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.”

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.”

7th March – Hatem Ben Arfa

Hatem Ben Arfa will go down as one of the greatest players to never reach his full potential in England, being the most exciting player on the pitch to the most frustrating in a matter of seconds.

Despite only being 28 there have been some suggestions that he is contemplating retiring from the game after a terrible season that will see him end it as a free agent due to a FIFA ruling. The winger would be a great addition to any side if he could play to the best of his abilities and it is probably why he will be a wanted man in the summer.

Ben Arfa started his career at Lyon, signing his first professional contract in 2004 and made his debut on the opening day of the season against Nice. After more substitute appearance he would score his first goal on the 10th November against Lille. But he wouldn’t really become a regular until the 2007-08 season. He performed very well throughout the season and was named the National Union of Professional Footballers Young Player of the Year. It seemed like he would be an important member of the side for a long time to come after signing a contract extension in March 2008 but a training ground scuffle with Sebastien Squillaci meant his time at the club was up.

HBA Lyon

After a long transfer saga Ben Arfa eventually joined Marseille on the 1st July but it wasn’t long before he was in another bust up as on the 16th July he was involved in one with Djibril Cisse. On his debut however he showed his qualities by scoring against Rennes and in his first 11 matches he hit the back of the net six times. More controversy followed as he was involved in disputes with Modeste M’Bami and manager Eric Gerets. His performances when he was on the pitch were usually of the highest quality but trouble was never far away as in the next season he was fined for missing training and got in yet another argument with new manager Didier Deschamps. He would play 29 times for the club as they won the Ligue 1 title but this was not enough for him to stay at the club.

HBA Marseille

On the 27th August 2010 Ben Arfa joined Newcastle United on a season long loan after many weeks of trouble. But it seemed like it was worth it as on his full debut he scored a brilliant goal against Everton but on the 3rd October his season was over after he suffered a broken tibia and fibula. Despite this the two clubs agreed a permanent transfer. He would have to wait until the 24th September 2011 to make his Premier League return in a 3-1 win over Blackburn Rovers. In the second half of the season he scored two individual goals, firstly in the FA Cup against Blackburn and against Bolton Wanderers. During this time he was an important part of the team and combined brilliantly with Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse.

HBA NU

The next season also started very well as he scored on the opening day against Tottenham Hotspur and then two weeks later hit a great equaliser against Aston Villa. Injuries disrupted the second half of the season but he scored in the win over QPR to guarantee the club’s safety. Once again the 2013-14 season started well for him as he scored against Fulham and was also in great form against Aston Villa, scoring and making an assist. Unfortunately he didn’t perform for the rest of the season. On the 2nd September 2014 he joined Hull City on loan but this only last nine games and manager Steve Bruce admitted at one point he didn’t even know where he was. On the 4th January he was released by Newcastle and signed for Nice the next day. But FIFA ruled that he could not play for them and his contract was terminated.

The final word can go to former teammate Yohan Cabaye. “For me, he remains an extraordinary player with enormous quality. It is true that it was harder for him late in the season. He is going to bounce back. For me, this is one of the players I’ve played with who has the highest quality.”

5th October – Kevin Mirallas

Kevin Mirallas will be a big loss for Everton and they seemed to miss him in their defeat to Manchester United as he adds something extra to their attack and would have caused the defence more problems.

The 27 year old has been a big success since coming to England and has shown that he can play in a lot of different positions and in various formations which has made him one of the manager’s favourite players. He had started the season well, scoring twice in the opening six Premier League games before suffering an injury in the Merseyside derby which could keep him out until December.

Mirallas started his youth career in his native Belgium and was a part of Standard Liege’s squad but before he could make a first team appearance he moved to France and signed for Lille. He got his chance to show his talents during the 2004-05 season and started getting more and more game time before becoming a first team regular in the 2007-08 season where he played 37 times and scored seven goals.
Mirallas Lille
This proved to be his last season at the club as he joined Saint Etienne after 89 appearances and 11 goals for Lille. Mirallas got off to a great start at his new club by scoring in the Rhone-Loire derby against Lyon on his debut. However, he struggled to make much of an impact and in his two seasons he played 69 times and only found the back of the net five times.
Mirallas SE
In June 2010 he joined Greek side Olympiakos initially on loan and after finishing as the club’s top scorer this move was made permanent. In his first campaign he scored 14 goals and only Djibril Cisse outscored him in the league but his goals were enough to secure the title for Olympiakos. In the following season he scored the first hatrick of his career in a 4-0 win over Levadiakos and then went one better by scoring four times in a 7-2 win over Asteras Tripolis. His form was beginning to attract attention from other clubs around Europe as he finished with a second league winners medal and also finished as the top scorer in the division with 20 goals.

On the 12th August 2012, Mirallas joined Everton for £6 million which is a bargain for a player of his quality. He made his debut as a substitute against Aston Villa and thought he’d got off to a great start but his headed goal was disallowed for offside. In his first start for the club he scored twice and set up another two goals in a 5-0 win over Leyton Orient in the League Cup. A number of injuries slowed his progress but he ended the season very well and scored twice in David Moyes’ final home game against West Ham.
Mirallas Everton
Under Roberto Martinez he has further developed his game and although the goals are not as easy to come by as his time in Greece, he is showing other qualities of his game. In the 2013-14 season he created 61 chances for his teammates which was more than any other Everton player and managed to score eight times from 32 games.

The final word can go to Roberto Martinez. “His game has gone from strength to strength and the way he had started the season had been really positive. Last season he had a very important role. He was scoring goals and being a real threat in everything we do going forward. We have plenty games for him to be as influential.”

15th September – Aly Cissokho

Aston Villa have had a fantastic start to the season and some are putting it down to the influence of Roy Keane while others are saying it is because of the experience they now have at the back, including birthday boy Aly Cissokho.

The 27 year old has helped the club to second in the table after four games and with three clean sheets so far and only one goal conceded they have certainly surprised a lot of people. The left back has added a lot of pace to the back line and he is always quick to support his winger when going forward.

Cissokho started his professional career at French side Gueugnon in the second division and after impressing for the youth team and reserves, he made his debut on the 25th May against Metz. Manager Alain Ravera rewarded him with a new contract and he was given the number three shirt for the 2007-08 season and remained a key member of the squad when Ravera was replaced with Alex Dupont. Despite his good performances, the club were relegated and on the 2nd June 2008, the defender transferred to Portuguese side Vitoria Setubal.
Cissokho Guegunon
He only spent half a season at the club and after just 15 appearances he was snapped up by defending champions Porto. Cissokho helped the club retain the title and in the 15 matches he played for Porto they did not lose and then he also played the full 90 minutes in the Taca de Portugal final which saw them lift the trophy after defeating Pacos de Ferreira.

Once again after just half a season he was on the move and he was close to joining AC Milan but after he allegedly failed a medical they pulled out of the deal and he ended up signing for Lyon. He made his debut in the opening game of the season against Le Mans. He remained first choice at the French side for the next three seasons and his consistent performances were recognised by the national team and he made his French debut in 2010.
Cissokho Lyon
Over the three seasons he made 137 appearances and scored two goals, with his first coming in a 4-0 thrashing of Hungarian side Debrecen. On the 23rd August 2012 he joined Spanish side Valencia and made his debut in a 1-0 defeat away to Barcelona. He scored his first goal for the club on his birthday against Celta Vigo which turned out to be the winning goal in a 2-1 win.
Cissokho Valencia
After just one season at the club, he was on the move once more joining Liverpool on a season long loan. He made his debut against current club Aston Villa after coming on as a substitute, however his time at the club didn’t quite go to plan and he struggled to get in the first team, making just 19 appearances all season.

Aston Villa took a chance on him in the summer and so far it seems to have paid off for them and they will be hoping he can keep up his solid performances.

The final word can go to Paul Lambert. “Aly has been at some massive clubs and has that big game experience. We have a good player on our hands here. He’s big strong and powerful. He gives you a presence.”

2nd September – Frederic Kanoute

Yesterday a lot of Tottenham Hotspur fans were a little disappointed that they did not bring in another striker but today is the birthday of one of their former front men Frederic Kanoute.

The striker had a good time in England but didn’t always hit form while at White Hart Lane but he did offer them something different to what they already had at the club. After he left he really started to show his goalscoring prowess in Spain but it was not just his goals that made him an important member of the teams he played for and when he was confident defenders knew it would be tough to stop him.

Kanoute started his career at French club Lyon and made his debut in 1997 in the Intertoto Cup against Polish side Odra Wodzislaw. He had a very impressive start and in his first season he scored six times in 18 league games and although he had to spend more time on the bench over the next two seasons, he was still seen as a prospect around Europe and was being linked with big money moves away.

In 2000 West Ham signed the striker and he formed a very good partnership with Paolo Di Canio and hit double figures in his first two full seasons at the club. Kanoute was someone that half the crowd loved and the other half was constantly frustrated by him because he had a lot of ability and when he showed it, he was tough to stop but on other days he was labelled as lazy and criticised for his laid back attitude. In his final season at the club they ended up getting relegated and some argue it was because he only featured in 17 games.
Kanoute WH
He ended his time at West Ham with 29 Premier League goals in 84 games and on the 5th August 2003 he joined Tottenham for £3.5 million. He scored his first goal for the club on the 23rd August just nine minutes after coming on as a substitute against Leeds United in a 2-1 win. He started off well at Spurs but his season was disrupted as he went to represent Mali at the African Cup of Nations but after he returned he became a regular in the side and scored 12 goals in all competitions.
Kanoute TH
Although the goals were not flying in for him, his general play was still very good and he remained first choice for most of the next campaign but on the 17th August 2005 he was sold to Sevilla. In Spain he helped the club win the UEFA Cup in 2006 and 2007 and even scored in their 4-0 win over Middlesbrough in the final. In his seven seasons at the club he scored over 20 goals in four of those and despite only scoring four goals in his last season he remains the club’s highest scoring foreign player.
Kanoute Sevilla
At the end of his contract he decided to join Chinese club Beijing Guoan and stayed for a season and a half scoring 13 goals in 46 games before retiring from the game.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp while they were both at West Ham. “Kanoute is a frightening talent. He’s been fantastic, he cost us a club record fee and has proved to be worth every penny. As his confidence grows so does his ability to do the job.”