Soccer

Oh, what could have been?

A look at the best players who have struggled with injuries throughout their career.

Every generation, we see some of the careers of incredible talents derailed due to consistent, niggling injuries. Some players are able to return to form after their ailments only until the injury fairy always comes back to haunt them. Here’s a look at the five best players who have struggled with too many injuries to count.

Marco Reus

One word to describe Marco Reus: “unlucky.”

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Marco Reus has missed a lot of games due to injuries. In fact, Reus has missed upwards of 100 games during his tenure at Borussia, and almost none of them have been recurring injuries. Rather, this poor soul gets hurt in a new body part practically every time.

His most mistimed injury was before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. After a stunning, and surprisingly injury-free, season in which he scored 16 goals and racked up 14 assists, Reus was tackled hard in a friendly against Armenia. He tore a ligament in his ankle and ended up missing the entirety of his country’s World Cup win.

Ronaldo

The Brazilian one.

 

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It says a lot about Il Fenomeno, or Brazilian Ronaldo (as Americans know him) that he is still regarded as one of the best players ever, even with his injury record. Ronaldo was a three-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner and is the second all-time leading scorer in World Cup history.

However, his knees were as fragile as a twenty old ceramic vase throughout his career. His first injury woe came in the 1999-2000 season, tearing a ligament in his knee and was out from November to April, missing 26 games. Less than a week after he returned, he tore a ligament again, this time missing 56 games. In 2007, Ronaldo fractured his tibia. In 2008, he ruptured his patella, leaving him out for roughly nine months.

Even with this plethora of long-term injuries, Ronaldo still carved out a legendary career. However, if he had stayed healthy, who knows what else he could have done?

Marco Van Basten

The original flying Dutchman.

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Marco Van Basten was the epitome of a soccer prodigy. Before turning 28, Van Basten won three Ballon d’Or trophies. During the course of his career, Van Basten played for just two clubs (Ajax and AC Milan), scoring a whopping 276 goals in 373 games.

It was at age 23, his first season on AC Milan, that Van Basten was plagued with his first ankle injury. Although he only played in 11 Serie A games that season, Milan won the title. He bounced back from this injury, putting up a legendary performance in the 1988 Euros for his country, the Netherlands.

However, in the 1992-1993 season, Van Basten damaged his ankle again. He rushed back to play in the European Cup Final in 1993, where his ankle was injured again after a hard tackle.

After a series of unsuccessful surgeries, Van Basten was forced to retire in 1995 at only 30 years of age. Having had such a successful career while still being hampered by a lingering ankle injury makes you wonder how much better Van Basten could have been.

George Best

This one isn’t so much of an injury than it is a devastating illness.

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George Best was one of the best players in the history of soccer. In fact, during Best’s prime, Pele called him the greatest footballer in the world. George Best holds the record for the most goals in a match by a Manchester United player with six. He was a Ballon d’Or winner in 1968 and helped United to a Premier League title in 1965, 1967 and 1968.

Sadly, a love of partying and booze eventually helped destroy his love for football. In the early part of the 1970’s, Best began to miss practices and struggle with his addiction. His Manchester United career was over in 1974 at the age of 26 and the following years were composed of traveling all over the world playing for poor teams in poor leagues.

After bouncing around the United States and lesser teams in England, Best retired in his late thirties in 1983. Eventually, his liver began to suffer after his years of heavy drinking and he died of liver disease in 2002. George Best was at the pinnacle of the soccer world, but his addiction to alcohol and partying eventually led to a brutal downfall.

Gareth Bale

It’s the bun. Cut the bun, Gareth.

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Gareth Bale is truly incredible – at full health. In his tenure at Tottenham, Gareth Bale was the Premier League Player of the Year as well as a top three scorer in league play. In 2008, he helped Tottenham win the English League Cup.

In 2014, Gareth Bale scored one of the best late-game goals of all time to beat Barcelona in the Copa Del Rey final, as well as scoring a clutch header in the 2014 UEFA Champions League Final.

However, Gareth cannot seem to stay fit. During his tenure at Real Madrid (2013-present), Bale has missed approximately 40 of Madrid’s last 60 games. Although his longest spell out was due to an ankle injury, 4 out of Gareth’s most recent 6 injuries have all been to his calf muscle. Something must change for the Real Madrid fitness staff if they want to keep this superstar playing.  

 

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