7th March – Hatem Ben Arfa

Hatem Ben Arfa will go down as one of the greatest players to never reach his full potential in England, being the most exciting player on the pitch to the most frustrating in a matter of seconds.

Despite only being 28 there have been some suggestions that he is contemplating retiring from the game after a terrible season that will see him end it as a free agent due to a FIFA ruling. The winger would be a great addition to any side if he could play to the best of his abilities and it is probably why he will be a wanted man in the summer.

Ben Arfa started his career at Lyon, signing his first professional contract in 2004 and made his debut on the opening day of the season against Nice. After more substitute appearance he would score his first goal on the 10th November against Lille. But he wouldn’t really become a regular until the 2007-08 season. He performed very well throughout the season and was named the National Union of Professional Footballers Young Player of the Year. It seemed like he would be an important member of the side for a long time to come after signing a contract extension in March 2008 but a training ground scuffle with Sebastien Squillaci meant his time at the club was up.

HBA Lyon

After a long transfer saga Ben Arfa eventually joined Marseille on the 1st July but it wasn’t long before he was in another bust up as on the 16th July he was involved in one with Djibril Cisse. On his debut however he showed his qualities by scoring against Rennes and in his first 11 matches he hit the back of the net six times. More controversy followed as he was involved in disputes with Modeste M’Bami and manager Eric Gerets. His performances when he was on the pitch were usually of the highest quality but trouble was never far away as in the next season he was fined for missing training and got in yet another argument with new manager Didier Deschamps. He would play 29 times for the club as they won the Ligue 1 title but this was not enough for him to stay at the club.

HBA Marseille

On the 27th August 2010 Ben Arfa joined Newcastle United on a season long loan after many weeks of trouble. But it seemed like it was worth it as on his full debut he scored a brilliant goal against Everton but on the 3rd October his season was over after he suffered a broken tibia and fibula. Despite this the two clubs agreed a permanent transfer. He would have to wait until the 24th September 2011 to make his Premier League return in a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers. In the second half of the season he scored two individual goals, firstly in the FA Cup against Blackburn and against Bolton Wanderers. During this time he was an important part of the team and combined brilliantly with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.

HBA NU

The next season also started very well as he scored on the opening day against Tottenham Hotspur and then two weeks later hit a great equaliser against Aston Villa. Injuries disrupted the second half of the season but he scored in the win over QPR to guarantee the club’s safety. Once again the 2013-14 season started well for him as he scored against Fulham and was also in great form against Aston Villa, scoring and making an assist. Unfortunately he didn’t perform for the rest of the season. On the 2nd September 2014 he joined Hull City on loan but this only last nine games and manager Steve Bruce admitted at one point he didn’t even know where he was. On the 4th January he was released by Newcastle and signed for Nice the next day. But FIFA ruled that he could not play for them and his contract was terminated.

The final word can go to former teammate Yohan Cabaye. “For me, he remains an extraordinary player with enormous quality. It is true that it was harder for him late in the season. He is going to bounce back. For me, this is one of the players I’ve played with who has the highest quality.”

Advertisements

2nd March – Trevor Sinclair

England have had a problem on the left hand side of their midfield for a long time and during the 2002 World Cup the position was given to Trevor Sinclair.

Now 42 it will surely be one of the highlights of his career but perhaps more surprisingly was the fact that he did a good job on the left wing and possibly deserved more chances in the position on the international stage. Since retiring he has been doing some coaching and will be hoping that he can get some experience in the higher divisions but for now he is currently the assistant manager at Lancaster City.

Sinclair began his career at Blackpool where he became the club’s youngest ever player after making his debut on the 19th August 1989 at the age of 16 years and five months and has since been voted into the club’s Hall of Fame by their fans. He only spent four years at the club but he was definitely a fans favourite and well remembered by the supporters. In total he made 112 league appearances for Blackpool and scored 15 times.

Sinclair Blackpool

In 1993 he would break another record at Blackpool by becoming their record transfer sale when he joined QPR for £600,000. He spent five years at the London club and in 1995 he won the October Player of the Month for his performances and was consistent during his time there. But what he is mostly remembered for is his 1997 Goal of the Season. In an FA Cup match against Barnsley he scored a bicycle kick from outside the box and is regarded as one of the best ever in the competition.

Sinclair QPR

After 168 league appearances and 16 goals, Sinclair moved to West Ham in January 1998. He got off to a fantastic start at his new club scoring seven goals in his first 14 games, including two on his debut against Everton, helping them to finish eighth in the Premier League. Over the next two seasons he was an important member of the team but an injury kept him out of the end of the 2000-01 season and West Ham suffered. When he returned he was putting in some impressive performances which led to him being picked for the 2002 World Cup.

Sinclair WH

His final season at the club was difficult as they were relegated and due to cost cutting measures he was one of the players they had to get off the wage bill. So in 2003 he signed for Manchester City and would score the first goal at the new City of Manchester Stadium against Welsh side TNS in the UEFA Cup. But it could be argued that he didn’t produce his best football in Manchester and at the end of the 2006-07 season he was released.

On the 10th July 2007 he joined Cardiff City but he started to struggle with injuries and couldn’t help the team as much as he would have hoped and after just one season he left the club and didn’t play again until the 14th August 2014 when he came on as a substitute for Lancaster City against Clitheroe in a 3-1 defeat.

The final word can go to Kevin Keegan who signed him for Manchester City. “In Trevor Sinclair we will have an England international at the peak of his career. He can play left side, right side and up front, so he will strengthen us and give us options. I tried to sign Trevor when I was at Newcastle. It didn’t come off and now, ten years later, I am still thrilled to have him.”

28th February – Lee Carsley

Lee Carsley may not have been the flashest of footballers or made the most headlines but he was certainly a very consistent and reliable player for every team he played for.

The 41 year old is currently the development manager at Brentford and will be passing on his experience and knowledge to the younger players at the club. With everything going on at the club it will be good if he sticks around so there is some consistency there and not too many changes for the younger players. The midfielder will also have a lot of contacts in the game which will help him out if he ever wants to become a manager himself.

Carsley started his career at Derby County and spent seven years at the club, showing his talents and becoming a very reliable player even from a young age. He went on to play over 150 games for the club in all competitions and his form convinced Blackburn Rovers to spend £4.5 million on him in March 1999. He only spent one full season at the club but he was once again impressive and rather surprisingly he ended it as the club’s top scorer and ended his time there with 11 goals in 47 league games.

Carsley DC

In December 2000 he moved on to Coventry City but this once again was only a short stay as he only lasted 14 months at the club before moving on Everton for £1.4 million. His first two seasons at Goodison Park were not spectacular and he hadn’t quite fulfilled his potential there until the 2004-05 season when he became one of the most important members of the team. With Everton now playing with a holding midfielder, Carsley fit the system brilliantly. In December 2004 he then became an Everton legend by scoring the winning goal in the 200th Merseyside Derby against Liverpool and helped the club finish fourth in the Premier League.

Carsley Everton

Unfortunately injuries struck and Carsley missed a lot of football over the next few years. Despite getting offered a contract extension he decided to leave the club at the end of the 2007-08 season after playing 166 league games for Everton. Carsley then joined hometown club Birmingham City and was given the captain’s armband and it turned out to be a successful season as they won promotion back to the Premier League and he was named their Players’ Player of the Year.

Carsley BC

However, he could not show everyone that he was still good enough for the Premier League because of more injuries and he left the club in July 2010 signing for Coventry City. He was once again made club captain but after just 25 league appearances his contract ended and he became a coach at the club soon afterwards. Since he has worked at Sheffield United and Brentford.

The final word can go to Aidy Boothroyd who signed him for Coventry. “Lee has a track record as a winner. He is a leader and knows what is required to win on a regular basis. I want Lee to be the glue that binds the team together because he has talent, experience, physical presence, pace and, obviously footballing ability.”

27th February – Jonjo Shelvey

Jonjo Shelvey is a player with incredible talent and he is going to be a very important player for Swansea City until the end of the season and for the next few years.

The midfielder is only 23 but he seems to have been around for a very long time and some people have criticised his development as he could have been a regular in England’s midfield by this point. Shelvey has a lot of talent and will definitely add to his one England cap but he definitely needs to add more consistency to his game if he is going to be one of the best players in the country.

Shelvey started his career at Charlton Athletic and became the youngest player to ever play for the club in April 2008 after making his debut as a substitute against Barnsley at the age of 16 years and 59 days. He would also go on to become the club’s youngest ever goalscorer after finding the back of the net against Norwich City in January 2009. On his 17th birthday he signed his first professional contract and was quickly known as one of the most promising youngsters in England. After 49 games and eight goals, Shelvey joined Liverpool and made his debut in their shock defeat to Northampton Town in the League Cup.

Shelvey CA

In his first season he played 21 times for the club but on the 30th September 2011 he joined Blackpool on loan and scored the following day in a 5-0 win over Bristol City and a few weeks later he would score his first professional hatrick against Leeds United. Due to injuries at his parent club he was recalled after six goals in 10 games for Blackpool. Just before the end of the season he scored from 30 yards against Chelsea in a 4-1 win and was rewarded with a new long term contract for his performances over the season. However, he only lasted one more season at the club.

Shelvey Liverpool

On the 3rd July 2013 he signed for Swansea City and was involved in a very eventful game against former club Liverpool soon afterwards. He scored and assisted teammate Michu’s goal but was also responsible for both of Liverpool’s goals in a 2-2 draw. Since he has been quite consistent and an important member of the Swansea team but a regular criticism of him is his disciplinary which manager Garry Monk has tried to get out of his game. He was sent off against Everton on the 1st November 2014 and then should have seen red again on the 29th December in a game against Liverpool.

Swansea City's Jonjo Shelvey

A lot of people do forget how young Shelvey still is and he has a lot of time to develop and will be a fantastic player for Swansea for many years to come.

The final word can go to Garry Monk. “His quality is there for everyone to see – his passing, the way he moves with the ball, how he offers good angles and movements and fits into defensive shape. Performance-wise, he’s capable of running a game, grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and really dictating it.”

23rd February – Gareth Barry

Gareth Barry has been one of the most consistent players in the Premier League but with Everton not being at their best this season it has been difficult for him to influence games as positively.

The midfielder is now 34 and currently holds the record of picking up the most yellow cards in the Premier League and reached 100 against Stoke City on Boxing Day this season. He will be hoping that he and his club can end the season strongly or it will be seen as quite a disappointing year for everyone involved after such a good season last year and maybe Barry will be one of the players that will be getting dropped from the starting 11.

Barry has had an interesting career and even before he had played a professional game he was involved in some controversy after he left Brighton for Aston Villa along with Michael Standing and Brighton were demanding £2.5 million. But the deal went through after a tribunal set the fee and Barry went on to make his debut on the 2nd May 1998 against Sheffield Wednesday on the left side of a back three alongside experienced duo Gareth Southgate and Ugo Ehiogu. Over the next few years he was seen as a versatile player that could fill many roles, after playing centre back for a while, he moved to left back then left midfield and finally to the centre of midfield. This was his best position and it wasn’t long before he was named club captain.

Barry AV

He spent 12 years at Aston Villa and is currently ninth on their all time appearance list but in 2008 it seemed like it was unravelling and after several bids from Liverpool it looked like he was leaving. Despite getting the captain’s armband taken off him he did stay at the club for another season and after an injury to replacement captain Martin Laursen he was given the armband back in January 2009.

On the 2nd June 2009 he did eventually leave the club after 441 games and 52 goals and joined Manchester City. This was a surprising move in a way as he said he wanted Champions League football and at the time City were not in the competition. He made his debut on the opening day of the season against Blackburn Rovers and would go on to score his first goal not long afterwards in the incredible 4-3 defeat against Manchester United.

Barry MC

Over the next two seasons things got better for both him and the club as they lifted the FA Cup and Premier League with Barry being one of the most consistent players in the squad. The next was not so successful as they failed to defend their Premier League title. After 175 games for the club he was on the move once again and joined Everton on a season long loan on the 2nd September 2013.

On his debut for Everton he was named man of the match after helping his new team to a 1-0 win over Chelsea and later in the month became the 10th player to make 500 appearances in the Premier League. He formed a great partnership with James McCarthy and completed the most passes over the course of the season for Everton as they amassed a club record 72 points. At the end of the season his contract expired at Man City and he joined Everton permanently.

Barry Everton

The final word can go to Roberto Martinez. “Gareth is a model professional. He sets high standards in everything he does and that is the perfect model you want for your young players. We enjoyed having him as a loan player, but we will be enjoying him even more knowing he is an Everton player.”

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.”

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.”