1st July – Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Ruud Van Nistelrooy is one of the best strikers to ever grace the Premier League and should go down as one of Manchester United’s best goalscorers.

Despite his brilliance he was one of those players that crossed Sir Alex Ferguson and found out that nobody is bigger than the club. His departure from Old Trafford was surprising and meant he couldn’t join the 100 Premier League goals club.

The Dutchman started his career at Den Bosch and after netting 12 goals in the 1996-97 campaign he earned a move to Heerenveen. He only stayed for one season, grabbing 13 goals, before a big move to PSV.

He started brilliantly with 31 goals in 34 matches and capped the year of by winning the Dutch Player of the Year and the Eredivisie title. The following season they retained the title with Van Nistelrooy scoring 29 goals. In the summer of 2000 it looked as though the striker was about to leave but an injury meant he was out of action for a year.

RVN PSV

Manchester United kept the faith and signed him once he had recovered and scored against Liverpool in the Charity Shield and twice on his Premier League debut against Fulham. At the end of the campaign he had 23 league goals and 10 in the Champions League as well as scoring in eight consecutive games. In the next season he went even better getting 14 in Europe and 25 in the league, which earned him the Golden Boot.

Goals kept flowing for the striker and he even overtook Denis Law’s European goal record however Van Nistelrooy was left on the bench for the 2006 League Cup final against Wigan Athletic. From then till the end of the season he was regularly left on the bench and an argument with Cristiano Ronaldo meant it was time to move on.

RVN MU

After 150 goals in 219 appearances, Real Madrid signed the striker. He didn’t take long to settle, scoring a hatrick against Levante and a few weeks later all four in a victory over Osasuna. As the club clinched the title, Van Nistelrooy equalled the longest consecutive scoring streak in La Liga history. During the following campaign he picked up an injury and never got his place back in the team. He managed 64 goals in 96 games before moving on to German side Hamburg.

RVN RM

After just half a season and seven goals in 18 games he was remarkably linked with a move back to Madrid however his new club rejected it. In his only full season he scored seven times in 25 league games. His final move was to Malaga but after just one season he announced his retirement from the game with 347 career goals.

The final word can go to PSV spokesman Pedro Salazar-Hewitt. “He can play in any competition and score goals. He’s a great player and a very nice guy. He has the mentality and the ambition to become one of the biggest players in the world.”

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5th February – Cristiano Ronaldo

5th February is a day that all football fans will be thankful for as many great players in this generation were born today, including Cristiano Ronaldo, Carlos Tevez and Neymar. This is a pretty special list as it stands but it is backed up even more by the quality of Giovanni Van Bronckhorst and Vedran Corluka who are also big names in the game. Going even further down the list of birthdays today, you will find other recognisable names such as Jesper Blomqvist and Jordan Rhodes. For those of an older generation they can remember Gheorghe Hagi who was in his own right and incredible player.

So it is very difficult to choose who to write about on this day but the one that stands out from that list still is Cristiano Ronaldo who has been one of the best players ever to step foot on the football pitch. There will always be a debate about who the best in the world is but Ronaldo has earned every plaudit and is very deserving of all the praise he gets.

Ronaldo started his career at Sporting and his talents saw his rise very quickly as he became the first player to play for their under 16, under 17, under 18, B team and the first team all within one season. To make this rise even more impressive he scored twice on his league debut against Moreirense. After being linked with moves to Arsenal and Liverpool, Ronaldo eventually joined Manchester United in 2003.

CR Sporting

A lot of people seem to forget that in his early days at Old Trafford he was criticised and many felt that he wasn’t quite ready for the Premier League. In his first three seasons he scored just 18 goals but every year he improved and was determined to get better. Then in the 2006-07 season his career really took off and he began showing everyone that he could turn his potential into real quality and in the following three seasons he scored 88 goals in all competitions. During his time at the club he won the Premier League three times, the FA Cup, the League Cup twice and also the Champions League.

CR MU

On the 26th June 2009 it was confirmed that Ronaldo would be joining Real Madrid for a world record fee of £80 million. Since being at the club he has got even better and his goalscoring is just incredible and he has actually scored more goals than he has played for the Spanish giants which even by their standard is incredible. 288 goals is good enough for most strikers in the world during their whole career but he has done it in just 277 games. This season so far he has just been unstoppable with 28 league goals in 18 games.

CR RM

Unfortunately for him though, it doesn’t matter how good he is or how impressive his performances are, he will probably never achieve anything on the international stage with Portugal.

The final word can go to Alex Ferguson. “I have nothing but praise for the boy. He is easily the best player in the world. His contribution as a goal threat is unbelievable. His stats are incredible. Strikes at goal, attempts on goal, raids into the penalty box, headers. It is all there. Absolutely astounding.”

15th October – Mesut Ozil

He might be a World Cup winner and used to be known as the ‘King of Assists’ but Mesut Ozil has yet to convince fans of the Premier League that he was worth the transfer fee paid by Arsenal.

With an injury that is likely to keep him out of action for a while, it at least gives Ozil time out of the spotlight as every time Arsenal play poorly, he is the scapegoat and the one everyone points the finger at. Sometimes he hasn’t been able to influence games as much as someone with his talent but he has been shoved out wide and Arsene Wenger does need to take some of the blame.

The 26 year old started his professional career at Schalke and was being labelled as the next big thing in German football. He played 39 times for the club but only scored one goal and after a falling out with Mirko Slomka he moved to Werder Bremen in January 2008. He quickly settled at his new club and began fulfilling his potential. He helped the club win the DFB-Polka Cup in 2009 and scored the winning goal in the final against Bayer Leverkusen. Ozil was also excellent in the UEFA Cup that season and was a major reason why they reached the final.

In his second full season at the club he helped them to 3rd in the Bundesliga, contributing nine goals and also 17 assists in 31 league appearances. This would be his final season at the club and he finished his time at Bremen with 16 goals and 55 assists in 108 games and after a very good World Cup on the 17th August 2010 he joined Real Madrid.
Ozil WB
Ozil made a fantastic start to his career in Spain and his form over the season kept the Kaka on the bench. He finished the season with 25 assists which was the most in Europe and after Jose Mourinho became manager, his number changed from 23 to 10 suggesting that he would be the first choice. He was a crucial in helping the club to their 32nd La Liga title after another 17 assists in the league and even chipped in with two goals on the final day of the season against RCD Mallorca which meant that Real were the first club ever to reach 100 points in a single season.

For a third season in a row nobody came close to him in terms of the number of assists he got. But there were reports that he was not happy and wanted to leave but he rejected these claims and proved with his 26 assists that he was willing to fight for his place. In his three full seasons at the club he played over 50 times and it was quite surprising that on the 2nd September 2013 he joined Arsenal for a fee believed to be £42.5 million. This was seen as a huge signing and the Real Madrid players were disappointed that he left, particularly Cristiano Ronaldo who benefitted a lot from him.
Ozil RM
The attacking midfielder made his debut away to Sunderland and it only took him 11 minutes to get his first assists as he set up Olivier Giroud. He had an even better home debut as he was involved in all three goals in a 3-1 win over Stoke City. His first two goals would come in a 4-1 win over Norwich City just over a month later but after a good November and December he started picking up niggling injuries and this slightly affected his form. Despite a shaky second half of the season he still helped the club win the FA Cup.
Ozil Arsenal
He needed a positive start to this season but it hasn’t quite happened to him and this injury will not help him but surely his quality will come through and provide a lot more goals for his teammates in the years to come.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “He is a great player, with proven quality at both club and international level. We have watched and admired him for some time as he has all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player.”

16th July – Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale is one of the few players in the world that can be compared to Lionel Messi and teammate Cristiano Ronaldo but at the age of 25 he will only get better.

The Welsh international hasn’t always had the easiest career and has worked hard for his success and now playing for Real Madrid he will certainly get to pick up a lot of trophies and score a lot more goals before the end of his career. He will also be hoping to help Wales qualify for a major tournament in the near future and there will be a lot of pressure on him and Aaron Ramsey to deliver when the 2016 Euros qualifying starts.

Bale started his career at Southampton and became the second youngest player to ever play for the club when he came on the 17th April 2006 against Millwall at the age of 16 years and 275 days. It did not take him long to become a first team regular and when he broke into the side at the start of the next season he was known as a free kick specialist as he scored two in the opening two games of the season. He finished the year with five goals in 43 games and left for Tottenham Hotspur in May 2007.
Bale Soton
He started off brilliantly at his new club, scoring against Fulham, Arsenal and Middlesbrough in his first four starts, however an injury against Birmingham City meant he missed the rest of the season. Bale then struggled to break into the Spurs side and he was considered their second choice left back for the majority of the next two seasons. However, things changed in April 2010 as he scored the winner against Arsenal and then three days later once again got the winning goal against Chelsea. These results played a big part in the club qualifying for the Champions League.
Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group A - Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan - White Hart Lane
It was in the Champions League where bale showed everyone how much potential he had, firstly he set up all four goals in a qualifying match against Young Boys, then scored against FC Twente in the second group match. But it was against Inter Milan and Maicon, who was known as one of the best defenders in the world at the time, where he announced himself to the world. Although they lost 4-3 away, Bale scored a hatrick and then in the return match he set up two goals. Some would argue that Maicon never fully recovered from these two matches.

He continued to play well in all competitions but it was in his final year at Spurs that he went to the next level and his 26 goals convinced Real Madrid to pay a world record fee for the winger and in September he joined the Spanish giants. His first half a season was tough though as he struggled with injuries but he did score on his debut against Villarreal. But he did justify his price tag by scoring a sublime goals in the final of the Copa Del Rey against Barcelona and then scored the important second goal against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final.
Bale RM
Bale finished his first season at Real with 22 goals and 16 assists and now that he has settled more into the league and learned more about his teammates, he will have even more success.

The final word can go to the former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp. “He’s an amazing player. He’s got everything, there’s not a weakness in his make-up. He can head the ball, he’s as strong as an ox, he can dribble and shoot. Most important of all, he’s a smashing lad.”

27th April – Walter Pandiani

Uruguayans have been hit and miss in the Premier League, there have been some like Luis Suarez and then others that had a lot of quality but did not quite cut it like Diego Forlan.

Unfortunately ‘El Rifle’ fits more into the second category. Walter Pandiani had two spells at Birmingham City while they were in the Premier League and it seemed like they had signed one of the best finishers in Europe at the time. After playing for Progreso, Basanez and Penarol in his home country he made the move to Spain to play for Deportivo La Coruna. Although he was never a regular starter he had a phenomenal record and scored a lot of goals off the bench. In between the years of 2000 and 2005 he played 86 league games for the club and scored 31 goals including 13 in the 2003-04 season. During his time at the club he went out on loan to Mallorca and scored 13 goals in 33 games for them and was getting a growing reputation of someone that knew where the back of the net was.
Pandiani Depor
After several run ins with Deportivo coach Javier Irureta he made his move to Birmingham City initially on loan. It did not take him long to show off his talents as he scored on his debut in a 2-1 win over Southampton. Manager Steve Bruce said after the game: “Walter Pandiani arrived yesterday with no boots, and he doesn’t speak a word of English, but he’ll give us a lift.” In his next 13 appearances he managed three goals and this led to Birmingham signing him permanently for £3 million.
Pandiani Birmingham
However he failed to show the form of his loan spell and only half a season later he was sold to Espanyol for £1 million. He played 31 times in the league for Birmingham scoring only six goals. His first full season at new club Espanyol was interesting as he only scored seven league goals but this included a first half hatrick away to Real Madrid. Although he struggled domestically everything he touched in the UEFA Cup seemed to go in as he ended the campaign as the top scorer in the competition with 11 goals. The club lost in the final on penalties against Spanish rivals Sevilla.

Pandiani then left the club for Osasuna where he was hardly used in his first season at the club but in his second season he ended it as their top scorer. He played a key role in a victory over Real Madrid in which he was involved in a verbal spat with Cristiano Ronaldo. Pandiani saying about the Portuguese player. “As a footballer he is a phenomenon but to do the things he does, maybe he has a screw loose.”
Pandiani Osasuna
After leaving Osasuna he rejoined Espanyol but this was only for one season which he spent mostly on the bench but he did manage to grab late winner against Getafe and Real Betis. In 2012 he joined Villarreal and on his debut he scored the winning goal and followed this up the next week by scoring the winner again. However these were the only two goals he scored in the league.

At his next club Atletico Baleares he started in a game alongside his son with Pandiani Senior scoring in a 2-1 defeat. In October 2013 they both joined Uruguayan club Miramar Misiones where they still play.

The last word can go to former Birmingham City co owner David Sullivan just after selling the player: “Walter is not a bad player and he did well recently against Manchester United and Chelsea. You’ve got to take your hat off to his commitment towards the club, he scored important goals