19th March – Kolo Toure

Kolo Toure may have been overshadowed by his younger brother Yaya in recent seasons but he has had an amazing career himself and is proving that on his day he can still be one of the best defenders in the Premier League.

At the age of 34 it is understandable that he is not a guaranteed first choice for Liverpool but as he proved away to Real Madrid earlier this season he can produce some immense performances. After winning the African Cup of Nations earlier this year he can finish his career knowing that he has accomplished almost everything in the game, as well as being a part of one of the best teams ever seen in England.

Toure started his career in his homeland with ASEC Mimosas before going on trial with Arsenal in 2002 and was signed by the club on the 14th February for £150,000. During his first season he didn’t play for the club but did start the Community Shield against Liverpool at the start of the following campaign. He was initially seen as a versatile player who could fit in either at right back or in the centre of midfield and he would go on to score his first goal in England in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.

Toure Arsenal

The 2003-04 season saw Toure become first choice at centre back alongside Sol Campbell and they were phenomenal as the club went unbeaten in the Premier League and gained the nickname ‘The Invincibles’. He was obviously a fan favourite because of his performances and he played 50 times in the 2004-05 season and pick up an FA Cup winners medal. By this point he was known as one of the best centre backs in England but in the following Champions League campaign he proved his ability in Europe as he helped Arsenal reach the final and keep 10 consecutive clean sheets in the competition and would even get the honour of scoring the final European goal at Highbury.

He stayed at Arsenal for a further three seasons but they were not having the same success and on the 29th July 2009 he signed for Manchester City for £14 million. He was quickly named club captain by Mark Hughes and helped the club finish fifth place in the Premier League. But after Roberto Mancini took charge he lost the armband to Carlos Tevez but was still a regular in the squad and would help the club lift the FA Cup. However, he was banned on the 3rd March 2011 for six months after failing a drugs test.

Toure MCFC

After returning he couldn’t break into the first team regularly but did make enough appearances to pick up another Premier League winners medal. In his final season at the club he would play more league games but this didn’t guarantee him a new contract and he left the club on a free transfer in the summer. On the 2nd July 2013 he joined Liverpool and made his debut in a 1-0 win over Stoke City but he once again struggled to become a regular in the first team. Even with Liverpool opting to play with centre backs he still cannot get in the team for a prolonged period and that is why it looks likely that he will leave the club in the summer.

Soccer - Pre-Season Friendly - Preston North End v Liverpool - Deepdale

The final word can go to Mark Hughes. “He is strong, quick, reads the game well and will be an influential figure in the dressing room. Kolo has been a central figure in a strong Arsenal team for many years, and I have been an admirer of him for a long time.

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6th September – Joseph Yobo

Joseph Yobo holds the honour of being David Moyes’ first signing at Everton and went on to be a very good player for the club and also holds the record for being Nigeria’s most capped player.

He has now retired from international football after competing in the 2014 World Cup and after not being in the starting 11 for the first game he was brought into the squad to help them qualify from the group and helped keep a clean sheet against Bosnia. They were knocked out of the tournament by France with Yobo unfortunately scoring an own goal but he did help his country win the African Cup of Nations in 2013.
Yobo Nigeria
Yobo started his career at Belgian side Standard Liege and made his first team debut in 2000 and went on to make 46 appearances for the club, scoring twice in that time before moving onto France, signing for Marseille. He only played 23 times for the club before being loaned out to Everton in July 2002. He impressed during this loan spell and Everton took up the option to sign him permanently in the following summer and became a very consistent member of the squad.

The 2006-07 was one of the best for him personally as he formed a brilliant central defensive partnership with Joleon Lescott. Both players played every single minute of the Premier League campaign. Yobo was rewarded with a new contract, despite being linked with moves away from the club he stayed loyal to the team that brought him to the Premier League.
Yobo Everton
On the 15th April 2007 he broke another record at Everton, becoming the record appearance holder for an overseas player and he held this until early 2012. Later in the year on the 25th October 2007, he also became the first African player to captain the club in a UEFA Cup game against Greek side Larissa as normal captain Phil Neville was out injured.

Over the next few years Yobo was not always first choice and on the 31st August 2010 he joined Fenerbahce on loan for the season. He played 30 times and scored one goal, helping them win the Turkish league title and this led to his loan being extended for another season. With more impressive performances his transfer was eventually made permanent on the 4th August 2012.
Yobo Fener
After 114 appearances for the club he returned to England on loan as he joined Chris Hughton’s Norwich City on the 30th January 2014 to help them battle against relegation. His debut was against free scoring Manchester City and many expected Norwich to be blown away by Man City’s attacking talent but Yobo and his new teammates stood firm and managed to grind out a 0-0 draw. Unfortunately he could not help them stay up at the end of the season and his move was not made permanent.

Just before the start of the 2014-15 season his contract was terminated by mutual consent and he is still looking for a new club.

The final word can go to David Moyes. “Joe was liable to making a mistake when he first got here but he has continued to develop and now has a real authority about his game. He has captained us and he is also captain of his country, so he knows what it is about.”

2nd September – Frederic Kanoute

Yesterday a lot of Tottenham Hotspur fans were a little disappointed that they did not bring in another striker but today is the birthday of one of their former front men Frederic Kanoute.

The striker had a good time in England but didn’t always hit form while at White Hart Lane but he did offer them something different to what they already had at the club. After he left he really started to show his goalscoring prowess in Spain but it was not just his goals that made him an important member of the teams he played for and when he was confident defenders knew it would be tough to stop him.

Kanoute started his career at French club Lyon and made his debut in 1997 in the Intertoto Cup against Polish side Odra Wodzislaw. He had a very impressive start and in his first season he scored six times in 18 league games and although he had to spend more time on the bench over the next two seasons, he was still seen as a prospect around Europe and was being linked with big money moves away.

In 2000 West Ham signed the striker and he formed a very good partnership with Paolo Di Canio and hit double figures in his first two full seasons at the club. Kanoute was someone that half the crowd loved and the other half was constantly frustrated by him because he had a lot of ability and when he showed it, he was tough to stop but on other days he was labelled as lazy and criticised for his laid back attitude. In his final season at the club they ended up getting relegated and some argue it was because he only featured in 17 games.
Kanoute WH
He ended his time at West Ham with 29 Premier League goals in 84 games and on the 5th August 2003 he joined Tottenham for £3.5 million. He scored his first goal for the club on the 23rd August just nine minutes after coming on as a substitute against Leeds United in a 2-1 win. He started off well at Spurs but his season was disrupted as he went to represent Mali at the African Cup of Nations but after he returned he became a regular in the side and scored 12 goals in all competitions.
Kanoute TH
Although the goals were not flying in for him, his general play was still very good and he remained first choice for most of the next campaign but on the 17th August 2005 he was sold to Sevilla. In Spain he helped the club win the UEFA Cup in 2006 and 2007 and even scored in their 4-0 win over Middlesbrough in the final. In his seven seasons at the club he scored over 20 goals in four of those and despite only scoring four goals in his last season he remains the club’s highest scoring foreign player.
Kanoute Sevilla
At the end of his contract he decided to join Chinese club Beijing Guoan and stayed for a season and a half scoring 13 goals in 46 games before retiring from the game.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp while they were both at West Ham. “Kanoute is a frightening talent. He’s been fantastic, he cost us a club record fee and has proved to be worth every penny. As his confidence grows so does his ability to do the job.”