The A-Z of forgotten football heroes: S - Florent Sinama-Pongolle

The talent that was never fulfilled.

The A-Z of forgotten football heroes: S - Florent Sinama-Pongolle
Sinama Pongolle enjoyed some of his best matches at Liverpool in European competitions (photo: Getty Images / Alex Livesey)

When he scored nine goals in just eight matches at the FIFA Under-17 World Championship in Trinidad and Tobago, French youngster Florent Sinama Pongolle was tipped to be a star of the future alongside his cousin, Anthony Le Tallec.

The Liverpool years

After helping France to lift the trophy and being named Player of the Tournament in the process, Gerard Houllier swiftly snapped up the services of Sinama Pongolle for Liverpool. However, still in his youth, Houllier decided to loan the talented striker back to Le Havre alongside his cousin who also signed for the Reds.

Two years later, the pair returned to Merseyside but they did not set Anfield alight as the Kop faithful had hoped. Sinama Pongolle made 23 appearances, but only made starts in six matches, scoring twice during his debut season. His cousin netted just once in 21 matches.

The 2004-05 season was another tough one for the French youngster as he failed to nail down a starting position under new manager, Rafa Benitez. He made 26 appearances, with 15 from the bench, but did chip in with some critical goals. A late goal against Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup fifth round kept the Reds in the competition before reaching the final. 

Sinama Pongolle also scored a vital goal from the bench in the Champions League group stage against Olympiacos. Liverpool were in danger of going out of the competition but Sinama Pongolle's equaliser helped them to victory before the Reds went on to win the trophy five months later. The French youngster never made the squad for the final.

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Back on track in Madrid?

Despite scoring a delightful chip in the same competition against Real Betis, Sinama Pongolle's career at Anfield was coming to a close. After nine goals in 66 matches, he was loaned to Blackburn Rovers in January 2006. However, he managed just one goal in ten appearances.

That summer, Liverpool sold Sinama Pongolle to Spanish side Recreativo de Huelva. It was here that the Frenchman began to get his career back on track. Sinama Pongolle scored 22 goals in two seasons, finishing top goalscorer for the club across both La Liga campaigns. It was enough to tempt Atletico Madrid to pounce for his services.

After Sergio Aguero picked up an injury, the diminutive figure scored four goals in his first five league games alongside Diego Forlan. He then experienced a new position, on the right wing, as Aguero returned but Maxi Rodriguez was sidelined through injury.

Yet Sinama Pongolle slowly slipped out of the first team set-up and was sold to Sporting in Portugal after just 18 months. Again, he struggled to establish himself as a regular and was loaned out to Real Zaragoza and Saint-Etienne.

Life in the old dog yet...

Between 2014 and 2016, Sinama Pongolle somewhat travelled the globe with his football. He endured, perhaps more than enjoyed, short spells in Russia with FC Rostov, USA with Chicago Fire, Switzerland at Lausanne and even Scotland during a bried encounter with Dundee United.

However, the 33-year old appears to have found his goalscoring boots in Thailand. With 27 goals in 36 games, Sinama Pongolle has scored more goals in the last 18 months than he has done between 2008 and 2016.

Could he finally reach the heights he flirted with back at the FIFA Under-17 World Championship? Probably not but at least he is back finding the net.