Football Features

Champions League clubs’ forgotten men: From former Stoke flop to Chelsea loanee

By Chris Smith

Published: 18:33, 12 March 2020

With Champions League squads limited to a maximum of 25 players, it’s easy for some to slip down the pecking order or even be left off the roster entirely.

Being omitted from Europe’s premier club competition can be a slippery slope for some players, lessening their importance to their team and pushing them out of the minds of their managers.

With that in mind, we’ve picked out seven players you likely forgot are still contracted to Champions League clubs to see what they’re doing with themselves right now.

1. Arda Turan

Club: Barcelona

Arda Turan moved to Barcelona for just shy of £30m in 2015 having helped Atletico Madrid to La Liga, Copa del Rey and Europa League titles. However, his time at the Nou Camp hasn’t been anywhere near as successful.

Sure, the Turkey international has added to his trophy haul but to date, he’s played just 55 times for the Blaugrana and spent almost two years on loan at Istanbul Başakşehir before it was terminated in January 2020. The fact that he had to wait six months to make his debut thanks to Barca’s transfer ban should have been a foretelling of the struggles to come.

Turan has helped his temporary employers to the summit of the Turkish Super Lig this season but still sees himself as a Barca player and has his sights set on playing outside of Turkey soon… unless his beloved Galatasaray come calling.

“Right now I am a Barcelona player as I’m still under contract,” he said recently. “It was a mutual decision. I wanted to remain under contract with Barça.

“I’ll probably continue playing at a foreign club next season, a club outside of Turkey but if Galatasaray call me, I’ll be delighted to help and without any conditions. Galatasaray is the only club who I would join without conditions.”

2. Tiémoué Bakayoko

Club: Chelsea

Signed for £40m — the second-highest transfer in the club’s history at the time — to help bolster up Chelsea’s midfield, Tiemoue Bakayoko arrived at Stamford Bridge with a huge reputation in 2017, having helped Monaco to the 2016/17 Ligue 1 title.

Although he played 43 games across all competitions for the Blues throughout 2017/18, the France international didn’t live up to the billing and saw his performances largely mocked thanks to some horrific passing and questionable decision making.

Bakayoko has since joined Chelsea’s massive loan army, spending last season with Italian giants AC Milan before rejoining Monaco for the current campaign.

3. Loris Karius

Club: Liverpool

This entry doesn’t need much introduction, does it?

Loris Karius was finally finding his feet for Liverpool toward the end of the 2017/18 campaign and had won his place between the sticks ahead of Simon Mignolet for the 2018 Champions League final.

That proved to be the worst night of the German’s career, however, with two horrendous errors helping Los Blancos sink the Reds 3-1 to lift their 13th European crown.

A nervous, error-strewn pre-season with Liverpool followed, leading to Karius’ loan departure to Turkish giants Besiktas, where he remains today.

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4. Rafinha

Club: Barcelona

Thiago Alcantara has forged a reputation as one of the finest midfielders on the planet since joining Bayern Munich from Barcelona in 2013 but for younger brother Rafinha, it hasn’t quite been so simple.

Since making his debut in the 2011/12 campaign, Rafinha has managed just 90 senior appearances for Barca over the years, finding more joy out on loan.

To date, he’s had temporary spells at Inter Milan and Celta Vigo twice, doing his best to help the latter stay afloat in La Liga this season.

5. Jese Rodriguez

Club: Paris Saint-Germain

Jese Rodriguez was supposed to have the world at his feet but will ultimately go down as one of the biggest wastes of talent the game has seen in recent years.

The Spaniard left Real Madrid for PSG in 2016 but has just 16 appearances under his belt for the French champions since then.

Instead, Jese has had unsuccessful loan spells at Las Palmas, Stoke City, Real Betis and, currently, Sporting CP scoring a grand total of just seven goals in 64 appearances for the four clubs combined.

6. Patrick Roberts

Club: Manchester City

When Patrick Roberts scored 17 goals in 60 games at the start of his loan spell at Celtic, many were tipping the Englishman for greatness.

Unfortunately, now 23, that didn’t transpire for the playmaker, who became a victim of the sheer talent level at Manchester City.

Since those lofty days at Celtic, Roberts has also been loaned out to Girona and, at the start of this season, Norwich City. That loan was terminated by Man City due to lack of games, instead relocating the former England youth international to Middlesbrough, where he has struggled for fitness so far.

7. Jean-Kévin Augustin

Club: RB Leipzig

With blistering pace and 24 goals for France across various youth levels, Jean-Kévin Augustin was long-touted as the next big thing in European football. However, the forward left PSG in 2017 having struggled for first-team football, joining German side RB Leipzig.

Things initially went well for Augustin, who netted 12 goals in 37 appearances across all competitions during his first season with Die Roten Bullen, but a tough second season has seen things spiral downwards.

Augustin was loaned to Monaco at the start of the season but managed just one goal in 13 appearances for the Ligue 1 club. As a result, he now finds himself in the Championship working under none other than Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United.

The Yorkshire side are thought to hold a £17.7m permanent option on the forward but with no goals and injuries hampering his spell at Elland Road so far, his future is anything but certain.

“He’s got a lot to prove and I’d say that between now and the end of the season he’s on trial for his career at Leeds,” former England and Leeds goalkeeper Paul Robinson said of Augustin.