The Aussie 'wonderkid' who was meant to follow in Anderson's footsteps but ended up retiring early

Anderson winning the Premier League with Manchester United (left), Kaz Patafta training with Australia at the 2006 FIFA World Cup (right) Source: Getty Images

The career of a so-called 'wonderkid' in football sounds straightforward – you get spotted early on by a big club, your precocious skills see you establish yourself in the first team and then go on to enjoy an illustrious career at the top.

But we all know that, in reality, it doesn't quite work like that. Each situation is nuanced and, for every Kylian Mbappe there is a Kaz Patafta.

Australia's captain during the Under-17 World Cup in 2005, Patafta will be the first to say expectations were high for him after landing a three-year contract with Benfica as a teenager.

And, for what it's worth, his potential was even given 'video game approval', Championship Manager 2007 ranking him similarly to Gareth Bale after he'd trained with Guus Hiddink's pre-2006 World Cup squad.

But Patafta's career in professional football ended at age 22 having never played a top-flight European match in a rueful case of what might have been.

'I was told I'd have a very similar path to Anderson'

He joined Benfica in January 2006 in a move that also involved Jorge Mendes' Gestifute agency. It was the same week future Brazil and Manchester United midfielder Anderson, signed to the same agents, joined Porto.

"When I arrived in Portugal I was told I'd have a very similar path to Anderson, or to the extent I was basically informed where I'd end up, and at the same time where Anderson would end up. One of us ended up where we should have," he recalls to Stats Perform with a grin. "It's all history now so I'm happy to disclose it - the conversations were around a move to Chelsea [eventually]."

For Patafta, talent clearly wasn't an issue, neither was the pressure of being painted as the face of Australia's 'Next Generation'. "Honestly, I think I handled it quite well – and there was no Twitter or Instagram. What the media depicted – it was probably good for football at that time, to start to look at who were the next generation were."

Life with Benfica certainly began well – he was doing the business on the pitch in an effort to reach the first team and often mingling with the stars of the senior side. "David Luiz is the one that sticks out, but I played with great players. Simao Sabrosa was my favourite by far, Nuno Gomes was unbelievable, it was a great time."

Source Omnisport