23rd June – Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane was a fantastic footballer that amazed fans all over the world and is now proving that he is equally adept at being a manager.

It will be interesting to see what he does after leading Real Madrid to three Champions League trophies. He has surprised a lot of pundits by showing tactical knowledge but it shouldn’t be a surprise after everything that happened to him during his playing days.

The midfielder started his career at French side Cannes and made his professional debut on the 18th May 1989 against Nantes and in his first full season he helped the club to a fantastic 4th place in Ligue 1.He showed a lot of talent in his early years and this earned him a move to Bordeaux in 1992.

While at Bordeaux it seemed like he was consistently linked with moves away from the club due to his form but for whatever reason it seemed like clubs were not willing to take a chance on him. But in 1996, and his finally year at the club, he won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year. During his time there he played 139 league games and scored 28 goals.

Zidane Bordeaux

Juventus signed Zidane and he was an instant success in Italy and even though they had just won the Champions League many believed that he would improve the squad. In his first season they reached the final again but were beaten by Dortmund, however they did win the Serie A title. In the following season he scored seven times in 32 games as they retained the title and once again they reached the Champions League final but were beaten, this time to Real Madrid. In 1998 he was named World Player of the Year.

Zidane Juve

He stayed with Juventus until Real Madrid paid a world record fee for the playmaker in 2001. In his first season he got his hands on the Champions League trophy and scored one of the greatest goals ever seen against Bayer Leverkusen. At Real Madrid the trophies didn’t flow as often as he would have hoped but he did help them win the La Liga title at the end of the 2002-03 season. His ability was never questioned but occasionally he did show a different side and his disciplinary record was not the greatest and he received more red cards than people realise.

Zidane RM

On the international stage he also showed these two sides of his game by scoring two goals in the final of the 1998 World Cup final and being named the best player of Euro 2000. However, he might always be more remembered for his headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the final of the 2006 World Cup. This would be his last moment as a footballer.

The final word can go to Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano. “He dominates the ball, he is a walking spectacle and plays as if he had silk gloves on each foot. He makes it worthwhile going to the stadium.”

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3rd March – Emmanuel Riviere

Emmanuel Riviere hasn’t quite showed the Newcastle United fans why he outscored James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao at Monaco but he certainly has talent.

At the age of 25 he has plenty of time to adapt to English football and the fans will be hoping that this season has just been adjusting to life in a new country. In their last game Newcastle played two upfront and although Riviere didn’t get a goal himself he certainly put himself about and cause Aston Villa some problems. He will need a good end to the season, at least in terms of performances if he does want to remain in the Premier League.

Riviere started his career at Saint Etienne and made his professional debut on the 3rd January 2009 against Bordeaux alongside current Swansea City striker Bafetimbi Gomis. He would have to wait until right at the end of the season to score his first goal, but on the 13th May he did grab one in the 4-2 win over Le Havre. Due to injuries the striker started the next campaign as the first choice striker but as players returned he was either shifted out wide or used from the bench. During the second half of the season he performed brilliantly and was one of the main reasons why the club avoided relegation. In February and March he played seven times and scored five goals and then later scored the only goal of the game against Boulogne to confirm Saint Etienne’s safety in the top flight.

Riviere SE

In the summer Riviere signed a new three year contract but only stayed for one more season as he produced more good performances and scored some valuable goals for the club once more convinced Toulouse to sign him. He only spent one and a half seasons with his new club and didn’t quite score the amount of goals he would have hoped. In total he scored 10 times in 47 games and somewhat surprisingly on the 30th January 2013 he joined Ligue 2 Monaco. He would go on to score on his debut against Arles in a 2-0 win and helped the club gain promotion to Ligue 1.

Riviere Toulouse

Back in the top flight he started off brilliantly, scoring on the opening day against Bordeaux and then in the next match against Montpellier he scored his first ever hatrick. He continued his good form by scoring the winning goal against Marseille on the 1st September. However, he could not continue his goalscoring form and ended the campaign with 13 goals.

Emmanuel Riviere celebrates scoring for Monaco in their victory over Montpellier

On the 16th July 2014 Riviere joined Newcastle United and made his debut on the opening day against Manchester City. He would go on to score his only goals to date in the League Cup win over Crystal Palace.

The final word can go to teammate Mike Williamson. “I do think the work from Manu goes unnoticed. For me, he’s a great outlet, he puts his body on the line and gets other people goals, hopefully he can get some himself. Up front it was good to see the presence, that work rate, that doggedness.”

10th February – Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao has been one of the most prolific goalscorers in Europe over the last few years but his move to Manchester United has been very stop start because of injuries and he hasn’t quite lived up to what people expected.

Just four goals in 16 games is not that great for someone with his talents but as everyone knows the English league does take more time to adapt than any other. It is up in the air whether he will be given more than just this season at Old Trafford but it is not just him that is suffering, Robin Van Persie doesn’t look the same player this year and Wayne Rooney is being asked to play a lot deeper which has restricted his goalscoring opportunities.

Falcao is now 29 but remarkably he made his debut 16 years ago as a 13 year old in the Colombian Categoria Primera B on the 28th August 1999 for Lanceros Boyaca. Over the next two years he played eight games and scored one goal which is incredible. His performances convinced Argentinean side River Plate to sign him and after playing in their youth team he finally made his first team debut in 2005. Manager Reinaldo Merlo placed a lot of trust in Falcao and he repaid him with seven goals in seven games. But a knee injury meant that he was out for the next six months.

Falcao RP

He recovered from this and after two great seasons he was being linked with moves to Europe and eventually on the 15th July 2009 he joined Portuguese side Porto and was an instant success, scoring in the first four league matches and finished his first season with 34 goals in all competitions. The Europa League became his favourite competition as he scored a lot of goals in both years and ended the 2010-11 season with 17 goals in 14 games and just proved to everyone he should be playing at a higher level. He had found the back 72 times in all competitions for the club in just two seasons.

FC Porto's Colombian forward Radamel Fal

On the 18th August 2011 Falcao did make the move away and joined Spanish side Atletico Madrid. The goals kept flowing for him and he was once again lethal in the Europa League, helping the team win the trophy like he had done with Porto. He ended his first campaign with 36 goals, the highest ever for a player in his first year at the club. In the following season he inevitably scored goals but he also adapted his game slightly and became more than just a goalscorer and this was most shown in the Copa Del Rey final win over Real Madrid when he produced a fantastic performance and didn’t even score which would have been a rare for him earlier in his career.

Falcao AM

Then came one of the most surprising moves when he decided to leave Atletico and join Monaco. It seemed like it was going to be business as normal for the striker when he scored on his debut against Bordeaux. After hitting 11 goals in 19 games he suffered an injury that not only kept him out for the rest of the season but also the World Cup. He did return on the 10th August 2014 and scored against Lorient and then added another against Nantes before making another surprising move on loan to Manchester United.

It took him until the 5th October to score his first goal in a victory over Everton but they haven’t really flown for him since and he needs a productive end to the season if he wants to stay at the club.

The final word can go to another former Colombian striker that played in the Premier League Faustino Asprilla. “He’s a great goalscorer, a natural finisher and is among the best in the world in that position. His move took everybody by surprise. I’m sure he will do very well for Manchester United.”

1st August – Julien Faubert

Julien Faubert was involved in one of the strangest transfer ever when he joined Real Madrid on loan from West Ham United.

Faubert was by no means a bad player for West Ham but there were a lot of raised eyebrows when he moved to arguably the biggest club in the world who could have signed pretty much any player in the world. The right sided player also has the rare record and impressive record of one cap one goal for his country when he scored for France against Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last minute to secure a 2-1 win and can also proudly say that he the first player to wear the famous number 10 shirt after the retirement of the legend Zinedine Zidane.

With him being able to play both right and right midfield he has been a very valuable player to have around at club level and he started his career at French side Cannes making his debut in the 2002-03 season. After impressing for the club in his two seasons there he made the move to Bordeaux to bolster their squad. His time at Bordeaux lasted three years and was an important part of their Champions League squad and played over 100 times for the club in all competitions and contributed a number of assists as well as 12 goals.
Faubert Bord
On the 1st July 2007 he signed for West Ham for £6.1 million on a five year contract and a lot was expected of him, however he ruptured his achilles tendon in a pre season friendly against Czech side Sigma Olomuc which kept him out for the first half of the season. Faubert made his comeback for the reserves against Aston Villa in January and then finally made his first team debut against Fulham as a late substitute not long afterwards. Due to this and a few other niggling injuries he only managed to play eight games for the club.

During the next season he was a regular and played in 20 Premier League games before being offered the chance to play for the Spanish giants Real Madrid on the 31st January 2009. He made his debut for the club against Racing Santander in a 1-0 win, however this was certainly a high point of his time there. He only made one other appearance and was pictured asleep on the bench when he was named as a substitute and also missed a training session because he thought he had the day off.
Faubert RM]
In the summer he returned to West Ham and did put in some impressive performances throughout the season was in the second half of the season was definitely one of the club’s best players and even scored his first goal for the club against Hull City. The following season was not so successful for club or player as they ended up being relegated and Faubert was in and out of the squad.
Faubert WH
He did however become a key player in their attempt to get promoted back to the top flight and they succeeded by winning the playoffs. But this did not stop the club from releasing him in the summer and the right back moved to Turkish club Elazigspor on a three year contract. But he only lasted 16 games there and was allowed to join Bordeaux in January 2013 and has since played 35 times for the club scoring three goals.

The final word can go to Alan Curbishley who said after his injury early in his West Ham career. “Julien had fitted in well and was showing all the attributes needed to be a success in the Premier League. You could see in the short bit of football he has played with us that he was going to be a big hit with the supporters.”

24th May – Vladimir Smicer

The Champions League final is being played today birthday boy Vladimir Smicer scored in one of the most memorable games in the history of the competition.

In 2005, he came on as a substitute in the first half for Liverpool and when his team were 3-0 down to AC Milan he probably thought his last game at the club was going to end in a terrible way but when Steven Gerrard pulled one back, Liverpool still needed something special and that is exactly what Smicer provided as he struck a great shot from 20 yards that flew into the bottom right hand corner. Liverpool went on to win the final on penalties and Smicer scored the last Liverpool spot kick and kissed the badge in front of the supporters moments before Jerzy Dudek saved Andriy Shevchenko’s penalty.

What makes it all even more remarkable is that he had been told by manager Rafael Benitez that he would not be getting a new contract at the end of the season, so it just shows what a model professional the Czech international was, which he has been his whole career. He first came to prominence in 1996 as he helped his first club Slavia Prague to the semi final of the UEFA Cup and his country to the final of Euro 1996. He joined Lens shortly after and was also an instant success there scoring 16 times in 91 appearances from a wide position and helping them their first ever French title in the 1997-98 season.
Smicer Lens
In 1999 he joined Liverpool for £4.2 million and made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday. He scored his first goal in a 3-2 victory over Watford, however it was a difficult season for him personally as initially struggled with the pace of the English game and a few injuries. But the next season he was much more settled down and was an important member of Liverpool’s treble winning season, as they secured the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup and the League Cup. He produced many memorable moments for Liverpool over the years and scored some unbelievable strikes, including a brilliant volley against Borussia Dortmund.
Smicer Liverpool
His old injuries started reoccurring though and he struggled to be a regular in the side under Benitez but he did make some key substitute appearances on the road to the Champions League final and as mentioned played a big part in the final. But in the summer of 2005 he left the club on a free transfer and returned to France.

He joined Bordeaux on a free transfer but only played 28 times in two seasons because of injuries and considered retiring but he continued playing and in 2007 he returned to Slavia Prague on a one year deal. The fans were delighted when he rejoined and they were even more pleased when he helped them lift their first Czech title for 12 years. He played his last football match on the 9th November 2009 and then a day later became the Czech sports manager of the national team.
Smicer Prague
The final word can go to Rafael Benitez who probably didn’t expect Smicer to be as influential as he was towards the end of his spell at Liverpool after deciding not to renew his contract. “He is a good professional and he’s determined to play as much as possible and he’ll do everything he can to help us in the last games.”