21st July – Andriy Voronin

Andriy Voronin might have scored over 100 goals in his career and been a regular for Ukraine but he did not have a great time at Liverpool.

He will be remembered most by fans in England for his time at Liverpool but unfortunately the striker could not settle and he criticised the way the people spoke, the health services and the policing in the city.

Voronin started his career at Borussia Monchengladbach and made his debut against Bayern Munich in 1997. He only managed seven appearances and one goal before making the move to Mainz in 2000. His career took off at Mainz and he was their main attacking threat for a couple of seasons before reaching full potential in his third season by becoming the top scorer in the German Second Division.

The club failed to gain promotion and Voronin was one of the most sought after strikers in Germany and signed for Koln. He stayed at the club for one season, scoring six times but he was labelled as the only bright spot at the club and Bayer Leverkusen decided to sign him.

Voronin BL

He was an instant success at his new club, scoring 17 times in the first season but he struggled in his second campaign only hitting the back of the net eight times. However, he bounced back to score 12 goals during the 2006-07 season. This was enough to convince Liverpool to sign him on a free transfer after his contract expired.

On the 11th August 2007 Voronin made his debut for the club after coming on as a substitute in a 2-1 win over Aston Villa. He didn’t have to wait long for his first goal as a few days later he scored in a 1-0 win over Toulouse and later in the month would score his first Premier League goal against Sunderland. He continued his good form by scoring against Derby County and another a few weeks later in a 2-2 draw against Tottenham Hotspur. An ankle injury ruined his season and effectively ended his career at Liverpool.

Voronin Liverpool

Six goals in his first season was not seen as good enough and joined Hertha BSC for the 2008-09 season. Despite two goals against Bayern Munich and a hatrick against Energie Cottbus he could not get a permanent move and returned to Liverpool. He played another 12 games for them, without scoring, before joining Dynamo Moscow in January 2010.

Voronin DM

During his time at Moscow he scored 24 goals in 87 games but his time there was broken up by a season long loan spell at Fortuna Dusseldorf, where he played 11 times and failed to score. In 2014 after 400 games and 115 goals he decided it was time to retire in 2014.

The final word can go to Rafael Benitez. “He is clever, has great game awareness and gives us so many more options in attack. He can play behind a main striker, lead the line himself, or come into the attack from the flanks.”

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28th October – Obafemi Martins

Obafemi Martins is a player with a fantastic history, having been the number nine at Newcastle United and also scoring the winning goal for Birmingham City in the League Cup final.

The striker had electric pace and a brilliant shot on him that a lot of goalkeepers struggled to keep a hold of. He has had a lot of ups and downs in his career but has largely been a fan favourite at every club and is now currently scoring regularly for Seattle Sounders in the MLS and his goals have helped his side to the top of the table.

The 30 year old started his career in Nigeria before getting a trial at Serie C side Reggiana in Italy and signed a youth contract with the club in 2000. After just two appearanceshe joined Inter Milan and would go on to make his debut against Parma in December 2002. Martins began to make an impact during the 2002-03 season where he showed his quality in the Champions League, scoring against Bayer Leverkusen and AC Milan. His best season for the club was in the 2004-05 season, where he scored 22 goals in 45 games, unfortunately for him, Inter decided to sign other strikers soon after.
Martins IM
In total he scored 49 goals for the Italian side before signing for Newcastle United on the 24th August 2006 and was handed the number nine shirt, taking over from Alan Shearer. After a difficult start, in which he suffered a few injuries, he would go on to score his first goal for the club on the 17th September against West Ham in a 2-0 win and he became a regular scorer hitting one of the goals of the season when he scored from 20 yards against Tottenham Hotspur at a speed of 84mph. Martins ended his first season with 17 goals in all competitions. His second season at the club was mixed as he had to settle for a place on the bench under Sam Allardyce, as he preferred Michael Owen and Mark Viduka upfront. But after Kevin Keegan became manager he found a system that allowed all three players to be on the field and combine well. He finished the season with 10 goals in 33 games.
Soccer - FA Barclays Premiership - Aston Villa v Newcastle United - Villa Park
Martins then started the 2008-09 season in fantastic form, scoring six goals in 12 games before tearing his hamstring and later in the season needing an operation on a hernia, meaning he could not continue this form. After being out since January he returned to the side in a relegation six pointer against Middlesbrough and scored twice. However, this would not be good enough to keep them in the Premier League.

On the 31st July 2009 Martins joined Wolfsburg for £9 million and went on to score on his debut against FC Koln. He only stayed at the club for one season but scored six times in 16 Bundesliga games. He then moved on to Russian side Rubin Kazan and helped them win the Russian Cup but it was not the greatest time for the striker and on the 31st January 2011 he joined Birmingham City on loan. Although his time at the club was ruined by injuries, he still managed to write himself into their history books as he scored the winning goal in the League Cup final against Arsenal.

With the club getting relegated from the Premier League a permanent move was no longer on the cards and Martins joined Levante. On his league debut he scored twice in a 2-1 win over Real Sociedad and was a decent goalscorer, hitting the back of the net in a third of his league games. But on the 15th March 2013 he joined MLS side Seattle Sounders and last season finished with 17 goals, as well as 13 assists for the club, a joint club record with Mauro Rosales.
Martins SS
The final word can go to Kevin Keegan. “He excites me very much as a player. He is very, very different to not only anything we have got at this football club, but probably in the Premier League. It sends up all sorts of ideas in your mind what this player can bring to the football club.”

29th September – Per Mertesacker

Per Mertesacker may have won the World Cup in the summer but he now faces a big task in helping Arsenal compete for the Premier League and Champions League.

Although they are unbeaten in the league they have not been convincing and Dortmund destroyed them in the first Champions League game. But as Mertesacker has proven in the past he usually gets better as the season goes on and his partnership with Laurent Koscielny has been one of the best Arsenal have had for a while. The 30 year old has never been blessed with pace so there is no reason why his performances should drop in the later years of his career.

The 6 foot 6 defender started his career at Hannover and after playing under his father in the youth teams he made his league debut in November 2003 against FC Koln. Early in his career there were suggestions that he would not become a footballer and pursue another career, especially after a shaky start which saw him score an own goal and also broke his nose.
Mertesacker Hannover
But he recovered from this and became known as one of the most promising defenders in Germany and was also known as a defender that timed his tackles perfectly, only picking up two yellow cards in his 76 league appearances for Hannover. After three years he played his last game for the club on the 13th May 2006 against Bayer Leverkusen and opened the scoring in a 2-2 draw.

After an impressive 2006 World Cup, Mertesacker joined Werder Bremen. He did not get off to a quick start at the club as he was out injured for the first month of the season but when he did return he became a rock in the centre of the defence. In November he scored his first Champions League goal against Chelsea in a 1-0 win.

The 2007-08 season was a mixed bag for the defender as he received the first red card of his career in a 6-3 defeat to Stuttgart but played in every game he was available and helped the club finish as runners up in the league, finishing with just two less wins that eventual champions Bayern Munich. For the rest of his time at the club he proved he was more than just a defender that won headers as he had improved a lot when he had the ball at his feet. This was part of the reason why Arsene Wenger signed him.
Mertesacker WB
He played 210 times for Bremen before joining Arsenal on the 31st August 2011. They had just been beaten 8-2 by Manchester United at Old Trafford and desperately needed reinforcements at the back. Mertesacker started well and was consistent throughout his first season before it was cut short by injury in February 2012. He returned for the start of the 2012-13 season and helped keep two clean sheets in the opening two games against Sunderland and Stoke City. His performances continued to improve and he was awarded the man of the match after a 1-1 draw away to Manchester City.
Mertesacker Arsenal
Arsenal fans then loved the centre back even more after he scored his first goal for the club in a 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur and this was when the German and Koscielny were in great form together and were arguably the best centre back partnership in the league. But it was last season that he showed his top form as he was voted into the Premier League Team of the Year for his fantastic performances and on the 4th March 2014 he was rewarded with a new contract by the club.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “I think he is a good player. He is a good organiser as well, he understands the game, he is an intelligent player. Now we look less nervous at the back, and I think he contributes to that.”

4th June – Lukas Podolski

Lukas Podolski has one of the best left foots in football and is always looking to smash the ball into the back of the net and he will be hoping he can have a positive impact at the World Cup.

At the age of 29 he has played 113 times for Germany and scored 46 goals which makes him the fifth highest in German history and will be an important member of the squad and along with Miroslav Klose is the most likely to put away the chances the team create in Brazil.

He has always been a promising player and when he was just 18 he made his debut for first club FC Koln and despite scoring 10 goals in his first 19 appearances, they could not avoid relegation from the Bundesliga. Even though he was linked with moves away he stayed at the club and played a big part in getting them promoted by scoring 24 times and finished as the top scorer in the league. The pressure was on Podolski to keep them in the top division and he almost succeeded singlehandedly by scoring 12 goals but they did eventually get relegated and it was time to move on.
Podolski Koln
He signed for Bayern Munich in 2006 and made his debut against Borussia Dortmund but he did not start many games and had to deal with coming off the bench and found it tough to make an impact. The next season was even tougher as the club signed striker Luca Toni and first team opportunities were harder to come by, despite this he still managed to score double figures in all competitions.
Podolski Bayern
When Jurgen Klinsmann took over at Bayern it seemed like he would get more chances and his goal record did improve as he got six in 24 games. But in July 2009 he returned to first club Koln with the club coming up with a unique way or raising the money for the transfer. They sold pixels of an image of the player in order to gather €1 million. Formula One racer Michael Schumacher bought several of these pixels for nearly €900. Podolski had a difficult return and only scored three times all season with one salvaging a point against Bayern Munich, but he returned to form in the next season, scoring his 50th goal in the Bundesliga and ending it with 13 in total and made seven assists. The 2011-12 season would be his last at Koln as they were once again relegated but Podolski scored 18 goals in 29 games.

In the summer of 2012 he joined Arsenal and started the season well by scoring in consecutive games against Liverpool and Southampton. In his first season at the club he impressed the fans not only with his goals but also his assists. He ended the season with 16 goals and 11 assists and when Arsenal were on form he was certainly a big part of it.
Podolski Arsenal
Last season he had a lot of ups and downs, he started off well scoring twice against Fulham but then he got injured in the next game and was ruled out for 10 weeks. On his return he scored against West Ham in a 3-1 win and then was an important part of Arsenal’s FA Cup triumph, ending the club’s nine year trophy drought as he scored twice against Coventry City and then an important goal against Liverpool. He ended the season with 12 goals in 27 games which was impressive as he rarely played 90 minutes.

The final word can go to Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger. “He is a top class player, a very good finisher and a proven performer at club and international level. A level where he has already made 95 caps at the age of 26. That is a phenomenal record.”