Players with the most impressive rise from lower leagues

B20

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We all know about Drogba who played in Ligue 2 at the age of 24. And Vardy who went through northern premier league at 24, to the conference, then championship with Leicester before eventually beating premier league records and winning the title. But who else has made rises from low ranks?

Not very well known, but here is my example: Rene Henriksen. Turned pro at age 26 in 1996. Won his first cap for Denmark in 98 and soon established himself as basically our best centreback, with a very high technical level on the ball. Moved to Panathinaikos in 99 and played there for six years until he was 35. Voted best Danish player in 2000. I reckon he would be starting games for Denmark if he were playing today.
 

Chipper

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Chris Smallling at Maidstone United, although he was still only 19 when Fulham picked him up.

Ian Wright was still playing amateur football at 21. Signed semi-pro for Greenwich Borough at that age and was soon spotted by Crystal Palace.

Kevin Phillips was playing for Baldock Town in whatever league that was (it's a low level) when he was 21.
 

DannyCAFC

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Glenn Murray is worth a mention - he was playing 2nd division football in the US and semi-pro level over here in his early 20s, was still in League Two until he was about 24/25 and then bloomed late, scored 30 goals in a season in the Championship and was then eventually hitting double figures for Brighton in the Prem.
 

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Dion Dublin for another United one. Released by Norwich, dropped down to the 4th tier with Cambridge, signed for United at 23 and is one of 33 players to hit 100 goals in the PL.

He never made it to the top flight but Lee Trundle's career path is an interesting one to scan through on Wikipedia. Definitely battled his way up.
 

JPRouve

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I don't know if I would mention Drogba otherwise the list is going to be very long. Now the likes of Kanté and Ribéry went from National(third division) to Ligue 1 and CL winners. Luca Toni was in Serie C, Klose was in the regional german leagues at the beginning of his career, iirc 3rd and 4th divisions.
 

V.O.

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Dion Dublin for another United one. Released by Norwich, dropped down to the 4th tier with Cambridge, signed for United at 23 and is one of 33 players to hit 100 goals in the PL.

He never made it to the top flight but Lee Trundle's career path is an interesting one to scan through on Wikipedia. Definitely battled his way up.
Apparently Trundle is still knocking about in the second tier of Welsh football at age 45, scoring better than a goal a game (according to his wiki page that he may or may not be editing himself :lol:).

Probably has a better highlights reel than Ronaldinho as well though, to be fair.
 

WeePat

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Apparently Trundle is still knocking about in the second tier of Welsh football at age 45, scoring better than a goal a game (according to his wiki page that he may or may not be editing himself :lol:).

Probably has a better highlights reel than Ronaldinho as well though, to be fair.
I really hope that is true :lol:

Trundle is a great player.
 

AB_89

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Here are a few players making it from the lower leagues all the way to the premiership and some called up for national teams:
Rickie Lambert - Spent a number of years in the lower leagues before joining Southampton in league one. Made it through to the premiership and England.
Michail Antonio - Made his breakthrough with West Ham in the premier league well into his career
Gary Hooper - Got a season in the premiership after coming up through the leagues
John Lundstram - Dropped down to league two after being release by Everton and worked his way back up to the premiership and european football with Rangers
Steve Finnan - Came up through the leagues to establish himself at Liverpool and win a Champions League
 

Lay

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Didn’t Materazzi play lower leagues for half his career? Can’t recall when he finally managed to play in Serie A
 

Wonder Pigeon

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Luca Toni did pretty well for himself, from Serie B/C journeyman to World Cup winner.
 

criticalanalysis

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Santiago Muñez definitely takes it. Undocumented immigrant to Newcastle and then winning the champions league with Real Madrid. All whilst being asthmatic.

It's almost Hollywood stuff, you could write a film about his journey.
 

noelyman

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Surprised it look this long to mention him. He was hardly young either when he made the step up and became one of the best PL goalscorers over the last 6 seasons
He was literally mentioned in the OP, but yeah Vardy is a good shout.
 

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Martinelli : Brazilian 4th division straight into PL
 

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Chris Smallling at Maidstone United, although he was still only 19 when Fulham picked him up.

Ian Wright was still playing amateur football at 21. Signed semi-pro for Greenwich Borough at that age and was soon spotted by Crystal Palace.

Kevin Phillips was playing for Baldock Town in whatever league that was (it's a low level) when he was 21.
These are good shouts along with Vardy. Toni is a good shout from Europe as he was an established journeyman before he turned it around; although he wasn't non-league. Klose I think was also in the lower divisions.

An interesting thing I have noted however, is that the examples people can principally think of are CF's; as you then have people like Lambert, Antonio, Dublin etc who had to come up from the lower leagues.

It would be interesting to look at the underlying data to see if there are particular reasons for this; my guess is that their technical ability at a younger age wasn't great and they had to either develop that or grow into their bodies a bit more to develop their physical skills.
 

WeePat

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Chris Smallling at Maidstone United, although he was still only 19 when Fulham picked him up.

Ian Wright was still playing amateur football at 21. Signed semi-pro for Greenwich Borough at that age and was soon spotted by Crystal Palace.

Kevin Phillips was playing for Baldock Town in whatever league that was (it's a low level) when he was 21.
I watched an interview with him many, many years ago where he talked about how he kept being rejected by clubs. He was working at a warehouse at the time of the Palace trial. Not sure if he has romanticised the story a bit, but it sounded like Palace offered him a trial at 21 and it was bit of a last chance saloon for him to make it as a pro, but he was afraid of losing his job if he went so his mate who also worked there basically convinced him to risk it. And so he did and the rest is history.
 
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Tacitus56AD

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The biggest name here should be Miroslav Klose.
He joined Kaiserslautern in 1999/2000 only featuring in their second team at first. He played his first game at pro-level for Kaiserslautern at the age of 21 up until then he was only competing at amateur-level playing for FC Homburg in the 3rd/5th league.
 

André Dominguez

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Arduriz comes to mind. Was lost in Bilbao B and was playing in La Liga 2 until he was 25, and his performance kept improving until his late 30s.
 

abundance

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Didn’t Materazzi play lower leagues for half his career? Can’t recall when he finally managed to play in Serie A
Materazzi, yeah sort of.
His development was more like run of the mill not-cutting-it/slow-burning pro rather than meteoric rise from nowhere.

Youth career was at Lazio, Serie A academy.
Pro debut was at 17 in Serie B.
Then yeah, proper career start was 3 seasons in Serie D (5th level, amateur).
Then he did one year in Serie C, one in Serie B, and debuted in Serie A at 23 with Perugia.
Perugia was relegated and following season he played with them in Serie B, then he did one season at Everton in PL, two more seasons at Perugia in Serie A, and finally went to Inter at 28.
 

André Dominguez

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The biggest name here should be Miroslav Klose.
He joined Kaiserslautern in 1999/2000 only featuring in their second team at first. He played his first game at pro-level for Kaiserslautern at the age of 21 up until then he was only competing at amateur-level playing for FC Homburg in the 3rd/5th league.
Similar path to Luca Toni, if I'm not mistaken.
 

JuliaScalaR

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I don't know if I would mention Drogba otherwise the list is going to be very long. Now the likes of Kanté and Ribéry went from National(third division) to Ligue 1 and CL winners. Luca Toni was in Serie C, Klose was in the regional german leagues at the beginning of his career, iirc 3rd and 4th divisions.
Klose played his first match in Bundesliga just 2 months short of his 22th birthday. Quite the late bloomer.
 

mu4c_20le

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If Luca Toni is here then surely Ivan Toney deserves a mention as well. Playing in league one just two years ago and now one of the hottest strikers in the country.
 

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Kevin Großkreutz played in the 2,3,4,5 division in Germany before getting to Dortmund by the age of 22 i think. Went on to win Bundesliga twice, a CL final and a World Cup win. He was the ultimate squad player
 
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Garry Birtles.
  • 76 - non league
  • March 77 - Forest debut
  • Sept 78 (18 months later) - 2nd appearance
  • 78 - 3rd appearance is European Cup game v Liverpool, scores
  • Mar 79 - scores 2 in League Cup Final win
  • May 79 - in squad that wins EC
  • May 80 - plays in/wins EC again
  • 80 - moves to United
From only his second league appearance to a League Cup medal, TWO Euro Cup medals and a move to us in two years.

Then it went downhill :)
 
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Hughes35

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I really hope that is true :lol:

Trundle is a great player.
He sometimes plays in the Vets league I play in on a Friday night. Along with Rickie Lambert, Matty Taylor and a couple of others.
 
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