

The move to Ajax was hampered with injuries and eventually, Aissati, who spent time on loan with Vitesse, left Amsterdam for Antalyaspor in Turkey before joining Russian side Terek Grozny. Still only 28, Aissati has recently resigned for Antalyaspor.

Career path: PSV, Twente (loan), Ajax, Vitesse (loan), Antalyaspor, Terek Grozny, Antalyaspor

Quincy Owusu-Abeiye

Arsenal picked the dazzling young winger from the Ajax youth academy in 2002 and the youngster rose through the clubs ranks before making his first team debut in a cup tie a year later. In 2005, Owusu-Abeiye impressed in the U20 World Cup as Netherlands reached the quarter-finals but a year later he was sold by Arsenal, after 23 appearances, to Russian side Spartak Moscow.

The winger couldn’t hold down a first team spot in Russia and he became a journeyman, spending time on loan in England and Spain before joining Al-Sadd in 2010. Spells with Malaga, Panathinaikos and Boavista followed before he returned to the Netherlands with NEC in the summer. However, Owusu-Abeiye has already had his contract in Nijmegen terminated and the 30-year-old is currently without a club.

Career path: Ajax, Arsenal, Spartak Moscow, Celta Vigo (loan), Birmingham City (loan), Cardiff City (loan), Portsmouth (loan), Al-Sadd, Malaga (loan), Panathinaikos, Boavista, NEC

Maceo Rigters

The perfect example of why you should never buy a player off the back of an impressive display in a tournament. Rigters had spells with Heerenveen and Dordrecht as a youngster before joining NAC Breda. Rigters was hardly prolific at NAC but was called up to the Netherlands U21 squad for the 2007 Europeam Championships. During the tournament, Rigters excelled and as the Oranje lifted the trophy, he was handed the golden boot with four goals.

A move to England soon followed with Blackburn Rovers, but Rigters only appeared in two league games for the club and spent most of the next few years on several loan spells. In 2011, Rigters appeared in Australia for a year with Gold Coast United before falling off the radar. He is now active in the Dutch amateur divisions with  ZSGO/WMS.

Career path: Heerenveen, Dordrecht (loan), NAC, Blackburn Rovers, Norwich City (loan), Barnsley (loan), Willem II (loan), Gold Coast United, ZSGO/WMS

Romeo Castelen

A talented winger, Castelen made his breakthrough with ADO Den Haag before joining Feyenoord at the age of 20. In Rotterdam, Castelen impressed and formed a deadly attack with Dirk Kuyt and Soloman Kalou. He was quickly drafted into the Netherlands squad and eventually made the move abroad with Hamburg in 2007.

However, injuries then took a toll on Castelen’s career and in five years with Hamburg, the winger only appeared a handful of times before popping up in Russia with Volga. A move back to Netherlands with RKC then followed before spells in Australia and South Korea. Aged 33, Castelen now plays for Chinese side Zhejiang Yiteng F.C.

Career path: ADO Den Haag, Feyenoord, Hamburg, Volga, RKC, Western Sydney Wanderers, Suwon Bluewings




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