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.”

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.”

11th August – Nigel Martyn

Nigel Martyn was one of the most underrated goalkeepers in Premier League history and was the first £1 million goalkeeper in British football.

Although he made his England debut in 1992 he only went on to play 23 times for his country and this was very unfortunate as if he had came along a few years later he would have definitely been an automatic first choice. Martyn was a fantastic keeper, pulling off some fantastic saves and was always a fan favourite at his various clubs.

The beginning of his career is somewhat unbelievable as Ian Holloway said in his autobiography that the goalkeeper was spotted by Bristol Rovers tea lady while on holiday and invited Martyn to the club for a trial. He obviously impressed the coaching staff as he was given a professional contract in 1987. Over the next two seasons he became first choice and played over 100 league games for the club before moving onto Crystal Palace in 1989 for £1 million.
Martyn CP
Once again Martyn was first choice for a long time and proved his ability by helping the team reach the FA Cup final in 1990 and although they lost against Manchester United after a replay, it was a fantastic effort and the goalkeeper received a lot of praise for his performances. He remained at Palace for seven years and made 349 appearances for the club before once again setting a record fee for a goalkeeper.

In the summer of 1996 Leeds United signed him for £2.25 million. While at Leeds he never let the club down and his performances were outstanding both in domestic competitions and also on the European stage. His display against Roma at the Olympic Stadium will be remembered for a long time by the Leeds fans as it helped them progress to the UEFA Cup semi finals in the 1999/00 season. Again in Europe Martyn was in inspirational form as he was part of the squad that defeated Barcelona, Lazio and Deportivo as they reached the semi finals of the Champions League under David O’Leary.
Martyn LU
Martyn was first choice at Leeds for six seasons and he was named officially as Leeds United’s greatest ever goalkeeper which was a huge honour as the club have had some other magnificent keepers in the past such as Gary Sprake and John Lukic. His time at the club came to an end after the 2002-03 season with Paul Robinson being the number one for that year and him failing to play a league game.

Everton signed the goalkeeper on a free transfer and after an injury to their first choice Richard Wright, he took over from him and his consistent performances meant that he kept his place in the team.
Martyn Everton
Despite coming towards the end of his career he arguably had his best year in the 2003-04 season as he helped Everton finish fourth in the table with many fans believing that he kept them in that lofty position almost singlehandedly. In his final season in the professional game he was picking up more injuries and on his final and 100th appearance for Everton he produced one more fantastic display in an FA Cup fifth round tie against Chelsea. He was then later described by manager David Moyes as his ‘greatest ever signing’.

The final word can go to David Moyes. “You are always planning for who is the next Nigel Martyn. When Nigel was leaving, he was reliable, consistent and a great man to work with. To try and find a goalkeeper like that who you can trust was not easy.”

8th August – Louis Saha

The scorer of the quickest goal in an FA Cup final turns 36 today and that man is someone that scored consistently most of his career.

Whenever Louis Saha stepped on the pitch defenders knew they were in for a long afternoon and had to deal with his clever movement and fantastic finishing ability. The only reason the striker did not quite get as many goals as his quality deserved was because of injury problems but he still enjoyed a lot of success, particularly in England where he spent most of his career.

He began his career with Metz in 1995 before moving to the senior squad in 1997 where he played 21 league games in his first season scoring one goal. His performances impressed enough to earn him a move to Premier League club Newcastle United on loan in January 1999. While at the club he scored one league goal in 11 games and also scored in their run to the FA Cup final, however he was left out of the squad to play in the final and returned to Metz. He stayed at the French club for one more season before moving back to England.

Fulham signed the striker for £2.1 million in 2000 and scored 27 goals in his first season to help the club get promoted to the Premier League. He took to the league much quicker this time and ended the year with eight league goals. In the following season he was not as successful because of injuries but did still manage five goals in 17 games. In his final season he showed his true quality and by January he had 15 goals in just 22 games which convinced Manchester United to sign the forward for £12.4 million.
Saha Fulham
Saha impressed immediately by scoring seven times in his first 10 starts including a goal on his debut against Southampton. The following year was very stop start as he had niggling injuries and only made 22 appearances. In the 2005-06 season he became Wayne Rooney’s main strike partner after a good run of form in front of goal which meant that Ruud Van Nistelrooy had to settle for a place on the bench for large periods of the season. Saha ended the campaign with 15 goals and began the next very well however injuries once again caught up with him and he could not fulfil his potential.
Saha MU
The 2007-08 season followed a similar pattern and this turned out to be his last at Old Trafford as he left for Everton. It was in this season that he scored after just 25 seconds in the FA Cup final against Chelsea, unfortunately Everton went on to lose the game. In the 2009-10 season he also went on a good goalscoring run by scoring in seven consecutive games and ended the season with 13 Premier League goals. He left Everton in January 2012 to join Tottenham Hotspur and on his full debut for the club he scored twice in a 5-0 victory over Newcastle United.
Saha Everton
Despite his good form he was not given an extended contract and signed for Sunderland. But his time there was less successful as he failed to score in 14 appearances and left for Lazio on the 6th February 2013 and after six league games for them he announced his retirement.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “Louis is a young and exciting talent and has made incredible progress. We have got a young and gifted centre forward. To have finally secured this deal is fantastic and great boost to the club.”

17th July – Jaap Stam

Jaap Stam was one of the best centre backs in Europe for most of his career and now at the age of 41 he is helping the young players at Ajax.

The defenders at Ajax will benefit from his experience and they will surely improve under his guidance and will learn a lot from the centre back who had everything in his game. Stam was not only a solid defender, who won a lot in the air and was a great tackler, but he was also a great ball playing centre back.

Stam started his career at FC Zwolle in his native Holland and made his debut on the 15th August 1992 against Heracles in the second division and he remained first choice for the majority of the season and scored one goal in 32 league appearances. At the end of the season he joined Cambuur Leeuwarden who were playing in the top flight, however they only stayed there for one season and Stam was once again back in the second division. After one more season at the club and some impressive performances he got another move to the Eredivisie and signed for Willem II.

His time at Willem II was very short but he proved to be an effective player for them and after performing brilliantly in a 1-0 win over Ajax, PSV signed him and at the end of the season he picked up his first professional trophy after he helped them win the KNVB Cup. Stam was a key player during the 1996-97 season and played 33 times in the league and managed to get 7 goals which is impressive for a defender. At the end of the season PSV won the Eredivisie and was quickly establishing himself as one of the best centre backs in the world.
Stam PSV
In 1998, Stam became the most expensive Dutch player when he moved to Manchester United for £10.6 million. He spent three years at Old Trafford and his consistent performances made him very popular with the Manchester United fans. He won many trophies during his time there, including three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and the Champions League. However, early in the 2001-02 season Stam was controversially sold to Lazio after 80 Premier League appearances and single goal which came in a 6-2 away victory against Leicester City.
Stam MU
Alex Ferguson said on selling Stam. “We got the offer from Lazio, £16.5 million for a centre back who was 29. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.” This could have been a terrible decision by Ferguson but Stam had an indifferent time at Lazio and he was found guilty of using a banned steroid, however he recovered from this and helped the club win the Coppa Italia in his last season and after Euro 2004 he signed for AC Milan.
Stam Lazio
He spent two seasons at Milan and helped them reach the Champions League final in 2005 which they lost against Liverpool. He played 42 games in Serie A before returning to Holland and signed for Ajax where he was named club captain on his arrival. In his first season he won the KNVB Cup once more but he ended his career abruptly on the 29th October 2007 after playing in a 0-0 draw against N.E.C.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “When I think of disappointments, obviously Jaap Stam was always a disappointment to me, I made a bad decision there. In playing terms it (selling him) was a mistake.”

27th May – Paul Gascoigne

Paul Gascoigne is one of the greatest players England have ever produced and in terms of natural talent not many have even come close.

He provided so many good memories for football fans in the 90s ranging from his impressive World Cup showing at Italia 90 to that goal against Scotland at Euro 96. Although he has been in the headlines for the wrong reasons since his retirement it should not be this that he is remembered for as he was a wonderful player.

Gazza started his career at Newcastle United and was a special talent from an early age as he captained the youth team as they won the Youth Cup in 1985 with him scoring twice in the final. He was soon quickly promoted to the first team and Jack Charlton gave him his debut on the 13th April 1985 against QPR. But it was Willie McFaul that gave him his first start on the opening day of the new season. He scored his first goal a few weeks later against Oxford United and impressed for the entire season, scoring another eight goals.
Soccer - Today League Division One - Newcastle United Photocall
Newcastle struggled in the next season but Gazza still managed to score five times in 24 league games and was vital in helping the club avoid relegation. The season after though was his best personally, as he was named the PFA Young Player of the Year and was in the PFA Team of the Year and in the summer he moved to Tottenham Hotspur for a British record of £2.2 million.

In his first season he scored seven times in 37 league games and helped the club reach sixth place. They then rose to the third place the season after and he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1990 and also Tottenham’s Player of the Year. In the 1990-91 season he played a key part in helping the club win the FA Cup as he scored six times in the competition, including one against Arsenal in the semi final. However, an injury in the final meant that he would miss the entire 1991-92 season.
Gazza Spurs
Lazio had already agreed a deal to sign the midfielder and they eventually got their man for £5.5 million. He was loved by the Lazio fans because he scored an 89th minute equaliser against fierce rivals Roma but he did have a tough time in Italy and did not settle well. Despite this he helped them qualify for Europe for the first time in 16 years. Over the next two seasons he struggled with injuries and in July 1995 he joined Rangers for £4.3 million.

And he once again became a club legend by scoring in the Old Firm Derby, it was an extraordinary goal as he ran almost the full length of the pitch before scoring. Rangers won the league that season and he scored a hatrick against Aberdeen to clinch the title. They also went on to win the Scottish Cup and Gascoigne finished the season with 19 goals.
Gazza Rangers
Rangers won the title again in the 1996-97 season and Gascoigne scored hatricks against Kilmarnock and Motherwell and finished the year with an impressive 17 goals in 34 appearances. He also scored twice in the League Cup final victory over Hearts. His last season at the club was less successful as Rangers lost their title and didn’t win their single trophy which led to the player moving back to England, this time joining Middlesbrough for £3.45 million.

It started well for him as he helped them get promotion back to the Premier League and was then even more impressive in helping them finish sixth in their first season back but unfortunately his form did not last and he eventually left the club and joined Everton.

He started well but only played 32 league games for the club, scoring one goal which turned out to be his last in England away to Bolton Wanderers. He left the club in March 2002 and ended the season at Burnley where he made six appearances but they narrowly missed out on the playoffs and he left after just two months. Gascoigne then had a short spell in China playing for Gansu Tianma and started off well by scoring twice in his first four games but troubles off the pitch meant he had to leave. His last club was League Two Boston United but after only playing five times in three months he decided to retire.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson who has admitted he wished he signed the player. “He was a fantastic footballer. He was the best player England produced since the days of Bobby Charlton. He was the best player of his era, a breath of fresh air because he played with a smile.”

5th April – Thomas Hitzlsperger

Earlier this year Thomas Hitzlsperger came out as gay and is the most high profile player to do so and today he turns 32.

Firstly it should not really matter what the sexuality of a footballer is but it did create a lot of news headlines and it is something that cannot be avoided and it is easy to see why the player decided to wait till he retired till he made the announcement.

It is quite sad that he may now be more known because of this rather than his very good football career which saw him win the Bundesliga, be part of the Germany squad to come runner up at Euro 2008 and third at the 2006 World Cup.

He started his career at Bayern Munich but unfortunately could not break into their squad and left for his first spell in England. It took him a short while to settle in England and a loan spell at Chesterfield was just what he needed to get used to physical side of the game. When he came back to Villa, manager Graham Taylor gave him a chance in the first team and he impressed the fans and became one of their favourites, earning him the nickname Der Hammer because of his long range shooting and the fact that nearly all of his goals were very powerful strikes.
Hitz Villa
After falling out of favour he joined Stuttgart and in his second season at the club he won the Bundesliga playing in 30 of their 34 league games and scoring seven times. He was then given the captain’s armband however this did not last as new manager Markus Babbel decided to take the team in a different direction and therefore Hitzlsperger had to leave the club to get more first team opportunities.
Hitz Stuttgart
He only spent six months at his next club Lazio but scored once against Udinese in a 3-1 win. After this he came back to England and joined West Ham but injuries were catching up with the midfielder and he spent a lot of time on the sidelines but whenever he did play he produced some good performances, however they were not good enough to keep the team in the Premier League.

His career came to an end pretty soon after with short spells at Wolfsburg and Everton not leading to contract renewals and he decided to retire after, in his own words, “many transfers and some injuries”.
Hitz Everton
It would be easy to give the last word to the many people that commented on his decision to come out as gay because they were all very supportive however this has mostly focused on his career so the last word can go to his former Wolfsburg manager and the current Fulham manager Felix Magath after signing the German. “I am pleased he is now with us because he is a player that can lead the team and a player who will help us with his professional approach and international experience.”