Cherno Samba was once rated as the next big thing in English football.
His goal record at youth level was jaw-dropping, having scored 132 times in 32 games for a Millwall youth side!
As a result, every top club wanted Samba in the early 2000s, especially Liverpool, who beelined to secure the prodigy’s signature by getting Michael Owen to woo him.
“It didn’t take long [after that] for him [Houllier] to get Michael to accompany me around their training ground at Melwood and introduce me to the players,” Samba writes in his autobiography Still in the Game, serialised in the Mirror.
“Michael bigged the club up and said things like, “This is the best club to come to, we’ll look after you here. Come to Liverpool, Cherno”. Michael was lovely and introduced me to Robbie Fowler, who was also very nice to me.”
Liverpool thought they’d agreed a £1.5m fee with Millwall, which at the time was an insane amount of money for what was essentially a child.
But talks broke down, despite Gerard Houllier promising Samba the deal would get done, which ruined the youngster emotionally.
He takes up the story from here:
“My dream had been shattered. I dropped to the floor and cried my eyes out,” he continued.
“I was devastated and became withdrawn from everyone and everything after that and I think my football was affected too, because I started to lose confidence in my own ability.”
“I told myself that the only thing I should now be interested in was to make money and to concentrate on looking after my family and myself.
“I knew it was the wrong way to look at things but I was young and I had a chip on my shoulder – I was still thinking I should have been playing in the Premier League for Liverpool!”
Samba went on to play for the likes of Cadiz, Plymouth Argyle, Wrexham and Haka in Finland, but the reality is he never got close to fulfilling his potential.
The former professional is still only 33-years-old, but is retired and doing his coaching badges, having just released his book.
His tale is a precautionary one for all talented youngsters. Regardless how good you are as a teenager, you are nothing until you’re a first-team regular – and utter dedication and hard-work must simply increase instead of wane.
We wish Samba all the luck in the future!