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.”

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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.”

24th August – Kim Kallstrom

Kim Kallstrom has been well know to those who play Championship Manager and for years they have wanted the midfielder to come over to the Premier League.

Unfortunately, when he did eventually come over to England he did not quite live up to his reputation, however it was not entirely his fault that it didn’t work out. His move to Arsenal was a very strange one from the beginning but still he does have the distinction of a player that was predicted to be brilliantly on a computer game and actually went on to have a very good career.

Kallstrom started his career at second division Swedish side BK Hacken and in his first year as a professional he helped the team get promoted to the top flight. Despite eight goals he could not help them avoid relegation but his performances earned him a transfer to Djurgardens in 2001. He quickly became one of the first names on the team sheet and ended the first year as their top goal scorer in the league with 12 goals as the club won the league and also the Swedish Cup. In the following year they defended the league title and scored a further 14 goals. After 26 goals in 48 league games Kallstrom was being linked with moves to other European clubs.
Kallstrom BKH
In January 2004 he joined French club Stade Rennais and made his first Ligue 1 appearance away to Toulouse in a 2-0 defeat. A week later he scored his first goal in a 4-0 win over Sochaux and ended the season with seven goals in 18 appearances, including two in a 4-1 win away to Monaco. Although his goalscoring suffered in the following season he was still a key player in helping Rennes finish fourth and qualify for the UEFA Cup. The 2005-06 season would be his last at the club and he scored a career high in France with eight goals in Ligue 1.
Kallstrom Rennes
He ended his time at Rennes with 20 goals in 83 league games before joining Lyon in June 2006. The midfielder scored on his debut against PSG and this would be the start of a great season for both him and the club as they won the league title and reached the round of 16 in the Champions League. In the following season he scored on the final day to secure the title and then a few days later he started in the final of the Coupe de France which they won 1-0.
Kallstrom Lyon
After six years at Lyon, Kallstrom left Lyon in August 2012 after 283 appearances for the club and signed for Russian club Spartak Moscow. He is still at the club now but did have a loan spell away to Arsenal and despite a back injury that would keep him out for several weeks Arsene Wenger still decided to sign the midfielder.

He eventually made his debut on the 25th March against Swansea City in the Premier League. But he played an important part in Arsenal’s FA Cup semi final match where he scored in the penalty shootout win over Wigan Athletic. After making four appearances he returned to Spartak Moscow.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “Kim Kallstrom is a hugely experienced player. He is a midfielder with proven quality at both club and international level. We could have gone without, but first of all you must identify a player who has the quality to play for us. So to find a player on a free loan, of that quality, is not easy.”

15th August – Bolo Zenden

Boudewijn ‘Bolo’ Zenden is 38 today but his career path could have been very different had he decided to go a different route as a youngster.

At the age of 14 Zenden gained a black belt in judo and on the odd occasion he decided to show his teammates his skills as Phil Bardsley once said. “He’s a judo black belt and used to do a few moves on me. I used to say, ‘show me’ – he put me in a move one day and I couldn’t get out. He nearly killed me.” Zenden was also a very good footballer and produced some fantastic performances.

Zenden started his career in Dutch football with PSV Eindhoven and it did not take him long to make the left midfield position his own. For two years he was a very consistent player that produced solid performances but it was in the 1996-97 season that he really showed his quality, playing 34 times and scoring eight goals which helped PSV win the Eredivisie championship and received the Dutch Talent of the Year award. After another season in which he scored 12 goals in 26 games he was being linked with moves away and moved to Spanish giants Barcelona in 1998.
Zenden PSV
Louis Van Gaal was the man to bring to him to Barcelona along with a number of other Dutch players and at first he struggled to gain a place in the team because of the form of Marc Overmars but did eventually find a place in the team in the unfamiliar position of left wing back. Zenden adapted to his new role very well and helped Barcelona win La Liga in the 1998-99 season. In the following season he scored three times for the club in his 45 appearances but this would be his last as a regular. Van Gaal resigned in 2000 and Zenden struggled to get in the side afterwards and at the end of the season he left.
Zenden Barca
Chelsea signed him for £7.5 million but in his three years he could not hold down a regular place however he did start in the 2002 FA Cup final defeat to Arsenal. Zenden was determined to make it in England and was loaned to Middlesbrough for the 2002-03 season where he became an instant hit with fans and will always be remembered for scoring the winning goal in the League Cup final against Bolton Wanderers. After his contract expired at Chelsea he signed for Boro permanently and moved into a central midfield position to great effect as he won the Player of the Year Award in 2005, however this would be his last at the club and he joined Liverpool on a free transfer.
Zenden Boro
Injuries stopped him playing a more prominent role but whenever he was on the pitch he never let the team down and in his two years at the club he only managed 23 games in the Premier League but featured in a lot of European games.

On the 6th July 2007 Zenden signed a two year contract with French club Marseille and made his debut against Rennes. His time at France was uneventful and after two seasons he was released and said that he wanted to end his career in England which he was given the opportunity to do when he was given a trial by Sunderland.

He signed for them in time to make his debut against former club Liverpool. Despite most of his appearances coming from the substitutes bench he signed a new one year contract and this would be his final season as a player. On his last game in club football he scored the opening goal in a 3-0 win over West Ham.

The final word can go to his manager at Sunderland Steve Bruce. “It was immediately obvious that he is still supremely fit and the move happened fairly quickly. He brings international class, a steadying influence and a wide breadth of experience. His career is testament

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.
FBL-FRA-L1-BORDEAUX-RENNES
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 April – Alexander Tettey

Players that are eligible to play for both Ghana and Norway is not a very common thing but Norwich City midfielder Alexander Tettey is one of the few that can.

He is 28 today and has recently scored his first goal in the Premier League and I don’t think many players will have scored a better first goal and one that could prove to be very important come the end of the season. It was a fantastic volley in a 2-0 win against Sunderland.

Tettey was born in Ghana but moved to Norway at a young age and came through Rosenborg’s youth team and was the youngest player to have been part of their matchday squads for nearly 30 years. For a defensive midfielder he had a decent goal scoring record in Norway scoring 12 league goals in 89 games which made a lot of other European clubs take note.
Tettey Rosenborg
Rennes were the club to take a chance on him and were trying to build a side that would challenge for major honours and they felt Tettey was someone that could add some much needed defensive quality to their midfield.

Unfortunately his time at the French club was plagued by injuries and he could not show his true potential. He played 60 times in his three years at the club and when he was fit he usually played which showed they thought highly of him.
Tettey Rennes
After joining Norwich City he had to wait a while to make his home debut but the Carrow Road faithful were delighted with his performance and was the star of the show as they beat Arsenal 1-0. This made him an automatic starter for the next few months until an injury hit and was worse than initially feared keeping him out of action until February 2013. He returned to help the team beat Manchester City on the last day of the season and give Norwich their highest Premier League finish since the 1992-93 season.
Tettey Norwich
The last word can go to his manager Chris Hughton who said after his wonderful goal against Sunderland. “I think everybody would have enjoyed that second goal and it could not have happened to a nicer fella. He is a good individual and professional and the lads are delighted for him.”