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.”

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28th September – Willy Caballero

Manchester City definitely needed real competition for Joe Hart and in the summer they signed birthday boy Willy Caballero as they believe they can really push the England number one.

The new goalkeeper is 33 today and this would suggest that he is in the best years of his career and won’t want to just sit on the bench behind Joe Hart. This could be a stroke of genius from Manuel Pellegrini as it will either make Hart play better or if he does have another dip in form like he has done at times during the last two seasons there is an able deputy.
Willy MCFC
Cabellero is also an Olympic gold winner as helped Argentina win the football tournament in 2004 and he started his career in his country of birth with Boca Juniors, making his debut in 2001. He stayed at the Argentinean giants for three years and helped them win the Argentine Primera Division, the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup all in 2003.

But in 2004 he decided it was time for him to try and make his mark in Europe and joined Spanish side Elche. After a difficult start he returned to Argentina in 2006 when he joined Arsenal de Sarandi and appeared in 13 league games for them. When he went back to Spain he got his confidence back and became Elche’s undisputed number one goalkeeper and produced a lot of fantastic performances in his 186 league games for the club which convinced Malaga to sign him on the 10th February 2011.
Willy Elche
He made his debut against Villarreal in a 1-1 draw on the 20th February and went on to play in every game until the end of the season. The goalkeeper quickly became a fan favourite as his saves and consistent performances helped the club eventually pull away from the relegation zone after a very difficult season.

The following season started better for the club and the goalkeeper kept his place in the starting lineup and on the 1st October he became a record holder for Malaga. He did not concede a goal for 480 minutes beating Pedro Contreras’ previous record of 429. Unfortunately just a few days later he was sent off against Levante for handling outside the box and his team went on to lose the game 3-0.

He quickly returned to the side and on the 18th January 2012 his contract was extended by the club, tying him down until 2016. However, a fracture in his left hand caused in a game against Espanyol on the 25th March meant he had to sit out the rest of the season. Caballero returned to full fitness and only missed two league games all season during the 2012-13 campaign and helped his team finish in 6th place in La Liga and was seen as one of the best keepers in the division.
Willy Malaga
On the 8th July 2014 he was reunited with former Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City after they paid a fee believed to be around £6 million for his services. He made his debut in the Community Shield as City lost 3-0 to Arsenal but he had to wait until the 27th September to make his Premier League debut in a 4-2 win over Hull City.

The final word can go to Manuel Pellegrini. “Caballero can be in any team, he is a very good goalkeeper. If you want to be a top goalkeeper you must have all the attributes, good distribution, to know when to go for the ball, to be good one on one and to not concede early goals. Replacing Hart with Caballero doesn’t make a difference.”

12th June – Philippe Coutinho

Philippe Coutinho had a very good season at Liverpool and in a lot of people’s opinions was very unlucky to have been left out of Brazil’s World Cup squad.

But the midfielder is only 22 and his time will surely come again and now he can concentrate fully on helping Liverpool challenge for the title again next season and show off his skills in the Champions League. He has always had a lot of potential and it is no wonder that there are a lot of people including Brendan Rodgers who believe that Coutinho will get better and become one of the best players in the world.

From an early age he impressed everyone and was signed by Inter Milan at the age of just 16, however he was allowed to stay at first club Vasco da Gama until his 18th birthday. While at the Brazilian club he played 26 times and scored two goals before he moved to Italy in July 2010 and in the same year he played for the Brazil national team so there was already a lot of spotlight on the playmaker.
Coutinho Vasco
On the 27th August he made his debut in the UEFA Super Cup as a substitute, unfortunately they lost the game 2-0 against Atletico Madrid. Although he did not play as many minutes as he would have liked, he did provide a moment of magic in the Champions League as he helped his team beat Bayern Munich 3-2 in the quarter finals. And then on the 8th May 2011 he scored his first goal for the club with a wonderful free kick against Fiorentina in a 3-1 win.

The 2011-12 season wasn’t as successful for the Brazilian as he only played 11 times for Inter but he was loaned out to Spanish side Espanyol where he showed his ability. Once he got going he was difficult to stop and he scored some brilliant goals in La Liga. He scored twice in a 5-1 win over Rayo Vallecano and then followed this up with a sublime volley against Racing Santander and then a great free kick against Malaga. In total he scored five times in just 16 appearances and this meant he was going back to Inter full of confidence.
Coutinho Inter
He did enjoy a little more success but he only lasted another half a season as he joined Liverpool for £8.5 million on the 26th January 2013. His debut was not a good one for the club once again though as he came on as a substitute in a 2-0 loss to West Brom. But less than a week later he scored on his full debut in a 5-0 win over Swansea City and then a few weeks later set up the first two goals in 4-0 win over Wigan Athletic. He continued to impress in his first half a season and finished it with three goals in 13 appearances.
Coutinho Liverpool
After a frustrating start to the next season due to injuries, he opened the scoring in the Merseyside derby on the 23rd November and then towards the end of the season he scored another crucial goal against Manchester City which put Liverpool seven points clear at the top of the table. However, his five goals and his brilliant performances were not enough to secure the title.

The final word can go to his manager at Espanyol Mauricio Pochettino. “As with most Brazilians, Philippe has a special magic in his feet. He also has amazing work rate and that makes us doubt whether he fits the mould of a typical Brazilian player. What is important about him is he is a good lad, a good kid – a great humble person.”