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.”

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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.”

13th March – Edgar Davids

Going from winning the Champions League, Eredivisie and Serie A title to managing Barnet just shows how crazy Edgar Davids career was but he was certainly a very good player and one that was instantly recognisable.

Due to glaucoma Davids had to wear protective glasses and this made him stand out on the field to anyone that watched him play but for people that loved football they could see that not only was he one of the most combative and energetic midfielders he also had a lot of creativity and could see passes that attacking midfielders would have been proud of.

Davids Ajax

Davids is now 41 and started his career at Ajax, making his debut on the 6th September 1991 in a 5-1 win over RKC Waalwijk. The midfielder spent five years at the club and helped them to three league titles as well as a UEFA Cup and the Champions League in 1995. In total he played 106 league games and scored 20 times before moving to Inter Milan at the start of the 1996-97 season. Unfortunately he wasn’t very successful at the club and after just 19 games he left for Juventus in December 1997 for £5.3 million.

He quickly became an important member of the side and was known as the driving force in the midfield and had six very successful years at the club. He picked up three Serie A titles as well as two Italian Supercups but sadly for him and the club during his time there he reached the Champions League final twice but would go on to lose both games. In January 2004 his time with Juventus was over and he joined Barcelona in loan. They were nowhere near the team they are now and were struggling in midtable but recently appointed Frank Rijkaard realised they needed more of a presence in the centre of the park and Davids was the perfect man. After he joined the club soon found form and they would rise up to second in the table by the end of the season and this was seen as the catalyst for their dominance of Spanish and European football.

Davids Juve

Surprisingly in the summer of 2004 he made the move back to Inter Milan, however he once again only lasted one season and was released from his contract in August 2005. Davids then joined Tottenham Hotspur and was an instant success and quickly became a favourite. In both years he would help the club finish fifth but he only managed one goal in a 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic.

Davids TH

Davids returned to Ajax on the 28th January 2007 and helped the club win the KNVB Cup by scoring the winning penalty against AZ. But a broken leg in the following pre season meant he couldn’t have the same impact in his second spell. On the 20th August 2010 he made another surprising move, this time joining Championship side Crystal Palace. He would only stay until the 8th November but he still described the experience as one of the best of his life.

After this spell he stayed in London and wanted to get back into the game so joined Barnet as player-manager on the 11th October 2012 and would be named as man of the match on his debut in a 4-0 win over Northampton Town. However, despite his early success he could not keep Barnet in the Football League and after failing to challenge for promotion he resigned from the club on the 18th January 2014 with a 36% win rate.

The final word can go to George Burley after he left Crystal Palace. “It was a privilege to work with him, everybody at the club enjoyed it, he’s been a world class player. It was a great experience for everyone at the club and if you asked me to do it again I would.”

18th February – Bobby Robson

Bobby Robson has gone down as one of the greatest managers ever after an excellent career but more importantly to him he went down as one of the few genuine nice people in the world of football.

There isn’t anyone that says a bad word about Bobby Robson and he is loved all over Europe after managing in Portugal, Holland, Spain and England with most clubs he was at holding him in a very high regard. It is very rare for someone to be loved as much as him by all football fans and everyone will remember him for a long time to come.

Robson started his career with Fulham in 1950 as an inside forward and spent six years at the club playing 152 games and scoring 68 goals before moving to West Brom for a club record fee of £25,000. He finished as the club’s top scorer during the 57-58 season was also given the captain’s armband but in 1962 he returned to Fulham. His second spell lasted five years and in 1967 he joined Vancouver Royals as player-manager.

Robson Fulham

He only spent a year in Canada before returning to Fulham for a third spell, this time as manager. He could not save them from relegation and was sacked in the following campaign. But he was given a chance by Ipswich Town in 1969 and he would build one of the best teams ever seen at the club. After four average years he led the club to fourth place in the First Division and won the Texaco Cup during the 1972-73 season which was the start of something special. For the next nine seasons they only finished below sixth once but in that same season they won the FA Cup so that made up for it.

His reign at Ipswich lasted 13 years and he even won the UEFA Cup in 1981 but even more remarkably during his time at the club he only signed 14 players and made up the rest of the squad with players that came through the youth team. These achievements landed him the England job and it is fair to say that he has been one of the most popular England managers ever. But it could have been so different after he offered his resignation after England failed to qualify for Euro 84. He didn’t have much success in the Euros but his record in World Cups was very good as he led England to the quarter finals in 86 and were only beaten by Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal and a bit of magic from the Argentinean. But in 1990 after being hated by many sections of the media he went closer than any other England manager to winning the trophy and reached the semi finals before being beaten on penalties by West Germany. On arrival back home the team and manager were cheered and nobody wanted Robson to leave the job.

Robson England

Robson had already accepted a job offer from PSV after the FA told him they weren’t renewing his contract before the World Cup. While in Holland he won the league title twice before moving to Sporting Lisbon in 1992, where he hired a young Jose Mourinho to be his interpreter. After a decent first season in which the club finished third, he had took them to the top of table but was surprisingly sacked. Rivals Porto were quick to appoint Robson and they went on to beat Sporting in the Portuguese Cup final and would go on to win the title in the next two seasons.

After his success in Portugal he made the move to Spain and joined Barcelona and he led them to the Spanish Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup but was moved upstairs into a general manager position after just one season. He only spent one more year in Spain and returned to PSV for a short spell before he finally came home.

Newcastle appointed Robson in September 1999 and he turned the whole club around right from his very first home match. They went on to beat Sheffield Wednesday 8-0 with Alan Shearer scoring five goals. In just over one season he took Newcastle from bottom of the table to qualifying for the Champions League, finishing fourth and then third in the next campaign. Such was the turnaround that a fifth place finish was disappointing in his final full season in charge.

Robson NUFC

Robson was sacked after a slow start and every Newcastle fan will agree that the club haven’t been the same since and the fans still love him today. Unfortunately aged 76 on the 31st July 2009 he passed away and the news was very hard for most to take that followed football including players, coaches and fans.

The final words are difficult to choose because of how many good things were said about Bobby but Alex Ferguson summed up everything by saying. “I was never too big or proud to ask him for advice which he gave freely and unconditionally. And I’m sure I’m speaking for a lot of people when I say that. There is not a person I would put an inch above Bobby Robson. Always a smile, always a friendly word with never a mention of his own problems. The world, not just the football world, will miss him.”

11th February – Steve McManaman

Steve McManaman had a very interesting career and one that he can look back on proudly as he won a lot of honours in the game and will go down as one of England’s greatest footballing exports.

During his career he became the first English player to win the Champions League with a non-English club and then followed this up by winning it again and becoming the first English player to lift the trophy twice. Now at the age of 43 he will be happy that he made the decision to move abroad but at the time he was one of the most controversial and high profile free transfers of all time.

The winger started his career at Liverpool and made his debut on 15th December 1990 in a 2-0 win over Sheffield United. After an injury to John Barnes, McManaman became a regular first team member during the 1991-92 season and played 51 times, including the FA Cup final in which he was named man of the match. His reputation was continuing to grow but one of the biggest bust ups in Premier League football happened between him and Liverpool goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar after his poor clearance led to a goal in the Merseyside Derby during the 1993-94 season.

Steve McManaman

In the following campaign, McManaman was instrumental in helping the club pick up another trophy. The League Cup final in 1995 was renamed ‘The McManaman Final’ as he scored twice and in his second final he was once again named man of the match. At the end of the next season he was proving that he was one of the best wingers in the world by getting 25 assists in the Premier League.

McManaman was named Liverpool captain at the start of 1998-99 season but with his contract coming to an end and it not looking likely he would be signing a new one it seemed like a strange decision and on the 30th January 1999 it was announced that he would be joining Real Madrid at the end of the season. He never really hit the same heights but he will still go down as one of Liverpool’s best players and ended his time at the club with 66 goals in 364 games.

Mcmanaman RM

He made his debut for the Spanish giants on the 22nd August 1999 and set up a last minute winner against Mallorca and a week later on his home debut he scored in a 4-1 win over Numancia. It was in the Champions League that he saved his best performances for and he scored a fantastic volley in the final against Valencia and was arguably man of the match. Despite his contribution, Real Madrid splashed out on other players and it looked as though he was on his way out, however McManaman was determined to succeed and during the second half of the season he became a first team regular and was a key part in helping them win La Liga.

While at Real Madrid he constantly changed his game and became a versatile player making a fan favourite and also someone the rest of the team relied on. His second greatest moment for Madrid was also in the Champions League as he scored the second goal in the semi final against Barcelona to help them reach the final. After coming on as a substitute in the final he helped secure a 2-1 win over Bayer Leverkusen. He spent one more season in Spain but didn’t get to play much and after 152 games he left and joined Manchester City on a free transfer on the 30th August 2004. Injuries stopped him reaching his full potential at City and he only played 35 Premier League games in two seasons for the club and did not manage to score a single goal.

Mcmanaman MC

The final word can go to Kevin Keegan who spoke after the 2000 Champions League final. “He was tremendous and, if he wasn’t man of the match, then I don’t know who was – and there were a lot of great performances. We are absolutely delighted for him. I want him to go and enjoy things and I know what it is like to play in a foreign side in a European Cup final.”

9th February – Jordi Cruyff

Jordi Cruyff was always going to struggle to live up to his name and when your father is Johan Cruyff you know you are going to have to be a special player.

His dad got a turn and one of the most recognisable skills in world football named after him and Cruyff junior was a bit part player in Manchester United’s Premier League triumph during the 1996-97 season. Jordi was by no means a bad player and if he had a different second name his career would have been looked at in a different way because he played for some excellent clubs and put in some solid performances.

Now 41, he is the manager of Maccabi Tel Aviv but he started his career at Barcelona. He made his debut for the B team in the Segunda Division in 1992 and after 14 goals in 47 games he was moved to the first team by his father. He was given a chance in preseason and proved to everyone he was a good player in his own right by scoring hatricks against Groningen and De Graafschap. On the 4th September 1994 he made his top flight debut in a 2-1 defeat against Sporting Gijon and shortly after made a big impression in the Champions League, setting up the first goal in a 4-0 win over Manchester United.

Cruyff Barca

After his father was sacked by Barcelona it was clear that his son was also going to be moved on even though he had been a promising player and had scored 11 times in 41 appearances. But in August 1996 he made the move to Old Trafford for £1.4 million and got off to a great start by scoring twice in his first three appearances, helping the team get draws against Everton and Blackburn Rovers. He remained a regular in the team until late November but then suffered a knee injury and he never regained his place properly in the team again. In his four seasons at the club Manchester United lifted four trophies, the 1996-97 Premier League winners medal was the only one that Cruyff collected because of a lack of involvement and not playing enough games.

Cruyff MU

In 1999 Cruyff returned to Spain joining Celta Vigo on loan and played nine times, scoring two goals before returning to his parent club. He did feature a few more times for Manchester United but on the 30th June 2000 his contract expired and after four years and just 54 games, he signed for Spanish side Alaves.

Cruyff spent three years at Alaves and was a regular in the side until they were relegated at the end of the 2002-03 season. But during his time at the club he was involved in arguably the best UEFA Cup final ever, unfortunately they were on the wrong side of a 5-4 loss against Liverpool. He then joined Espanyol for a season and was regular in the side but he still left after just one year, signing for Ukrainian side Metalurh Donetsk. Injuries caught up with him and despite being an attacking player he was used as a centre back by the club for most of his 28 appearances.

Cruyff Alaves

His final destination as a player was Malta as he became player/assistant manager of Valletta and he was successful in this role as he scored 10 goals in just 17 league games and this sadly was probably the best time of his career.

The final word can go to Jordi himself who knew he didn’t live up to the standards of his father which must have been tough to take. “There are two types of football players – the legends and the mortals. My father is a legend and I am a mortal. The legends like my father – they come, they do and they remain. I am part of the vast majority of mortals – we come we do and we die.”

29th October – Edwin Van Der Sar

It is difficult to list who Alex Ferguson’s greatest signings were in his time at Manchester United but one name that should never be missing is Edwin Van Der Sar because he came in at a time when they were desperate for a top quality keeper.

Having the quality to play in goal for Manchester United is only half the battle but to be successful they also has to have a presence about them and deal with the mental pressure of barely being in a match and then having to pull off a world class save. Van Der Sar is rightly considered one of the greatest of all time.

The 44 year old started his career at Ajax under current Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal and made his debut for the club in the 1990-91 season. He would have to wait until the 1993-94 season to become the number one at the club and he proved that he deserved the position as he was named Dutch Goalkeeper of the Year award and would hold on to the trophy for the next three seasons. Van Der Sar also helped the club win the Champions League in the 1994-95 season and was voted the Best European Goalkeeper. In total he played 226 games for the club and won four Eredivisie titles and three KNVB Cups and he even scored a goal from the penalty spot in a 9-1 win over De Graafschap.
VDS Ajax
In 1999 he left Ajax and joined Juventus. He made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Reggina and was the first non-Italian to play in goal for the club. He would be the first choice keeper for the next two seasons but on both occasions they missed out on the title. In the summer of 2001 the club bought Gianluigi Buffon and Van Der Sar was unwilling to sit on the bench.

He then made a surprising move joining newly promoted to the Premier League Fulham on the 1st August 2001. He made his league debut in a 3-2 defeat against Manchester United. The goalkeeper stayed at Fulham for four seasons and was easily one of the best keepers in the Premier League meaning that every transfer window he was linked with moves away.
VDS Fulham
After 154 appearances for Fulham he left for Manchester United on the 10th June 2005 and was an instant success at the club. He didn’t miss a league game in his first season and in his second he would be a key player as they lifted the Premier League title with the goalkeeper being named in the PFA Team of the Year. The following season was even better as he helped the club retain the title and win the Champions League final against Chelsea after saving Nicolas Anelka’s penalty.

Van Der Sar signed a new contract at the club and was getting better the older he got and set a new club, Premier League and overall English league record by not conceding a goal for 1311 minutes before Newcastle United striker Peter Lovenkrands scored past him. At the end of the season he had kept 21 clean sheets, lifted another Premier League title and was named the Best European Goalkeeper for a second time, 14 years after he first received the award.
VDS MU
Injuries limited his playing time in the 2009-10 season but he bounced back in the following campaign and helped the club reach another Champions League final. In his last game, they would unfortunately lose against Barcelona and in May 2011 he retired after 820 career appearances.

The final word can go to Alex Ferguson. “We had a bad period trying to replace Peter Schmeichel. It wasn’t until we brought in Edwin that we got back to the level we had with Peter. Edwin was a great buy for us, absolutely brilliant. There was a magnificence and calmness about him and he was great for our players.”