21st March – Michu

Michu made such an impact in the Premier League that it is surprising that he is not still in England and it is unbelievable that Swansea City would loan him out.

He is now 29 and can do a number of jobs in the attacking areas of the pitch but for whatever reason it didn’t seem to click between him and Wilfried Bony whenever they did play together. His form during his first season at Swansea was exceptional and it earned him a call up to the Spanish team which at the time were the most dominant in international football.

The forward started his career at Oviedo and made his debut in the Tercera Division during the 2003-04 season and would go on to play 100 league games for the club, scoring 13 times and his form convinced Segunda Division side Celta Vigo to take a chance on him in 2007. He started out in the B team but after 10 goals in 28 games he was promoted to the first team. He would go on to spend four seasons at the club, once again not being a prolific scorer but putting in some good performances, as he ended his time there with 112 appearances.

Michu Oviedo

On the 27th July 2011 he signed for newly promoted La Liga side Rayo Vallecano and made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Athletic Bilbao. This would be a brilliant season for the player as he finished with 17 goals in all competitions, which was the same amount he scored in four seasons in Celta’s first team. He scored some notable braces against Real Sociedad, Racing Santander and Real Madrid. This meant that he was being linked with moves away from the club as he only had a year left on his contract.

Michu CV

For just £2 million Michu signed for Swansea City on the 20th July 2012 and on his debut he scored yet another brace in a 5-0 win over QPR and then continued his fantastic goalscoring form by finding the back of the net against West Ham and Sunderland. He would go on to be one of the best signings of the season and would score 22 goals in all competitions as he helped Swansea win the League Cup. At the end of the campaign he was named the team’s Player of the Year and the Supporters Player of the Year.

It looked as though the following season was going to follow a similar pattern as he scored the club’s first goal of the season in a Europa League game against Malmo but injuries restricted him to just 24 games over the course of the season, however he did still manage to score six goals, but only two of these were in the league.

Michu SC

It was still surprising though when he made the move to Napoli on a season long loan at the start of this season but it hasn’t been the greatest time for him as he has suffered with injuries and has barely been able to make an impact.

The final word can go to Rafael Benitez. “Michu is a player that can play in two positions. He is able to penetrate and score but also knows how to play with other strikers. I have told Michu that I expect a certain number of goals from him to just to motivate him.”

9th February – Jordi Cruyff

Jordi Cruyff was always going to struggle to live up to his name and when your father is Johan Cruyff you know you are going to have to be a special player.

His dad got a turn and one of the most recognisable skills in world football named after him and Cruyff junior was a bit part player in Manchester United’s Premier League triumph during the 1996-97 season. Jordi was by no means a bad player and if he had a different second name his career would have been looked at in a different way because he played for some excellent clubs and put in some solid performances.

Now 41, he is the manager of Maccabi Tel Aviv but he started his career at Barcelona. He made his debut for the B team in the Segunda Division in 1992 and after 14 goals in 47 games he was moved to the first team by his father. He was given a chance in preseason and proved to everyone he was a good player in his own right by scoring hatricks against Groningen and De Graafschap. On the 4th September 1994 he made his top flight debut in a 2-1 defeat against Sporting Gijon and shortly after made a big impression in the Champions League, setting up the first goal in a 4-0 win over Manchester United.

Cruyff Barca

After his father was sacked by Barcelona it was clear that his son was also going to be moved on even though he had been a promising player and had scored 11 times in 41 appearances. But in August 1996 he made the move to Old Trafford for £1.4 million and got off to a great start by scoring twice in his first three appearances, helping the team get draws against Everton and Blackburn Rovers. He remained a regular in the team until late November but then suffered a knee injury and he never regained his place properly in the team again. In his four seasons at the club Manchester United lifted four trophies, the 1996-97 Premier League winners medal was the only one that Cruyff collected because of a lack of involvement and not playing enough games.

Cruyff MU

In 1999 Cruyff returned to Spain joining Celta Vigo on loan and played nine times, scoring two goals before returning to his parent club. He did feature a few more times for Manchester United but on the 30th June 2000 his contract expired and after four years and just 54 games, he signed for Spanish side Alaves.

Cruyff spent three years at Alaves and was a regular in the side until they were relegated at the end of the 2002-03 season. But during his time at the club he was involved in arguably the best UEFA Cup final ever, unfortunately they were on the wrong side of a 5-4 loss against Liverpool. He then joined Espanyol for a season and was regular in the side but he still left after just one year, signing for Ukrainian side Metalurh Donetsk. Injuries caught up with him and despite being an attacking player he was used as a centre back by the club for most of his 28 appearances.

Cruyff Alaves

His final destination as a player was Malta as he became player/assistant manager of Valletta and he was successful in this role as he scored 10 goals in just 17 league games and this sadly was probably the best time of his career.

The final word can go to Jordi himself who knew he didn’t live up to the standards of his father which must have been tough to take. “There are two types of football players – the legends and the mortals. My father is a legend and I am a mortal. The legends like my father – they come, they do and they remain. I am part of the vast majority of mortals – we come we do and we die.”

9th August – Filipe Luis

Filipe Luis has a tough job this season in being the true replacement for Ashley Cole at Chelsea but if his time in Spain is anything to go by then he will be a success.

Jose Mourinho knew he needed a new left back and even though Cesar Azpilicueta did a very good job it does give him more options at the back. If Chelsea are to challenge for both the Champions League and Premier League they will certainly need top quality players and come the end of the season Luis could be the best signing of the summer or at least the most reliable.
Luis Fig
The left back started his career at Brazilian club Figueirense where he played for two seasons and made 22 appearances for the club before moving to Real Madrid in 2005, however he did not play for the first team and was instead moved to their B-team in the Segunda Division. He played 37 times in the league and impressed enough to earn a loan move away to La Liga side Deportivo La Coruna.

Although he did not get as many chances as he would have liked his loan was extended for another season and in the 2007-08 season he went onto become their first choice left back and on the 10th June he made his move permanent by signing a five year deal. During his first season as a Depor player he was the only outfield player in La Liga to appear in every league match and he also scored two goals.
Luis Depor
Once again in the following season he had played every minute and helped Deportivo to fourth in the table, however a horrific injury to his right fibula in January meant he was likely to miss the rest of the season. Amazingly he returned to action in less than four months and on his comeback was involved in the goal that helped the club win 1-0 against Mallorca.

Luis’ form meant that other club were looking at him and on the 23rd July 2010 Atletico Madrid signed him for an undisclosed fee on a five year deal. He made his debut against Real Zaragoza and set up Diego Costa for the only goal of the game and was awarded the man of the match award. Despite some impressive performances he struggled to hold down the left back spot in his first season but eventually he became a vital member of the team.
Luis AM
From then on the team became much more successful and he played the full 90 minutes in their Copa Del Rey final victory over Real Madrid in 2013 which was the catalyst for even more trophies. In his final season at the club he helped the team reach the Champions League final and also was part of the defence that conceded only 26 goals in the league and lifted the La Liga trophy at the end of the campaign. On the 18th July Luis made the move to Chelsea for £15.8 million.

The final word can go to Jose Mourinho. “We needed a pure left back, a real left back. He is experienced. Very stable, very reliable. He is a player who normally does not make mistakes.”

29th April – Pascal Cygan

If you ever have to name the players that were part of Arsenal’s Invincibles of the 2003-04 season this player will certainly not be one that springs to mind straight away.

Pascal Cygan played 18 times that season in the league and although he was only considered a fringe player he did play in a lot of important fixtures and ultimately he did not let them down and cost them their record of going unbeaten.

Cygan probably could not have imagined he would have been in such a position after being a youth player at Wasquehal. In 1995 he became a professional when he joined Lille and made his debut later in the year. He was a very important player for a number of years in Ligue 2 and in the 1999-00 season he helped the club win the French second division and then they surpassed everyone’s expectations by finishing third and qualifying for the Champions League in their first season back in the top flight. Cygan was instrumental and was quickly becoming one of the best defenders in France. In his last season in France he was made captain because of how much of a role model he was to the younger players of the squad.
Cygan Lille
In the summer of 2002 he joined Arsenal for £2 million and made his debut in a 1-1 draw with Chelsea. Wenger said of his new signing. “I was looking at Cygan for a while. It was difficult to find a good centre back. Of course you have to take a chance and a gamble, but this is a small gamble. He will become a better player here, and make the French national team.”

Unfortunately this did not come true and he did not get a French cap but he did still have some good performances for Arsenal. Possibly his greatest game was when he scored twice against Fulham in an opening day 4-1 win. After injuries in the 2005-06 season to Ashley Cole and Gael Clichy he was played as an emergency left back and he helped them to 12 wins and 11 clean sheets in 20 matches while in that position. However an injury ended his season and after falling further down the pecking order his time at the club was up.
Cygan Arsenal
His next club was the Spanish side Villarreal where he joined up with former Arsenal teammate Robert Pires. After some consistent performances in his two years at the club he signed a new one year deal however in his final year he wasn’t played as much as he’d hoped and left the club for newly promoted to the Segunda Division FC Cartegena on a one year deal.
Cygan Villarreal
At the age of 37 and after playing 57 league games for the club he was released and decided to retire. The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “Pascal is a fantastic defender with great ability and has proved he can compete at the highest level from his performances in the Champions League.”