Plenty of players have been branded future England captains.
Plenty of players have been dubbed ‘the next Steven Gerrard’.
Unfortunately for Jack Rodwell – a man still being paid an eye-watering £70k-a-week for a side now bound for League One – he hasn’t come remotely close to being either.
And last week, after Sunderland suffered their second successive relegation, his then manager Chris Coleman – who has now been relieved of his duties – claimed he ‘doesn’t even know where Rodwell is’.
Despite racking up the longest winless record in Premier League history this is Rodwell’s nadir, highlighting the sheer magnitude of his decline.
So where did it all go wrong?
The fatal choice
Rodwell had the world at his feet at one stage; the beating heartbeat of an Everton side that convinced Toffees’ fans he was their answer to Gerrard across Stanley Park.
He remains Everton’s youngest ever European debutant and his performances captured the imagination of those on Merseyside.
That prompted Man City to come calling – and the prospect proved too tempting.
City’s attempts to recruit a young English core saw Rodwell and Scott Sinclair arrive in the same summer, but both moves will still be tinged with an overwhelming sense of regret.
Rodwell made just 16 league appearances in a two-year spell at the Etihad which was, inevitably, plagued by injuries.
The unwanted record
Gareth Bale once went 24 games without a win after moving to Tottenham, but Rodwell’s record at Sunderland laughs in the face of that.
The beleaguered Black Cats midfielder didn’t taste victory once between May 2014 and February 2017 in a run that spanned a whopping 37 games.
Three years, eight months and 29 days – or 1370 dreadful days in total.
And Rodwell even limped off after just 51 minutes the day that unwanted record came to an end at Crystal Palace.
Rodwell’s decline mirrors Sunderland’s disastrous fall from grace down the English football pyramid and he’s played just twice in the Championship all season.
The contract to end all contracts
Back in January it emerged the Wearsiders were so fed up that, despite being engulfed in financial disrepute, they were willing to tear up Rodwell’s £70k-a-week contract and let him leave for free instead.
To put that in some context, that’s the same as Eric Dier earns as a first-team regular at Tottenham.
Yet Rodwell is staunch in his own defence, telling the Daily Mail: “Listen, I’m training three times a day, I feel great.
“It’s the fittest I’ve ever been, in a weird way, and that’s without playing.
“I’ve not spat my dummy out, I’m getting on with it, trying to turn the situation into a positive.”
Rodwell’s exile was more for financial reasons than it was for a disagreement with Coleman, but the manager’s dismissal last week might change things.
But his version of events contradict that out of the club, with Coleman saying on the eve of his exit: “We’re stuck with a player that doesn’t want to play for Sunderland and wants to leave, but then where’s he going to leave and go to?”
He still has a year left on his contract and is now expected to take a 40% wage cut, earning just the £44k-a-week playing in League One.
Amid the toxic atmosphere at Sunderland the fans have made Rodwell a pariah, truly emblematic of their doom and gloom.
But it feels as though Rodwell is as much a victim of his earlier success as the Black Cats’ despair.
Which club in their right minds would take a gamble on a player with those wage demands given his track record?
It leaves Rodwell staring into the abyss, with that last England cap – against Brazil in 2013 – now looking a lifetime ago…
- Exploring the mystery behind the most underwhelming signing of the season
- What happened to Liverpool’s local lads tipped to be the ‘next Steven Gerrard’?
- What’s it like to be an ultra at English football’s pettiest derby?