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Football’s forgotten men: Karius, Drinkwater, Odegaard report back for duty!

After a summer full of international tournament action on multiple continents begins to draw to a close, focus shifts back to the domestic game as players report back for preseason training.

While many jet in after playing for their countries, some are returning, perhaps reluctantly, to their parent clubs after much longer absences. Some may even struggle to find the training ground!

Take Loris Karius for example, who caught many Liverpool fans off guard when he suddenly appeared at the club’s camp in Austria having spent the past three years on loan elsewhere.

Indeed, the sight of Karius limbering up in a Liverpool kit came as a shock to many who were surprised to discover that the German goalkeeper is still on the club’s books, having not made a competitive appearance since 2018.

Karius has been out on loan with Besiktas and Union Berlin, after his last appearance for Liverpool ended in calamity. It came against Real Madrid in the 2017-18 Champions League final, a night on which the stopper suffered an early concussion in a collision with Sergio Ramos before going on to make costly errors in a 3-1 defeat.

After another gaffe in a preseason friendly at the start of the following season, he was shipped out and Alisson was signed from Roma in a world-record transfer for a goalkeeper, with Karius having three years left on his contract.

That contract still has one year left to run, though Karius– who made just four Bundesliga appearances for Union last season — is expected to spend it on loan again. However, for the time being at least, he is back in the Liverpool fold and training with the first team.

Karius may be Liverpool’s forgotten man, but many big clubs are still harbouring names that you’d be forgiven for thinking had moved on many moons ago.

Here’s just a selection of the players you almost definitely forgot were still technically at some of the world’s biggest teams.

Pereira was spotted training with United this week after spending last season in Italy with Lazio — the third season in five that he has spent out on loan.

The Belgium-born midfielder made his debut for United during the 2014-15 season but has found his opportunities somewhat limited ever since, making less than 50 league appearances over the course of seven years at Old Trafford.

A former wonderkid with “Mini Messi” billing, Roberts signed for City from Fulham in 2015 (the same month that Raheem Sterling joined the club) at the age of 18.

Roberts’ transfer cost £11m, but six years on down the line, the former England youth striker has made just one Premier League appearances for City (coming on for the last four minutes of a 4-1 defeat against Tottenham in September 2015). Indeed, the 24-year-old has generally been out on loan ever since January 2016, when he signed his first loan deal with Celtic.

The attacking midfielder signed a two-year contract extension with City in May 2019, but still hasn’t featured for his parent club, instead spending time with Girona, Norwich City, Middlesbrough and Derby County between 2018 and 2021.

Signed from Leicester City for £35m in September 2017, just 12 months after winning the Premier League, Drinkwater’s time at Chelsea has been forgettable to say the least.

The 31-year-old midfielder hasn’t played for the Blues in three years, and instead has had to settle for a place among the club’s infamous “loan army” — an entire battalion of players who seem to spend their entire lives ploughing itinerant furrows elsewhere.

Drinkwater has spent time with Burnley and Aston Villa, and in Turkey with Kasimpasa for whom he made 11 appearances last season.

Indeed, Chelsea could piece together an entire squad of absentees all by themselves, with the likes of Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ross Barkley, Kenedy, Baba Rahman, Matt Miazga, Trevor Chalabah, Ethan Ampadu, Michy Batshuayi, Davide Zappacosta, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Lewis Baker all still on the payroll despite playing pretty much all their football elsewhere.

As well as Karius, Liverpool were also rejoined by midfielder Grujic at their training camp in the Austrian mountains.

Now 25, the Serbian signed for the Reds in 2016 but has made just eight Premier League appearances. Indeed, Grujic was loaned straight back to Red Star Belgrade on his arrival at Anfield, which more or less set the template.

Next came a fairly forgettable stint with Cardiff in 2018, followed by two seasons at Hertha Berlin and a further unremarkable year in Portugal (2020-21) with FC Porto.

However, with a contract that runs until the summer of 2023, Grujic is back with Jurgen Klopp’s side pending any future developments.

There was a flush of excitement when Arsenal fended off several rivals to secure the services of Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria for £26m in the summer of 2018. The combative Uruguay international was supposed to provide some much-needed grit in the heart of the Gunners’ midfield for years to come.

After a decent first season, Torreira found his progress disrupted when Unai Emery, who brought him to north London, was fired and replaced by Mikel Arteta, who didn’t deem the midfielder to be quite so integral.

Reduced to bit-parts and cameos, Torreira left the Emirates to spend the 2020-2021 season on loan at Atletico Madrid, where he promptly won a trophy — a league title, no less — at the first time of asking.

Now he’s back, with an uncertain future, linked with a return to Italy and has also expressed a desire to play for Barcelona.

Still only 34, it feels like Joe Hart has taken up a veteran role at Tottenham usually reserved for much more “senior” goalkeepers (think Scott Carson at Man City and Lee Grant at Man United), lending his experience to junior cohorts while turning out in the odd cup game here and there.

Hart last featured in the Premier League while playing for Burnley in 2018 and has made just 10 appearances for Spurs in all competitions since moving on a free transfer in the summer of 2020.

Still, he keeps plugging away in the background, happy to play second fiddle to Hugo Lloris.

Cuisance was regarded as something of a young maestro when Bayern took the plunge and plucked him from Borussia Monchengladbach in the summer of 2019.

The talented midfielder had been crowned Gladbach’s player of the season in his debut Bundesliga campaign (2017-18), having been signed directly from Nancy’s under-19 side.

Since moving to Bayern, the 21-year-old Frenchman has played a full 90 minutes just once, finding himself slipping down the pecking order.

After making just nine bit-part Bundesliga appearances in his first season with Bayern, a permanent transfer to Leeds was lined up in the summer of 2020 only for the deal to fall through due to a failed medical.

Cuisance then opted to sign for Marseille on loan and spent the 2020-21 season back home in France, playing 30 games and pitching in with two goals. Now he’s back with Bayern, but for how long?

Many fans couldn’t be blamed for questioning who Odegaard actually plays for, considering he is already been on the books of seven teams at the age of 22.

Having spent a portion of last season on loan at Arsenal, Odegaard has once again been summoned back to Real Madrid for preseason — a cycle he knows only too well by now.

Odegaard was originally taken on by Los Blancos as a teenage prodigy in 2015, after ripping up the Norwegian league as a 15-year-old with Stromsgodset.

However, the skillful midfielder has barely had a look in at Real since graduating from the B team, playing for Heerenveen, Vitesse, Real Sociedad and the Gunners.

Can he now recapture any of that once-sensational momentum? He’s made just eight La Liga appearances for Madrid, but with Zinedine Zidane having left and a brand new coach in Carlo Ancelotti to impress, perhaps 2021-22 might be the season that the Norwegian playmaker finally makes some tangible headway at the Bernabeu?



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