16th November – Mustapha Hadji

Mustapha Hadji is quite well known but some fans may be surprised to find that he was named the 50th greatest African player of all time.

Hadji is currently the assistant manager of Morocco and is hoping his experiences and ability can translate to some of their players. Being named the 50th best ever is an honour especially when you consider the amount of talent that has came out of the continent and made their mark in Europe.

The midfielder moved to France at a young age and signed his first contract at Nancy. He broke into their first team in 1991 and was a regular goalscorer from a deeper position over the next five years. In total he played 243 league games, scoring 98 times and was quickly starting to attract attention from other teams. He first move away was to Portuguese side Sporting.

He only spent one year in Portugal before moving to Spanish side Deportivo. Again it was only a short spell and after just 31 league games in two years he was on the move and was signed by Coventry City. His time at the club was helped as national teammate Youssef Chippo joined at a similar time. While at Coventry he delighted the fans with great pace and skill but unfortunately he could not stop the club getting relegated in 2001.

Aston Villa signed the midfielder after this relegation and this was probably down to the fact that he scored three times against them in the previous season. His move to Villa Park did not quite work out and was never a regular. He struggled for game time in his three years at the club and he only ended up with 35 league appearances, scoring against Southampton and Everton. He also added a goal in the UEFA Cup against Varteks but at the end of his contract he was released.

Hadji returned to Spain, signing for Espanyol. After one season he left again and went to the UAE for a year, scoring five times in 15 games for Al Ain before returning to Europe. He signed for German side Saarbrucken in the German Second Division. The manager that signed him was sacked very early into his season and it was a worry that he would be left out in the cold again but new manager Rudi Bommer persisted with the Moroccan. In his two years he scored 10 league goals in 54 games which wasn’t a bad record for an ageing midfielder.

His final career move was to Fola Esch in Luxembourg, where even at his age, he was a class above and looked a different quality to his opponents. His 25 goals in just 44 games shows this and in July 2010 he decided to call time on his career and retire.

The final word can go to African football expert Ed Dove. “Hadji was an agile, innovative attacking midfielder who excelled with the ball at his feet and a defence ahead of him.”

23rd August – Carlos Cuellar

Carlos Cuellar is looking to reach over 500 appearances in the next few months in a career that has took him to many different countries.

The defender, who played a lot in the centre of defence but could also operate in either full back position was a solid and dependable player, who was well liked at most of his clubs.

Cuellar started his career at Numancia, but got his first taste of first team football on loan at CD Calahorra in Spain, playing 27 times and scoring one goal. On his return to his parent club he made his debut against Xerez on the 23rd September 2001. Later in the campaign he scored his first goal against Racing.

He became first choice during the next season and afterwards signed for La Liga side Osasuna on the 29th August 2003. In his first two seasons he didn’t play as much as he would have liked but during the 2005-06 season he played 31 times as the club reached the Copa Del Rey final and finished fourth in the table, helping them qualify for the Champions League. After they dropped out of the competition into the UEFA Cup, Cuellar played seven times as they reached the semi final and during the tournament scored twice against Bayer Leverkusen.

Cuellar Osasuna

This turned out to be his last season at the club as he joined Rangers on the 5th July 2007. He was an instant success and was even named the Scottish Premier League Player of the Month in August and would score his first goal on the 1st September against Gretna. At the end of the season he was named the Scottish Premier League Player of the Year and played in a club record 65 games in a single season.

Cuellar Rangers

However, this would be his only one at Rangers as he signed for Aston Villa and had to wait until October to make his first start at right back, where he spent most of his time at the club. The 2009-10 season was his only campaign as a first choice player and in his four seasons he played 120 times. At the end of his contract he was released and signed for former Villa manager Martin O’Neill at Sunderland.

Cuellar AV

He made his debut in a 0-0 draw against Arsenal and would go on to play a further 27 times, scoring once against Fulham. After his contracte expired, he signed for Norwich City and helped them get promoted back to the Premier League, however he was released a few days later and returned to Spain signing for Almeria.

Since then he has not stayed anywhere for long turning out for Maccabi Petah Tikva, Ironi Kiyat Shmona and has just recently signed for Beitar Jerusalem.

The final word can go to Martin O’Neill. “Carlos is brave and he is aggressive. I like his qualities and I always have done. He has a big heart. Sometimes Carlos doesn’t mind playing out of position if it means he plays.”

24th July – Martin Keown

Martin Keown might be known more as a commentator to younger football fans but he was an imposing centre back that was very solid and dependable.

The defender now works for the BBC and has commentated on some of the biggest games in world football and the main reason for this is because he has played in huge games throughout his playing career.

Keown started his career at Arsenal, but made his first team debut on loan at Brighton in 1984 and played 23 times for the club. After returning to his parent club he made his Arsenal debut on the 23rd November 1985 against West Brom. He would go on to play 22 games through the season but when new manager George Graham came in he was not seen as part of the future and left for Aston Villa on the 9th June 1986.

Keown AV

His first season was a little bit of a disaster as Villa finished bottom of Division One and were relegated but when Graham Taylor came in as manager there was an upturn in form for both club and player. Keown missed just two league games as they gained promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt and then helped them stay in the top flight in the following campaign.

On the 7th August 1989, the centre back signed for Everton and after an incredible start which saw Everton top of the table they faded in the second half of the season and Keown’s form dipped slightly. He recaptured his great form during the 1991-92 season and after 96 league games for the club he returned to first club Arsenal.

Keown Everton

In his first four seasons back at Arsenal he barely missed a game and was part of the double winning side of the 1997-98 campaign and would also be an integral part of the 2001-02 double winning side. He remained a key player until the end of the 2002-03 season, lifting the FA Cup at the end of it.

The following season Keown played a small role in the Invincible season, playing 10 games, just enough to earn a third Premier League winners medal. But this would be his final season as he was released at the end of his contract and he signed for Leicester City. He only stayed at the club for less than six months, playing 17 league games before joining Reading.

Keown Arsenal

His time at Reading was even shorter and after five games he announced his retirement. He did briefly come back to play for Wembley FC with a number of other ex professionals but this only lasted three FA Cup qualifying games.

Keown won 43 England caps and scored twice for his country before retiring in 2002.

The final word can go to former Leicester City manager Micky Adams. “In Martin Keown we’ve signed a born leader, not just on the field but off the field as well. I believe we’re two people who can learn things from each other.”

21st July – Andriy Voronin

Andriy Voronin might have scored over 100 goals in his career and been a regular for Ukraine but he did not have a great time at Liverpool.

He will be remembered most by fans in England for his time at Liverpool but unfortunately the striker could not settle and he criticised the way the people spoke, the health services and the policing in the city.

Voronin started his career at Borussia Monchengladbach and made his debut against Bayern Munich in 1997. He only managed seven appearances and one goal before making the move to Mainz in 2000. His career took off at Mainz and he was their main attacking threat for a couple of seasons before reaching full potential in his third season by becoming the top scorer in the German Second Division.

The club failed to gain promotion and Voronin was one of the most sought after strikers in Germany and signed for Koln. He stayed at the club for one season, scoring six times but he was labelled as the only bright spot at the club and Bayer Leverkusen decided to sign him.

Voronin BL

He was an instant success at his new club, scoring 17 times in the first season but he struggled in his second campaign only hitting the back of the net eight times. However, he bounced back to score 12 goals during the 2006-07 season. This was enough to convince Liverpool to sign him on a free transfer after his contract expired.

On the 11th August 2007 Voronin made his debut for the club after coming on as a substitute in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa. He didn’t have to wait long for his first goal as a few days later he scored in a 1-0 win over Toulouse and later in the month would score his first Premier League goal against Sunderland. He continued his good form by scoring against Derby County and another a few weeks later in a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur. An ankle injury ruined his season and effectively ended his career at Liverpool.

Voronin Liverpool

Six goals in his first season was not seen as good enough and joined Hertha BSC for the 2008-09 season. Despite two goals against Bayern Munich and a hatrick against Energie Cottbus he could not get a permanent move and returned to Liverpool. He played another 12 games for them, without scoring, before joining Dynamo Moscow in January 2010.

Voronin DM

During his time at Moscow he scored 24 goals in 87 games but his time there was broken up by a season long loan spell at Fortuna Dusseldorf, where he played 11 times and failed to score. In 2014 after 400 games and 115 goals he decided it was time to retire in 2014.

The final word can go to Rafael Benitez. “He is clever, has great game awareness and gives us so many more options in attack. He can play behind a main striker, lead the line himself, or come into the attack from the flanks.”

19th July – Luke Young

Luke Young was one of the most consistent right backs during the early to mid 2000s and many believe he should have won more England caps.

The right back did play seven times for England and had it not been for Gary Neville and the fact that he played for teams that weren’t challenging for the title then he would have surely gained more. He broke through at a time when a lot of players were overlooked not because of their quality but the team they played for.

Young started his career at Tottenham Hotspur and made his debut on the 28th November 1998 against West Ham at centre back. He featured a lot in the cup competitions that season, helping his side win the League Cup and reach the semi final of the FA Cup. He featured fairly regularly in his three years at the club, playing 76 games in all competitions but it was time to move on.

Young TH

Charlton Athletic signed Young on the 25th July 2001 for £3million and made his debut on the opening day in a 2-1 defeat to Everton. In his first season at the club, funnily he played alongside Mark Fish, Jonathan Fortune and Jorge Costa meaning it came up on the starting lineups as Young Fish Costa Fortune. He stayed as first choice through his time at the club and helped them defy expectations and stay in the Premier League for five years until relegation at the end of the 2006-07 season.

Young CA

While at Charlton, Young scored his first professional goal in August 2004 in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa and followed it up soon after with another against Birmingham City. At the end of this campaign he was named their Player of the Year. But after relegation he moved on to Middlesbrough. His spell at the club only lasted one season but he did manage one goal against Tottenham Hotspur.

On the 7th August 2008 Young transferred to Aston Villa. He quickly became a favourite at Villa Park due to his solid performances, playing at both right and left back. Despite this he found himself out of favour under Martin O’Neill and it looked as though he would be leaving for Liverpool as the two clubs agreed a fee, however Young turned them down as he didn’t want to be a backup.

Young AV

He stayed at Villa until 2011 when he joined QPR and was first choice in his first season but was frozen out of the squad by manager Mark Hughes. Then he suffered injuries and wasn’t even included in their 25 man squad. The last appearance of his career would be his only one outside the top flight as he played against Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.

The final word can go to former Charlton chairman Richard Money. “He is an international and his performances over the last few seasons, including last term when he was club captain, have been excellent. Luke is a key member of our squad.”

12th June – Thomas Sorensen

Thomas Sorensen was a fantastic goalkeeper for a long time in the Premier League and will be disappointed with how all of his former teams have done this season.

The keeper, who played over 100 times for Denmark, will be hoping that his national side will perform better in the 2018 World Cup. Sorensen knows about the pressure of playing for his country as well as being the man that replaced Peter Schmeichel.

Sorensen started his career at Odense but didn’t manage to play a first team game for the club and had to go out on loan to Vejle in December 1995. After an impressive start he was dubbed the new Schmeichel but after a mistake against Viborg, he was dropped and wouldn’t play for the club again. He returned to his parent club but was again loaned out, this time to Svendborg, and he played the full season as number one.

In the summer of 1998, Sorensen moved to Division One club Sunderland and was an instant success smashing the club’s record of clean sheets with 29 as the club won the title and returned to the Premier League. In their first two seasons back, he helped them finish 7th in the league and gain hero status by saving a penalty from Alan Shearer in a victory over rivals Newcastle United. Injuries cost the side during the 2002-03 season with the keeper only playing 21 games and they were eventually relegated from the top flight.

Sorensen Sunderland

After 197 games and being courted by many big clubs, it was time for the Dane to move on and he signed for Aston Villa for £2 million. In his first three seasons he was their undisputed number one, only missing four games, and once again delighted both the Villa and Sunderland fans by saving another Alan Shearer penalty. During the 2007-08 season he was replaced by Scott Carson as the number one and decided it was time to leave at the end of the campaign.

Sorensen AV

Stoke City signed the keeper after a trial and was made first choice, helping the club to a 12th place finish in their first ever Premier League season. While at Stoke he became a penalty saving expert and he saved five out of six he faced but his position was coming under threat from new signing Asmir Begovic. He started the first nine games of the 2010-11 season, however this would be the last time he would be first choice and in his last three seasons at the club he would only feature 12 times.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Stoke City v Bolton Wanderers - Britannia Stadium

His last career move was to Australian side Melbourne City on a two year deal. He played 30 times in his first season but then only 10 in the next campaign so at the age of 41 and 575 appearances to his name Sorensen decided to retire.

The final word can go to former Stoke manager Tony Pulis. “Thomas is a fantastic acquisition. I believe he is a very, very good goalkeeper.

29th May – Claudio Cacapa

Claudio Cacapa is one of the most decorated players of the 2000s in France but his reputation in England is not as positive.

The central defender was never the tallest and some felt this is why he didn’t succeed in the Premier League and looked better in other leagues. Cacapa started his career in Brazil with Atletico Mineiro where he established himself quickly as first team regular after making his debut in 1996. In 1999 he was voted the best defender in the league receiving the Bola de Ouro award.

Cacapa AM

In 2001, he was linked with moves to Europe and eventually moved to Lyon, making his debut on the 17th February. His success was instantaneous as he scored in the Coupe de la Ligue final which Lyon won and this helped him earn a full time contract. Lyon awarded him with a five year deal and was given the captain’s armband. Over the next five years he lifted the Ligue 1 title each season and played a part in their Champions League campaigns.

Cacapa Lyon

When his contract came to an end there was a lot of interest and on the 3rd August 2007 he signed for Newcastle United. He made his debut as a substitute against Aston Villa and in doing so he became the 1000th player to play for the club in a competitive fixture. Later in the month he would make his full debut in a 2-0 win against Barnsley and followed this up three days later with his full Premier League debut, helping his team to a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic.

After a goal in a 3-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur, his career at Newcastle went downhill. In a game against Portsmouth, Cacapa was withdrawn after just 18 minutes after a few horrendous errors and his reputation was ruined. It was announced that he had an injury leading up to the game but he was heavily criticised.

Cacapa Newcastle

Despite being at the club until the end of the 2008-09 season, which ended in relegation, he only managed 25 league games and was released at the end of the campaign. Cacapa returned to Brazil and in a surprising move he joined Cruzeiro, big rivals to first club Mineiro. He played 22 times for the club, scoring one goal.

On the 25th January 2011, the defender joined French side Evian on a six month deal and helped the club win the Ligue 2 title and promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history. However, he wasn’t given a new contract and he joined Avai, where he stayed until his retirement on the 20th March 2012.

The final word can go to the manager that signed him for Newcastle, Sam Allardyce. “He is a top player. Our fans should not be put off by the fact they may not have heard of Cacapa. He has been captain of Lyon for the past five years and for every one of those five years they won the French title.”

12th May – Jamie Ward

Jamie Ward at only 5 foot 5 might have been told at times that he was too small to become a professional but he has spent the majority of his career in one of the toughest leagues in the world.

The Northern Ireland international has enjoyed a lot of good spells during his career and even though his goal record is not superb he has always been appreciated for the work he puts in.

Ward started his career at Aston Villa and despite being involved in a car accident in 2004 he gained a professional contract in 2005 and later became captain of the reserve team. He had to wait until a loan spell at Stockport County to make his first team debut and in his short spell he managed one goal.

After being released by Villa in 2006 he signed for Torquay United and performed well during his time there but after just 25 appearances he requested a transfer and moved to Chesterfield in January 2007. Despite injuries he managed 12 goals for the club in his first season and was being linked with moves away and after rejecting a new contract offer it looked as though the striker was going to move to Barnsley. However, he could not agree personal terms and moved to Sheffield United.

Soccer - Friendly - Chesterfield v Sheffield Wednesday - Saltergate

His time with the Blades had some ups and downs including being sent off in the 2009 Playoff Final against Burnley but after coming back from suspension in the following season he scored four goals in the first seven games including the opening goal against Sheffield Wednesday. Injuries caught up to him and he never regained his form and this led to a loan move to Derby County.

Ward Sheffield United

During his loan spell he scored five goals in 13 games helping his new side stay up while his parent club were relegated from the Championship. In his first full season with the club he wasn’t at his best but once again he became a fan favourite by scoring a goal against their rivals Nottingham Forest in a 2-1 win.

Injuries during the 2012-13 season stopped him from reaching his full potential once again but despite missing significant portions of the season he managed 12 goals in 26 games and finished third in the player of the season votes. A few more decent seasons followed but then he made the shock decision to sign for Nottingham Forest on the 2nd July 2015, especially after some of his antics in recent derby games.

Ward Derby

Although still at Forest, he hasn’t really hit the heights and and has been out on loan twice since signing, firstly to Burton Albion and then to Cardiff City. Ward will be hoping that he can get his injuries behind him next year and reach 100 goals in his career.

The final word can go to former manager Nigel Clough. “He’s a niggly little so-and-so, one of those players you don’t like playing against. We need that feistiness. He gives us options.”

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.”

16th March – Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott burst onto the scene and went to the 2006 World Cup without playing a single minute in the Premier League and he continues to divide opinion.

At the age of 26 he still has a long career in front of him but he seems to have been around for a long time and maybe hasn’t developed as much as some Arsenal fans hoped. However, on his day his pace is frightening and he can be one of the deadliest finisher in Europe. Unfortunately after going to the World Cup so young a lot was expected.

Walcott England

Walcott started his career at Southampton and became the club’s youngest ever player at the age of 16 years and 143 days after coming off the bench against Wolves in a 0-0 draw. Just four days later he would make his full debut against Leeds United and would go on to score in the game. This began a remarkable rise for him as he would go on to score against Millwall and Stoke City.

Walcott Soton

This form alerted some of the biggest clubs in England and after just 23 professional games he joined Arsenal on the 20th January 2006. He would have to wait until the start of the following season to make his debut and made a good impression setting up a goal for Gilberto Silva against Aston Villa after coming on as a substitute. His first goal for the club would come in the League Cup final against Chelsea, unfortunately they would go on to lose the game 2-1.

During the 2007-08 season he would score his first home and Champions League goals against Slavia Prague and his first Premier League goals against Birmingham City on the 23rd February 2008.The biggest compliment given to Walcott was that at the start of the following campaign he was given the number 14 shirt, previously worn by Thierry Henry. But after a positive start a dislocated shoulder meant he missed a lot of the season and after recovering he was rewarded for his form by being given a new contract. Yet again the 2009-10 season was marred by injuries and restricted to just 15 league starts but in the Champions League he produced one of his best performances in a 2-2 draw with Barcelona. This must have given him confidence as he quickly became an important player for the club and started the next season very well with a hatrick against Blackpool in a 6-0 win.

Walcott Arsenal

But controversy was to follow after he admitted to diving to try and win a penalty in an FA Cup against Leeds on the 8th January 2011. He ended the season with a career high nine goals in the league and 13 in total which showed that he was getting better every season. Despite playing more games the next season he didn’t match his previous efforts and it was a little tougher for him.

Walcott was a striker at Southampton and many fans felt that is where he should be played and in the 2012-13 season he was given the opportunity and proved that he could play in that role. In his first game as a lone striker he scored a hatrick and provided two assists in a 7-3 win over Newcastle United and shortly after signed a new deal that put an end to any speculation he was about to leave. At the end of the season he finished 14 goals and 12 assists in 32 Premier League games and a further seven goals in other competitions. Two bad injuries in the next season limited his playing time but he still managed in five goals in 13 games. This season he has slowly been coming back from his injury but will be hoping he can make a difference towards the end of the campaign.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp who gave him his professional debut. “The kid can run through puddles and not make a splash. He’s lightning, he drifts over the ground and he’s a fantastic talent. I hope this kid can go on and be a top player. He’s got a long way to go but I’m sure he can.”