Joselu To Real Madrid: 5 Modern Footballers With Strange Career Paths

Published on 1 July 2023 at 20:00

The Summer transfer window is finally here, and whilst big players make moves between noteworthy clubs, there’s perhaps nothing more fascinating than the times where you watch a transfer unfold and wonder “How did THEY end up THERE?”


Here on HL Division Sport, we’re going to be taking a look at 5 recent players who have experienced some VERY interesting career paths as footballers. Spoiler alert, expect to see a lot of Stoke in this list.


Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting


Not many players can boast being a key striker for Paris Saint-Germain. Not many can boast being the starting striker for Bayern Munich. And not many can even have a truly disappointing career as a striker at Stoke.


When it comes to Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting however, he holds all three ‘great’ distinctions. Grabbing a paltry 5 goals for a soon-relegated Stoke side, the Cameroonian made the surprise free transfer to PSG, where his most notable ‘contribution’ came when he deflected his own teammate’s goal off the line against Strasbourg.


Choupo-Moting would continue to fall upwards however, as the Bavarian giants soon came calling to be the backup to Robert Lewandowski. Three years later however, Choupo-Moting has found himself flourishing in Germany when given the opportunity, with 17 goals in 30 games this past season alone!


Xherdan Shaqiri


If you watch Xherdan Shaqiri’s career in reverse, it depicts a talented winger ascending Europe’s major leagues and capping off his career by finally winning the Champions League in a dominant Bayern Munich side. 


Unfortunately for Shaqiri however, he has never truly been given the opportunity a player of his talent and capabilities warranted. Having to compete with both Robben and Ribery at Bayern was never going to be achieved, and even during his stint at Inter Milan, the club was going through a rough period in Italy where Juventus dominated.


Shaqiri experienced his greatest success in England however, the shining light in a difficult Stoke team, before being a relied-upon squad member of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool in the late 2010s.


A footballing career bookended with stints as a fringe player at some true footballing powerhouses, the Swiss star’s career is one huge ‘What If’ regarding his potential and if he was given a true opportunity.




The man whose recent loan move inspired this entire list, Karim Benzema’s move from Real Madrid to the Saudi Pro League prompted Real Madrid to look beyond Kylian Mbappe in the transfer market when finding their next star signing.


Who would be the striker to follow in the footsteps of Ronaldo, Raul, Cristiano Ronaldo as Los Blancos’ reliable goalscorer? Joselu wouldn’t have been the first name on many people’s minds, particularly if you asked them a handful of years ago when he was scoring so few for Stoke and Newcastle United.


In fairness to Joselu, he has become one of the most prolific strikers in La Liga over the course of the last few seasons, grabbing double digit goal tallies in each of the four seasons he’s played since returning to his native land.


A return to Tyneside could soon be on the cards for the 33-year-old if Real Madrid draw Newcastle in this year’s Champions League, and whilst he may not have been able to do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke, all signs are pointing to him succeeding on scorching Saturdays at the Bernabeu this season. 


Luuk de Jong 


The first time that Barcelona’s name will be mentioned here, and somehow not the last.


Following on from the departure of Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Antoine Griezmann,  manager Ronald Koeman was in dire need of attacking firepower to keep Barcelona from slipping Real Madrid and Atletico. 


Looking to his fellow countryman, Luuk de Jong was signed on a season long loan. Despite having earlier won a Europa League trophy with Sevilla, and being highly-regarded in the Eredivisie with PSV, few expected the Dutchman to step up for the Catalan Giants, after seeing his disastrous stints in Germany and England.


Since his one year loan at Barcelona, de Jong has since returned to his native Netherlands and PSV: though he was certainly a specialist striker who fit Koeman’s demands, he’s perhaps the one player on this list whose initial performances nor playstyle truly warranted that ‘bizzare’ move upwards to an elite team, even one in as much a shambles as the contemporary Barcelona side. 


Martin Braithwaite


Like Adama Traore before him, Martin Braithwaite has completed the illustrious cultural crossover of Middlesbrough and Barcelona in his career. 


Slowly cementing his place as a dependable if unremarkable striking option for teams across the continent, Braithwaite looked like he had finally settled at Leganes before Barcelona made a controversial transfer to bring the Dane in. 


Spending two years in Catalonia, Braithwaite was unlucky never to get the gametime his emergency acquisition seemingly justified. At least during his earlier stints across the top 5 leagues he was a reliable striker for bottom half clubs, but like many other names on this list, the rarefied situation of being the main man for an elite football team can be a truly difficult one to adapt to.


Image Credits- & Franco237

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