12th July – Stelios Giannakopoulos

Stelios Giannakopoulos is a player that helped his teams achieve much more than what was expected of them at both club and international level.

The midfielder helped Greece win the European Championships in 2004, playing in four of their six games, when nobody thought they would do anything in the tournament but it was largely down to how hard the team worked and their organisation and this is something Stelios has shown throughout his career.

Stelios Greece

In 1991, Stelios made his debut for Greek side Ethnikos Asteras and helped the club gain promotion to the Third Division and he was quickly impressing scouts from bigger clubs. He made the move to Paniliakos, where he continued developing and in three years scored 26 goals and was once again linked with moves to bigger clubs.

Olympiakos took a chance on him in 1996 and he would play a key role in helping them win the title every season he was there. But in his seven successful seasons, his most iconic contribution was in the Champions League as he scored the club’s first ever goal in the competition and it was even voted the goal of the tournament by fans.

Stelios Olypiakos

After his success in his homeland he wanted to test himself abroad with many suitors looking at him and English side Bolton Wanderers signed him on the 28th May 2003. In his first season he helped the club to their highest finish in the Premier League and also to the final of the League Cup. His performances were of the highest quality and other big clubs were trying to sign him. However, he stayed at Bolton and finished as their top scorer at the end of the 2004-05 season.

Injuries did start catching up with Stelios and he started playing less and less but he still managed to score some very important goals, including his last one for the club against Tottenham Hotspur which helped Bolton avoid relegation. With his contract coming to an end, he decided to join Hull City on a free transfer.

Stelios BW

He never really got the opportunity to show his quality at Hull and after just two league appearances he returned to Greece, joining AEL. He scored three times in his first four games and was influential until the end of the season as the club qualified for the Europa League which was seen as a miracle due to the size of them. A difficult second season followed and it ended with Stelios’ contract being cancelled and announcing his retirement.

Since retiring he has been the president of the Greek Professional Footballers Association as well as a spell as manager of former club Paniliakos from the 13th August 2012 to the 20th January 2013.

The final word can go to former Bolton manager Sam Allardyce. “He might be small but he’s very aggressive and very strong. He doesn’t mind the physical side of the game. He’s proved that. He’ll take it and just get up and get on with it.”

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2nd July – Marc-Antoine Fortune

Marc-Antoine Fortune is currently stuck on 98 professional career goals and will be hoping that one more team gives him a chance to reach 100..

The forward started his career at French lower league side Angouleme where he broke into the side during the 1999-00 season, scoring three times in 10 appearances. He helped the club reach the third tier of French football and he was linked with moves to Ligue 1 sides. In 2002, Lille took a chance on Fortune.

While at the club he found himself playing out of position on the left wing and struggled with injuries to make a real impact. After just one season, Fortune joined Ligue 2 side Rouen on loan. He ended the season with 10 goals and for a third summer in a row he was on the move.

Stade Brest had a decent season with Fortune scoring 10 goals in 33 games and finishing 9th in Ligue 2. It looked as though he had settled, however when Eredivisie side Utrecht showed interest, Fortune could not turn down the opportunity. While in Holland, Fortune struggled to settle and the death of David Di Tommaso meant he could not show his talent.

Before his teammate died he had been looking quite impressive but after 13 goals in 56 appearances, he felt he needed to return to France. In January 2007, Nancy signed the striker and began really well, scoring six goals in 17 league games. After this he was largely used as an impact substitute and began to feel frustrated so in January 2009 he joined West Brom.

MAF Nancy

He became a fan favourite and scored on his debut in a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough and despite only playing half a season he was named the Supporters Player of the Year. He finished his loan spell with five goals and convinced Celtic to buy him.

MAF WB

After a good start with goals against St Johnstone and Rapid Vienna in the Europa League it turned sour, especially after Tony Mowbray was replaced by Neil Lennon so at the start of the 2010-11 season he returned to West Brom. He spent a further three seasons at West Brom, scoring nine goals as the club battled to stay in the Premier League. During this time, he also had a loan spell at Doncaster Rovers.

MAF WA

His next move was to Wigan Athletic and he featured heavily during their Europa League campaign and ended the season with 49 appearances. He lasted one more season and signed a one year deal for Coventry City. After four goals in 25 games he was on the move again to Southend United following a successful trial. Last season he scored four goals.

The final word can go to former Celtic and West Brom manager Tony Mowbray. “Marc is a quality player and he was a privilege to work with. Some of his play in the second half of the season was phenomenal, you can see the impact he made. He is a team player.”

17th May – Leon Osman

Leon Osman was one of those players that proved that consistent performances will eventually lead to England caps and others should look to his example in the coming season.

With the squad for the 2018 World Cup announced there will be a lot of disappointed players that missed out and throughout his career Osman would have looked at some squads and thought he should be in there. Eventually, at the age of 31, he made his England debut against Sweden and would add one more cap against San Marino.

Osman England

Osman started his career at Everton where he would stay for his whole career. However, he made his first team debut for Carlisle United after joining them on loan in October 2002. In his short spell he played 12 times in the league and scored once in a draw against Macclesfield Town. On his return to Goodison Park he made his Premier League debut in a defeat to Tottenham Hotspur and would go on to make one more substitute appearance before the end of the season.

Despite being given a contract extension he failed to break into the team and was loaned out, this time to Derby County, and played a key role in helping them avoid relegation. Again on his return he was given an opportunity at his parent club and managed to score his first goal against Wolves.

Osman Derby

Finally during the 2004-05 season the midfielder became a first team regular and never looked back after this and was rarely out of the side. He finished his first season as a regular with seven goals in 35 games. Up until his final season he remained first choice for the majority of the time and played a key role in the club during their time in the Europa League and also scored two goals on the final day of the 2008-09 season against Fulham to secure a 5th place finish.

In March 2013, Osman made his 300th start for Everton in a game against Manchester City and scored his 50th goal for the club and would later go on to break David Unsworth’s Everton Premier League appearance record.

Osman Everton

Some outsiders thought that Osman was only getting picked as he was one of David Moyes’ favourites rather than on ability but he proved this was not the case as he was only player to feature in every league match in new manager Roberto Martinez’s first season. He was rewarded with a contract extension soon after but afterwards his appearances started to slow down.

At the end of the 2015-16 season with 433 games and 57 goals to his name for Everton he was released and despite interest from other clubs he decided to retire.

The final word can go to his former manager David Moyes. “We sent Leon out on loan as a kid to develop the physical side. He made himself a career by being very combative and tough. If he had to mix it, he wouldn’t shy away from that.”

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.”

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.”

18th March – Danny Murphy

Danny Murphy is now a pundit for the BBC and is doing a decent job but during his playing career he was slightly underrated and one that was usually a valuable member of any side.

Now at the age of 38 the former midfielder can look back on his career with pride after playing over 700 professional games but he will also be disappointed as he only got nine England caps even though he was one of the most consistent English midfielders during the 2000s. After being in the headlines for the wrong reasons recently but whenever he has been on Match of the Day he has been a lot better than some of the other new pundits that have been on this season.

Murphy started his career at Crewe and made his debut as a 16 year old against Preston after coming off the bench and would go on to score the winner. He spent the early years of his career as a deep lying striker rather than a midfielder and in his final season he would hit 10 goals as the club got promoted to the second tier of English football in 1997.

Murphy CA

He wouldn’t play for the club after promotion though as he joined Liverpool and made his debut on the opening day of the 1997-98 season against Wimbledon. After making 17 league appearances over the next two seasons, he rejoined Crewe on loan and played a vital role in the club avoiding relegation. On his return to Liverpool he found a new position as a wide midfielder and this proved to be a very successful change. Over the next few years he won the League Cup twice, the FA Cup, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup and was a key member of the side but his best season unfortunately fell on Liverpool’s worst as he scored 12 goals and was voted the supporters’ player of the year at the end of the 2002-03 season. During his time at Liverpool he also became a fan favourite because he scored the only goal against Manchester United at Old Trafford three times.

Murphy Liverpool

But in August 2004, after playing 170 league games for Liverpool, Murphy joined Charlton Athletic. After a difficult first season, he found form in his second as he was named September Player of the Month and was linked with a call up to the England squad which arguably should have happened. This form meant that he was linked away from the club and on the 31st January 2006 he joined Tottenham Hotspur. It was not a very successful spell for him there though as he struggled to break into the first team and only played 22 Premier League games in a season and a half.

On the 31st August Murphy joined Fulham and he once again showed his ability and was part of the team that successfully avoided relegation when it looked like they would be going down for large periods of the season. On the 11th May he scored the only goal against Portsmouth which guaranteed their safety. In the following season he scored some important goals too, including his 100th club goal and yet another winner against Manchester United. The 2009-10 season started badly with the midfielder missing the first two months of the season with injury but ended with him captaining the club to the Europa League final which they unfortunately lost 2-1 to Atletico Madrid.

Murphy Fulham

Murphy stayed at Fulham for another two seasons, playing over 40 times in both campaigns, but was surprisingly not given a contract extension and signed for Blackburn Rovers. He would only stay one season before retiring but was named club captain and was praised by Gary Bowyer for his contributions during a time of uncertainty at the club, with many managerial changes.

The final word can go to Steve Kean. “His record is there for all to see. He is a model professional, who has a real hunger to keep playing football and we are thrilled. This is a pivotal signing for us. Being able to bring Danny on board is a massive boost for everyone.”

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.”