Planet Sport: Nine international players who are useless for their clubs – Paul Pogba, Timo Werner and more

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It is not uncommon for footballers who excel at club level to disappoint internationally, and we talk about them a lot.

However, the reverse can also be true – players who are powerhouses for their countries but fail to deliver at club level – and we don’t talk about them anywhere near as much.

Let’s put that right. Here are current players who are beasts on the international scene (and Hal Robson-Kanu) but never seem to hit the same heights for their clubs.

Timo Werner

At first glance, it may seem a little harsh to put Timo Werner on this list, particularly given his fine record at RB Leipzig before moving to the Premier League.

You can forgive a foreign player a tough first season in the Premier League, but Werner is about to complete a second dud campaign in a row and the signs are that he’s getting worse not better.

Since joining Chelsea nearly two years ago, Werner has managed just seven Premier League goals, and six of those came last season – three fewer than he has scored for Germany in that time.

Werner may still come good, but right now he is following in the established footprints of Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose; German strikers who always looked far more fearsome internationally than at club level.

Asamoah Gyan

Asamoah Gyan for Ghana

Talk to fans in Ghana, or Africa for that matter, and you are unlikely to find anyone who does not acknowledge Asamoah Gyan as a genuinely top footballer and an icon of the African game.

He has 109 caps to his name with a return of 51 goals, and is the top-scoring African of all time at the World Cup.

His club career, though, is well below average. In fact, it’s a bit farcical. He has had his chances too. Gyan was in Ligue 1 at the time of the 2010 World Cup and approaching his peak. He got a big-money move to the Premier League with Sunderland, and produced a decent season there, scoring at a rate of around one in three.

Ultimately, though, Gyan decided he wanted the easy money over the renown as a top player. He frittered away most of his career playing in the UAE and China, resulting in one of Africa’s greatest ever footballers and a proven international talent producing nothing of note at club level.

Jozy Altidore

Jozy Altidore celebrates for USA

Jozy Altidore has been spearheading the United States attack for more than a decade now, and he has done it very well indeed. There isn’t a manager who has faced USA at international level who hasn’t acknowledged his importance in the pre-match briefing to his players.

Altidore has done well in MLS too for New York Red Bulls, Toronto and, latterly, New England Revolution. However, his record in the major leagues in Europe is, I am afraid to say, horrendous.

He scored one goal for Villarreal and only two more in loan spells at Xerez, Hull City and Bursaspor. A prolific spell in the Eredivisie followed, but that’s a league famed for being a striker’s paradise.

It did earn him one last shot at establishing his name at club level, though, with Sunderland taking him back to the Premier League. He scored one goal for them too – in more than 40 appearances.

Paul Pogba

Graeme Souness aside, you’re unlikely to find anyone who doesn’t acknowledge Paul Pogba as an outstanding club player. He was better for Juventus than he is for Manchester United, admittedly, but he’s still the real deal.

The issue, and reason he is here, though, is that he is just
so much better for France than he is for any club.

All of the stock Pogba criticisms for Manchester United of a lack of effort and urgency and unwillingness to impose himself on games simply don’t apply when he is in a France shirt.

It’s not just a case of him being a flat-track bully against the smaller countries either. For France, Pogba has won the World Cup and has single-handedly wrestled control of the midfield for his side against the very best.

If only he could, or would, do that for Manchester United

Mauricio Isla

Mauricio Isla for Chile

For a while, Mauricio Isla looked like he was going to establish himself as one of the very best full-backs in the world.

Udinese, who had a reputation for this kind of thing back in the day, plucked him from South American football as a youngster and he seriously impressed there for a while.

Since then, though, Isla has been a perennial substitute for Juventus, was relegated with QPR, and genuinely disliked by fans at Marseille. Mediocre spells at Cagliari and Fenerbahce followed, and he is now back in South America with Flamengo.

Internationally, though, he remains a star. He has played for Chile for 15 years, amassed more than 130 caps, and won back-to-back Copa America titles.

Jordan Pickford

Jordan Pickford denies Timo Werner England vs Germany

I think I need to preface this with an acknowledgement that it is a genuine myth that Jordan Pickford does not perform for Everton. He does, and he has done for years now.

What you probably would say about Pickford and Everton, though, is that he doesn’t come up big for his club in the key moments like he does for England.

He was a crucial figure in getting England to a World Cup semi-final in 2018. Arguably, his influence was even greater in the Three Lions’ run to the Euro 2020 final.

Pickford usually finds himself under fire from the media and fans who question whether he should be England’s number one, but it’s always based entirely on his club form. The truth is, he has never once let England down and has often been a giant when they have needed one.

Hal Robson-Kanu

Let’s be brutally honest here: Hal Robson-Kanu has not done much in his career, but everything of note that he has done has come in a Wales shirt.

In fact, let’s be even more brutally honest while we are at it: Hal Robson-Kanu has only really done one thing of note in his career, and it was for Wales.

Robson-Kanu has played in the Premier League for Reading and West Brom, but you’re unlikely to remember him doing so. He is currently playing for no one, and you probably haven’t noticed him not having a club either.

What you definitely would have noticed, though, was his brilliant goal for Wales against Belgium in the Euro 2016 quarter-final. FIFA certainly did, and it was nominated for the Puskas award that year.

Andriy Yarmolenko

Andriy Yarmolenko, Ukraine, Euro 2020

People have been aware of Andriy Yarmolenko’s talent for a long time, but the majority of that has come from his performances for Ukraine.

The winger has amassed more than 100 caps and more than 40 goals internationally, which are the kind of numbers most strikers, never mind wide players, would dream about.

His loyalty to Dynamo Kyiv, where he played for a decade, probably held back his reputation a little, but since moving to the big European Leagues five years ago he has failed to set the world alight.

His short spell with Dortmund was unremarkable to say the least, and in four years with West Ham he has been predominantly a substitute.

Still, throughout it all, Yarmolenko has been a veritable force in international football.

Sergio Romero

Sergio Romero Manchester United

It is possible that Sergio Romero is the ultimate ‘great for country, not so much for club’ player.

Romero is currently playing for Venezia in Serie A and, aside from a season as Sampdoria’s number one nearly ten years ago, this is about as good as it has got for Romero in club football.

He did okay with AZ Alkmaar and was a back-up for six years at Manchester United, and yet here we are looking at a 35-year-old goalkeeper with nearly 100 international caps to his name.

And not international caps for just anyone either – Argentina. The mighty Argentina. He even played in a World Cup final. Remarkable.

READ MORE: Chelsea news: John Terry backs fan consortium looking to buy 10 percent stake in club

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