26th March – Simon Kjaer

Simon Kjaer has been one of the more consistent centre backs around Europe in recent years but it seems like every time he is close to a really big move his form plummets and mistakes creep into his game.

The centre back is still only 26 but has a lot of experience and has played in some big games for both club and country so his career will more than likely get better. Over the years he has been linked with transfers to Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea to name a few and it is felt that he would be good in the Premier League and the English top flight definitely needs more top quality defenders.

Kjaer started his career at Danish club Midtjylland and even at a young age he was linked with big moves and even had a trial with Real Madrid in August 2007 but unfortunately a deal could not be agreed. Instead he signed a new five year deal with his first club and made his debut in a 2-0 win over AGF on the 30th September 2007. He would play 21 times for the club before making the move to Italian side Palermo in July 2008.

Kjaer Palermo

He would have to wait until October to make his debut as a half time substitute in a 3-1 defeat to Fiorentina. Despite the loss Kjaer played well and quickly established himself as an important member of the side and ended the season with 27 appearances and three goals. After a very successful first season he was named the 2009 Danish Talent of the Year and during the 2009-10 campaign he would go on to produce even better performances, ending with a very consistent World Cup which meant once again that many other clubs were looking at him and Palermo had to accept they were going to lose him in the summer.

On the 8th July 2010 he made the move to Wolfsburg but unfortunately Kjaer and the club got off to an indifferent start and were not achieving what they had expected to. After manager Steve McClaren was sacked, Felix Magath took over and it was much tougher for Kjaer to get a regular place in the team and was made a scapegoat by the new manager for the problems Wolfsburg were having.

Kjaer Wolfsburg

After making three appearances at the start of the 2011-12 season the centre back made the move to Roma on a season long loan. This was also not a good move for him as he struggled to show his quality and was even sent off against Lazio in a 2-1 defeat which led to the club not buying him permanently and he had to return to Wolfsburg. After burying the hatchet with Magath he would eventually get back into the team but he only lasted one more season.

His next move was to Lille in France and was very impressive in his first campaign helping the club to 21 clean sheets and was included in the Ligue 1 Team of the Season after they only conceded 26 goals in 38 league games. The defender has continued to put in good performances and has proven that when he is on form he can be a leader and one of the best in Europe.

Kjaer Lille

The final word can go to Palermo director Walter Sabatini. “I have heard that Juventus and their observers have been watching Kjaer. There is also an interest from Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. But he’ll stay, even he knows that. All is well, he wants to complete his development. Simon should be valued based on the qualities he has.”

11th March – Didier Drogba

Chelsea have been regulars in the knockout stages of the Champions League for a long time and owe a lot of this to striker Didier Drogba and he will forever go down as one of their greatest ever players.

Hitting over 100 Premier League goals and being the club’s fourth highest goalscorer of all time just shows his worth but now at the age of 37 he is still causing problems and will have a say on how Chelsea do. With the League Cup already in the bag, they are still looking for Premier League and European glory.

Drogba began his career in France with Le Mans but he didn’t get off to a great start, struggling with injuries. But in 1999 he was part of the first team and impressed with seven goals, however in the following season the injuries returned and he lost his place in the team. But in his final season he scored five times in 21 games and was signed by Ligue 1 side Guingamp halfway through the campaign. He made a vital contribution in keeping the team in the top division and would then lead the club to their highest ever finish by hitting 17 goals in 34 games.

Drogba Guingamp

After just one full season he moved again joining Marseille. This would be a great move as he scored a lot of goals, with 19 in the league and 11 in Europe. But this would be his only season at the club as he joined Chelsea for £24 million. In his first season he did well, scoring 16 with his most important coming in the final of the League Cup but also adding 10 in the league as the club won the title. Chelsea would go on to retain the title with Drogba again scoring 16 in all competitions.

Drogba Marseille

In the 2006-07 season he scored 33 goals, including two in the League Cup final against Arsenal and also the winner in the FA Cup final against Manchester United. The League Cup became his favourite competition as he would go on to score in his third final, unfortunately they would lose this time to Tottenham Hotspur. Another final that year did not go so well for Drogba as he was sent off in the final of the Champions League against Manchester United who would go on to win on penalties.

The following season didn’t start great for him as he had to wait until late December for his first Premier League goal. Under Scolari he struggled for game time but when Guus Hiddink took charge he returned to great goalscoring form and would once again score in the FA Cup final, helping his side to a 2-1 win. He started the 2009-10 season with 14 goals in the first 16 games. Despite going to the Africa Cup of Nations he still finished with 29 goals in just 32 games and Chelsea would go on to win the Premier League again and then a week later he would score in his sixth final.

2010-11 started well for Chelsea and Drogba but it didn’t last and was quite a disappointing campaign. But the next season was arguably his favourite for the club as he scored his 100th Premier League goal, moved up to fourth in the all time goalscoring list, scoring in yet another FA Cup final and winning the Champions League after scoring the 88th minute equaliser and the winning penalty.

Drogba Chelsea

On the 19th June 2012 Drogba joined Shanghai Shenhua but he would only last 11 games at the club, scoring eight times before joining Turkish side Galatasaray. He would go on to score five minutes into his debut and would help them to the title with five goals in 13 games. He would only spend one full season at the club and after 20 goals in 53 games he would make the return to Chelsea.

The final word can go to Jose Mourinho after his return. “It looks like he never left. He was an ever present even when he wasn’t here. Chelsea belonged to him even in the last two years when he was away. I think we need him. We need him as a player for our squad to be the way I like. So, as a player and person, Didier is someone we need to be strong.”

1st March – Djimi Traore

When you think of Champions League winners, Djimi Traore is definitely not the first player that comes to mind even to Liverpool fans but he played an important role in the 2005 final.

The 2005 final will always be remembered for Liverpool coming back from 3-0 down at half time to win the trophy but what is often forgotten is that in the second half the Liverpool defence, including Traore put in some crucial blocks and tackles that stopped counter attacks and certain goals for AC Milan. The left back is now 35 and nobody can take away his Champions League winners medal but he did have some disastrous moments during his career.

Traore started his career at his hometown club Laval and after looking like a good prospect he made the move to Liverpool in 1999. The left back struggled to get into the first team and went out on loan in the 2001-02 season to Lens, making 20 appearances for the French club. On his return he started getting more chances but it looked like he was leaving during the 2003-04 season as he was very close to joining Everton. However, the move didn’t go through and when Rafael Benitez got the Liverpool job he got a new lease of life and improved defensively and offensively under the Spaniard.

UEFA Champions League: Anderlecht v Liverpool

The 2004-05 season was very mixed for Traore as he won the Champions League but he also scored one of the funniest own goals in a 1-0 defeat to Burnley in the FA Cup. He attempted a turn and a drag back inside his own six yard box but just ended getting himself mixed up and put the ball in the back of his own net. In the following season he struggled for game time as he was behind John Arne Riise in the pecking order and on the 8th August 2006 he joined Charlton Athletic for £2 million.

He got off to a terrible start after being sent off on his debut and a few months later against his former club he gave away a penalty after fouling Jermaine Pennant. After only half a season he was deemed not good enough and was allowed to join Portsmouth. He only featured 13 times at Portsmouth over the next season and a half before first going out on loan to Rennes and then Birmingham City.

Traore Monaco

On the 18th June 2009 his contract expired at Portsmouth and he joined Monaco where he put in some decent performances but once again after just two seasons he was on the move again, joining Marseille. In his only season he played 20 games and helped the club win the Coupe de la Ligue but he left at the end of the season and after a trial at Seattle Sounders he signed for the American side on the 23rd Feburary 2013. He played 28 times for the club but while he was there he scored an amazing 40 yard volley against Mexican side Tigres.

Traore SS

The final word can go to Seattle Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson. “Djimi has a great deal of experience and has played in the top leagues in Europe. He’s a very good defender and makes smart decisions with the ball coming out the back. Djimi brings us confidence and leadership.”

6th February – Per Frandsen

Per Frandsen is a player that will be very familiar to fans of Bolton Wanderers because he put in some brilliant performances for the club and scored some sublime goals.

The midfielder is now 45 and will go down as one of the most important players in Bolton’s recent history as he helped them gain promotion to the Premier League and also produced some solid performances to keep them in the top flight. He was a midfielder that could create a lot from the centre of the pitch and could certainly score some cracking goals, including one against Middlesbrough on the final day of the 2002-03 season which just highlighted everything about his game.

Frandsen started his career in his native Denmark with B 1903 and made an instant impact with the club. He would go on to finish as the third best goalscorer of the 1990 Danish First Division and ended his time at the club with 15 goals in just 25 league games which is a very good record for any player. In November 1990 he made the move to France and joined Lille for a club record fee. He spent four years with Lille and he was very consistent despite still being quite young and inexperienced and took to a new style of football very quickly. During his time at the club he scored 19 league goals in 109 games but they could not keep hold of their promising midfielder because of financial difficulties and he returned to Denmark, signing for Copenhagen.

Frandsen Lille

He acknowledged this would only be a temporary move and after helping the club lift the Danish Cup in 1995, he moved to Bolton Wanderers for £1.25 million in August 1996. He made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Port Vale and went on to score his first goal for the club in the next game against Manchester City. It was during this time that he was being linked with moves to the Premier League as he was considered one of the best to play outside of the top flight. But instead he stayed with Bolton and helped them win promotion to the Premier League. Despite this being followed by relegation he was one of the bright spots in the team.

Frandsen Copenhagen

In September 1999 he made the move to Blackburn Rovers for £1.75 million and the Bolton manager Colin Todd resigned because he was against the decision to sell the midfielder. Unfortunately for Frandsen it didn’t work out for him at Ewood Park and after just one season he returned to Bolton for £1.6 million. His second spell was also very good and he was very good with the younger players in the squad, particularly Kevin Nolan who has stated how important he has been in his career.

Frandsen BWFC

In 2004 he was released by Bolton after 304 first team games and 38 goals. Before he retired from the game because of a cruciate ligament injury he went on to help Wigan Athletic gain promotion to the Premier League, grabbing a goal against Brighton.

The final word can go to Sam Allardyce. “I have ultimate respect for him. Per will go down in Bolton folklore. Everyone at the club has appreciated what he has done for us. Eight years is a long time in any career and Per has had eight great years at the club.”

22nd October – Arsene Wenger

Arsene Wenger probably thought he was not going to have much to celebrate on his birthday as his side trailed 1-0 against Anderlecht but two late goals secured his side the win.

The 65 year old has done a lot for the English game and will always be a legend at Arsenal but up until last season he had been coming under pressure for not delivering a trophy for a long time. However, he has never changed his style and although that has caused frustration from some supporters he has always done the right thing for the club.

Wenger didn’t become a professional until the age of 28 at Strasbourg but even then he wasn’t really considered a player as he did a lot of work managing the youth teams and reserves, restricting him to just 11 league appearances in three years. After he moved on to be assistant manager at AS Cannes in 1983 before becoming manager at Ligue 1 side Nancy a year later. After a good first season where the club finished 12th he struggled and the club were relegated at the end of the 1986-87 season. A few months later he would join Monaco.
Wenger Stras
In his first season he helped them win the title but after this he would become known as a nearly man, leading the club to runners up positions in the league and also in the Coupe De France and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. After a poor start to the 1994-95 season, Wenger was sacked on the 17th September with Monaco in 17th place. In January 1995 he made the move to Japan and became manager of Nagoya Grampus Eight. He had a successful spell at the club, winning the Emperor’s Cup and being named the J-League Manager of the Year. In August 1996 Arsenal sacked Bruce Rioch and Wenger took over winning his first match away to Blackburn Rovers. Arsenal went on to finish third in the league.
Sport. Football. pic: July 1987. England internationals Mark Hateley, left, and Glenn Hoddle with the Monaco Coach Arsene Wenger, the players recent signings for Monaco.
The following campaign everyone knew Arsene Wenger as he led the club to the Premier League and FA Cup double after being 12 points behind league leaders Manchester United at one point. The following seasons were difficult as he again became a nearly man, finishing second in the table and reaching the FA Cup and UEFA Cup final but could not land another trophy. In the 2001-02 season Wenger won the FA Cup and Premier League double for the second time, securing the title at Old Trafford. It looked as though they were going to retain the title when they went eight points clear but lost out on the title. However, they did lift the FA Cup again after beating Southampton.
Wenger Arsenal
The 2003-04 season will forever be in history after his side won the title by going the whole season unbeaten. This run lasted 49 matches but was ended by Manchester United on the 24th October 2004. They could not recover and ended the season in second place but won the FA Cup. This would be his last trophy for a long time as he just could not compete in the league and this was largely down to Wenger falling into the same trap. He would sell a top quality player and replace them with a player that had a lot of potential, unfortunately when they reached their full potential they were then sold. Defeats in the Champions League final and two in the League Cup were tough to take, however they still managed to finish in the top four every season. On the 22nd March 2014 he took charge of his 1000th match as Arsenal manager but they lost 6-0 against Chelsea. They recovered from this and on the 17th May they finally won a trophy after beating Hull City in the final of the FA Cup, making Wenger a five time winner.

The final word can go to long time rival Alex Ferguson. “Over the years we enjoyed some fantastic battles. I always enjoy watching Arsene’s sides. Perhaps the biggest compliment I could give Arsene is that I could never be anything other than competitive with my rival for 17 years.”

5th October – Kevin Mirallas

Kevin Mirallas will be a big loss for Everton and they seemed to miss him in their defeat to Manchester United as he adds something extra to their attack and would have caused the defence more problems.

The 27 year old has been a big success since coming to England and has shown that he can play in a lot of different positions and in various formations which has made him one of the manager’s favourite players. He had started the season well, scoring twice in the opening six Premier League games before suffering an injury in the Merseyside derby which could keep him out until December.

Mirallas started his youth career in his native Belgium and was a part of Standard Liege’s squad but before he could make a first team appearance he moved to France and signed for Lille. He got his chance to show his talents during the 2004-05 season and started getting more and more game time before becoming a first team regular in the 2007-08 season where he played 37 times and scored seven goals.
Mirallas Lille
This proved to be his last season at the club as he joined Saint Etienne after 89 appearances and 11 goals for Lille. Mirallas got off to a great start at his new club by scoring in the Rhone-Loire derby against Lyon on his debut. However, he struggled to make much of an impact and in his two seasons he played 69 times and only found the back of the net five times.
Mirallas SE
In June 2010 he joined Greek side Olympiakos initially on loan and after finishing as the club’s top scorer this move was made permanent. In his first campaign he scored 14 goals and only Djibril Cisse outscored him in the league but his goals were enough to secure the title for Olympiakos. In the following season he scored the first hatrick of his career in a 4-0 win over Levadiakos and then went one better by scoring four times in a 7-2 win over Asteras Tripolis. His form was beginning to attract attention from other clubs around Europe as he finished with a second league winners medal and also finished as the top scorer in the division with 20 goals.

On the 12th August 2012, Mirallas joined Everton for £6 million which is a bargain for a player of his quality. He made his debut as a substitute against Aston Villa and thought he’d got off to a great start but his headed goal was disallowed for offside. In his first start for the club he scored twice and set up another two goals in a 5-0 win over Leyton Orient in the League Cup. A number of injuries slowed his progress but he ended the season very well and scored twice in David Moyes’ final home game against West Ham.
Mirallas Everton
Under Roberto Martinez he has further developed his game and although the goals are not as easy to come by as his time in Greece, he is showing other qualities of his game. In the 2013-14 season he created 61 chances for his teammates which was more than any other Everton player and managed to score eight times from 32 games.

The final word can go to Roberto Martinez. “His game has gone from strength to strength and the way he had started the season had been really positive. Last season he had a very important role. He was scoring goals and being a real threat in everything we do going forward. We have plenty games for him to be as influential.”

30th September – Olivier Giroud

Olivier Giroud definitely splits opinion but there is no doubting that when he comes back from injury he will be a big player for Arsenal and could make the difference before the end of the season.

When he does come back he will have to make sure that he hits the back of the net on a regular basis and before he broke his left tibia, he had already scored two goals this season. For all of his critics his goal ratio is not actually that bad and he is very good at bringing the best out of players around him and Aaron Ramsey in particular looks a better player with Giroud in the side.

The 28 year old started his career in France with Grenoble and after eight years in the youth team he signed his first professional contract at the age of 21. His performances for the reserve team were remarkable as he scored 15 goals in 15 games and in March 2006 he was called up to the first team and made his debut on the 27th March against Gueugnon. Despite being around the first team he had to wait until the 26th February 2007 to score his first goal and it turned out to be vital as it was an injury time winner against Le Havre.

In the following season to ensure he got more game time he joined Istres on loan for the entire 2007-08 campaign. He performed very well for the club and scored 14 goals during the season but on his return to Grenoble he was deemed not good enough by recently appointed manager Mehmed Bazdarevic and on the 28th May 2008 he joined Tours.
Giroud Tours
Despite a few injuries in his first season at the club he scored another 14 goals in 27 games but unfortunately Tours failed to gain promotion to Ligue 1. In the 2009-10 season he was made the main striker at the club and this obviously gave the striker a lot of confidence and in the first half of the season he scored 16 goals which convinced Montpellier to sign him on the 26th January 2010. But as part of the agreement he was loaned back to Tours for the rest of the season and he ended his time with the club with 36 goals in 67 games and was named as the Ligue 2 Player of the Year at the end of his final season.

Giroud’s first season was up and down with Montpellier, with some goal scoring droughts that lasted nearly two months but he did end the campaign as their top scorer and helped them reach the final of the Coupe de la Ligue final, which was their first major final since 1994. But both the club and the striker would go onto better things in the following season with Montpellier winning the title and Giroud finishing as the league’s top scorer with 21 goals and also provided nine assists.
Foot  :   L1 - Montpellier - Reprise de l entrainement
His form led to him being linked with moves away and after 39 goals in 85 games he joined Arsenal on the 26th June 2012. He took a short while to settle in England and had to wait until the 6th October to score his first league goal for the club in a 3-1 win over West Ham. In total he played 47 times during the 2012-13 season, scoring 17 goals and assisting a further 11 which was a promising start for a striker coming into a new league.
Giroud Arsenal
Arsenal and Giroud started last season brightly but they could not keep their form going in the league, however they did still manage to win the FA Cup. It was always going to be tough for Giroud to last the whole season as he was Arsenal’s only striker for the majority of the season and he had to play a lot of games but his 22 goals in 51 games was still a very good return.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “He has a very good physical presence and is exceptional in the air, with a great work effort. He has proved that he is capable of performing at the top level with club and country.”