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.”

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9th March – Juan Sebastian Veron

Manchester United have spent a lot of money over the years and a lot of this has been on Argentinean midfielders, including Juan Sebastian Veron.

Obviously Angel Di Maria has been grabbing all the headlines lately for his somewhat average performances after a massive money move and to a lot of the Old Trafford faithful it must feel like déjà vu. Veron came to Manchester United with a reputation of being one of the best players in the world and he will forever go down as one of Alex Ferguson’s biggest flops as he struggled to adapt to life in England and failed to produce the goods while in the Premier League.

Now 40, Veron started his career in Argentina with Estudiantes, where he is currently chairman, in 1993. During his second season at the club he became a valuable member of the team and helped the club get promoted to the top flight. After 60 league games he would leave and join Argentinean giants Boca Juniors. While there he lined up alongside Diego Maradona but he would only last 17 league games before moving on to try his hand in Europe.

JSV Estudiantes

In 1996 he joined Italian side Sampdoria, who were managed by Sven Goran Eriksson at the time, and was an instant success. This convinced Parma to splash out on the midfielder after an impressive 1998 World Cup and he was once again one of the first names on the team sheet as the club won the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup. Despite this success he would only stay the one season and was signed once again by Eriksson, this time for Lazio and he would go on to even better things.

JSV Sampdoria

During the 1999-00 season he was the driving force and it was not a surprise that they were so successful as Veron was one of the best attacking midfielders in the world at that point and would create numerous chances for the strikers. Lazio ended the season winning Serie A, the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup as well as lifting the European Super Cup. His second season was not quite as productive as he was involved in a lot of off field matters that seemed to affect his performances.

On the 12th July 2001 Veron was signed by Manchester United for £28.1 million which was a new British transfer record. But the midfielder never lived up to this price tag and despite some impressive performances in the Champions League, he never quite showed his talents in the Premier League. Injuries also didn’t help his situation but he did manage to pick up a Premier League winners medal at the end of the 2002-03 season. After 51 fairly disappointing league games, Veron somewhat surprisingly moved to another English club, signing for Chelsea for £15 million.

JSV MU

At Chelsea he got off to a good start by scoring a winning goal against Liverpool at Anfield but not a lot went right for him after that and he only ended up playing 15 times in total for the club. When Jose Mourinho was appointed manager he loaned Veron out to Inter Milan for two seasons and his performances were better in Italy as he helped the club win the Coppa Italia twice. He did return to Chelsea but it wasn’t for long as he was quickly loaned back out to Estudiantes until the end of his contract. He was back to his best in his homeland and played for a further six seasons and was even voted South American Footballer of the Year in 2008 and 2009 as well as best player of the 2009 Copa Libertadores as his side went on to win the competition.

The final word can go to Alex Ferguson. “He is a marvellous player. He brings a nice pace to the team. What we have done is bring in a really top player, one of the best in the world. He’s a fantastic footballer and will bring a personality to the team.”

18th February – Bobby Robson

Bobby Robson has gone down as one of the greatest managers ever after an excellent career but more importantly to him he went down as one of the few genuine nice people in the world of football.

There isn’t anyone that says a bad word about Bobby Robson and he is loved all over Europe after managing in Portugal, Holland, Spain and England with most clubs he was at holding him in a very high regard. It is very rare for someone to be loved as much as him by all football fans and everyone will remember him for a long time to come.

Robson started his career with Fulham in 1950 as an inside forward and spent six years at the club playing 152 games and scoring 68 goals before moving to West Brom for a club record fee of £25,000. He finished as the club’s top scorer during the 57-58 season was also given the captain’s armband but in 1962 he returned to Fulham. His second spell lasted five years and in 1967 he joined Vancouver Royals as player-manager.

Robson Fulham

He only spent a year in Canada before returning to Fulham for a third spell, this time as manager. He could not save them from relegation and was sacked in the following campaign. But he was given a chance by Ipswich Town in 1969 and he would build one of the best teams ever seen at the club. After four average years he led the club to fourth place in the First Division and won the Texaco Cup during the 1972-73 season which was the start of something special. For the next nine seasons they only finished below sixth once but in that same season they won the FA Cup so that made up for it.

His reign at Ipswich lasted 13 years and he even won the UEFA Cup in 1981 but even more remarkably during his time at the club he only signed 14 players and made up the rest of the squad with players that came through the youth team. These achievements landed him the England job and it is fair to say that he has been one of the most popular England managers ever. But it could have been so different after he offered his resignation after England failed to qualify for Euro 84. He didn’t have much success in the Euros but his record in World Cups was very good as he led England to the quarter finals in 86 and were only beaten by Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal and a bit of magic from the Argentinean. But in 1990 after being hated by many sections of the media he went closer than any other England manager to winning the trophy and reached the semi finals before being beaten on penalties by West Germany. On arrival back home the team and manager were cheered and nobody wanted Robson to leave the job.

Robson England

Robson had already accepted a job offer from PSV after the FA told him they weren’t renewing his contract before the World Cup. While in Holland he won the league title twice before moving to Sporting Lisbon in 1992, where he hired a young Jose Mourinho to be his interpreter. After a decent first season in which the club finished third, he had took them to the top of table but was surprisingly sacked. Rivals Porto were quick to appoint Robson and they went on to beat Sporting in the Portuguese Cup final and would go on to win the title in the next two seasons.

After his success in Portugal he made the move to Spain and joined Barcelona and he led them to the Spanish Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup but was moved upstairs into a general manager position after just one season. He only spent one more year in Spain and returned to PSV for a short spell before he finally came home.

Newcastle appointed Robson in September 1999 and he turned the whole club around right from his very first home match. They went on to beat Sheffield Wednesday 8-0 with Alan Shearer scoring five goals. In just over one season he took Newcastle from bottom of the table to qualifying for the Champions League, finishing fourth and then third in the next campaign. Such was the turnaround that a fifth place finish was disappointing in his final full season in charge.

Robson NUFC

Robson was sacked after a slow start and every Newcastle fan will agree that the club haven’t been the same since and the fans still love him today. Unfortunately aged 76 on the 31st July 2009 he passed away and the news was very hard for most to take that followed football including players, coaches and fans.

The final words are difficult to choose because of how many good things were said about Bobby but Alex Ferguson summed up everything by saying. “I was never too big or proud to ask him for advice which he gave freely and unconditionally. And I’m sure I’m speaking for a lot of people when I say that. There is not a person I would put an inch above Bobby Robson. Always a smile, always a friendly word with never a mention of his own problems. The world, not just the football world, will miss him.”

1st February – Darren Fletcher

Darren Fletcher is celebrating his birthday today but he must have lots on mind as his long career at Manchester United seems to be over and he will have some tough decisions to make over the next few days.

Fletcher 1

The 31 year old should be in the best years of his career but unfortunately injuries and other problems have stopped him from getting on the pitch in recent seasons. Fletcher has been linked with West Ham and West Brom as well as many other teams in the last few weeks so it will be interesting to see where he ends up but he could definitely add something to a lot of teams.

Fletcher joined Manchester United as an 11 year old and would sign his first professional contract with the club on his 17th birthday and helped the reserve team win the Manchester Senior Cup during the 1999-00 season. However, his progress was halted by injuries and he had to wait until the 12th March 2003 to make his first team debut in a Champions League game against Basel. During the following campaign he began to get more opportunities and even started in the FA Cup final win over Millwall in May 2004. But he was still in and out of the team and just couldn’t make the central midfield position his own, and had to wait until the 1st January 2005 to score his professional goal in a 2-0 win over Middlesbrough.

Fletcher 2

After allegedly being criticised by Roy Keane in a TV interview in October 2005, Fletcher began to put in more commanding performances from then on and was always on the team sheet for the important games. On the 6th November he scored the only goal in a win over Chelsea which put to an end their 40 game unbeaten run.

Over the next two seasons he struggled to break into the team again after further signings were made but he did manage to pick up a Champions League winners medal at the end of the 2007-08 season. In the opening months of the following season he was given more chances in the team and scored three times. Arguably the biggest moment of his career came in the semi final of the Champions League against Arsenal where he was sent off and would miss the final. This made many realise how important he was to the team. Inter manager at the time Jose Mourinho said. “Fletcher is more important than people think. His work in midfield, especially in the midfield ‘wars’, in crucial matches is very important. Man United will miss his pace and aggression in defensive actions: he ‘eats’ opponents in defensive transition”

The 2009-10 saw Fletcher consolidate his place in the team and was very influential in one of the most dramatic Manchester Derbies as he scored twice in 4-3 win over City. During the campaign he was also named as the club’s vice captain and for his performances he was even named in the PFA Team of the Year.

Fletcher 3

After this ulcerative colitis kept him out of action for long spells and it is good to see him starting to get his career back on track and if he can join a club where he will play regular football then he will definitely be a consistent player and someone that will pass on a lot of experience to the younger players. He has played 342 times for Manchester United during some of their most successful years which just shows how good of a player he is.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “There isn’t a nicer boy at the club and he’s a star professional. He’s a fantastic character, a brilliant boy, and he’ll does his best as he always does. He has started sitting in the front of the back four and that could be his role in the future.”

6th November – Andre Schurrle

Andre Schurrle might be a World Cup winner with Germany and have a lot of ability but it seems like he has yet to convince Jose Mourinho that he deserves to be in his starting eleven despite scoring some important goals for the club.

The winger isn’t always fully switched on when it comes to defending and this is largely why Mourinho might not see his future at Chelsea. However, there is no doubting that going forward there are few wingers who can get into as many goalscoring positions, he times his runs from the wing into the middle of the box very well and has got a lot of goals from this.

Schurrle is still only 24 so he still has a lot of time to learn different parts of the game and will keep on improving over the next few years. The German international started his career at Mainz, making his Bundesliga debut on the opening day of the 2009-10 season against Bayer Leverkusen in a 2-2 draw. He had to wait a month to score his first goals in 3-2 win over Bochum. He had a decent first season and in September 2010 the club agreed a fee with Leverkusen and he would join the club at the start of the next season. This obviously gave Shurrle a lot of confidence and he would score 15 goals in 33 games.
Schurrle Mainz
After joining Leverkusen he scored on his debut in the German Cup against Dynamo Dresden but had to wait until the 15th October 2011 to score his first Bundesliga club, rescuing a point with a late goal in a 2-2 draw with Borussia Monchengladbach. A few days later he would score his first Champions League goal in a win over Valencia. He ended his first season with nine goals in all competitions and was putting in some great performances. Yet again he would have an even better second season and was a vital part of Leverkusen’s first away win against Bayern Munich since October 1989, setting up a goal for Stefan Kiebling. He finished his second at the club with 14 goals and nine assists.
Schurrle BL
On the 25th June 2013 Schurrle joined Chelsea and made his debut as a substitute in a 2-0 win over Hull City in the Premier League. His first goal would come in a 2-1 win over title rivals Manchester City and he would also go on to score twice against Stoke City a few weeks later. But his best moment of the season came when he scored a hatrick against Fulham in a 3-1 win and then later in the month was named the Man of the Match after the 6-0 win over Arsenal where he was a constant threat, setting up the first goal and scoring the second.
Schurrle Chelsea
This season he scored a fantastic goal on the opening day of the season against Burnley and scored once again against Manchester City to help his side get a point away to the defending champions. But it has been struggle for him to remain a first choice player this season as Mourinho has preferred other options.

The final word can go to Jose Mourinho. “Andre Schurrle is still so young but he already has great history because he plays in his national team. So he is a player who is absolutely ready and he gives us more than one position in attack and adds quality. He will be important for us.”

15th October – Mesut Ozil

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

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

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

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

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

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

6th October – Mark Schwarzer

Chelsea are in a rare position of having two world class keepers in their squad but even more remarkably their third choice Mark Schwarzer has also been one of the best in the Premier League era.

The 42 year old will probably not play many more games but he can look back on his time in England and have some wonderful memories. Some would argue that he is still better than some first choice keepers in the top flight and maybe should have moved on and tried to have another season of regular football but it must be a fantastic experience being at Chelsea now.

Schwarzer started his career as a 19 year old at Australian side Marconi Stallions. After playing 58 times in the National Soccer League he made the move to Europe and joined German side Dynamo Dresden, where he spent one season before moving on to fellow Bundesliga side Kaiserslautern. In his two years in Germany he only made six appearances.
Schwarzer Marconi
In the 1996-97 season he joined Bradford City and featured 16 times before being signed by Premier League side Middlesbrough in February 1997. The keeper made his debut in the semi final of the League Cup against Stockport County and helped them reach the final. He played the full 90 minutes of the final against Leicester City but after the game finished 1-1 an injury kept him out of the replay.

With the club suffering relegation at the end of the season Schwarzer was made their first choice goalkeeper and he helped them return to the Premier League on the first attempt. He kept his place in the side for the majority of the next ten seasons and despite a mistake in the final of the 2004 League Cup against Bolton Wanderers, he recovered well and helped the club lift their first ever trophy after winning the game 2-1. He would also play a key part in the club securing a place in Europe at the end of the 2004-05 season as he saved a last minute penalty against Manchester City which meant they finished in 7th place. Middlesbrough would go onto reach the final of the UEFA Cup and Schwarzer recovered from a fractured cheekbone to play in the match, however he could not stop them getting beat by Sevilla.
Middlesbrough v Cardiff City - FA Cup 6th Round
Despite being offered a new contract he left the club and joined Fulham on the 21st May 2008 after 445 games for Boro. In his first season he played every minute in the league and kept 10 clean sheets, helping Fulham to 7th place and was rewarded by being named Fulham’s Player of the Year.

For the next four seasons he was incredibly consistent and reached his second European final as Fulham got to the final of the Europa League in 2010 but once again he had to settle for a runners up medal. After the signing of Maarten Stekelenburg, Schwarzer left the club at the end of the 2012-13 season.
Schwarzer Fulham
On the 9th July 2013 he signed for Chelsea and was limited to League Cup appearances early on but did go on to become the oldest player to debut in the Champions League when he played against Steaua Bucharest and would then become Chelsea’s oldest player to play in the Premier League as he started against Sunderland at the age of 41 years and 195 days. He also played against Liverpool at Anfield and helped his side to a 2-0 win which was his 150th clean sheet in the Premier League.

The final word can go to Jose Mourinho. “Mark Schwarzer is what we need. Mark knows that he comes to be an important member of the squad. With Mark we have a goalkeeper who has played an incredible number of matches in the last 10 years in the Premier League and he is more than ready for this.”