He was meant to be the next Ryan Giggs.
Ramon Calliste was spotted by Manchester United scout Tony Hopkins when he was just 15-years-old in 2001. United, clearly impressed by what they saw, offered the Cardiff born lad a three-year contract. They even brought a house for his family to live in to ensure the youngster had his family around him.
Of course, the comparisons with Ryan Giggs soon followed. Calliste was from Cardiff, he was Welsh and had now signed for Manchester United. People who saw him were excited by Calliste. They all spoke about his potential and ability. According to those close to the club, Sir Alex Ferguson rated him very highly and felt they had a special talent in Calliste. United don’t tend to offer young players three-year contracts unless they are a special talent and the forward had clearly impressed Sir Alex. He was spoken about as the next big talent to break through and make the grade.
Ex Manchester United player Clayton Blackmore was quoted as saying
“I remember watching him in a trial at Sophia Gardens and thinking he was like a gazelle.
“If I remember rightly he had records at 100 metres and 200 metres so it wasn’t just that he was quick off the mark but he had this pace that would just keep going.”
Calliste stared in the 2003 United youth team that won the FA Youth Cup. But two years later Calliste was released from the club aged just 19. Manchester United had chosen to reduce their academies from two down to one, unfortunately, Calliste was one of the young players the club let go.
People were unsure why the Cardiff boy had been released. It was not down to ability as he was a player blessed with skill and talent, and he seemed well liked at the club. There had never been a bad word mentioned about him. But something clearly was not right. Ferguson felt that when a player reached 20 years of age, they needed to be in the first-team squad. It seemed maybe Calliste had not quite done enough.
Calliste at the time had been shattered by being released by Manchester United and admitted it had been a shock to the system. However, Calliste’s disappointment didn’t last long as he was signed by Liverpool and became the first player since 1960 to cross the M62 from United to Liverpool. Calliste impressed on his first outing in the Liverpool shirt as he scored on his debut for the reserves. But he was unable to break into the first-team and after a year of reserve team football, he was once again released.
He had offers from lower league clubs but would not reduce his wage demands and failed to find a club. Eventually, he signed for Scunthorpe. Calliste felt it was a chance to work his way up the league’s and back into the Premier League. However, in a pre season friendly against Brigg Town, he dislocated his ankle. It was an injury he never recovered from and for Calliste, it finished his career in the professional game.
Despite various trials at a range of lower league clubs in England as well as Levski Sofia in Bulgaria, he was not offered a contract. His injury seemed to have taken its toll on the once gifted player. He eventually played for Farnborough Town and Cambridge City, however, that’s when the records stop and the rest unknown.
He seemed to have it all as a youngster. He was extremely quick, very powerful and an extremely skillful striker. It seemed strange that as a striker he was being compared to Ryan Giggs and some had even labelled him the next David Beckham. A player who had been named in various sports magazines top 100 best young players in football, he came in at number 8. Just to give you an idea of who was around him at the time, Dimitar Berbatov was number 82 and Michael Essien Number 78. Here was a player with a real chance to make it.
Some felt that perhaps his attitude stopped him from making it to the top, perhaps he took things for granted having signed for Manchester United. He also had Giuseppe Rossi and Fraser Campbell in front of him in the reserves. The consensus being he may have struggled to have broken into the first-team. But a player who seemed as gifted as he was would have shone through eventually and there was never any mention of a poor attitude. He was just a very confident youngster and maybe that was his downfall.
Ramon Calliste now sells luxury watches, which seems his second love after football, and was last known to be playing in the Middlesex County Football League for West London Saracens, although this was a few years ago now.
The question is would Ramon Calliste had made it as a professional footballer had he not broken his ankle? For a player that Manchester United expected big things off, you would have expected him to rise back to the top. Here was a player with the world at his feet, and had made four appearances for the Welsh U21 side, under Brian Flynn. In the end, Calliste failed to play one professional game, a sad ending for a player with so much ability and skill. How much being released by United actually affected Ramon Calliste we may never know, but it certainly had an impact. Had he been given an opportunity at Manchester United, you wonder just how good he could have become.
A young player at the time with huge talent and potential that we will never know just how good he would have been.