21st March – Michu

Michu made such an impact in the Premier League that it is surprising that he is not still in England and it is unbelievable that Swansea City would loan him out.

He is now 29 and can do a number of jobs in the attacking areas of the pitch but for whatever reason it didn’t seem to click between him and Wilfried Bony whenever they did play together. His form during his first season at Swansea was exceptional and it earned him a call up to the Spanish team which at the time were the most dominant in international football.

The forward started his career at Oviedo and made his debut in the Tercera Division during the 2003-04 season and would go on to play 100 league games for the club, scoring 13 times and his form convinced Segunda Division side Celta Vigo to take a chance on him in 2007. He started out in the B team but after 10 goals in 28 games he was promoted to the first team. He would go on to spend four seasons at the club, once again not being a prolific scorer but putting in some good performances, as he ended his time there with 112 appearances.

Michu Oviedo

On the 27th July 2011 he signed for newly promoted La Liga side Rayo Vallecano and made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao. This would be a brilliant season for the player as he finished with 17 goals in all competitions, which was the same amount he scored in four seasons in Celta’s first team. He scored some notable braces against Real Sociedad, Racing Santander and Real Madrid. This meant that he was being linked with moves away from the club as he only had a year left on his contract.

Michu CV

For just £2 million Michu signed for Swansea City on the 20th July 2012 and on his debut he scored yet another brace in a 5-0 win over QPR and then continued his fantastic goalscoring form by finding the back of the net against West Ham and Sunderland. He would go on to be one of the best signings of the season and would score 22 goals in all competitions as he helped Swansea win the League Cup. At the end of the campaign he was named the team’s Player of the Year and the Supporters Player of the Year.

It looked as though the following season was going to follow a similar pattern as he scored the club’s first goal of the season in a Europa League game against Malmo but injuries restricted him to just 24 games over the course of the season, however he did still manage to score six goals, but only two of these were in the league.

Michu SC

It was still surprising though when he made the move to Napoli on a season long loan at the start of this season but it hasn’t been the greatest time for him as he has suffered with injuries and has barely been able to make an impact.

The final word can go to Rafael Benitez. “Michu is a player that can play in two positions. He is able to penetrate and score but also knows how to play with other strikers. I have told Michu that I expect a certain number of goals from him to just to motivate him.”

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20th March – Fernando Torres

Fernando Torres has had one of the most up and down careers ever because he was one of the most feared strikers in Europe and then suddenly went through long goalscoring droughts.

Torres is only 31 and should be in the prime of his career, however he has gone through one of the toughest periods in his career. It could be argued that he played too much and was too heavily relied on when he was younger and he is burnt out. It is a shame that his career didn’t keep progressing because on form he was one of the best players to watch and could score goals from all angles.

The striker started his career at Atletico Madrid and made his debut on the 27th May 2001 against Leganes and a week later scored his first professional goal against Albacete. In the following season Atletico gained promotion to La Liga with Torres managing to contribute six goals and in his first season in the top flight he would go on to score 13. His career would continue to grow and a further 19 goals in the 2003-04 season meant he was one of the highest rated youngsters at the time.

Torres AM

Surprisingly at the age of 19 he was given the captain’s armband and would remain a consistent goalscorer over the next three seasons and ended his time at the club with 91 goals. In 2007 he joined Liverpool and some were unsure whether he would adapt to the Premier League but he wouldn’t have any problems as he became the first Liverpool player since Robbie Fowler in the 1995-96 season to score 20 league goals and would end with 33 in 46 games in all competitions.

Torres Liverpool

It was a fantastic start for Torres and despite a few injuries in his second season he was named as number 50 in Liverpool’s all time greatest players showing how much of an impact he had made already. On the final day of the season he would score his 50th goal for the club in just his 84th game. Later on he would become the fastest player to reach 50 league goals for Liverpool after scoring a last minute winner against Aston Villa on the 29th December 2009. Injuries meant he couldn’t feature in the last few months of the season but still 22 goals in 32 games was very impressive. This would be his final full season at the club and on the 31st January 2011 he would set a new British transfer record by joining Chelsea for £50 million.

Torres would then go through a terrible spell and would have to wait 903 minutes for his next goal, which would come in a 3-0 win over West Ham but would be his only goal in 18 appearances for his new club. During the 2011-12 season he would also go through a goal drought but did manage to score a last minute goal against Barcelona to help Chelsea qualify for the Champions League final which they would win. He ended his first season with 11 goals but towards the end of the season he had looked a lot sharper. But it still didn’t look like it was going to happen at Chelsea, however 22 goals in the 2012-13 season wasn’t a bad return and many of these were important goals in their run to picking up the Europa League, including the opening goal in the final against Benfica.

Torres Chelsea

One more disappointing season followed and on the 31st August 2014 he joined AC Milan and would score on his second game in a 2-2 draw with Empoli, however this would be his only goal for the club as he has been loaned out to Atletico Madrid for the rest of the campaign. He has scored three times since returning, all in the Copa Del Rey, two against Real Madrid and another against Barcelona.

The final word can go to AC Milan coach Stefano Eranio. “Torres is a very humble player, he has great technical and human qualities. He is like a car, he needs to play to find his form. He needs the confidence of the coach. As a coach, I say that I would always want someone like Torres in the team.”

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.”

2nd February – Gerard Pique

Gerard Pique has won everything in the game and it is always surprising when he gets criticised by pundits and has to go down as one of the most consistent central defenders in the last 10 years.

Yes it could be argued that the defender, who turns 28 today, has always been in great teams and therefore has never been tested fully but nobody can take away all his winners medals, including the World Cup, European Championship, four La Liga, two Copa Del Rey, two Club World Cup, three Champions League and a Premier League title. It could even be argued that he is one of the few mistakes Alex Ferguson made, letting him go so early in his career.

Pique MU

The defender actually started his career as a holding midfielder at Barcelona but signed his first professional contract with Manchester United and made his debut in October 2004 as a substitute in a League Cup win over Crewe Alexandra. His performances for the reserves earned him an extended contract and would go on to make his full Premier League debut on 29th March 2006 against West Ham as a right back.

During the 2006-07 season Pique went out on loan to Real Zaragoza and formed a solid partnership with Gabriel Milito in the centre of the defence. After 22 games he returned to Old Trafford and was told he would be part of the first team squad and in the 2007-08 season he made enough appearances to pick up a Premier League winners medal but it was in the Champions League where he showed his true potential. He scored on his first start in the competition against Dynamo Kiev and added another against Roma as the club went on to lift the trophy.

Pique RZ

On the 27th May 2008 the defender joined Barcelona and his first season could not have gone much better as he helped the club win a treble, including beating former club Manchester United in the final of the Champions League becoming only the fourth player in history to win the competition two years in a row with different teams. His other Champions League win with Barca was also against his former club and although he has stated he enjoyed his time at Old Trafford it must have made it even sweeter to lift the trophy.

Pique Barca

Throughout his time at the club he has always been first choice and with former captain Carles Puyol retiring he is now seen as the best defender at the club and although things haven’t been so easy for Barcelona in recent years, Pique’s performances have still be very good. With over 300 games at two of the biggest clubs in the world and being first choice for Spain while they were dominating the international stage just proves that he should be considered as one of the best of his generation, especially when there aren’t a lot of great central defenders around at the moment.

The final word can go to his former manager at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola. “I do not believe that there is any other player in Europe playing at his level. He is very competitive and ambitious. He is strong in the air and dominates at set pieces.”

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.”

7th October – Diego Costa

Diego Costa has made a fantastic start to life as a Chelsea player and he singlehandedly could make the difference between them competing in competitions to winning the Premier League and the Champions League.

After a disappointing World Cup with Spain a lot of people were worried that he would struggle in England but that couldn’t be further from the truth as he has already proven that he is one of the best strikers in world football. Costa does have to pay tribute to his fellow countryman Cesc Fabregas for setting up a lot of chances for him, but he has still had to put them away which in a lot of Chelsea strikers have failed to do recently.

The 26 year old started his professional career at Portuguese club Braga. But he had to wait until a loan spell at Second Division club Penafiel to make his debut and after five goals in 13 appearances he had impressed enough to be bought by Atletico Madrid in December 2006. But he would remain at Braga until the end of the season. He would only score one goal for Braga but it was an important last minute winner against Parma in the UEFA Cup to give his side a 1-0 win.

In the following two years he had loan spells at Celta Vigo and Albacete, both in the Segunda Division in Spain. At Celta he struggled with only five goals in 31 games but at Albacete he had a better time, scoring 9 times in 35 games. With his parent club still not convinced by the striker they sold him to Valladolid on the 8th July 2009. He started off well, scoring six times in the first 12 games but then he only scored once in the next five months which was a reason why the club got relegated.
Costa Vallodolid
There was a buyback clause in his contract and in June 2010 Costa rejoined Atletico as backup to Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero. Despite limited playing time he still managed six goals in the league and scored his first hatrick on the 3rd April 2011 in a 3-2 win over Osasuna. At the end of the season it looked like he would be leaving again but a serious knee injury saw a move to Besiktas to collapse. When he recovered he was sent out on loan to Rayo Vallecano for the rest of the season on the 23rd January and got off to another fantastic start by scoring four goals in his first three appearances. This time he managed to keep up a good goalscoring record and ended the campaign with 10 in 16.
Costa Albacete
The 2012-13 season saw Costa become first choice at Atletico and he repaid manager Diego Simeone by scoring some crucial goals, particularly in the Copa Del Rey. Atletico went on to win the trophy and Costa finished the tournament as the top scorer but it was in the following season that he became well known outside of Spain.

Atletico surprised a lot of people by winning La Liga and reaching the final of the Champions League and this was largely down to a solid defence and the goals of Costa. His 36 goals in all competitions was a fantastic return for a striker that had been wrote off several times already in his career and convinced Chelsea to pay £32 million for his services.
Costa AM
He could not have got off to a better start with him winning the Player of the Month in August and hitting nine goals, including a hatrick against Swansea City, in the first seven Premier League games as Chelsea lead the table and look like the team to beat this season.

The final word can go to the Premier League’s highest ever scorer Alan Shearer. “Everything impressed me about Diego Costa, he is tailor made for the Premier League. The way he runs the line, in behind and can hold the ball up. He is going to love the Premier League and the Chelsea fans will love him. When it is not going for them they have a goalscorer who can get them out of it.”

28th September – Willy Caballero

Manchester City definitely needed real competition for Joe Hart and in the summer they signed birthday boy Willy Caballero as they believe they can really push the England number one.

The new goalkeeper is 33 today and this would suggest that he is in the best years of his career and won’t want to just sit on the bench behind Joe Hart. This could be a stroke of genius from Manuel Pellegrini as it will either make Hart play better or if he does have another dip in form like he has done at times during the last two seasons there is an able deputy.
Willy MCFC
Cabellero is also an Olympic gold winner as helped Argentina win the football tournament in 2004 and he started his career in his country of birth with Boca Juniors, making his debut in 2001. He stayed at the Argentinean giants for three years and helped them win the Argentine Primera Division, the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup all in 2003.

But in 2004 he decided it was time for him to try and make his mark in Europe and joined Spanish side Elche. After a difficult start he returned to Argentina in 2006 when he joined Arsenal de Sarandi and appeared in 13 league games for them. When he went back to Spain he got his confidence back and became Elche’s undisputed number one goalkeeper and produced a lot of fantastic performances in his 186 league games for the club which convinced Malaga to sign him on the 10th February 2011.
Willy Elche
He made his debut against Villarreal in a 1-1 draw on the 20th February and went on to play in every game until the end of the season. The goalkeeper quickly became a fan favourite as his saves and consistent performances helped the club eventually pull away from the relegation zone after a very difficult season.

The following season started better for the club and the goalkeeper kept his place in the starting lineup and on the 1st October he became a record holder for Malaga. He did not concede a goal for 480 minutes beating Pedro Contreras’ previous record of 429. Unfortunately just a few days later he was sent off against Levante for handling outside the box and his team went on to lose the game 3-0.

He quickly returned to the side and on the 18th January 2012 his contract was extended by the club, tying him down until 2016. However, a fracture in his left hand caused in a game against Espanyol on the 25th March meant he had to sit out the rest of the season. Caballero returned to full fitness and only missed two league games all season during the 2012-13 campaign and helped his team finish in 6th place in La Liga and was seen as one of the best keepers in the division.
Willy Malaga
On the 8th July 2014 he was reunited with former Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City after they paid a fee believed to be around £6 million for his services. He made his debut in the Community Shield as City lost 3-0 to Arsenal but he had to wait until the 27th September to make his Premier League debut in a 4-2 win over Hull City.

The final word can go to Manuel Pellegrini. “Caballero can be in any team, he is a very good goalkeeper. If you want to be a top goalkeeper you must have all the attributes, good distribution, to know when to go for the ball, to be good one on one and to not concede early goals. Replacing Hart with Caballero doesn’t make a difference.”