6th July – Georgi Kinkladze

Georgi Kinkladze is regarded as one of the greatest Georgians to have ever played football and is also fondly remembered by Manchester City fans.

Despite all the millions and star names that have played for Man City over the last few years there is a still a contingent of their fans that think Kinkladze is the best player to have worn a City shirt..

Kinkladze began his career at Mretebi Tbilisi aged just 16 and quickly became a first team regular and was an important player as they gained promotion in 1991. This helped convince Dinamo Tbilisi to sign the midfielder and in his first season he won the league and cup double. However, due to civil war in his country he had to leave and joined FC Saarbrucken in Germany. He never really settled there and only played 11 league games.

After trials at Atletico Madrid and Boca Juniors, Manchester City decided to take a chance on him in 1995. After a slightly difficult start to life in England, he became the star player of a struggling side and would go on to score some wonderful goals, including one against Southampton in which he beat five players and then chipped the keeper.

Kinkladze MC

Despite his performances the club were relegated to Division One and it looked as though Kinkladze would get a move, however he decided to stay and even though he won the Player of the Year award for a second season he could not guide them to promotion. Things got even worse as manager Joe Royle dropped him a lot and they were relegated to Division Two.

This meant after 119 appearances and 22 goals it was time for him to move on. He signed for Ajax but this move didn’t work out well as he only played 12 league games in his first season and was told to find a new club. He returned to England and signed for Derby County. Once again he proved a divisive figure, sometimes showing amazing quality, whereas other times looking a little lost. At the end of the 2001-02 season he endured the third relegation of his career.

Kinkladze DC

With Derby struggling financially they tried to get rid of Kinkladze but he stayed and put in some good performances and was named the Supporters Player of the Year. At the end of his contract he was offered a new deal but declined it and joined Cypriot side Anorthosis and somewhat remarkably they won the title with Kinkladze scoring two goals.

Ater just one season he signed for Rubin Kazan. He began brilliantly scoring twice and setting up a further seven in his first nine games. However, an injury at the start of the following campaign meant he never played a professional game again.

Kinkladze RK

The final word can go to John Gregory. “He’s an inspirational player. The rest of the team are probably his biggest fan, they appreciate he not only has great quality but he rolls his sleeves up and works hard.”

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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.”

19th June – Kleberson

Kleberson might not have been a success at Manchester United but he played a big part in Brazil winning the World Cup in 2002.

The midfielder should also be someone that players in their World Cup squads should look up to as he was not a starter at the beginning of the tournament but by the end became an integral part of the team. After starting the quarter final against England he would go on to set up one of Ronaldo’s goals in the final against Germany.

It was his performances at first club Atletico Paranaense, where he played 100 league games and was a part of their title winning side in 2001. After the World Cup it was becoming harder for the Brazilian side to keep hold of him with many big European clubs interested in signing him. On the 12th August 2003, it was Manchester United who signed him for £6.5 million. Unfortunately he didn’t get off to a great start and picked up an injury in just his second appearance.

Kleberson AP

His time at Old Trafford only lasted two seasons and 30 appearances in all competitions but he did manage two goals in home wins against Blackburn Rovers and Everton. He then moved on to Besiktas in 2005 and it started off well with the midfielder playing 46 times in his first season but then his contract was terminated as he claimed that he was not getting his wages on time.

Kleberson MU

Flamengo signed Kleberson on a free transfer but he was unable to play for the club until February 2008 due to issues with his previous club. There were even more problems between the player and Besiktas and it ended with his new club having to pay a fee and Besiktas having to compensate the player. When he finally did get back to playing without any complications, he quickly rediscovered his form and became an influential player for the team and even earned a recall to the national side.

While on international duty he picked up an injury in a friendly against Estonia, which was meant to keep him out for a long time, however he came back early and played in the 2-1 win over Gremio which secured his second Brazilian Serie A title.

Kleberson Flamengo

After one more season at the club, he returned to first club Atletico but it ended terribly as they were relegated to Serie B and therefore Kleberson signed for Bahia. He scored his first goal for his new club against former side Flamengo but other than that it was largely unspectacular. He then moved on to America, playing for Philadelphia Union, Indy Eleven and Fort Lauderdale Strikers before retiring in 2016.

The final word can go to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. “He is an athletic midfield player who can play in a number of positions. One of the reasons we sold Seba Veron was because we knew we were getting Kleberson – that shows how highly we regard his talent.”

31st May – Antti Niemi

Antti Niemi may not be the first name that springs to mind when thinking of the best goalkeepers but he proved to be one of the most consistent in the United Kingdom.

The Finnish international proved himself as a great shot stopper and consistent performer throughout his whole career, beginning it professionally in Finland with HJK Helsinki, where he made 101 league appearances for the club before making the move to Copenhagen. At the Danish giants he played 47 league games and after impressing over the next two years, he was once again linked with moves to bigger clubs and it was Glasgow Rangers that signed him in 1997.

He didn’t get a lot of opportunities to show his true abilities, only making 13 league appearances, at the club but he had settled well in Scotland and wanted to stay in the country. In December 1999, Hearts signed him and he became a fans favourite very quickly with his impressive performances. After three seasons though it was once again time to move on and this time to England, where he joined Southampton in 2002.

Niemi Hearts

There were many ups and downs while at Southampton, including helping the club reach the FA Cup final in 2003 but he made history by becoming the first goalkeeper to be substituted in a final after he suffered a calf injury. The team would ultimately go on to lose the game 1-0 against Arsenal. His ability was never in doubt in England and over the next few seasons there was a lot of speculation about him leaving for one of the teams challenging for the title. In 2005, however, Southampton were relegated from the Premier League and despite staying on, they never looked likely to return so Niemi felt it was time to leave and test himself once more in a top league. The player, himself, described this experience as his first bad one in British football.

Niemi Soton

Niemi returned to the Premier League in January 2006, signing for Fulham. And was their first choice keeper until March 2008 when an injury led to him losing his place to Kasey Keller. After 62 league games for the club, Niemi announced his retirement from the game. However, he did sign a one year contract with Portsmouth to provide backup to David James. He left the club without making a single appearance for the club and once again announced his retirement.

Niemi Fulham

On the international scene he was first choice for almost a decade, being capped 67 times by Finland and he kept his place ahead of fellow Premier League goalkeepers Jussi Jaaskelainen and Peter Enckleman, which just shows how much quality he had.

The final word can go to former Southampton chairman Rupert Lowe when signing the stopper. “He has a good character. He is the Finnish number one and he played an absolute blinder to keep out Germany so that England qualified for the World Cup. We are confident he will be a tremendous addition to our squad.”

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.”

25th March – Mehmet Ekici

Mehmet Ekici might not be the biggest name in world football but he is proving that he is a fantastic footballer in Turkey and one that will probably be linked with a move to England in the near future.

The midfielder has always had very good ability but now he is back in Turkey he is proving that he can grab goals from the middle of the pitch. He obviously learnt a lot from his early years in Germany and has benefitted from that which is why it is not a surprise to see him performing so well at the moment in a league that is nowhere near as strong. Ekici is now 25 and will be hoping that he can get one more chance at least in the better leagues in Europe.

He started his career at Bayern Munich and featured regularly for the second team from 2007 and was one of their more impressive players during the 2009-10 season which saw him score 12 goals in 29 games and this caught the attention of the first team as he was promoted to the squad along with David Alaba. He was included in the Champions League squads for two seasons but unfortunately never got on the pitch and injuries stopped him from getting him on the pitch in other competitions.

Ekici BM

To guarantee more first team opportunities in July 2010 he joined Nurnberg on a season long loan to prove that he could cope with the top flight in Germany. He would go on to play 34 times in all competitions and score four goals and get eight assists which was a decent season and it led to him being linked with permanent moves away from Bayern Munich.

On the 18th May 2011 he did leave permanently and joined Werder Bremen for a fee believed to be around €5 million. He got off to a good start at his new club and scored his first goal on the 17th September 2011 against his former team Nurnberg. However, he struggled to keep his place in the team on a regular basis and over the next three seasons he only played 41 league games and he was slightly forgotten about.

1. FC Nürnberg - Eintracht Frankfurt 3:0

This meant he needed something new to kick start his career and so on 15th August 2014 he joined Turkish side Trabzonspor. Once again he has started to show his talents and so far this season so far scored nine goals in 21 league games which has brought him to the attention of other clubs. It will be interesting to see where his career can take him next but he will certainly want to be adding to his 10 international caps which is not as many as he should have gotten as he was very well liked by former manager Guus Hiddink.

Ekici WB

The final word can go to Werder Bremen sporting director Klaus Allofs. “We are delighted to have found in Mehmet a player that fits perfectly into our plans. He is a young player with German roots, who has had a strong season.”

4th March – Landon Donovan

Landon Donovan is known as America’s greatest ever soccer player and to everyone else he is known as a very talented footballer that maybe should have made the permanent move to England.

Despite only being 33 he has decided to retire as a player and many feel he could have offered more to the game on the pitch but he has done a lot already for the sport in terms of building the reputation of football in his homeland. It would have been good to have seen him get more chances abroad but it never quite happened for him when he was younger and he has accomplished everything he wanted to in America so it seems like a wise decision to retire.

Donovan first came to attention in 1999 when he was at the IMG Academy in America and after impressing in a youth tournament in Europe he was given a six year contract by German side Bayer Leverkusen. However he struggled to adapt in Germany largely because of his young age and spent a lot of time back home training with the USA under 17 team. In 2001 he did eventually move away and joined San Jose Earthquakes on loan and was an instant success, leading them to the MLS Championship in 2001 and 2003 and become one of the first recognisable football players in America. In his four years at the club, he scored 32 goals and provided 29 assists.

EARTHQUAKES DONOVAN CELEBRATES MLS TITLE WIN OVER CHICAGO FIRE.

In 2005 he returned to Leverkusen to give it another try but after just seven appearances he made it clear he wanted to return to America and he signed for LA Galaxy. His first season at the club was exceptional as he scored 12 goals and got another 10 assists as he helped his club win the MLS Cup but the following year was not as successful for the club but Donovan still performed very well.

It was difficult for Donovan in 2007 after David Beckham joined the club because he had to give up the captain’s armband and this seemed to annoy the American international. He was still producing good football but when Beckham joined AC Milan, Donovan gave an interview which was equally praised and criticised by the media as he slated Beckham. However, on Beckham’s return they patched up their differences and he went from strength to strength as a player and the two were very effective going forward.

2010 LA Galaxy Headshot

Donovan also spent time away from LA Galaxy during the off season like Beckham, firstly having an unsuccessful spell at Bayern Munich in 2008 but becoming somewhat of a cult hero at Everton after joining them in January 2010. Straight away he showed his talents in the Premier League by being named the club’s Player of the Month in January but after 13 games and two goals he returned to America. On his return he would go on to score his 100th goal for Galaxy and become their all time leading scorer.

He wasn’t to stay away from Everton for long as in December 2011 it was announced he would be signing for them on loan again. Once again he was equally successful and in his nine games this time he managed to set up seven goals and produce some excellent performances and the Everton fans and players were once again sad to see him leave.

Britain Soccer Premier League

On the 25th May 2014 he became the highest ever goal scorer in MLS history, hitting his 136th goal against Philadelphia Union but on the 7th August he announced he would be retiring from the game.

The final word can go to Everton teammate Phil Neville. “He’s a hero at Goodison Park, and he’s played less than 20 games for us. I’ve played with some world class right sided players in my time, and he’s up there with them. I’m telling the truth here when I say the last two times he’s been over he’s totally transformed our season.”