1st March – Djimi Traore

When you think of Champions League winners, Djimi Traore is definitely not the first player that comes to mind even to Liverpool fans but he played an important role in the 2005 final.

The 2005 final will always be remembered for Liverpool coming back from 3-0 down at half time to win the trophy but what is often forgotten is that in the second half the Liverpool defence, including Traore put in some crucial blocks and tackles that stopped counter attacks and certain goals for AC Milan. The left back is now 35 and nobody can take away his Champions League winners medal but he did have some disastrous moments during his career.

Traore started his career at his hometown club Laval and after looking like a good prospect he made the move to Liverpool in 1999. The left back struggled to get into the first team and went out on loan in the 2001-02 season to Lens, making 20 appearances for the French club. On his return he started getting more chances but it looked like he was leaving during the 2003-04 season as he was very close to joining Everton. However, the move didn’t go through and when Rafael Benitez got the Liverpool job he got a new lease of life and improved defensively and offensively under the Spaniard.

UEFA Champions League: Anderlecht v Liverpool

The 2004-05 season was very mixed for Traore as he won the Champions League but he also scored one of the funniest own goals in a 1-0 defeat to Burnley in the FA Cup. He attempted a turn and a drag back inside his own six yard box but just ended getting himself mixed up and put the ball in the back of his own net. In the following season he struggled for game time as he was behind John Arne Riise in the pecking order and on the 8th August 2006 he joined Charlton Athletic for £2 million.

He got off to a terrible start after being sent off on his debut and a few months later against his former club he gave away a penalty after fouling Jermaine Pennant. After only half a season he was deemed not good enough and was allowed to join Portsmouth. He only featured 13 times at Portsmouth over the next season and a half before first going out on loan to Rennes and then Birmingham City.

Traore Monaco

On the 18th June 2009 his contract expired at Portsmouth and he joined Monaco where he put in some decent performances but once again after just two seasons he was on the move again, joining Marseille. In his only season he played 20 games and helped the club win the Coupe de la Ligue but he left at the end of the season and after a trial at Seattle Sounders he signed for the American side on the 23rd Feburary 2013. He played 28 times for the club but while he was there he scored an amazing 40 yard volley against Mexican side Tigres.

Traore SS

The final word can go to Seattle Sounders sporting director Chris Henderson. “Djimi has a great deal of experience and has played in the top leagues in Europe. He’s a very good defender and makes smart decisions with the ball coming out the back. Djimi brings us confidence and leadership.”

Advertisements

4th November – Enner Valencia

West Ham have made a fantastic start to the season and have been one of the surprise packages with birthday boy Enner Valencia playing a key part in their new attacking style.

It is an unwritten rule not to sign a player after a World Cup as they can sometimes be hit and miss but Sam Allardyce took a chance on the Ecuadorian and it has certainly worked out for him. The striker from Ecuador has 11 goals in 17 international appearances and that is a very good record and with three goals at the World Cup it was a surprise to see him not being linked with more clubs.

The 25 year old started his career in Ecuador with Emelec in 2008 but he had to wait until 2010 and the arrival of Argentinean coach Jorge Sampaoli to get a chance in the first team. He would go on to score his first professional goal in a crucial game against LDU Quito on the 10th March to gain an important win against their title rivals. In the following season he became more of a regular starter and rewarded his managers confidence by scoring nine goals and helping his side finish second in the table. For a third season in a row Emelec would finish runners up in 2012 but Valencia was getting better and scoring more goals, this time grabbing 13 goals.
Valencia Emelec
Finally in 2013 Emelec would win the title but surprisingly the striker didn’t have his goalscoring boots on and in terms of goals had a poor season. However, he did manage to hit his first career hatrick on the 7th August 2013 in the Copa Sudamericana. This proved to be his last season at the club as he joined Mexican side Pachuca in 2014 and would score his first goal for the club in a 2-1 win over Tijuana on the 18th January. The following week he scored twice against defending champions Club Leon and would end the season as the top scorer in Liga MX with 12 goals. In the playoffs he would also score a hatrick in a 4-2 win over UNAM.
Valencia Pachuca
After a total of 18 goals in 23 league games and an impressive World Cup, West Ham signed the striker on the 29th July 2014. His time at West Ham did not start well as he came on as a substitute in the defeat against Tottenham Hotspur on the opening day of the season and then had a penalty saved in the League Cup tie against Sheffield United. But on his full league debut he put in an impressive performance away to Hull City, where he also scored his first goal for the club with a strike from 25 yards that reached 61 miles per hour. He has scored two more goals for West Ham, in a 3-1 win over Burnley and in the 2-2 draw with Stoke City.
Valencia WH
The final word can go to teammate Stewart Downing who has benefited from playing alongside Valencia. “From what I’ve seen, he looks a very good player. He can nick a goal and it’s what we’ve needed as we didn’t have that last season. It will help the manager that he has options and he can bring people in who can perform straight away.”

1st May – Marc Vivien Foe and Christian Benitez

Today is the birthday of two players that tragically died during their playing days and will be forever remembered.

Marc Vivien Foe was only 28 and Christian Benitez was only 27. Foe suddenly collapsed in the 72nd minute of a match for Cameroon against Brazil and Benitez died shortly after complaining about strong pains in his abdomen.

Foe started his career in 1991 for one of the biggest clubs in Cameroon, Canon Yaounde and stayed there for three years before signing for French club Lens. He made his debut in a 2-1 victory over Montpellier and won the French League title with the club in 1998. A season later he was linked with Manchester United and they bid £3 million for him but this was rejected by Lens.
Foe Cameroon
He did eventually come to the Premier League when he signed for West Ham for £4.2 million and played 38 league matches for the club scoring one goal against Sheffield Wednesday but at the end of the year he joined Lyon for £6 million. He missed most of his first season at the club after contracting malaria but when he recovered he helped his team win the French League Cup and for the second time in his career Ligue 1.

In 2002 he returned to the Premier League with Manchester City and after an amazing season in which he scored 9 goals in 35 league games he also has the honour of scoring the club’s final goal at Maine Road. Unfortunately he would not play club football again as he sadly passed way at the 2003 Confederations Cup.

Fifa President Sepp Blatter said: “Fifa and the whole family of football are shattered by this unbelievable tragedy. Football has lost a remarkable player and remarkable man.”
Foe Man City
Christian Benitez was the son of former Ecuadorian international Ermen Benitez and followed in his father’s footsteps by playing for the national side on 58 occasions scoring 24 goals. ‘Chucho’ started his career at El Nacional and had an impressive goalscoring record for them scoring 29 goals in 83 matches.
Benitez Ecuador
In July 2007 he transferred to Mexico to play for Santos Laguna and in his four years at the club he scored 51 times in 95 games which made a lot of European clubs take notice of him. Birmingham City decided to take a chance on him and signed him on loan after a long transfer saga for the 2009-10 season. He made his debut as a substitute on the opening day of the season against Manchester United and could have scored if it wasn’t for a wonderful one handed save by Ben Foster. He scored his first goal for the club in a 2-2 draw away to Liverpool and scored two classy goals against Everton but this was as good as it got for him and after only four goals for the club Birmingham chose not to sign him permanently.
Benitez Birmingham
He then returned to Santos Laguna and finished as their top scorer in his first season back. Although he had signed a new three year deal he transferred to Club America for $10 million dollars on the 22nd May 2011 and went on to play 79 times for the club scoring 52 goals.

His final transfer was to El Jaish Sports Club where he only played one game before sadly dying a day later. The final word can go to former teammate Lee Carsley. “It’s devastating news. I remember he had outstanding ability, was very quick and was a bit of a free spirit. He was a popular player in the dressing room, he got a grasp of the Birmingham accent quickly. It is sad to lose anyone like this.”