Ansu Fati had a knee injury. SUR
A handful of gambles

A handful of gambles

The 'second chance saloon' welcomes lost footballing souls whose careers need resurrecting

Rob Palmer

Commentator ESPN

Friday, 15 September 2023, 15:09

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The "second chance saloon" swung open its doors and welcomed a handful of lost footballing souls whose careers need resurrecting.

João Félix had the main stool at the bar, sitting next to João Cancelo - and then Mason Greenwood arrived asking them both to nudge over. Ansu Fati checked in at the Brighton branch of the recovery club.

Sporting directors are willing to take a chance on fallen stars in the hope that they can follow the path of Antoine Griezmann who looked washed up, bereft of confidence and a shadow of his former self when Atlético Madrid gave him a second chance.

Barcelona couldn't give Griezmann away and so he headed back to his previous club, Atlético, rediscovered his self-belief and was reborn as a world class footballer. Now Barça are hoping the same happens in a reverse move with Félix.

The Portuguese international has never lived up to his €126 million price tag when signed as a wonderkid from Benfica. There have been flashes of his special ability - but Atlético lost patience and farmed him to Chelsea where he was sent-off on his debut. He's only 23, with his best years ahead of him and he needs to leave his troubles behind. It's not clear where Barcelona will play him as Robert Lewandowski is the line-leader, but he appears to have found a coach who is willing to give him a chance after his relationship with Diego Simeone appears to have broken down.

It was two Joãos for the price of one as fellow countryman Cancelo joined at the same time. The Portuguese international has an impressive CV with Benfica, Valencia, Inter, Juventus, Manchester City and Bayern Munich as his previous employers, yet he never seems to have really settled. Once you fall out with Pep Guardiola, there's no way back at City. He was loaned to Bayern whose coach didn't really seem to want him either. At Barcelona they desperately need to fill the right-back spot and he has a wonderful opportunity to grasp the chance at the Liga champions.

Also arriving from the city of Manchester is Mason Greenwood. The England international has plenty of baggage and we're not talking excess football boots. His troubles have been well-documented; Getafe have offered him the chance to rebuild his career out of the spotlight. It's a club that revels in an unpopular reputation and signing Greenwood embellishes the brand. They're happy to be labelled as the Wimbledon of Spain with their gritty approach on the field.

Until his issues, Greenwood was an England international and regular in the Manchester United team. This is about as far away from the cosseted lifestyle at Old Trafford as you can get. Getafe are booed wherever they go so he'll fit right in.

The best of all deals could be Ansu Fati to Brighton. He burst onto the scene as a 16-year-old and filled Lionel Messi's number 10 shirt with distinction until a nasty knee injury disrupted his career. He struggled with his comeback although there were flashes of his natural talent with three goals in his final two games last season. On the south coast of England, he could rediscover his form under an outstanding coach whose style of football could suit him without the weekly judgement of the Spanish media.

It's a handful of gambles, it will be intriguing to see if they all pay dividends.

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