18th July – Nabil Fekir

Nabil Fekir might not have played a massive part in France winning the 2018 World Cup but he is a very talented player and one that many clubs in the world would love to have.

It has not always been easy for the attacking midfielder and he has come along way since being released at the age of 14 for not being strong enough and has always shown his drive and determination by holding out until Lyon signed him again. Despite interest from rivals Saint Etienne, Fekir wanted to show that the youth coaches at Lyon had made a big mistake in letting him go in the first place.

He would go on to make his professional debut on the 28th August 2013 as a substitute against Real Sociedad in a Champions League qualifier and three days later he made his full Ligue 1 debut against Evian. In his first season he played a total of 17 games, with his best coming against Bastia in which he scored and assisted goals for Bakary Kone and Alexandre Lacazette.

Fekir

In the following campaign he became a regular and after scoring 15 goals he earned his first call up to the France squad and was also named the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year. At the start of the 2015-16 season Fekir scored a hatrick against Caen but shortly afterwards suffered a horrendous injury that kept him out of action for the rest of the season.

Fekir France

This could have slowed down his career but he bounced back and during the 2016-17 season he played 49 times and scored 14 goals. After the sale of Maxime Gonalons to Roma, Fekir was named the new club captain which was seen as a slight shock at the time but he had already proved his love for the club previously. One of his first big moments as captain was to score two goals against Saint Etienne but due to the rivalry between the teams he almost caused a riot by celebrating his second in front of their supporters and the game was stopped for almost 40 minutes.

Fekir Lyon

In June 2018 it looked as though the playmaker would sign for Liverpool and everyone expected the transfer to go through but the negotiations were unsuccessful.

Despite a promising start to his international career he hasn’t had the best of luck as he suffered a long term injury playing for his country against Portugal. In addition to this he has had to pull out of many squads because of niggling problems but despite this he still seems to be a valuable member of the squad. He will be proud that he was brought on for Olivier Giroud in the World Cup final win over Croatia.

The final word can go to French manager Didier Deschamps. “Fekir is a player with great potential. I consider that he can bring us something different. He plays in different roles to others. He can score and set up others to score as well.”

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10th July – Ludovic Giuly

Ludovic Giuly was a key part in Barcelona’s rise to dominance and maybe doesn’t quite get the credit he undoubtedly deserves.

The winger will never be put in the same category as other Barcelona stars such as Ronaldinho or Lionel Messi but he certainly helped the club reach the very top of European football.

Giuly started his career at Lyon, at the age of 18, against Cannes in 1995 and quickly became a fan favourite and was lovingly known as ‘the magic elf’ due to his height. His best season for the club was the 1996-97 season when he scored 17 times but he didn’t quite keep up these stats and moved on to Monaco in January 1998.

Giuly Monaco

It took him till the final day of the season to score his first goal but in the following campaign he was a key figure in helping the club win Ligue 1. However, the club had a terrible time defending the title and eventually finished 11th but Giuly did manage to score seven times.

An injury kept him out of most of the 2001-02 season as well as the World Cup but he returned to help the club win the Coupe De la Ligue and also reach the final of the Champions League which he unfortunately suffered an injury and many believe that this cost them. His performances though had caught the attention of others and in June 2004 Barcelona signed him.

Giuly Barca

He would score on his debut and end the campaign as the club’s second top scorer as well as lifting the La Liga trophy. The following season they also won the league title and also the Champions League with Giuly’s big moment coming in the semi final as he scored the only goal against Milan. Despite this he could not hold a place in the team in the 2006-07 season and it was time to move.

Italian side Roma picked him up but this move only lasted one season and he would move on to PSG on the 18th July 2008. The club were not in a good place and they really struggled during his three year spell at the club with disappointing league finishing positions but he did help them win the Coupe de France.

Giuly PSG.jpg

After this he returned to Monaco, who at the time were in Ligue 2, he was expected to help the club return to the top flight but it was another tough spell for him and after one season he was frozen out of the starting 11 so he was allowed to join Lorient on a free transfer. This would be his last season and after 727 career appearances Giuly announced his retirement.

The final word can go to former Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard. “I don’t have a lot of things to teach Ludo. He can be a provider, but one of his great qualities is that he can score goals. It would be a shame to condemn him to play only on the flank.”

2nd July – Marc-Antoine Fortune

Marc-Antoine Fortune is currently stuck on 98 professional career goals and will be hoping that one more team gives him a chance to reach 100..

The forward started his career at French lower league side Angouleme where he broke into the side during the 1999-00 season, scoring three times in 10 appearances. He helped the club reach the third tier of French football and he was linked with moves to Ligue 1 sides. In 2002, Lille took a chance on Fortune.

While at the club he found himself playing out of position on the left wing and struggled with injuries to make a real impact. After just one season, Fortune joined Ligue 2 side Rouen on loan. He ended the season with 10 goals and for a third summer in a row he was on the move.

Stade Brest had a decent season with Fortune scoring 10 goals in 33 games and finishing 9th in Ligue 2. It looked as though he had settled, however when Eredivisie side Utrecht showed interest, Fortune could not turn down the opportunity. While in Holland, Fortune struggled to settle and the death of David Di Tommaso meant he could not show his talent.

Before his teammate died he had been looking quite impressive but after 13 goals in 56 appearances, he felt he needed to return to France. In January 2007, Nancy signed the striker and began really well, scoring six goals in 17 league games. After this he was largely used as an impact substitute and began to feel frustrated so in January 2009 he joined West Brom.

MAF Nancy

He became a fan favourite and scored on his debut in a 3-0 win over Middlesbrough and despite only playing half a season he was named the Supporters Player of the Year. He finished his loan spell with five goals and convinced Celtic to buy him.

MAF WB

After a good start with goals against St Johnstone and Rapid Vienna in the Europa League it turned sour, especially after Tony Mowbray was replaced by Neil Lennon so at the start of the 2010-11 season he returned to West Brom. He spent a further three seasons at West Brom, scoring nine goals as the club battled to stay in the Premier League. During this time, he also had a loan spell at Doncaster Rovers.

MAF WA

His next move was to Wigan Athletic and he featured heavily during their Europa League campaign and ended the season with 49 appearances. He lasted one more season and signed a one year deal for Coventry City. After four goals in 25 games he was on the move again to Southend United following a successful trial. Last season he scored four goals.

The final word can go to former Celtic and West Brom manager Tony Mowbray. “Marc is a quality player and he was a privilege to work with. Some of his play in the second half of the season was phenomenal, you can see the impact he made. He is a team player.”

28th June – Fabien Barthez

Fabien Barthez is a World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and Premier League winner yet his abilities as a goalkeeper were still questioned.

The Frenchman had a fantastic career and should be up there with the best goalkeepers ever and if some of his previous coaches are to be believed then he was actually a better outfield player than in goal.

Barthez began his career at Toulouse, making his debut in 1991 against Nancy. He established himself as the club’s number one, playing 26 times during the 1991-92 season. At the end of this season he joined Marseille and would go on to win the French Cup and Champions League in his first campaign and in doing so becoming the youngest keeper to win the competition.

Barthez Marseille

After this the club went through many controversies and would suffer relegation to the second division. Many expected Barthez to leave, however he stuck around and helped the club win the title. He stayed until 1995, when he joined Monaco and gained even more success by helping the club win Ligue 1 in 1997 and 2000. During this time he also helped France win the World Cup and European Championships.

Barthez Monaco

Manchester United signed Barthez for £7.8 million in 2000 and would quickly become a fan favourite for his remarkable reaction saves. He helped the club win the Premier League title but he did still show some problems in his game, most notably in an FA Cup tie with West Ham as he stood there with his hand in the air appealing for offside as Paolo Di Canio scored

The start of the 2001-02 season was a struggle for him as high profile mistakes against Deportivo and Arsenal led to some wanting him to be dropped from the team. However, manager Alex Ferguson backed Barthez to bounce back. The following season ended with another league title but once again he had some ups and downs and he was heavily criticised especially after defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League, which turned out to be his last game for the club as he was dropped for Roy Carroll.

Barthez MU

With the signing of Tim Howard, Barthez knew his time was up at Old Trafford and returned to Marseille on loan. His form returned but in February 2005 he allegedly spat on a referee and was given a six month ban. After his ban and 102 games for Marseille it looked as though his career was over as he announced his retirement from the game.

On the 17th December 2006, Barthez was convinced to sign for Nantes but after a decent start he was involved in more controversy, involving an altercation with a fan, that forced him to leave the club.

The final word can go to Alex Ferguson. “Fabien is a World Cup winner and not only has the personality but the vast experience that is required at Manchester United. Apart from his obvious goalkeeping skills, he has the personality to play on the biggest stage.”

23rd June – Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane was a fantastic footballer that amazed fans all over the world and is now proving that he is equally adept at being a manager.

It will be interesting to see what he does after leading Real Madrid to three Champions League trophies. He has surprised a lot of pundits by showing tactical knowledge but it shouldn’t be a surprise after everything that happened to him during his playing days.

The midfielder started his career at French side Cannes and made his professional debut on the 18th May 1989 against Nantes and in his first full season he helped the club to a fantastic 4th place in Ligue 1.He showed a lot of talent in his early years and this earned him a move to Bordeaux in 1992.

While at Bordeaux it seemed like he was consistently linked with moves away from the club due to his form but for whatever reason it seemed like clubs were not willing to take a chance on him. But in 1996, and his finally year at the club, he won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year. During his time there he played 139 league games and scored 28 goals.

Zidane Bordeaux

Juventus signed Zidane and he was an instant success in Italy and even though they had just won the Champions League many believed that he would improve the squad. In his first season they reached the final again but were beaten by Dortmund, however they did win the Serie A title. In the following season he scored seven times in 32 games as they retained the title and once again they reached the Champions League final but were beaten, this time to Real Madrid. In 1998 he was named World Player of the Year.

Zidane Juve

He stayed with Juventus until Real Madrid paid a world record fee for the playmaker in 2001. In his first season he got his hands on the Champions League trophy and scored one of the greatest goals ever seen against Bayer Leverkusen. At Real Madrid the trophies didn’t flow as often as he would have hoped but he did help them win the La Liga title at the end of the 2002-03 season. His ability was never questioned but occasionally he did show a different side and his disciplinary record was not the greatest and he received more red cards than people realise.

Zidane RM

On the international stage he also showed these two sides of his game by scoring two goals in the final of the 1998 World Cup final and being named the best player of Euro 2000. However, he might always be more remembered for his headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the final of the 2006 World Cup. This would be his last moment as a footballer.

The final word can go to Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano. “He dominates the ball, he is a walking spectacle and plays as if he had silk gloves on each foot. He makes it worthwhile going to the stadium.”

29th May – Claudio Cacapa

Claudio Cacapa is one of the most decorated players of the 2000s in France but his reputation in England is not as positive.

The central defender was never the tallest and some felt this is why he didn’t succeed in the Premier League and looked better in other leagues. Cacapa started his career in Brazil with Atletico Mineiro where he established himself quickly as first team regular after making his debut in 1996. In 1999 he was voted the best defender in the league receiving the Bola de Ouro award.

Cacapa AM

In 2001, he was linked with moves to Europe and eventually moved to Lyon, making his debut on the 17th February. His success was instantaneous as he scored in the Coupe de la Ligue final which Lyon won and this helped him earn a full time contract. Lyon awarded him with a five year deal and was given the captain’s armband. Over the next five years he lifted the Ligue 1 title each season and played a part in their Champions League campaigns.

Cacapa Lyon

When his contract came to an end there was a lot of interest and on the 3rd August 2007 he signed for Newcastle United. He made his debut as a substitute against Aston Villa and in doing so he became the 1000th player to play for the club in a competitive fixture. Later in the month he would make his full debut in a 2-0 win against Barnsley and followed this up three days later with his full Premier League debut, helping his team to a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic.

After a goal in a 3-1 win against Tottenham Hotspur, his career at Newcastle went downhill. In a game against Portsmouth, Cacapa was withdrawn after just 18 minutes after a few horrendous errors and his reputation was ruined. It was announced that he had an injury leading up to the game but he was heavily criticised.

Cacapa Newcastle

Despite being at the club until the end of the 2008-09 season, which ended in relegation, he only managed 25 league games and was released at the end of the campaign. Cacapa returned to Brazil and in a surprising move he joined Cruzeiro, big rivals to first club Mineiro. He played 22 times for the club, scoring one goal.

On the 25th January 2011, the defender joined French side Evian on a six month deal and helped the club win the Ligue 2 title and promotion to the top flight for the first time in their history. However, he wasn’t given a new contract and he joined Avai, where he stayed until his retirement on the 20th March 2012.

The final word can go to the manager that signed him for Newcastle, Sam Allardyce. “He is a top player. Our fans should not be put off by the fact they may not have heard of Cacapa. He has been captain of Lyon for the past five years and for every one of those five years they won the French title.”

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.”