Top 3 outstanding footballers who made the grade late

In each of the three episodes of The Streets Don’t Lie, Cissé tracks down three players – first on the streets of London, then Paris in Episode 2 and Berlin in the final part – and puts them in a real game situation, where he must choose only one from each city to award the ultimate prize: a professional trial at one of the soccer academies of RB LeipzigRed Bull Salzburg or the New York Red Bulls to help them get their career back on track. 

1. Djibril Cissé

Let’s start with our host. OK, so he played in Ligue 1 for six years with Auxerre, the French club who also boast Laurent Blanc and Eric Cantona as former players, but it was Cissé’s switch to Liverpool in 2004 at the age of 23 that led to Champions League glory the following year as Liverpool overturned a 3–0 half-time deficit to draw 3–3 and then go on to win on penalties. Cissé was the first to get his name on Rafa Benítez’s list of penalty takers and he scored their second spot-kick. The match is sometimes called the Miracle of Istanbul, but Cissé’s part in it was also somewhat miraculous after he recovered from a horrible leg break seven months previously that had originally been expected to end his season. Below is that memorable shootout (from 06m 16s):

2. Ian Wright

After initial interest from English lower-league sides Brighton & Hove Albion and Southend United faded, and a short spell in prison for relatively minor driving offences, Ian Wright belatedly bounced back. From Sunday League football came a semi-pro contract at Greenwich Borough in London and then a trial for nearby Crystal Palace, where he won a professional contract just before his 22nd birthday. In the next six years he played more than 250 times for the Eagles and scored 117 goals before arguably his most famous club, Arsenal, came calling. Seven years at the Gunners brought 288 appearances and 179 goals, not to mention a Premier League title and a number of cup-winner’s medals. And to think, he almost became a plasterer. 

3. Miroslav Klose

Born to a footballing father who played for Auxerre in France (the club’s second mention in this illustrious list) and a mother who was an international handball player, it’s not surprising that Miroslav Klose had professional sport in his blood. It’s just surprising it took so long to show. Into his 20s Klose was still struggling to break into the first team of lower-league FC 08 Homburg in Germany, but once he arrived at FC Kaiserslautern in 1999 things began to look up, with a Bundesliga debut there, a move to Werder Bremen in 2004 and then a 2007 move to Bayern Munich, where he finally achieved top honours with the Bundesliga title just shy of his 30th birthday in 2007–8. He ended his career in Serie A with a successful spell at Lazio. Having waited until he was almost 23 to play for Germany (and turned down his birth country, Poland), Klose soon made up for lost time with an amazing 71 goals in his eventual 139 international appearances, including 16 at World Cups, an all-time record. Below are all those international goals with authentic German commentary:

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