6th July – Georgi Kinkladze

Georgi Kinkladze is regarded as one of the greatest Georgians to have ever played football and is also fondly remembered by Manchester City fans.

Despite all the millions and star names that have played for Man City over the last few years there is a still a contingent of their fans that think Kinkladze is the best player to have worn a City shirt..

Kinkladze began his career at Mretebi Tbilisi aged just 16 and quickly became a first team regular and was an important player as they gained promotion in 1991. This helped convince Dinamo Tbilisi to sign the midfielder and in his first season he won the league and cup double. However, due to civil war in his country he had to leave and joined FC Saarbrucken in Germany. He never really settled there and only played 11 league games.

After trials at Atletico Madrid and Boca Juniors, Manchester City decided to take a chance on him in 1995. After a slightly difficult start to life in England, he became the star player of a struggling side and would go on to score some wonderful goals, including one against Southampton in which he beat five players and then chipped the keeper.

Kinkladze MC

Despite his performances the club were relegated to Division One and it looked as though Kinkladze would get a move, however he decided to stay and even though he won the Player of the Year award for a second season he could not guide them to promotion. Things got even worse as manager Joe Royle dropped him a lot and they were relegated to Division Two.

This meant after 119 appearances and 22 goals it was time for him to move on. He signed for Ajax but this move didn’t work out well as he only played 12 league games in his first season and was told to find a new club. He returned to England and signed for Derby County. Once again he proved a divisive figure, sometimes showing amazing quality, whereas other times looking a little lost. At the end of the 2001-02 season he endured the third relegation of his career.

Kinkladze DC

With Derby struggling financially they tried to get rid of Kinkladze but he stayed and put in some good performances and was named the Supporters Player of the Year. At the end of his contract he was offered a new deal but declined it and joined Cypriot side Anorthosis and somewhat remarkably they won the title with Kinkladze scoring two goals.

Ater just one season he signed for Rubin Kazan. He began brilliantly scoring twice and setting up a further seven in his first nine games. However, an injury at the start of the following campaign meant he never played a professional game again.

Kinkladze RK

The final word can go to John Gregory. “He’s an inspirational player. The rest of the team are probably his biggest fan, they appreciate he not only has great quality but he rolls his sleeves up and works hard.”

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3rd July – Lee Bradbury

Lee Bradbury found his way into professional football after being an army recruit so understands about the other side of life.

Many footballers these days get criticised for not having worked a day in their life and getting too much money. But Bradbury is someone that will surely make the players of whatever clubs he manages to appreciate what they have. He currently manages Havant & Waterlooville and has just led them to promotion to the National League.

Bradbury started his playing career at Portsmouth but he first made an impact on loan at Exeter City, where he scored five league goals in 14 games in 1995. On his return to his parent club he did start getting more opportunities and really showed his potential during the 1996-97 season which led to him being linked with big money moves away. In July 1997, after 54 games for Portsmouth, Bradbury joined Manchester City for £3 million.

Bradbury Portsmouth

However, it was a tough time for the club as they suffered relegation at the end of the 1997-98 season but the striker did manage to score six times. Just three months into the following campaign he was on the move again, this time to Crystal Palace for £1.5 million. He only lasted 32 league games and was on the move once more, returning to first club Portsmouth.

His career started to recover and he played over 100 times in his second spell but as the team pushed for the First Division title in the 2002-03 season he was finding game time harder to come by and was sent out on loan to Sheffield Wednesday. During this spell he scored three times in 11 games showing that he can still have an impact. But he couldn’t force his way back in to the Portsmouth side and another loan spell to Derby County followed. He didn’t manage to score for Derby.

In 2004, Bradbury joined Walsall and scored just one goal for them, coming against the team he failed to score for Derby. He never really settled at Walsall and was on the move again. Oxford United was his next destination, where he scored nine times in 63 league games. He stayed until January 2006 and moved onto Southend United.

Bradbury OU

He only stayed for one full season before making the final move of his career, joining Bournemouth. As he was now coming towards the end of his career he started having different roles, not only off the pitch but on it too, and switched position from striker to right back to cover for injuries. His performances were that good that he became first choice in that position until the club signed Stephen Purches. After playing over 100 times for the club he decided to retire in 2011 after being named caretaker manager of Bournemouth after the departure of Eddie Howe.

Bradbury Bournemouth

Bournemouth reached the playoffs in his first season but they were unfortunately beaten by Huddersfield and after a poor run of form in the following campaign, Bradbury was sacked. He has since been manager of Havant & Waterlooville since October 2012.

The final word can go to Bournemouth chairman Eddie Mitchell. “For me it was a no brainer. Lee has progressed well, signed good players and brought in an experienced assistant. It helps bring stability to the club and that’s what we want to do.”

2nd July – Marc-Antoine Fortune

Marc-Antoine Fortune is currently stuck on 98 professional career goals and will be hoping that one more team gives him a chance to reach 100..

The forward started his career at French lower league side Angouleme where he broke into the side during the 1999-00 season, scoring three times in 10 appearances. He helped the club reach the third tier of French football and he was linked with moves to Ligue 1 sides. In 2002, Lille took a chance on Fortune.

While at the club he found himself playing out of position on the left wing and struggled with injuries to make a real impact. After just one season, Fortune joined Ligue 2 side Rouen on loan. He ended the season with 10 goals and for a third summer in a row he was on the move.

Stade Brest had a decent season with Fortune scoring 10 goals in 33 games and finishing 9th in Ligue 2. It looked as though he had settled, however when Eredivisie side Utrecht showed interest, Fortune could not turn down the opportunity. While in Holland, Fortune struggled to settle and the death of David Di Tommaso meant he could not show his talent.

Before his teammate died he had been looking quite impressive but after 13 goals in 56 appearances, he felt he needed to return to France. In January 2007, Nancy signed the striker and began really well, scoring six goals in 17 league games. After this he was largely used as an impact substitute and began to feel frustrated so in January 2009 he joined West Brom.

MAF Nancy

He became a fan favourite and scored on his debut in a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough and despite only playing half a season he was named the Supporters Player of the Year. He finished his loan spell with five goals and convinced Celtic to buy him.

MAF WB

After a good start with goals against St Johnstone and Rapid Vienna in the Europa League it turned sour, especially after Tony Mowbray was replaced by Neil Lennon so at the start of the 2010-11 season he returned to West Brom. He spent a further three seasons at West Brom, scoring nine goals as the club battled to stay in the Premier League. During this time, he also had a loan spell at Doncaster Rovers.

MAF WA

His next move was to Wigan Athletic and he featured heavily during their Europa League campaign and ended the season with 49 appearances. He lasted one more season and signed a one year deal for Coventry City. After four goals in 25 games he was on the move again to Southend United following a successful trial. Last season he scored four goals.

The final word can go to former Celtic and West Brom manager Tony Mowbray. “Marc is a quality player and he was a privilege to work with. Some of his play in the second half of the season was phenomenal, you can see the impact he made. He is a team player.”

1st July – Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Ruud Van Nistelrooy is one of the best strikers to ever grace the Premier League and should go down as one of Manchester United’s best goalscorers.

Despite his brilliance he was one of those players that crossed Sir Alex Ferguson and found out that nobody is bigger than the club. His departure from Old Trafford was surprising and meant he couldn’t join the 100 Premier League goals club.

The Dutchman started his career at Den Bosch and after netting 12 goals in the 1996-97 campaign he earned a move to Heerenveen. He only stayed for one season, grabbing 13 goals, before a big move to PSV.

He started brilliantly with 31 goals in 34 matches and capped the year of by winning the Dutch Player of the Year and the Eredivisie title. The following season they retained the title with Van Nistelrooy scoring 29 goals. In the summer of 2000 it looked as though the striker was about to leave but an injury meant he was out of action for a year.

RVN PSV

Manchester United kept the faith and signed him once he had recovered and scored against Liverpool in the Charity Shield and twice on his Premier League debut against Fulham. At the end of the campaign he had 23 league goals and 10 in the Champions League as well as scoring in eight consecutive games. In the next season he went even better getting 14 in Europe and 25 in the league, which earned him the Golden Boot.

Goals kept flowing for the striker and he even overtook Denis Law’s European goal record however Van Nistelrooy was left on the bench for the 2006 League Cup final against Wigan Athletic. From then till the end of the season he was regularly left on the bench and an argument with Cristiano Ronaldo meant it was time to move on.

RVN MU

After 150 goals in 219 appearances, Real Madrid signed the striker. He didn’t take long to settle, scoring a hatrick against Levante and a few weeks later all four in a victory over Osasuna. As the club clinched the title, Van Nistelrooy equalled the longest consecutive scoring streak in La Liga history. During the following campaign he picked up an injury and never got his place back in the team. He managed 64 goals in 96 games before moving on to German side Hamburg.

RVN RM

After just half a season and seven goals in 18 games he was remarkably linked with a move back to Madrid however his new club rejected it. In his only full season he scored seven times in 25 league games. His final move was to Malaga but after just one season he announced his retirement from the game with 347 career goals.

The final word can go to PSV spokesman Pedro Salazar-Hewitt. “He can play in any competition and score goals. He’s a great player and a very nice guy. He has the mentality and the ambition to become one of the biggest players in the world.”

29th June – Andy O’Brien

Andrew O’Brien like his namesake Liam will go down in Newcastle United history for scoring a goal in the Tyne-Wear Derby.

The centre back, might not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of goalscorers in a derby but was a fan favourite for a while, not just at Newcastle but at many of his other teams.

O’Brien started his career at Bradford City and made his debut in 1996 against QPR and quickly became a first team regular. During the 1998-99 season he played 34 times, helping the club gain promotion to the Premier League. The team struggled in the Premier League and barely survived relegation in the first season but as the club were facing relegation and a lot of financial difficulties they had to sell their best assets. After 133 league appearances for Bradford, O’Brien joined Newcastle United for £2 million.

Francis Jeffers and Andy O''Brien

In one of his first games for the club he scored an equaliser against Sunderland and he followed this up by being a dependable defender in the next season as the club qualified for the Champions League. Despite the arrival of Titus Bramble and Jonathan Woodgate during the 2002-03 season, O’Brien managed to stay first choice.

O'Brien NU

His form was solid for Newcastle up until the end of the 2004-05 season when his performances took a dip and along with the club’s disappointing 14th place finish it was time for the defender to leave. Portsmouth signed him for £2 million and after a disappointing start under manager Alain Perrin, his form picked up throughout the season and was once again seen as a solid player.

In his second season he found opportunities limited and on the 13th August 2007 he signed for Bolton Wanderers. He quickly settled in at the club and impressed the fans so much that he was voted their Player of the Season. He captained the side on many occasions and on the 11th April 2009 he scored his first goal for over four years in a game against Chelsea. But after Owen Coyle took charge, O’Brien was left on the bench. Despite many clubs being interested the manager didn’t want to let him go as he still saw him as an asset.

O'Brien BW

The next move of his career was to Leeds United, initially on loan and then permanently on the 1st January 2011. Just days after signing he put in one of the performances of his career in an FA Cup game against Arsenal. But things turned sour afterwards with a few mistakes in the opening few games of the following season and the defender wanted to leave after the fans gave him a tough time. The final move of his career was to the MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps where he played 50 league games.

The final word can go to former Portsmouth Chief Executive Peter Storrie. “We have signed a first-class player who has played at the top for both club and country and has a very prominent record.”

28th June – Fabien Barthez

Fabien Barthez is a World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and Premier League winner yet his abilities as a goalkeeper were still questioned.

The Frenchman had a fantastic career and should be up there with the best goalkeepers ever and if some of his previous coaches are to be believed then he was actually a better outfield player than in goal.

Barthez began his career at Toulouse, making his debut in 1991 against Nancy. He established himself as the club’s number one, playing 26 times during the 1991-92 season. At the end of this season he joined Marseille and would go on to win the French Cup and Champions League in his first campaign and in doing so becoming the youngest keeper to win the competition.

Barthez Marseille

After this the club went through many controversies and would suffer relegation to the second division. Many expected Barthez to leave, however he stuck around and helped the club win the title. He stayed until 1995, when he joined Monaco and gained even more success by helping the club win Ligue 1 in 1997 and 2000. During this time he also helped France win the World Cup and European Championships.

Barthez Monaco

Manchester United signed Barthez for £7.8 million in 2000 and would quickly become a fan favourite for his remarkable reaction saves. He helped the club win the Premier League title but he did still show some problems in his game, most notably in an FA Cup tie with West Ham as he stood there with his hand in the air appealing for offside as Paolo Di Canio scored

The start of the 2001-02 season was a struggle for him as high profile mistakes against Deportivo and Arsenal led to some wanting him to be dropped from the team. However, manager Alex Ferguson backed Barthez to bounce back. The following season ended with another league title but once again he had some ups and downs and he was heavily criticised especially after defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League, which turned out to be his last game for the club as he was dropped for Roy Carroll.

Barthez MU

With the signing of Tim Howard, Barthez knew his time was up at Old Trafford and returned to Marseille on loan. His form returned but in February 2005 he allegedly spat on a referee and was given a six month ban. After his ban and 102 games for Marseille it looked as though his career was over as he announced his retirement from the game.

On the 17th December 2006, Barthez was convinced to sign for Nantes but after a decent start he was involved in more controversy, involving an altercation with a fan, that forced him to leave the club.

The final word can go to Alex Ferguson. “Fabien is a World Cup winner and not only has the personality but the vast experience that is required at Manchester United. Apart from his obvious goalkeeping skills, he has the personality to play on the biggest stage.”

26th June – Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini is one of the greatest defenders to have ever played football and spent his full career at one club.

To play over 900 times for a team like AC Milan and over 100 times for Italy just shows how talented Maldini was. He was known for his positional sense and his reading of the game which led him to being labelled as the defender that doesn’t need to tackle.

Maldini Italy

Maldini made his debut on the 20th January 1985 against Udinese at the age of 16. In the following campaign he became a regular and was handed the number three shirt, which his father Cesare had also worn. With a promising start titles came soon after and the 1987-88 season marked his first Serie A title and this was down to Maldini and his fellow defenders as they conceded 14 goals Over the next two seasons, his form translated to European football as Milan won the European Cup back to back.

In the early 90s Milan became known as The Invincibles as they went the whole 1991-92 season unbeaten and a record 58 games without losing. They not only won three consecutive titles but they also reached three consecutive Champions League finals, winning one of them against Barcelona.

Maldini AC

The club went through a transitional period after Fabio Capello left and several of the more experienced members of the squad moved on. But Maldini was still showing his ability and he was rewarded by being made Milan captain . After he galvanised the squad, he led them to another Serie A title in the 1998-99 season.

It wasn’t until Carlo Ancelotti was named manager that they finally began to dominate in Europe again with Maldini lifting the Champions League trophy as captain for the first time after defeating Juventus on penalties in 2003 and was named man of the match. In the space of six years Milan got to the final three times. Maldini opened the scoring in 2005 against Liverpool and played in the 2007 final which they won against the same opposition becoming the oldest captain to lift the trophy.

Maldini

Maldini during this period would also go on to break Dino Zoff’s Serie A appearance record after playing his 571st league game. He did announce his plans to retire at the end of the 2007-08 season however his performances were still of the highest quality and he was convinced to stay on.

On the 16th February 2008, Maldini played in his 1000th professional game after coming on as a substitute against Parma. One season later he decided it was time to hang up the boots and played his 902nd and last game for Milan against Fiorentina on the 31st May 2009. Milan then decided to retire his number three shirt to honour their captain.

The final word can go to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. “Maldini was the best and toughest defender I ever faced. He had everything: he was a complete defender, who was strong, intelligent, and an excellent man-marker.”