Football isn’t predictable. It’s a game of 22 moving parts all made up of more than 600 muscles, 206 bones and eight pints of blood.
If it was predictable we’d all be very rich and football would be incredibly boring.
However certain competitions offer a tantalising glimpse into the future.
Take the European Under-21 Championships, for example.
Rudi Voller, Laurent Blanc, Davor Suker and Luis Figo were all crowned the Golden Player at the tournament before going on to have stellar careers at the elite level of world football.
But what of those Golden Players who are still going? Have their careers been a series of steps up the ladder of greatness?
Andrea Pirlo (2000)
Six years after lifting the European Under-21 Championships Pirlo hoisted aloft the World Cup as Italy were crowned world championships in Germany.
He’ll go down as one of the finest midfielders in modern football- a winner of six Serie A titles, two Champions League and five domestic cups- who played the game in velvet slippers.
At the age of 38 retirement is only round the corner. The game will be a slightly less classy place without him.
Petr Cech (2002)
Czech Republic’s first and only title was mostly down to Petr Cech saving three penalties- including one from Jean-Alain Boumsong- against France in the final.
With 124 caps he’s arguably now the best Czech footballer ever, although Ballon d’Or winner Pavel Nedved might have something to say about that.
You can’t argue with four Premier League titles, a Champions League and Europa League. Well, you can, but you’d look a bit weird shouting at a trophy.
Alberto Gilardino (2004)
Gilardino’s career is a strange one. On the one hand he’s only got one less cap than Francesco Totti and won a Champions League as well as the World Cup.
On the other he’s carted himself around mid-table Serie A clubs and even had a spell in the Chinese Super League.
Will go down as a good, if not great, striker.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (2006)
Without doubt the best name a striker could be graced with. What’s not to like about The Hunter?
He was prolific in the Eredivisie, Bundesliga and with the Dutch national team, but never really cut it at Milan or Real Madrid.
A romantic return to Ajax next season is a lovely way to bookend a career that, like Gilardino, will be fondly remembered but not talked about through generations.
Royston Drenthe (2007)
Drenthe had the world at his feet when he moved to Real Madrid in 2007 off the back of a scintillating showing for Holland at the European Under-21 Championships.
Fast forward ten years and he’s playing in Abu Dhabi, following unsuccessful stints at Alania Vladikavkaz, Reading and Kayseri Erciyesspor.
The definition of wasted talent.
Marcus Berg (2009)
Berg was lauded as the ‘new Ibrahimovic’ but that was always going to be a heavy burden to carry.
His goalscoring form in Sweden and Holland earned him a move to Bundelsiga, with Hamburg, but he never got going in Germany.
Can now be found scoring goals in the Greek league with Panathinaikos, where he finished as last season’s top goalscorer.
Juan Mata (2011)
Loved by fans. Not always trusted by managers.
He was sold by Jose Mourinho at Chelsea only to end up back under Mourinho at Old Trafford. Not ideal.
A left foot fit to open a can of beans, just not always capable of meeting the physical demands asked of him by his manager.
Thiago Alcantara (2013)
Take a pinch of Italian tactical nous, a dose of Brazilian flair and the technical ability of a Spaniard and throw them all into a footballer.
What do you end up with? Thiago Alcantara.
To think Man United nearly ended up with the Bayern Munich man, but got Marouane Fellaini instead.
William Carvalho (2015)
The jury is still out on Carvalho who at times plays like Patrick Vieira but can also look sluggish and one-paced.
A broken leg put any move out of Portugal on hold, but he’s unlikely to be at Sporting for too much longer.
Whatever happens, he’s got a winning moustache.