20th June – Juliano Belletti

Juliano Belletti was a World Cup winner in 2002 and will be hoping that Brazil improve this time around after a disappointing opening draw against Switzerland.

The right back was unfortunate that he played at the same time as Cafu as he would have gained a lot more than 23 caps. But he should still be proud of his international career and how influential he was for the clubs he played for.

Belletti started his career at Cruzeiro in Brazil and was given his debut in 1994 but after failing to break into the team, he was involved in a swap deal, joining Sao Paulo. Once again, he wasn’t first choice and was loaned out to Atletico Mineiro and this is where his career started. The club finished second in the table with Belletti scoring five times.

Soccer - FIFA Confederations Cup 2003 - Group B - Brazil v USA

On his return to Sao Paulo he was finally seen as their first choice right back and stayed at the club until 2002 when his performances had been spotted by clubs in Europe. It was Spanish side Villarreal that took a chance on him. He stayed with them for two years, playing 59 La Liga games, scoring six times before moving to Barcelona.

In his first season he helped the club win the league title but his second was slightly harder as he was in and out of the side. However, he did manage to score his one and only goal for Barcelona in this season. After coming on as a substitute in the Champions League final against Arsenal, Belletti scored the winning goal. This would be his greatest moment but he didn’t get much luck with injuries in the following campaign.

Belletti Barca

With limited opportunities the right back joined English side Chelsea on the 23rd August 2007 and made his debut two days later in a 4-0 win over Portsmouth. In his first season he made the right back position his own and scored against Wigan Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea would reach the Champions League final and despite Belletti scoring in the penalty shootout, the team would go on to lose against Manchester United. With the arrival of Jose Bosingwa at the start of the next season, the defender struggled to keep hold of his place and was seen as more of a utility player.

Belletti Chelsea

After three seasons, 94 appearances, five goals, a Premier League title and two FA Cup medals, Belletti had gained cult hero status but his time was up and he returned to Brazil to join Fluminense. Just one year into his new contract he was released due to injuries but he did give it one more try signing for Ceara. However, 12 days later he decided to retire.

The final word can go to former Chelsea and Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. “I know him very well. I know Belletti from when he started to play at Sao Paulo. I know his potential. He helps us in whatever position we put him in; midfield, right back, any position.”

20th May – Petr Cech

As birthdays dominate the headlines today it is a day that we must not forget one of Chelsea’s greatest ever signings in Petr Cech.

Yaya Toure may feel he is not getting appreciated enough by his club but the Chelsea number one is loved by everyone at the club and his birthday will have been celebrated in the right way with him receiving many messages. Cech turns 32 today and if other goalkeepers are to go by his best years are still to come.

The Czech international began his career in his homeland at FK Chmel Blsany and made his league debut in October 1999 as a 17 year old in a 3-1 loss to Sparta. In January 2001 he joined Sparta Prague but was allowed to stay at his first club to gain more first team experience until the end of the season and he went on to play 27 times in total for the club.

It wasn’t long before he was in the Sparta first time and was breaking records as in November 2001 he played 855 minutes without conceding a goal in the Czech professional league. Unfortunately for Cech and the club they could not win any trophies but the goalkeeper was attracting interest from the rest of Europe and was close to joining Arsenal but he could not get a work permit and the deal fell through.
So instead he joined French club Rennes in the summer of 2002. Rennes struggled for large periods of time while he was at the club but this did not stop him showing how good he was and once again bigger clubs were looking to sign him. Although their first bid was rejected, Chelsea persevered and got their man for £7 million which made him the most expensive goalkeeper in Chelsea’s history.

He was initially just signed as back up but when first choice Carlo Cudicini suffered an injury, Cech stepped in and made his debut on the first day of the season which they went on to win 1-0 at home to Manchester United. He could not have imagined his first season would be so successful as he set a new record of 1025 minutes without conceding a goal in the Premier League. At the end of the season he lifted the Premier League trophy with the team only conceding 15 goals and him keeping 21 clean sheets.
Cech Chelsea
Chelsea retained the title the next season and they only conceded 22 times this time around. It was a good year personally for the keeper too as he was named the Czech Player of the Year for the first time. Early in the 2006-07 season he suffered a horrible head injury against Reading but he did thankfully return on the 20th January in a game away to Liverpool. From then on he has worn a headguard for every match. Although they lost his comeback game, he then went on another incredible record of not conceding in 810 minutes and was awarded the Player of the Month in April. He then ended the season well by keeping a clean sheet in Chelsea’s FA Cup win.

After an injury hit season, he signed a new contract at the start of the 2008-09 season and Luiz Felipe Scolari said of him. “In my view he is the best goalkeeper in the world, so I am very pleased that he will remain with me at Chelsea.” And in November he kept his 100th clean sheet at Chelsea which is a remarkable achievement. He finished the season with yet another FA Cup win despite conceding the quickest ever goal in a final.
Cech Chelsea 2
The 2009-10 season started with more success as he saved two penalties against Manchester United in the Community Shield after the game finished 2-2 and he ended it with another Premier League winners medal and a third FA Cup success.

After winning every competition Chelsea had competed in he finally got the chance to win the Champions League against Bayern Munich in 2012 and he performed heroically and even though Didier Drogba took the headlines, Cech saved a penalty in extra time and then another two in the penalty shootout to allow Drogba to score the winning penalty. He followed this up the next season by winning the Europa League.

Although the 2013-14 season did not bring the club any trophies he managed to break Peter Bonetti’s record of most clean sheets for the club and ended the season winning the Premier League Golden Glove for the third time by keeping 16 clean sheets.

The final word can go to a goalkeeping great in Bob Wilson. “He is probably the best goalkeeper in the world at the moment. People say ‘go and buy a goalie’ – but outside of Petr Cech I cannot give you a list.”

4th May – Fernandinho

One of the best signings of the summer has been vital in helping his team come within touching distance of the Premier League trophy.

Although he hasn’t grabbed as many headlines as some of his teammates Fernandinho has had a brilliant season and on his 29th birthday he would have hoped that his team would be in pole position for the title. This did not look likely a few weeks ago but after Liverpool lost to Chelsea it meant that Manchester City could win the Premier League on goal difference.

Winning trophies is not new to Fernandinho as he had a lot of success throughout his career. He began it at Brazilian side Atletico Paranaense where he scored 14 times in 72 appearances before a £7 million move to Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk. In his first season at the club they won the title and he played a pivotal role playing in 34 games. Unfortunately they failed to retain the title by finishing second but the season after Fernandinho proved what a good player he was by scoring 11 goals and winning the league title once more and the Ukrainian Cup.
Fernandinho Shakhtar
In the 2008-09 season he started to make an impression in Europe by scoring in Champions League wins over FC Basel and away to Barcelona but this was good enough to qualify for the knockout rounds and they dropped into the UEFA Cup which they went on to win. In the tournament he scored against Tottenham Hotspur, CSKA Moscow, Marseille and Dynamo Kiev.

He played for Shakhtar until the summer of 2013 and ended up with 6 Ukrainian Premier League medals before transferring to Manchester City for £34 million. This is a huge transfer fee but he has proved to be a very good signing. He has arguably got the best out of Yaya Toure as he does a lot of defensive work allowing Toure to go forward and cause problems for the opposition’s defence. He has already established himself as very good Premier League player in his own right and scored his first goals in England in a 6-3 victory over Arsenal in which he was also awarded the man of the match award.
Fernandinho Man City
He has so far scored five goals for the club and helped them win the League Cup against Sunderland and manager Manuel Pellegrini believes he should be going to the World Cup in his home country this summer because of his performances. “I suppose that Scolari sees all the games of Manchester City and Fernandinho is one of the best players this season.”

He has been named in a few squads this season and scored his first international goal in a 5-0 win over South Africa. Leaving Luiz Felipe Scolari with a big selection problem. He said. “Fernandinho scored a beautiful goal but that was not the only thing I liked – also his effort, his good passes.”
Fernandinho Brazil
If he could win the Premier League title and then be called up to the Brazil squad for the World Cup it would be an amazing season for him personally. The final word can go to Manchester City manager Pellegrini. “He is an experienced international who will further strengthen our midfield and I think he will be well suited to the Premier League. He is a superb athlete with a wide range of passing, can score goals and most importantly, can quickly turn defence into attack.”

7th April – Franco Di Santo

Argentina have one of the best strike forces in world football so it is really surprising to see that a Wigan Athletic player was included in their squad.

Franco Di Santo who is 25 today was called up in 2012 and has gone on to make three appearances for his country. His manager at the time Roberto Martinez summed it up perfectly by saying: “He’s come back after sharing a dressing room with Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero. As a striker, that’s as nice a dream as you can have.”

The striker first came to England in 2008 joining Chelsea as an 18 year old for £3.4 million after he scored 26 goals in 76 matches for Chilean club Audax Italiano. Remarkably he finished as the top scorer for Chelsea’s reserves even though he was only there for half a season which led to him being part of the first team squad in the next preseason and on the 31st August he made his Premier League debut against Tottenham Hotspur. Although he didn’t score that season he showed a lot of promise and was linked with loan moves away from the club. Even though the fans did not see the best of him his teammates were clearly impressed and defender Ricardo Carvalho gave him the nickname ‘Crespito’ which means Little Crespo in reference to Hernan Crespo who was a phenomenal striker.
Di Chelsea
Blackburn Rovers were the team to take a chance on him and on his debut against Aston Villa he provided an assist for David Dunn and was a constant threat and manager Sam Allardyce was very impressed and decided to extend his loan till the end of the season. However, his time was limited after Christmas and he did not play as much as he would have hoped but he did play well in a game against local rivals Burnley, once again setting up Dunn and this time grabbing a goal himself.
Di Blackburn
It looked as though his talents were going to waste until Wigan Athletic signed him for £2 million and although his goal record did not improve, his performances were consistent and under Roberto Martinez he was definitely a vital part of their team and helped them play an exciting style of football. During his time at the club he seemed to score important goals including a last minute winner against Sunderland, two against relegation rivals QPR and once against Southampton which helped the club to an away victory. He was also crucial in helping the team win the FA Cup against Manchester City so he will surely look back on his time at the club fondly.
Di Wigan
Di Santo is currently playing in the Bundesliga at Werder Bremen so he is still highly rated and at the age of 25 he could become the striker everyone thought he was going to become. Former Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari thought the future should have been built around him and he will get the last word on the striker saying after a preseason game. “It’s important for us to put some good young players in the team. Di Santo scored one goal for us and it’s good for him that he played in this match. He will grow as a player and we can continue to build for the future of the team for the next 11, 15 or 20 years.”