21st March – Michu

Michu made such an impact in the Premier League that it is surprising that he is not still in England and it is unbelievable that Swansea City would loan him out.

He is now 29 and can do a number of jobs in the attacking areas of the pitch but for whatever reason it didn’t seem to click between him and Wilfried Bony whenever they did play together. His form during his first season at Swansea was exceptional and it earned him a call up to the Spanish team which at the time were the most dominant in international football.

The forward started his career at Oviedo and made his debut in the Tercera Division during the 2003-04 season and would go on to play 100 league games for the club, scoring 13 times and his form convinced Segunda Division side Celta Vigo to take a chance on him in 2007. He started out in the B team but after 10 goals in 28 games he was promoted to the first team. He would go on to spend four seasons at the club, once again not being a prolific scorer but putting in some good performances, as he ended his time there with 112 appearances.

Michu Oviedo

On the 27th July 2011 he signed for newly promoted La Liga side Rayo Vallecano and made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao. This would be a brilliant season for the player as he finished with 17 goals in all competitions, which was the same amount he scored in four seasons in Celta’s first team. He scored some notable braces against Real Sociedad, Racing Santander and Real Madrid. This meant that he was being linked with moves away from the club as he only had a year left on his contract.

Michu CV

For just £2 million Michu signed for Swansea City on the 20th July 2012 and on his debut he scored yet another brace in a 5-0 win over QPR and then continued his fantastic goalscoring form by finding the back of the net against West Ham and Sunderland. He would go on to be one of the best signings of the season and would score 22 goals in all competitions as he helped Swansea win the League Cup. At the end of the campaign he was named the team’s Player of the Year and the Supporters Player of the Year.

It looked as though the following season was going to follow a similar pattern as he scored the club’s first goal of the season in a Europa League game against Malmo but injuries restricted him to just 24 games over the course of the season, however he did still manage to score six goals, but only two of these were in the league.

Michu SC

It was still surprising though when he made the move to Napoli on a season long loan at the start of this season but it hasn’t been the greatest time for him as he has suffered with injuries and has barely been able to make an impact.

The final word can go to Rafael Benitez. “Michu is a player that can play in two positions. He is able to penetrate and score but also knows how to play with other strikers. I have told Michu that I expect a certain number of goals from him to just to motivate him.”

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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.”

7th October – Diego Costa

Diego Costa has made a fantastic start to life as a Chelsea player and he singlehandedly could make the difference between them competing in competitions to winning the Premier League and the Champions League.

After a disappointing World Cup with Spain a lot of people were worried that he would struggle in England but that couldn’t be further from the truth as he has already proven that he is one of the best strikers in world football. Costa does have to pay tribute to his fellow countryman Cesc Fabregas for setting up a lot of chances for him, but he has still had to put them away which in a lot of Chelsea strikers have failed to do recently.

The 26 year old started his professional career at Portuguese club Braga. But he had to wait until a loan spell at Second Division club Penafiel to make his debut and after five goals in 13 appearances he had impressed enough to be bought by Atletico Madrid in December 2006. But he would remain at Braga until the end of the season. He would only score one goal for Braga but it was an important last minute winner against Parma in the UEFA Cup to give his side a 1-0 win.

In the following two years he had loan spells at Celta Vigo and Albacete, both in the Segunda Division in Spain. At Celta he struggled with only five goals in 31 games but at Albacete he had a better time, scoring 9 times in 35 games. With his parent club still not convinced by the striker they sold him to Valladolid on the 8th July 2009. He started off well, scoring six times in the first 12 games but then he only scored once in the next five months which was a reason why the club got relegated.
Costa Vallodolid
There was a buyback clause in his contract and in June 2010 Costa rejoined Atletico as backup to Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero. Despite limited playing time he still managed six goals in the league and scored his first hatrick on the 3rd April 2011 in a 3-2 win over Osasuna. At the end of the season it looked like he would be leaving again but a serious knee injury saw a move to Besiktas to collapse. When he recovered he was sent out on loan to Rayo Vallecano for the rest of the season on the 23rd January and got off to another fantastic start by scoring four goals in his first three appearances. This time he managed to keep up a good goalscoring record and ended the campaign with 10 in 16.
Costa Albacete
The 2012-13 season saw Costa become first choice at Atletico and he repaid manager Diego Simeone by scoring some crucial goals, particularly in the Copa Del Rey. Atletico went on to win the trophy and Costa finished the tournament as the top scorer but it was in the following season that he became well known outside of Spain.

Atletico surprised a lot of people by winning La Liga and reaching the final of the Champions League and this was largely down to a solid defence and the goals of Costa. His 36 goals in all competitions was a fantastic return for a striker that had been wrote off several times already in his career and convinced Chelsea to pay £32 million for his services.
Costa AM
He could not have got off to a better start with him winning the Player of the Month in August and hitting nine goals, including a hatrick against Swansea City, in the first seven Premier League games as Chelsea lead the table and look like the team to beat this season.

The final word can go to the Premier League’s highest ever scorer Alan Shearer. “Everything impressed me about Diego Costa, he is tailor made for the Premier League. The way he runs the line, in behind and can hold the ball up. He is going to love the Premier League and the Chelsea fans will love him. When it is not going for them they have a goalscorer who can get them out of it.”

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.”

31st August – Pepe Reina

Pepe Reina is now without doubt the best second choice keeper in world football both at club level and international level and he should be at a top club playing every single game.

Now at Bayern Munich, the goalkeeper is behind Manuel Neuer in the pecking order but at least he has experience of sitting on the bench as he has done it for Spain for a number of years as he has watched Iker Casillas. Some would argue that he should still be Liverpool’s first choice but Brendan Rodgers went with Simon Mignolet even though Reina fits his style of football.

Reina started his career at Barcelona and from 1997 he was the first choice goalkeeper for the reserve side before being called up to the first team in 2000 after injuries. He made his debut in a 3-3 draw with Celta Vigo on the 2nd of December. In total he made 33 appearances for the club that season and helped them reach the semi finals of the UEFA Cup.
Jose Reina
In the following season he had to settle for a place on the bench for most of the campaign but did still play in 16 games. In July 2002 he joined Villarreal and was their undisputed number one barely missing a game in his three seasons at the club and became one of the most consistent goalkeepers in Europe. He played 136 times in all competitions before joining Liverpool in July 2005.
Reina Villarreal
He made his Liverpool debut in the Champions League qualifier against Welsh side TNS. His first season at the club was very successful as he helped them win the FA Cup and also a huge success personally. On the 3rd December against Wigan Athletic he kept his sixth consecutive clean sheet in the Premier League, and then went on to break the clean sheet record in all competitions after not conceding for 11 games.

In his first season he played 53 games and he holds a Liverpool record of conceding the fewest amount of goals in 50 games, conceding just 29. And at the end of the season he was awarded the Golden Glove for keeping 20 clean sheets and in the FA Cup final he saved three of West Ham’s four penalties to lift the trophy.

The 2006-07 season was just as impressive for the keeper as he once again won the Golden Glove after keeping 19 clean sheets and was also a hero in another penalty shootout against Chelsea in the Champions League semi final. Once again in the 2007-08 season he won the Golden Glove for the third consecutive season with 18 clean sheets and on the 2nd February 2008 he became the quickest goalkeeper in Liverpool history to reach 50 clean sheets.
SPT IHN 220408-33
Reina continued to be Liverpool’s number one for the next few seasons and in 2011 he broke the club record for clean sheets in a 2-0 win over Chelsea. But after a red card in a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United it meant that his streak of 183 consecutive Premier League appearances came to an end.

On the 19th July 2013 he signed for Napoli on a season long loan and helped them win the Coppa Italia but after 41 appearances his loan was not made permanent and he returned to Liverpool. On the 8th August 2014 Reina left Liverpool after 394 games and joined Bayern Munich.

The final word can go to Rafael Benitez. “Pepe’s record at Liverpool is very good. He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He’s had a lot of clean sheets and you can see the confidence the defenders have in him. When he plays, the defenders look very comfortable and that is so important.”

20th August – Alvaro Negredo

Alvaro Negredo started last season fantastically at Manchester City and despite a difficult end to the campaign it seems strange that he is being linked with moves away from the club.

23 goals in 48 games is a phenomenal record for a player at a new club in a different country and this is also while competing with the talents of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic for a starting place. A foot injury has stopped him being fit for the start of the season and it could be a blessing in disguise for both player and club because it means he is less likely to leave the club.

Negredo started his career at Rayo Vallecano and after impressing for the ‘B’ team (scoring 28 goals in 40 games) he made his professional debut in early 2005 in the second division of Spain. After scoring one goal in 12 games he moved to Real Madrid’s affiliate team Real Madrid Castilla and in his second season he scored 18 times which convinced first team manager Fabio Capello to put him in the Real Madrid squad for some Copa Del Rey games but he unfortunately did not make it onto the pitch.

In July 2007 he joined Almeria and the newly promoted side performed well above expectations and Negredo was a huge part of that. He ended the campaign as their top scorer with 13 goals, including strikes against Real Madrid in a 2-0 win and Sevilla in a 4-1 win. He followed this up with a brilliant start to the next season with five goals in the first six games and was a regular scorer right through the season and ended it with 19 goals in just 35 games.
Negredo Almeria
This form led to Real Madrid resigning the player due to a buyback clause in his contract but the manager at the time Manuel Pellegrini could not guarantee him first team football so he moved on almost straight away to Sevilla. Negredo later revealed that he admired Pellegrini’s honesty during the whole situation.

The 2009-10 season was interesting for the striker as he was first choice but he did go through some barren spells in front of goal and was also sent off three times over the course of the season, however he did still manage 14 goals in all competitions. 2010-11 was a much kinder season to Negredo as he continually scored goals and finished the season with braces against Villarreal, Deportivo, Real Madrid, Osasuna and Espanyol. He ended his second season with 27 goals in all competitions and was one of the most feared strikers in Spain.
Negredo Sevilla
His final season at the club ended with him finishing as the highest Spanish goalscorer in La Liga with 25 goals and was therefore awarded the Zarra Trophy. He was helped by scoring a hatrick in the victory over Celta Vigo and all four goals in a 4-3 win over Valencia on the last game of the season.

On the 19th July 2013 Negredo signed for Manchester City and helped the club win both the Premier League and the League Cup with 23 goals in his first season, including five in the Champions League.
Negredo MC
The final word can go to Tim Sherwood who compared him to Premier League record scorer Alan Shearer. “They both score goals. I haven’t studied Negredo as much as I knew Alan but they both score every type of goal, they hold the ball up well. He is probably the most similar to Shearer as there has been in recent years.”