20th March – Fernando Torres

Fernando Torres has had one of the most up and down careers ever because he was one of the most feared strikers in Europe and then suddenly went through long goalscoring droughts.

Torres is only 31 and should be in the prime of his career, however he has gone through one of the toughest periods in his career. It could be argued that he played too much and was too heavily relied on when he was younger and he is burnt out. It is a shame that his career didn’t keep progressing because on form he was one of the best players to watch and could score goals from all angles.

The striker started his career at Atletico Madrid and made his debut on the 27th May 2001 against Leganes and a week later scored his first professional goal against Albacete. In the following season Atletico gained promotion to La Liga with Torres managing to contribute six goals and in his first season in the top flight he would go on to score 13. His career would continue to grow and a further 19 goals in the 2003-04 season meant he was one of the highest rated youngsters at the time.

Torres AM

Surprisingly at the age of 19 he was given the captain’s armband and would remain a consistent goalscorer over the next three seasons and ended his time at the club with 91 goals. In 2007 he joined Liverpool and some were unsure whether he would adapt to the Premier League but he wouldn’t have any problems as he became the first Liverpool player since Robbie Fowler in the 1995-96 season to score 20 league goals and would end with 33 in 46 games in all competitions.

Torres Liverpool

It was a fantastic start for Torres and despite a few injuries in his second season he was named as number 50 in Liverpool’s all time greatest players showing how much of an impact he had made already. On the final day of the season he would score his 50th goal for the club in just his 84th game. Later on he would become the fastest player to reach 50 league goals for Liverpool after scoring a last minute winner against Aston Villa on the 29th December 2009. Injuries meant he couldn’t feature in the last few months of the season but still 22 goals in 32 games was very impressive. This would be his final full season at the club and on the 31st January 2011 he would set a new British transfer record by joining Chelsea for £50 million.

Torres would then go through a terrible spell and would have to wait 903 minutes for his next goal, which would come in a 3-0 win over West Ham but would be his only goal in 18 appearances for his new club. During the 2011-12 season he would also go through a goal drought but did manage to score a last minute goal against Barcelona to help Chelsea qualify for the Champions League final which they would win. He ended his first season with 11 goals but towards the end of the season he had looked a lot sharper. But it still didn’t look like it was going to happen at Chelsea, however 22 goals in the 2012-13 season wasn’t a bad return and many of these were important goals in their run to picking up the Europa League, including the opening goal in the final against Benfica.

Torres Chelsea

One more disappointing season followed and on the 31st August 2014 he joined AC Milan and would score on his second game in a 2-2 draw with Empoli, however this would be his only goal for the club as he has been loaned out to Atletico Madrid for the rest of the campaign. He has scored three times since returning, all in the Copa Del Rey, two against Real Madrid and another against Barcelona.

The final word can go to AC Milan coach Stefano Eranio. “Torres is a very humble player, he has great technical and human qualities. He is like a car, he needs to play to find his form. He needs the confidence of the coach. As a coach, I say that I would always want someone like Torres in the team.”

4th March – Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan is known as America’s greatest ever soccer player and to everyone else he is known as a very talented footballer that maybe should have made the permanent move to England.

Despite only being 33 he has decided to retire as a player and many feel he could have offered more to the game on the pitch but he has done a lot already for the sport in terms of building the reputation of football in his homeland. It would have been good to have seen him get more chances abroad but it never quite happened for him when he was younger and he has accomplished everything he wanted to in America so it seems like a wise decision to retire.

Donovan first came to attention in 1999 when he was at the IMG Academy in America and after impressing in a youth tournament in Europe he was given a six year contract by German side Bayer Leverkusen. However he struggled to adapt in Germany largely because of his young age and spent a lot of time back home training with the USA under 17 team. In 2001 he did eventually move away and joined San Jose Earthquakes on loan and was an instant success, leading them to the MLS Championship in 2001 and 2003 and become one of the first recognisable football players in America. In his four years at the club, he scored 32 goals and provided 29 assists.

EARTHQUAKES DONOVAN CELEBRATES MLS TITLE WIN OVER CHICAGO FIRE.

In 2005 he returned to Leverkusen to give it another try but after just seven appearances he made it clear he wanted to return to America and he signed for LA Galaxy. His first season at the club was exceptional as he scored 12 goals and got another 10 assists as he helped his club win the MLS Cup but the following year was not as successful for the club but Donovan still performed very well.

It was difficult for Donovan in 2007 after David Beckham joined the club because he had to give up the captain’s armband and this seemed to annoy the American international. He was still producing good football but when Beckham joined AC Milan, Donovan gave an interview which was equally praised and criticised by the media as he slated Beckham. However, on Beckham’s return they patched up their differences and he went from strength to strength as a player and the two were very effective going forward.

2010 LA Galaxy Headshot

Donovan also spent time away from LA Galaxy during the off season like Beckham, firstly having an unsuccessful spell at Bayern Munich in 2008 but becoming somewhat of a cult hero at Everton after joining them in January 2010. Straight away he showed his talents in the Premier League by being named the club’s Player of the Month in January but after 13 games and two goals he returned to America. On his return he would go on to score his 100th goal for Galaxy and become their all time leading scorer.

He wasn’t to stay away from Everton for long as in December 2011 it was announced he would be signing for them on loan again. Once again he was equally successful and in his nine games this time he managed to set up seven goals and produce some excellent performances and the Everton fans and players were once again sad to see him leave.

Britain Soccer Premier League

On the 25th May 2014 he became the highest ever goal scorer in MLS history, hitting his 136th goal against Philadelphia Union but on the 7th August he announced he would be retiring from the game.

The final word can go to Everton teammate Phil Neville. “He’s a hero at Goodison Park, and he’s played less than 20 games for us. I’ve played with some world class right sided players in my time, and he’s up there with them. I’m telling the truth here when I say the last two times he’s been over he’s totally transformed our season.”

1st March – Djimi Traore

When you think of Champions League winners, Djimi Traore is definitely not the first player that comes to mind even to Liverpool fans but he played an important role in the 2005 final.

The 2005 final will always be remembered for Liverpool coming back from 3-0 down at half time to win the trophy but what is often forgotten is that in the second half the Liverpool defence, including Traore put in some crucial blocks and tackles that stopped counter attacks and certain goals for AC Milan. The left back is now 35 and nobody can take away his Champions League winners medal but he did have some disastrous moments during his career.

Traore started his career at his hometown club Laval and after looking like a good prospect he made the move to Liverpool in 1999. The left back struggled to get into the first team and went out on loan in the 2001-02 season to Lens, making 20 appearances for the French club. On his return he started getting more chances but it looked like he was leaving during the 2003-04 season as he was very close to joining Everton. However, the move didn’t go through and when Rafael Benitez got the Liverpool job he got a new lease of life and improved defensively and offensively under the Spaniard.

UEFA Champions League: Anderlecht v Liverpool

The 2004-05 season was very mixed for Traore as he won the Champions League but he also scored one of the funniest own goals in a 1-0 defeat to Burnley in the FA Cup. He attempted a turn and a drag back inside his own six yard box but just ended getting himself mixed up and put the ball in the back of his own net. In the following season he struggled for game time as he was behind John Arne Riise in the pecking order and on the 8th August 2006 he joined Charlton Athletic for £2 million.

He got off to a terrible start after being sent off on his debut and a few months later against his former club he gave away a penalty after fouling Jermaine Pennant. After only half a season he was deemed not good enough and was allowed to join Portsmouth. He only featured 13 times at Portsmouth over the next season and a half before first going out on loan to Rennes and then Birmingham City.

Traore Monaco

On the 18th June 2009 his contract expired at Portsmouth and he joined Monaco where he put in some decent performances but once again after just two seasons he was on the move again, joining Marseille. In his only season he played 20 games and helped the club win the Coupe de la Ligue but he left at the end of the season and after a trial at Seattle Sounders he signed for the American side on the 23rd Feburary 2013. He played 28 times for the club but while he was there he scored an amazing 40 yard volley against Mexican side Tigres.

Traore SS

The final word can go to Seattle Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson. “Djimi has a great deal of experience and has played in the top leagues in Europe. He’s a very good defender and makes smart decisions with the ball coming out the back. Djimi brings us confidence and leadership.”

28th October – Obafemi Martins

Obafemi Martins is a player with a fantastic history, having been the number nine at Newcastle United and also scoring the winning goal for Birmingham City in the League Cup final.

The striker had electric pace and a brilliant shot on him that a lot of goalkeepers struggled to keep a hold of. He has had a lot of ups and downs in his career but has largely been a fan favourite at every club and is now currently scoring regularly for Seattle Sounders in the MLS and his goals have helped his side to the top of the table.

The 30 year old started his career in Nigeria before getting a trial at Serie C side Reggiana in Italy and signed a youth contract with the club in 2000. After just two appearanceshe joined Inter Milan and would go on to make his debut against Parma in December 2002. Martins began to make an impact during the 2002-03 season where he showed his quality in the Champions League, scoring against Bayer Leverkusen and AC Milan. His best season for the club was in the 2004-05 season, where he scored 22 goals in 45 games, unfortunately for him, Inter decided to sign other strikers soon after.
Martins IM
In total he scored 49 goals for the Italian side before signing for Newcastle United on the 24th August 2006 and was handed the number nine shirt, taking over from Alan Shearer. After a difficult start, in which he suffered a few injuries, he would go on to score his first goal for the club on the 17th September against West Ham in a 2-0 win and he became a regular scorer hitting one of the goals of the season when he scored from 20 yards against Tottenham Hotspur at a speed of 84mph. Martins ended his first season with 17 goals in all competitions. His second season at the club was mixed as he had to settle for a place on the bench under Sam Allardyce, as he preferred Michael Owen and Mark Viduka upfront. But after Kevin Keegan became manager he found a system that allowed all three players to be on the field and combine well. He finished the season with 10 goals in 33 games.
Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Aston Villa v Newcastle United - Villa Park
Martins then started the 2008-09 season in fantastic form, scoring six goals in 12 games before tearing his hamstring and later in the season needing an operation on a hernia, meaning he could not continue this form. After being out since January he returned to the side in a relegation six pointer against Middlesbrough and scored twice. However, this would not be good enough to keep them in the Premier League.

On the 31st July 2009 Martins joined Wolfsburg for £9 million and went on to score on his debut against FC Koln. He only stayed at the club for one season but scored six times in 16 Bundesliga games. He then moved on to Russian side Rubin Kazan and helped them win the Russian Cup but it was not the greatest time for the striker and on the 31st January 2011 he joined Birmingham City on loan. Although his time at the club was ruined by injuries, he still managed to write himself into their history books as he scored the winning goal in the League Cup final against Arsenal.

With the club getting relegated from the Premier League a permanent move was no longer on the cards and Martins joined Levante. On his league debut he scored twice in a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad and was a decent goalscorer, hitting the back of the net in a third of his league games. But on the 15th March 2013 he joined MLS side Seattle Sounders and last season finished with 17 goals, as well as 13 assists for the club, a joint club record with Mauro Rosales.
Martins SS
The final word can go to Kevin Keegan. “He excites me very much as a player. He is very, very different to not only anything we have got at this football club, but probably in the Premier League. It sends up all sorts of ideas in your mind what this player can bring to the football club.”

24th September – John Arne Riise

John Arne Riise might be a left back but it wasn’t his defending he was best known for as he had a phenomenal left foot and scored some sublime goals.

He is now currently playing in Cyprus with APOEL and at the age of 34 he is coming towards the end of his career but he does have some good memories, particularly at Liverpool where he helped them win the Champions league in 2005 in that incredible match against AC Milan. Riise also has the honour of being Norway’s most capped player and is definitely seen as a hero in his home country.

The defender started his career at Norwegian club Aalesund and after a fantastic spell he was being linked with moves away from the club. His five goals in 25 league games convinced French club Monaco to sign the full back. During the 1998-99 season he only played eight times but in the following campaign he became a regular in the side and he helped them win the Ligue 1 title. However, soon after he fell out with manager Claude Puel after saying he wanted to leave the club. Riise had been frustrated because bids had been rejected for him as Monaco wanted a higher transfer fee.

Eventually in 2001 he joined Liverpool for £4 million and made his debut against Bayern Munich in the Super Cup and scored as Liverpool won the game 3-2. He quickly became a fan favourite because of his attacking play from left back and ended his first season in England with seven Premier League goals. The next few seasons were difficult for Riise but after the appointment of Rafael Benitez he rediscovered his form and helped the club win the Champions League. In the final he had a mixed game as he set up the all important first goal for Steven Gerrard but then went on to miss his spot kick in the shootout.
Riise LFC
In his time at Liverpool he also helped them win the FA Cup which also went to penalties and Riise was brave enough to step up once more and this time he managed to score. But after this he started getting less game time and although he made it into Liverpool’s top 50 appearance makers it seemed like his time at the club was coming to an end.

On the 18th June 2008 he signed for Italian side Roma and once again quickly became a fan favourite because of his wholehearted displays and his important goals for the club. He seemed to always pop up in the games that mattered to the fans, he scored a goal against Inter in a pivotal game of the season and then followed this up against Milan with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 victory and then also scored a last minute header to give his team a 2-1 win over Juventus.
Riise Roma
After 99 league games and three seasons at the club he was on the move, this time joining Fulham on the 13th July 2011 and joined his brother Bjorn Helge at the club. He was a very consistent player during his three years there but he did not manage to score which was the most surprising thing about his second spell in England. His final year at the club was a disaster for everyone as they ended up getting relegated to the Championship and Riise left when his contract expired.
Riise FFC
Now at APOEL, he made his debut against Ayia Napa and set up two goals in a 3-1 away victory.

The final word can go to Martin Jol. “John Arne Riise is an experienced international left back who will bring a number of qualities to our squad and provide more options for me. He is an accomplished player defensively, who can also contribute to our attacking play.”

23rd September – Paolo Rossi

Paolo Rossi is celebrating his 58th birthday today and he is a legend in his home country of Italy because he led them to the World Cup title in 1982.

In the tournament he scored six goals which meant he won the Golden Boot and was then also awarded the Golden Ball for being the player of the tournament becoming only the third player after Garrincha in 1962 and Mario Kempes in 1978 to pick up all three awards at a World Cup. Although his reputation was slightly tarnished after a betting scandal in 1980 he claimed he was innocent and came back from a two year ban just in time to become the country’s hero.
Rossi Italy
Rossi started his career at Juventus but had a difficult time there and after three operations on his knee he was sent out on loan to gain experience at Como. He was shifted out to the right wing by Como and could not show his true potential. But in 1976 he moved to Vicenza where his career really started and he began to play as the centre forward and immediately showed his eye for goal.

In his first year at the club he won the Serie B Golden Boot after his 21 goals in 36 games. These goals also helped the club gain promotion to the top flight, where Rossi just seemed to get better and better, hitting 24 goals in just 30 games and becoming the first player to ever finish as the top scorer in Serie A and Serie B in consecutive seasons. After his impressive spell at Vicenza he was called up to the Italy squad for the 1978 World Cup and gained international fame as one of the world’s best strikers after scoring three goals and assisting another four in the tournament.

Despite averaging better than a goal in every game in the following campaign, he could not stop Vicenza getting relegated and was loaned out to Perugia for the 1978-79 season. He scored 13 times in his first year with the club but then the betting scandal stopped him playing more games for them.
Rossi Vicenza
After he completed his ban he rejoined Juventus in the 1980-81 season but could only play three times, scoring one goal but this earned him his call up to the Italy squad for the 1982 World Cup which was heavily criticised before the tournament. The criticism was justified as he looked a shadow of his former self in the three group games, however Enzo Bearzot stood by his striker. He repaid this faith by scoring a hatrick in the quarter final against Brazil in a 3-2 win and then followed this up with two against Poland in the semis. Then in the final against Germany he scored the first of Italy’s three goals to help them lift the trophy.

After the World Cup he could not keep up his phenomenal goal scoring record for Juventus but he did still have a record that many strikers would be proud of – 24 league goals in 83 games. These goals were good enough to win two Serie A titles, the Italian Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, UEFA Super Cup and the European Cup in his four years at the club.
Rossi Juventus
In 1985 Rossi joined AC Milan and although he only scored two goals he went down as a legend as these goals came in a derby victory over Inter. He only spent one season at the club and then went on to play for Verona, and scored the 100th league goal of his career at the club and finally retiring with a record of 103 goals in 251 games, as well as 20 in 48 games for the national team.

The final word can go to the Italy manager Enzo Bearzot speaking after the 1982 World Cup. “I knew that if Rossi wasn’t in Spain, I wouldn’t have had an opportunist inside the penalty box. In that area, he was really good, really fast, always ready to fool defenders with his feints.”

15th September – Aly Cissokho

Aston Villa have had a fantastic start to the season and some are putting it down to the influence of Roy Keane while others are saying it is because of the experience they now have at the back, including birthday boy Aly Cissokho.

The 27 year old has helped the club to second in the table after four games and with three clean sheets so far and only one goal conceded they have certainly surprised a lot of people. The left back has added a lot of pace to the back line and he is always quick to support his winger when going forward.

Cissokho started his professional career at French side Gueugnon in the second division and after impressing for the youth team and reserves, he made his debut on the 25th May against Metz. Manager Alain Ravera rewarded him with a new contract and he was given the number three shirt for the 2007-08 season and remained a key member of the squad when Ravera was replaced with Alex Dupont. Despite his good performances, the club were relegated and on the 2nd June 2008, the defender transferred to Portuguese side Vitoria Setubal.
Cissokho Guegunon
He only spent half a season at the club and after just 15 appearances he was snapped up by defending champions Porto. Cissokho helped the club retain the title and in the 15 matches he played for Porto they did not lose and then he also played the full 90 minutes in the Taca de Portugal final which saw them lift the trophy after defeating Pacos de Ferreira.

Once again after just half a season he was on the move and he was close to joining AC Milan but after he allegedly failed a medical they pulled out of the deal and he ended up signing for Lyon. He made his debut in the opening game of the season against Le Mans. He remained first choice at the French side for the next three seasons and his consistent performances were recognised by the national team and he made his French debut in 2010.
Cissokho Lyon
Over the three seasons he made 137 appearances and scored two goals, with his first coming in a 4-0 thrashing of Hungarian side Debrecen. On the 23rd August 2012 he joined Spanish side Valencia and made his debut in a 1-0 defeat away to Barcelona. He scored his first goal for the club on his birthday against Celta Vigo which turned out to be the winning goal in a 2-1 win.
Cissokho Valencia
After just one season at the club, he was on the move once more joining Liverpool on a season long loan. He made his debut against current club Aston Villa after coming on as a substitute, however his time at the club didn’t quite go to plan and he struggled to get in the first team, making just 19 appearances all season.

Aston Villa took a chance on him in the summer and so far it seems to have paid off for them and they will be hoping he can keep up his solid performances.

The final word can go to Paul Lambert. “Aly has been at some massive clubs and has that big game experience. We have a good player on our hands here. He’s big strong and powerful. He gives you a presence.”