In modern football today, it’s a common thing to hear how football players first started out in a football academy. Most club sides operate football academies from where future legends were groomed. In the case of some others, the academy route was the road not taken, but despite that, they still emerged and developed into great players in their own right. Continue reading as we spotlight some top football players who never set foot in any academy.
1. Miroslav Klose
The former German international and 2014 World Cup winner was one of the deadliest marksmen in the game during his playing days. His exploits with the German national team were especially noteworthy. His clinical finishing and efficiency in front of goal were factors that helped him achieve the record for the player with the most overall goals at the world cup. Klose was able to achieve all this with the national team and his various club sides without going to any academy. The retired footballer started out with amateur side SG Blaubach-Diedelkopf from where he moved to German club side FC Kaiserslautern in which he got his first break in professional soccer.
2. Didier Drogba
The Ivorian legend was arguably one of the best strikers in the modern era. A big powerful forward who was prolific both with his feet and his head. Drogba is one of those players who didn’t have the privilege of honing their skills at any academy. Didier started out playing for semi-professional French side Levallios. It was from there that he caught the eye of French professional football team Le Mans, and from there, the rest was history.
3. Austin Jay-Jay Okocha
The amazingly talented former Nigerian national team player and captain is one of the most skillful players ever to play the round leather game. Jay-Jay, as he is fondly called, started playing on the streets of Enugu state, Nigeria. It was from there that he was snapped up by local side Enugu Rangers. While visiting his friend who was a professional footballer in Germany, he got noticed by the coach of lower division side Borussia Neunkirchen. Okocha was offered a professional contract by the club and from there continued to progress till his big break with then Bundesliga team Eintracht Frankfurt.
4. Ian Wright
Arsenal FC legend Ian Wright didn’t go to any soccer academy. The former England striker had to work his way up all the way from the bottom. The former Gunners forward started out playing amateur Sunday league before joining semi-professional Greenwich Borough. It was from there that he would later sign his first professional contract with Crystal Palace before going on to make his name with Arsenal in North London.
5. Luca Toni
The former Italy forward and 2006 World Cup winner started out professionally with lower Italian division side Modena. Previously he had played for different amateur teams. Luca would go on to play for bigger sides like Fiorentina, Juventus, and Germans Bayern Munich.
6. Carlos Bacca
The Colombian striker is another footballer who never played for an academy. Carlos Bacca began his professional career with Colombian club, Atlético Junior in 2006. While playing for Atlético Junior at 20, he had a second job working as a bus driver’s assistant, to earn more money. He finally got a loan move to Barranquilla FC in 2007, and then joined Venezuelan club Minervén on loan for a season. He returned back to Atlético Junior, and made a name for himself. It wasn’t until 2012 that he finally moved to Europe to play for Club Brugge.
7. Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy’s football career is an incredible one. The Leicester City legend began his senior career with Stocksbridge Park Steels, spending three seasons there before joining Northern Premier League club FC Halifax Town in 2010. He then moved to Fleetwood Town and finally joined Leicester City were he made a name for himself. These late-bloomer won the 2016 Premier League campaign Leicester City. In 2015, Vardy established the V9 Academy, an annual camp designed to provide coaching and guidance to 60 non-League players and give them the opportunity to showcase their talent in front of scouts from league clubs.