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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18th February – Bobby Robson

Bobby Robson has gone down as one of the greatest managers ever after an excellent career but more importantly to him he went down as one of the few genuine nice people in the world of football.

There isn’t anyone that says a bad word about Bobby Robson and he is loved all over Europe after managing in Portugal, Holland, Spain and England with most clubs he was at holding him in a very high regard. It is very rare for someone to be loved as much as him by all football fans and everyone will remember him for a long time to come.

Robson started his career with Fulham in 1950 as an inside forward and spent six years at the club playing 152 games and scoring 68 goals before moving to West Brom for a club record fee of £25,000. He finished as the club’s top scorer during the 57-58 season was also given the captain’s armband but in 1962 he returned to Fulham. His second spell lasted five years and in 1967 he joined Vancouver Royals as player-manager.

Robson Fulham

He only spent a year in Canada before returning to Fulham for a third spell, this time as manager. He could not save them from relegation and was sacked in the following campaign. But he was given a chance by Ipswich Town in 1969 and he would build one of the best teams ever seen at the club. After four average years he led the club to fourth place in the First Division and won the Texaco Cup during the 1972-73 season which was the start of something special. For the next nine seasons they only finished below sixth once but in that same season they won the FA Cup so that made up for it.

His reign at Ipswich lasted 13 years and he even won the UEFA Cup in 1981 but even more remarkably during his time at the club he only signed 14 players and made up the rest of the squad with players that came through the youth team. These achievements landed him the England job and it is fair to say that he has been one of the most popular England managers ever. But it could have been so different after he offered his resignation after England failed to qualify for Euro 84. He didn’t have much success in the Euros but his record in World Cups was very good as he led England to the quarter finals in 86 and were only beaten by Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal and a bit of magic from the Argentinean. But in 1990 after being hated by many sections of the media he went closer than any other England manager to winning the trophy and reached the semi finals before being beaten on penalties by West Germany. On arrival back home the team and manager were cheered and nobody wanted Robson to leave the job.

Robson England

Robson had already accepted a job offer from PSV after the FA told him they weren’t renewing his contract before the World Cup. While in Holland he won the league title twice before moving to Sporting Lisbon in 1992, where he hired a young Jose Mourinho to be his interpreter. After a decent first season in which the club finished third, he had took them to the top of table but was surprisingly sacked. Rivals Porto were quick to appoint Robson and they went on to beat Sporting in the Portuguese Cup final and would go on to win the title in the next two seasons.

After his success in Portugal he made the move to Spain and joined Barcelona and he led them to the Spanish Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup but was moved upstairs into a general manager position after just one season. He only spent one more year in Spain and returned to PSV for a short spell before he finally came home.

Newcastle appointed Robson in September 1999 and he turned the whole club around right from his very first home match. They went on to beat Sheffield Wednesday 8-0 with Alan Shearer scoring five goals. In just over one season he took Newcastle from bottom of the table to qualifying for the Champions League, finishing fourth and then third in the next campaign. Such was the turnaround that a fifth place finish was disappointing in his final full season in charge.

Robson NUFC

Robson was sacked after a slow start and every Newcastle fan will agree that the club haven’t been the same since and the fans still love him today. Unfortunately aged 76 on the 31st July 2009 he passed away and the news was very hard for most to take that followed football including players, coaches and fans.

The final words are difficult to choose because of how many good things were said about Bobby but Alex Ferguson summed up everything by saying. “I was never too big or proud to ask him for advice which he gave freely and unconditionally. And I’m sure I’m speaking for a lot of people when I say that. There is not a person I would put an inch above Bobby Robson. Always a smile, always a friendly word with never a mention of his own problems. The world, not just the football world, will miss him.”

15th February – Heurelho Gomes

Heurelho Gomes might have been ridiculed for his time at Tottenham Hotspur after some high profile mistakes ruined his reputation but he is slowly starting to rebuild that now at Watford.

At the age of 34 it could be argued that his best years are in front of him and he will be doing his best to keep Watford in the promotion race and hopefully get promoted back to the Premier League. At the weekend he was involved in one of the best games in England with his side defeating Bolton Wanderers 4-3. Despite conceding three times he pulled off some fantastic saves and is quickly becoming a fan favourite at the club.

Gomes started his career in Brazil with Cruzeiro where he played 59 times between 2001 and 2004 before being scouted by teams in Europe and in July 2004 he joined Dutch side PSV. At first there were people who doubted his abilities but after a difficult debut in which he conceded twice against RBC he became one of the most consistent goalkeepers in Europe. In his first season PSV overachieved and reached the semi finals of the Champions League and they were very unlucky not to reach the final that year. Previously PSV hadn’t even qualified for the Second Round of the competition.

Gomes Cruz

He was definitely a fan favourite and was well known for his acrobatic saves and long throws which set off a lot of attacks for his side. He spent four seasons at the club and played 129 league games but on the 27th June 2008 he left for Tottenham Hotspur. Gomes’ early form was very patchy and he conceded very soft goals against Aston Villa and Fulham leaving Tottenham in the relegation zone. But he did improve and made some important saves in the win over West Ham and the 0-0 draw with Manchester United.

Gomes PSV

In the following campaign he was more solid and played a key role in helping Tottenham finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League for the first time in their history. But the competition wasn’t a happy one for Gomes as he was sent off in 10 minutes in the game against Inter Milan. Later in the competition he also made a mistake against Real Madrid which effectively ended their chances to progress.

Gomes TH

With more errors to follow, it seemed like the managers had lost patience with the goalkeeper and firstly they signed Brad Friedel which meant Gomes had to spend long periods on the bench. Then he slipped even further down the pecking order after Hugo Lloris was signed so in January 2013 he signed for Hoffenheim on loan. On his debut against Freiburg he made some crucial saves and helped his side to a 2-1 win. His season was ended prematurely by injury and he had to undergo hand surgery.For a full season he sat in Spurs’ reserves until his contract expired and he joined Watford on the 24th May 2014.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp. “He is a great character, a lovely man, a fantastic fella and a top goalkeeper. He has been fine in training. Gomes is top class, when he is on his game he is a great goalkeeper.”

11th November – Arouna Kone

Arouna Kone followed Roberto Martinez from Wigan Athletic to Everton but unfortunately for the striker it looks as though he is never going to get the opportunity to show his true quality.

The striker is now behind Romelu Lukaku, Samuel Eto’o and Steven Naismith in the pecking order and this will be frustrating because he proved at Wigan that if he was given the opportunity he can be a consistent goalscorer in the Premier League. This is part of the reason why Martinez was desperate to take him to Goodison Park. It does look like Kone will have to move club in January if he is to get more playing time and there will be plenty of clubs in the Premier League interested in him.

Now 31, Kone started his career at his hometown club Rio Sport d’Anyama and after a very impressive 17 goals in 30 games, he was given the chance to join Belgian side Lierse SK during the 2002-03 season at the age of just 18. At his new club he was equally impressive and helped the club to a fifth place finish and was the team’s top scorer. This meant that once again he was being linked with moves away and he joined Dutch side Roda JC. Once again he settled into the league very quickly and in both his full seasons he hit double figures, including 15 in the 2004-05 season and after 28 goals in 63 games he was on the move again and in the summer of 2005 he joined PSV.

During the 2005-06 season he was in fantastic form and scored 11 goals in 21 games and followed this up with a further 10 goals in the next season, helping the team to win the Eredivisie title in both seasons. But unfortunately for the striker he contracted malaria at the end of July 2007 and after a mix up of dates he could not be match fit for the start of the season and this would mean the end of his time at the club.
Kone PSV
On the 30th August 2007 Kone joined Spanish side Sevilla and made his debut as a substitute against Recreativo de Huelva and won a penalty in a game that his side won 4-1. Nine days later he scored his first goal for the club against Espanyol and then on the 2nd October he scored his first Champions League goal in a 4-2 win over Slavia Prague. However, these turned out to be his only goals for the club in 47 games. So after falling out of favour Kone was loaned out to Hannover and he would go on to score on his debut against Hoffenheim in a 2-1 defeat. After seven more games and one goal he returned to his parent club and was once again loaned out, this time to Levante.
Kone Levante
Kone was very successful at Levante and scored his first goal for the club in a surprise 1-0 win over Real Madrid and would go on to be a regular scorer throughout the rest of the campaign, eventually finishing with 17 goals in all competitions. This convinced Wigan to sign the striker and he would go on to score his first Premier League goal in his first start for the club in a 2-0 win over Southampton. Despite the club getting relegated Kone still managed to score 11 league goals and was an important part of their FA Cup winning team.
Kone WA
With Wigan getting relegated and Roberto Martinez leaving it was inevitable that Kone would leave and on the 8th July 2013 he joined Everton but unfortunately he hasn’t been able to make much of an impact and after a knee cartilage injury in October he did not play again for the rest of the season.

The final word can go to Roberto Martinez. “Arouna is not a young boy. He is experienced and whatever happens he always shows for the ball and is really strong with his back to play. His record stands up well. He’s been successful in Holland and Spain. He will be important for us. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when.”

2nd October – Michael Ball

A lot of people say that more British players should go abroad and learn how football is played in different countries and that is exactly what birthday boy Michael Ball did.

He may not be the most famous to go play abroad but at least he took the risk and decided to give it a go, a lot of British players are criticised because they take the safe option and would rather stay in a league that they understand. So the 35 year old left back definitely deserves credit for deciding that his football would improve by leaving England and trying to adapt to a new culture.

The one time capped England defender started his career at Everton and made his debut in April 1997 as a substitute against Tottenham Hotspur and then started the match against West Ham a week later. He developed into a very solid full back and could also fill in at centre back when it was required and in his five years at the club he played 121 Premier League games, scoring eight times. His form at club level impressed England manager Sven Goran Eriksson and was included in his squad for a friendly against Spain in February 2001. Ball would come on at half time for Chris Powell to get his one and only England cap.
Ball at Everton
In 2001 Everton had to sell some of their better players, including Ball who joined Rangers for £6.5 million. Ball had a difficult start at Rangers as he was fined £10,000 by the club for swearing at manager Dick Advocaat in the Old Firm Derby against Celtic after being substituted and then in only his 11th game he suffered medial ligament damage that would keep him out for 18 months.

After missing the entire 2002-03 season he regained his fitness and became a first team regular in the following season and in his first month back he scored his first goal against Dundee United and also won the Player of the Month award. In all competitions he played 43 times during the season but this caused problems as Rangers would have to pay more money to Everton after he played a certain amount of games so they were reluctant to use him at the start of the 2004-05 season.
Ball Rangers
This was eventually solved in December 2004 and Ball helped the club win the Scottish League Cup and the SPL title but at the end of the season Rangers wanted to get rid of some of their highest earners and after 55 SPL games Ball joined Dutch side PSV. Unfortunately the manager Guus Hiddink and the PSV fans could not see the best of the defender because of injury problems that ruined his time at the club but he did still help them lift the Dutch title in his first season.

Injuries meant he did not even play a game in his second season at the club and joined Manchester City on the 31st January 2007 on a six month deal after impressing on a trial. He quickly regained his form and became a dependable defender for City and in his first season and a half at the club he captained the side on a number of occasions. But in January 2009 he needed an operation on his knee which would keep him out of action for nine months and on the 1st July he was released by the club.
Ball MCFC
To get back to match fitness he joined several clubs on trial but none of these led to contracts and he had to wait until the 8th August 2011 to get signed to another club. Leicester City signed him but he only made three appearances for the club in his only season at the club.

The final word can go to Sven Goran Eriksson who was also his manager at Manchester City. “Michael’s experienced, having played in Scotland and Holland as well as England and it’s good he is staying with us as he’s going to be very useful. We had to build on what was good here, so I’m happy that he’s signed.”

2nd August – Nacer Chadli

Nacer Chadli had an indifferent first season in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur but he will be hoping to make his mark in the upcoming year.

The winger was also part of Belgium’s World Cup squad and although they did not quite live up to their potential they did still get some good results and were involved in arguably the game of the tournament against USA. Now that Chadli has had a season to settle in he will be hoping to show his true potential and is still only 25 so he could develop into a truly great player for Spurs.

Chadli started his career in the second division of Dutch football at AGOVV Apeldoorn and was considered one of the best young players in the division and one that would go onto bigger things in his career. He spent three years at the club and scored 28 goals in 90 games but it was his final season that where he really showed his potential and scored 20 times in all competitions and in the summer of 2010 he signed for the reigning champions of Holland FC Twente.
Chadli Apeldoorn
His first goal for the club was a very important one as he scored the winning goal away to title rivals PSV. Shortly afterwards he made his European debut in the Champions League against Inter Milan on the 14th September and then two weeks later he scored his first Champions League against Tottenham. At the end of his first season at the club he ended with 13 goals in all competitions. He stayed at the club for the next two years and was definitely catching the eye and once again in his final season he had a fantastic year and it was no wonder other teams were looking to sign him after scoring 18 times in 38 games.
Chadli Twente
On the 21st July 2013 Chadli signed for Tottenham for £7 million and made his debut in a 5-2 friendly defeat to Monaco just before the start of the new season. He then made his official debut in the first game of the season against Crystal Palace in a 1-0 win. He was in and out of the squad for a lot of the season particularly under Andre Villas Boas but after Tim Sherwood took over he found a new role in the team and started playing as a central attacking midfielder. He proved his worth to the team in an impressive 4-0 win over Newcastle United and maybe this is the position where he will be most successful but he has to once again prove his worth to new manager Mauricio Pochettino.
Chadli TH
The final word can go to his former manager Tim Sherwood who believes next year he will be even better. “We all know what Nacer can do. It’s all about the settling in period. We know he possesses that ability, he would not play for the Belgian national team if he didn’t. We see him do it every day in training.”

17th July – Jaap Stam

Jaap Stam was one of the best centre backs in Europe for most of his career and now at the age of 41 he is helping the young players at Ajax.

The defenders at Ajax will benefit from his experience and they will surely improve under his guidance and will learn a lot from the centre back who had everything in his game. Stam was not only a solid defender, who won a lot in the air and was a great tackler, but he was also a great ball playing centre back.

Stam started his career at FC Zwolle in his native Holland and made his debut on the 15th August 1992 against Heracles in the second division and he remained first choice for the majority of the season and scored one goal in 32 league appearances. At the end of the season he joined Cambuur Leeuwarden who were playing in the top flight, however they only stayed there for one season and Stam was once again back in the second division. After one more season at the club and some impressive performances he got another move to the Eredivisie and signed for Willem II.

His time at Willem II was very short but he proved to be an effective player for them and after performing brilliantly in a 1-0 win over Ajax, PSV signed him and at the end of the season he picked up his first professional trophy after he helped them win the KNVB Cup. Stam was a key player during the 1996-97 season and played 33 times in the league and managed to get 7 goals which is impressive for a defender. At the end of the season PSV won the Eredivisie and was quickly establishing himself as one of the best centre backs in the world.
Stam PSV
In 1998, Stam became the most expensive Dutch player when he moved to Manchester United for £10.6 million. He spent three years at Old Trafford and his consistent performances made him very popular with the Manchester United fans. He won many trophies during his time there, including three Premier League titles, one FA Cup, the Intercontinental Cup and the Champions League. However, early in the 2001-02 season Stam was controversially sold to Lazio after 80 Premier League appearances and single goal which came in a 6-2 away victory against Leicester City.
Stam MU
Alex Ferguson said on selling Stam. “We got the offer from Lazio, £16.5 million for a centre back who was 29. It was an offer I couldn’t refuse.” This could have been a terrible decision by Ferguson but Stam had an indifferent time at Lazio and he was found guilty of using a banned steroid, however he recovered from this and helped the club win the Coppa Italia in his last season and after Euro 2004 he signed for AC Milan.
Stam Lazio
He spent two seasons at Milan and helped them reach the Champions League final in 2005 which they lost against Liverpool. He played 42 games in Serie A before returning to Holland and signed for Ajax where he was named club captain on his arrival. In his first season he won the KNVB Cup once more but he ended his career abruptly on the 29th October 2007 after playing in a 0-0 draw against N.E.C.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “When I think of disappointments, obviously Jaap Stam was always a disappointment to me, I made a bad decision there. In playing terms it (selling him) was a mistake.”