MX23RW : Wednesday, September 26 13:25:05

Five injury-plagued careers

Sports Mole remembers five players who were forced to retire early or never quite made it because of injury problems.

It seems, according to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, that Abou Diaby is closing in once more on a return to action. His teammate Bacary Sagna believes that he could become the Patrick Vieira replacement that the Gunners have so desperately needed and, although he may not play this weekend, he could potentially be a key player in the future.

The reality is, however, that Diaby is likely to suffer further injury problems that have dogged his career to date. While Diaby continues to battle back from his latest setback, Sports Mole looks back at some players who have been similarly blighted in Premier League and world football in the past.

1. Dean Ashton

Dean Ashton, a technically gifted forward able to score spectacular goals and bring teammates into play, could have become a star for England and, had he not been forced to retire in 2009, he would likely still be playing at the age of just 30. However, a broken ankle suffered in training for England in 2006 having impressed for West Ham United ultimately cut his career short. After surgery and an attempted comeback he never fully recovered and had to call time on his career at just 26.

2. Marco van Basten

While Ashton still had potential yet to be fully realised, Marco van Basten was certainly at the top of the game when he had to retire from football. He played for two clubs in his career, Ajax and AC Milan, and also hit 24 goals in 58 games for his country the Netherlands. One goal in particular has gone down in history as one of the best ever. However, he had ongoing problems with an ankle injury, which started to really affect him into his late 20s before he finally called it a day in August 1995 at the age of just 30.

3. Ronaldo

How Brazil could do with a striker of Ronaldo's calibre nowadays. During the late 1990s and early 2000s he was widely regarded as the best striker in world football and would surely be considered as one of the greatest ever if not for his injuries. He regularly had injuries throughout his career and rarely managed to complete a full season. Eventually, and after suffering weight problems too, he retired in 2011 having returned to Brazil, with 62 goals in 98 games for his country.

4. Owen Hargreaves

The Canadian-born midfielder who played for England and started his career in Germany understandably has a very confused accent. There are not as many twangs in his speaking voice as he suffered on the pitch, however. It started near the end of his Bayern Munich career when he broke his leg, but he recovered enough to pass a medical at Manchester United. From 2007 when he moved to Manchester until 2012 when he finally had to retire at Manchester City, he made just 28 Premier League appearances.

5. Ledley King

Ledley King is still only 33, so realistically should still be playing - albeit in the latter stages of his career. However, the former Tottenham Hotspur man had to hang up his boots in the summer of 2012 having suffered for years with knee problems. He underwent several operations and then around 2008 had to start playing only in important matches and not training full-time. Had he not had so many injuries King may well have been an England regular, but he was never able to reach the heights that his potential promised.

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Bacary Sagna of Arsenal in action during the match between Arsenal and Napoli at Emirates Stadium on August 3, 2013
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