The next David Beckham and Andres Iniesta – what happened to the young stars of the Hong Kong Soccer Sevens?
Glory and despair for the youngsters who lit up the tournament at Hong Kong Football Club in years gone by
The HKFC Citi Soccer Sevens returns to Hong Kong Football Club from Friday May 18 to Sunday May 20 and once again it will feature some of the best young players in world football in the main draw.
Six-time champions Aston Villa and last year’s winners Leicester City are back along with teams from the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, Japan’s J.League and Australia’s A-League.
While we await the stars of the future to light up Sports Road at the weekend, take a trip down memory lane to see what became of the ones gone by.
David Bentley – Arsenal
Billed as the “new David Beckham” as a youngster, Bentley said he was out to take Beckham’s England spot when he was called up to the national team. His career took a different path and he gave up the game at 29 in 2014. By then he had played for England, Arsenal and Spurs as well as becoming the first Englishman to play in the Russian top flight. Now 33, he has a number of businesses in Spain and the UK, including restaurants and a flooring company. The only player to feature at the Sevens to win a watch by kicking a ball into a skip.
No. It's not warning but just elder brother's talk. I trust jack can really learn and be a MAN! https://t.co/uZocbMlcLf
— Dr. Tony Xia (@Dr_TonyXia) 21 September 2016
Jack Grealish – Aston Villa
Top scorer at the Sevens for two years running, Grealish was also named player of the tournament in 2013. Since then he has gone on to play for the Villa first team, where he reached an FA Cup final at 19 after destroying Liverpool in the semi. Now 22, he is helping the club back towards the Premier League in the play-offs, and has cleaned up his act after getting called out on Twitter by Villa owner Tony Xia.
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) 9 May 2018
Anton Ferdinand – West Ham United
Rio’s younger brother never really shifted that tag and at 33 he has just been transfer listed by League One side Southend United despite being club captain and playing 35 games this season. Probably more famous for the racism charge levelled at John Terry than a career that took in struggling Premier League sides and the Greek top flight.
— SPFL (@spfl) 4 April 2018
Harry Panayiotou – Leicester City
Harry “The Net Ripper” Panayiotou to give him his full name, at least according to the St Kitts and Nevis stadium announcer. Panayiotou chose to represent them over Cyprus so he would not have to do national service and he became Leicester’s all-time international top scorer with a goal in Aruba. Released by Leicester, for whom he had made his debut at 17, he was offered a contract with Borussia Dortmund under-23s but opted for National League Barrow. He was released by them at the end of this season, a disappointment which fits with his desire to emulate Jamie Vardy’s rise from non-league.
Scotland fans with an amazing goal sound as Shaun Maloney scores 15 minutes before time against the Republic of Ireland to seal a 1-0 victory in 2014 pic.twitter.com/8e6huQ5QjF
— Best Goal Sounds (@bestgoalsounds) 13 May 2018
Shaun Maloney – Celtic
Malaysia-born Maloney played six years at Celtic Park before a year at Aston Villa. He returned to Glasgow for another three seasons, Wigan Athletic for four and then Chicago Fire in the MLS before one last Premier League hurrah with Hull City. He called it quits last year due to injury but had played nearly 50 times for Scotland, winning five Scottish League titles and the English FA Cup. He is now a coach at Celtic.
— Sheffield Wednesday (@swfc) 25 October 2017
Barry Bannan – Aston Villa
The Scot was named player of the tournament in 2008 but his biggest plaudits were yet to come. Aston Villa manager Gerard Houllier likened the midfielder to Barcelona duo Andres iniesta and Xavi soon after arriving at Villa Park. “I don’t think Xavi and Iniesta, who are outstanding players, are of huge size. They are intelligent, they have the skill, they have the desire – young Barry has all of that.” Scotland teammate Darren Fletcher also compared him to the pair as well as Manchester United great Paul Scholes. Bannan has not hit those heights but after a few seasons on loan, has played over 100 times for Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship and at 28 is a regular for Scotland.
Sergio Escudero – Urawa Red Diamonds
The Argentine Spanish-born Japan under-23 international was the player of the tournament in 2005 as his side won it. He was named man of the match by the fans after the first leg of the AFC Champions League final in 2013, which his Seoul FC side eventually lost to Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande. He won the CFA Cup with Jiangsu Suning and now plays in the Japanese second tier.
Marc Albrighton – Aston Villa
Released by boyhood club Villa after five seasons in and around the first team but played every game as Leicester City won the Premier League in 2016. He was part of their great escape the season before and scored the club’s first ever Champions League goal last season. An ever-present on the wing at the Walkers Stadium.
Samu Saiz – Atletico Madrid
The Spaniard was 24 when he lit up the Sevens in 2015, where he was named player of the tournament and top scorer. Has since swapped Atletico Madrid, for whom he never made a first team appearance, for Leeds United, where he is now captain and was nominated for the Yorkshire side’s player of the season award.
— Aston Villa FC (@AVFCOfficial) December 16, 2017
Keinan Davis – Aston Villa
Played at the Sevens last year and this season the former Biggleswade Town forward has made the step up to Steve Bruce’s first team, featuring 30 times. Scored some vital goals to get the club into the play-offs but has gone down the pecking order as senior strikers have returned from injury. Named the club’s young player of the year.
Off to Hong Kong this week. Tournament winners, MVP and top scorer last year...Same again is the aim!!! pic.twitter.com/pOZUGvSiLM
— Josh Eppiah (@JoshEppiah) May 13, 2018
Josh Eppiah – Leicester City
The Belgian striker won player of the tournament and golden boot last year and was top scorer in 2016, too. This year he returns for his third sevens. Yet to make his first team debut but he is highly thought of at Leicester and has been linked with a host of other Premier League clubs.
— D.C. United (@dcunited) May 10, 2018
Zoltan Stieber – Aston Villa
The player of the tournament in 2007, Hungarian Stieber never played for the Villans but did turn out for Yeovil Town on loan before moving to Germany. He played for several Bundseliga clubs before moving to the United States where he currently plays for DC United in the MLS. The 29-year-old could line up alongside Wayne Rooney later this season. Stieber represented Hungary at Euro 2016.
Glen Johnson – West Ham United
The England full back has turned out more than 50 times for the Three Lions in a career that has seen him play for Chelsea, Portsmouth and Liverpool since leaving West Ham. Won the Premier League with Chelsea, the FA Cup with Portsmouth and a League Cup with Liverpool. At 33, he has just been relegated from the top flight with Stoke City.
Gabby Agbonlahor – Aston Villa
The club legend starred at the 2006 Sevens, where he was player of the tournament, and has since become Villa’s all-time Premier League top scorer. Now 31, he’s still at Villa Park but is expected to leave when his contract expires this summer. Played three times for England.
— Leicester City (@LCFC) May 6, 2018
Hamza Choudhury – Leicester City
Made the breakthrough to the first team at the end of the season, playing eight games and registering an assist against Arsenal. Was named development player of the year for his performances in the under-23s.