22nd July – Dirk Kuyt

Dirk Kuyt will go down in history as one of those players that put his teams needs before his own as he played in many different positions and performed admirably.

Kuyt started his career at Dutch side Quick Boys and after some impressive performances he was signed by Utrecht at the age of 18. He started his time there on the wing but during the 2002-03 season he was used a striker and scored 20 league goals and also scored in the KNVB Cup final.

Kuyt Utrecht

This convinced Feyenoord to sign Kuyt and he was an instant success, scoring 20 goals in his first season and in the opening game of the 2004-05 season he scored his first hatrick against De Graafschap. He would continue his good form and 29 goals meant he finished as the Eredivisie top scorer. More goals followed but even more remarkably during his seven seasons at the club he only missed five games. But on 18th August 2006 he joined Liverpool.

Kuyt Feyenoord

The fans quickly took to him and would score his first goal for the club against Newcastle United. He played a key role in helping the team reach the Champions League final and scored in it but unfortunately they were defeated by Milan. The second season was a little more difficult but he did score twice against Everton. It was during this time that he was more often than not played on the right wing.

He had also started to become known as a big game player and would pop up with some very important goals. During the 2008-09 season he had his best return of 15 goals as the team finished second. By the end of the next season, Everton fans were getting sick of Kuyt as he scored in both fixtures and in the second game his goal was his 50th for the club.

Once again he showed why the Liverpool fans loved him by scoring a hatrick against Manchester United in a 3-1 win and would later become the first player since John Aldridge to score in five consecutive games. He would finish the season as the club’s top scorer but the following campaign saw him have less of an impact but he did become only the fifth player to score 50 goals for Liverpool in the Premier League.

Kuyt Liverpool

After 208 league games and 51 goals he joined Fenerbahce in 2012. He managed to score on his league debut and had three successful years at the club, scoring 37 times but it was time for him to return home and he rejoined Feyenoord. He continued to score goals but even more remarkably he led them to their first Eredivise title since 1999 and he scored a hatrick to clinch the title.

The final word can go to Kenny Dalglish. “Dirk is the Liverpool player of choice. He never gives up, fights with everything and he is simply a good footballer. He scores goals and often in major competitions or at crucial moments.”

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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.”

19th July – Luke Young

Luke Young was one of the most consistent right backs during the early to mid 2000s and many believe he should have won more England caps.

The right back did play seven times for England and had it not been for Gary Neville and the fact that he played for teams that weren’t challenging for the title then he would have surely gained more. He broke through at a time when a lot of players were overlooked not because of their quality but the team they played for.

Young started his career at Tottenham Hotspur and made his debut on the 28th November 1998 against West Ham at centre back. He featured a lot in the cup competitions that season, helping his side win the League Cup and reach the semi final of the FA Cup. He featured fairly regularly in his three years at the club, playing 76 games in all competitions but it was time to move on.

Young TH

Charlton Athletic signed Young on the 25th July 2001 for £3million and made his debut on the opening day in a 2-1 defeat to Everton. In his first season at the club, funnily he played alongside Mark Fish, Jonathan Fortune and Jorge Costa meaning it came up on the starting lineups as Young Fish Costa Fortune. He stayed as first choice through his time at the club and helped them defy expectations and stay in the Premier League for five years until relegation at the end of the 2006-07 season.

Young CA

While at Charlton, Young scored his first professional goal in August 2004 in a 3-0 win over Aston Villa and followed it up soon after with another against Birmingham City. At the end of this campaign he was named their Player of the Year. But after relegation he moved on to Middlesbrough. His spell at the club only lasted one season but he did manage one goal against Tottenham Hotspur.

On the 7th August 2008 Young transferred to Aston Villa. He quickly became a favourite at Villa Park due to his solid performances, playing at both right and left back. Despite this he found himself out of favour under Martin O’Neill and it looked as though he would be leaving for Liverpool as the two clubs agreed a fee, however Young turned them down as he didn’t want to be a backup.

Young AV

He stayed at Villa until 2011 when he joined QPR and was first choice in his first season but was frozen out of the squad by manager Mark Hughes. Then he suffered injuries and wasn’t even included in their 25 man squad. The last appearance of his career would be his only one outside the top flight as he played against Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.

The final word can go to former Charlton chairman Richard Money. “He is an international and his performances over the last few seasons, including last term when he was club captain, have been excellent. Luke is a key member of our squad.”

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.”

1st July – Ruud Van Nistelrooy

Ruud Van Nistelrooy is one of the best strikers to ever grace the Premier League and should go down as one of Manchester United’s best goalscorers.

Despite his brilliance he was one of those players that crossed Sir Alex Ferguson and found out that nobody is bigger than the club. His departure from Old Trafford was surprising and meant he couldn’t join the 100 Premier League goals club.

The Dutchman started his career at Den Bosch and after netting 12 goals in the 1996-97 campaign he earned a move to Heerenveen. He only stayed for one season, grabbing 13 goals, before a big move to PSV.

He started brilliantly with 31 goals in 34 matches and capped the year of by winning the Dutch Player of the Year and the Eredivisie title. The following season they retained the title with Van Nistelrooy scoring 29 goals. In the summer of 2000 it looked as though the striker was about to leave but an injury meant he was out of action for a year.

RVN PSV

Manchester United kept the faith and signed him once he had recovered and scored against Liverpool in the Charity Shield and twice on his Premier League debut against Fulham. At the end of the campaign he had 23 league goals and 10 in the Champions League as well as scoring in eight consecutive games. In the next season he went even better getting 14 in Europe and 25 in the league, which earned him the Golden Boot.

Goals kept flowing for the striker and he even overtook Denis Law’s European goal record however Van Nistelrooy was left on the bench for the 2006 League Cup final against Wigan Athletic. From then till the end of the season he was regularly left on the bench and an argument with Cristiano Ronaldo meant it was time to move on.

RVN MU

After 150 goals in 219 appearances, Real Madrid signed the striker. He didn’t take long to settle, scoring a hatrick against Levante and a few weeks later all four in a victory over Osasuna. As the club clinched the title, Van Nistelrooy equalled the longest consecutive scoring streak in La Liga history. During the following campaign he picked up an injury and never got his place back in the team. He managed 64 goals in 96 games before moving on to German side Hamburg.

RVN RM

After just half a season and seven goals in 18 games he was remarkably linked with a move back to Madrid however his new club rejected it. In his only full season he scored seven times in 25 league games. His final move was to Malaga but after just one season he announced his retirement from the game with 347 career goals.

The final word can go to PSV spokesman Pedro Salazar-Hewitt. “He can play in any competition and score goals. He’s a great player and a very nice guy. He has the mentality and the ambition to become one of the biggest players in the world.”

26th June – Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini is one of the greatest defenders to have ever played football and spent his full career at one club.

To play over 900 times for a team like AC Milan and over 100 times for Italy just shows how talented Maldini was. He was known for his positional sense and his reading of the game which led him to being labelled as the defender that doesn’t need to tackle.

Maldini Italy

Maldini made his debut on the 20th January 1985 against Udinese at the age of 16. In the following campaign he became a regular and was handed the number three shirt, which his father Cesare had also worn. With a promising start titles came soon after and the 1987-88 season marked his first Serie A title and this was down to Maldini and his fellow defenders as they conceded 14 goals Over the next two seasons, his form translated to European football as Milan won the European Cup back to back.

In the early 90s Milan became known as The Invincibles as they went the whole 1991-92 season unbeaten and a record 58 games without losing. They not only won three consecutive titles but they also reached three consecutive Champions League finals, winning one of them against Barcelona.

Maldini AC

The club went through a transitional period after Fabio Capello left and several of the more experienced members of the squad moved on. But Maldini was still showing his ability and he was rewarded by being made Milan captain . After he galvanised the squad, he led them to another Serie A title in the 1998-99 season.

It wasn’t until Carlo Ancelotti was named manager that they finally began to dominate in Europe again with Maldini lifting the Champions League trophy as captain for the first time after defeating Juventus on penalties in 2003 and was named man of the match. In the space of six years Milan got to the final three times. Maldini opened the scoring in 2005 against Liverpool and played in the 2007 final which they won against the same opposition becoming the oldest captain to lift the trophy.

Maldini

Maldini during this period would also go on to break Dino Zoff’s Serie A appearance record after playing his 571st league game. He did announce his plans to retire at the end of the 2007-08 season however his performances were still of the highest quality and he was convinced to stay on.

On the 16th February 2008, Maldini played in his 1000th professional game after coming on as a substitute against Parma. One season later he decided it was time to hang up the boots and played his 902nd and last game for Milan against Fiorentina on the 31st May 2009. Milan then decided to retire his number three shirt to honour their captain.

The final word can go to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. “Maldini was the best and toughest defender I ever faced. He had everything: he was a complete defender, who was strong, intelligent, and an excellent man-marker.”

7th June – Cafu

Cafu is one of the best ever right backs in football and will be hoping that his country Brazil can win the World Cup in 2018.

The right back helped his country win the trophy in 1994 and 2002 as well as the Copa America twice and will be looking on keenly this summer to see how his national side get on. The only statistic that anyone needs to hear to prove how good Cafu was is that he is the most internationally capped Brazilian player of all time.

But it wasn’t always easy for the defender as he was turned down by a lot of clubs when he was younger and could not get signed, however, in 1988 he was given the opportunity to show his talents at home town club Sao Paulo. It did take him a little while to break into the first team but when he did he was influential in helping the club win back to back Copa Libertadores and World Championships in 1992 and 1993. Just a year later he was named South American Footballer of the Year.

Cafu SP

1995 was an interesting time for Cafu as he signed for Brazilian team Juventude but never played a game for the club and moved to Spanish side Real Zaragoza where he won the Cup Winners’ Cup. After 17 appearances he returned to Brazil, joining Palmeiras, this once again though was only a short stay and he was being linked with moves back to Europe.

Italian side Roma signed the right back and he was loved by the fans for his willingness to fly forward and join the attack as well as his solid defending. In 2001 he helped the club win Serie A and the Supercoppa Italiana but these would be his only trophies during his six year spell. After 163 league games and 5 goals, Cafu made the move to AC Milan.

Cafu Roma

In his first season with the club, he won Serie A for the second time in his career and in the following campaign played a part in reaching the Champions League final, which they unfortunately lost to Liverpool, in arguably the greatest game in the competitions history. He did manage to get revenge for this defeat just two years later by winning the Champions League against the same opposition.

Cafu AC

His final season for the club was the 2007-08 season where he was not an automatic pick but in his last professional game he did manage to grab a goal in a 4-1 win over Udinese. To show how much he was loved in Italy, he has been named in both Roma and AC Milan’s Hall of Fame.

The final word can go to England World Cup hero Geoff Hurst. “Cafu was the complete package. It’s not often I find myself waxing lyrical about a defender, but Cafu was that and so much more. Sir Alex Ferguson once jokingly asked whether Cafu had two hearts, on account of his tireless running and unstinting stamina.”