16th May – Lionel Scaloni

Lionel Scaloni will be hoping that he can have a big impact this summer at the World Cup, not as a player but as the assistant manager of Argentina.

Scaloni is the number two to Jorge Sampaoli, and with the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain all heading to Russia, he will be hoping that his coaching can take them one step further than the last World Cup where they were narrowly beaten in the final.

During his playing career, Scaloni played mostly at right back and started his career in 1995 with Argentine side Newell’s Old Boys but after only season and 12 league appearances he left for Estudiantes. While there he started getting attention from European clubs because of his performances and in March 1998 he joined Spanish side Deportivo.

Scaloni Depor

He made 200 league appearances and scored 14 goals during his eight and half year spell in Spain. It might seem hard to believe now but at the time Deportivo were competing at the top of the table. Despite only making 14 appearances during the 1999-00 season it was enough to earn a league winners medal as the club won La Liga. He also helped the club win the Copa del Rey.

With the 2006 World Cup round the corner, Scaloni knew he needed to be playing regular football to be guaranteed a place in the squad. So after a falling out with manager Joaquin Caparros, he joined West Ham on loan and made his debut against Sunderland and would help the club reach the FA Cup final that season which they would unfortunately lose to Liverpool. This tactic worked as he was picked by his country for the tournament, however, his performances were not good enough to be offered a permanent deal by West Ham.

Deportivo released the defender and he was subsequently signed by fellow Spanish side Racing Santander. He only stayed for one season but put in some solid performances and helped the club to a comfortable midtable position. Scaloni then made a big move to Lazio on a five year deal but in January of the following year he was sent out on loan to Mallorca for 18 months. After returning to the Italian side he barely featured for the remainder of his contract and in total he only made 52 appearances for the club. Then in January 2013 he joined Atalanta but yet again he failed to become a first team regular.

Calcio Lazio Mura 05 Europa League

On the international scene he made his debut for his country in a friendly against Libya on the 23rd April 2003 and went on to win seven international caps, including one in the 2006 World Cup after playing the full 120 minutes against Mexico.

Scaloni

The final word can go to Mallorca president, Vicente Grande, after signing the player. “We all know Scaloni because he has played many years in Spain, in Deportivo and in Racing, he has won many titles and he is an absolute international with Argentina.”

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2nd November – Stevan Jovetic

Manchester City beat rivals Manchester United which meant it was a double celebration for birthday boy Stevan Jovetic who started the game just behind Sergio Aguero.

The 25 year old has not had the greatest time so far at City with multiple injuries keeping him out for long periods but when he has been fit he has really shown his potential. So far this season the club have been hit and miss but if they can get a good combination between Aguero and Jovetic then they will surely come close to winning trophies. The Montenegro international can play in a few different positions so he will be a fantastic option for Manuel Pellegrini.

Jovetic started his career at FK Partizan and made his debut on the 9th April 2006 at the age of just 16 and would go on to become an important player soon afterwards. On the 2nd August 2007 he scored a hatrick against Zrinjski in a UEFA Cup qualifying match and then become the club’s youngest ever captain after being given the armband at the age of just 17 years, 10 months and 21 days. In his final season at the club he scored 19 goals in 33 games and was then being linked with moves away from the club.
Jovetic Partizan
On the 10th May 2008 Jovetic joined Italian side Fiorentina. After a slightly difficult first season at the club he showed his potential during the 2009-10 season where he impressed mostly in the Champions League. He scored both goals in a 2-0 win over Liverpool on the 29th September and then followed this up with two more against Bayern Munich in a 3-2 win later in the competition. In total he got 11 goals in all competitions and a lot was expected of him in the following season, however he suffered a cruciate ligament injury in his right knee which meant that he did not play a single game.
Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group E - Fiorentina v Liverpool - Artemio Franchi Stadium
But on his return he was in superb form and scored twice against Parma. He finished the season with another 12 goals in 26 games but the club finished in a disappointing 13th place but Jovetic decided to stay with the club for one more season and hit another 13 goals before joining Manchester City on the 19th July 2013. He made his debut in a 0-0 draw with Stoke City before scoring his first goals for the club in a 5-0 win over Wigan Athletic in the League Cup.
Jovetic MC
Injuries completely ruined his first season at the club and he had to wait until the 29th January 2014 to score his first Premier League goal away to Tottenham Hotspur in a 5-1 win. Before the end of the season he would also score against Chelsea, Southampton and Aston Villa as he helped the club win the Premier League title after a fantastic end to the campaign. He started this season in great form by scoring twice against Liverpool in a 3-1 win but once again injuries have stopped him playing in as many games as he and the fans would have liked.

The final word can go to Manuel Pellegrini. “Stevan had very bad luck last year. This year he’s started pre-season well, and if he continues to work every day, he will demonstrate why he’s here at Manchester City. He’s a very good player.”

7th October – Diego Costa

Diego Costa has made a fantastic start to life as a Chelsea player and he singlehandedly could make the difference between them competing in competitions to winning the Premier League and the Champions League.

After a disappointing World Cup with Spain a lot of people were worried that he would struggle in England but that couldn’t be further from the truth as he has already proven that he is one of the best strikers in world football. Costa does have to pay tribute to his fellow countryman Cesc Fabregas for setting up a lot of chances for him, but he has still had to put them away which in a lot of Chelsea strikers have failed to do recently.

The 26 year old started his professional career at Portuguese club Braga. But he had to wait until a loan spell at Second Division club Penafiel to make his debut and after five goals in 13 appearances he had impressed enough to be bought by Atletico Madrid in December 2006. But he would remain at Braga until the end of the season. He would only score one goal for Braga but it was an important last minute winner against Parma in the UEFA Cup to give his side a 1-0 win.

In the following two years he had loan spells at Celta Vigo and Albacete, both in the Segunda Division in Spain. At Celta he struggled with only five goals in 31 games but at Albacete he had a better time, scoring 9 times in 35 games. With his parent club still not convinced by the striker they sold him to Valladolid on the 8th July 2009. He started off well, scoring six times in the first 12 games but then he only scored once in the next five months which was a reason why the club got relegated.
Costa Vallodolid
There was a buyback clause in his contract and in June 2010 Costa rejoined Atletico as backup to Diego Forlan and Sergio Aguero. Despite limited playing time he still managed six goals in the league and scored his first hatrick on the 3rd April 2011 in a 3-2 win over Osasuna. At the end of the season it looked like he would be leaving again but a serious knee injury saw a move to Besiktas to collapse. When he recovered he was sent out on loan to Rayo Vallecano for the rest of the season on the 23rd January and got off to another fantastic start by scoring four goals in his first three appearances. This time he managed to keep up a good goalscoring record and ended the campaign with 10 in 16.
Costa Albacete
The 2012-13 season saw Costa become first choice at Atletico and he repaid manager Diego Simeone by scoring some crucial goals, particularly in the Copa Del Rey. Atletico went on to win the trophy and Costa finished the tournament as the top scorer but it was in the following season that he became well known outside of Spain.

Atletico surprised a lot of people by winning La Liga and reaching the final of the Champions League and this was largely down to a solid defence and the goals of Costa. His 36 goals in all competitions was a fantastic return for a striker that had been wrote off several times already in his career and convinced Chelsea to pay £32 million for his services.
Costa AM
He could not have got off to a better start with him winning the Player of the Month in August and hitting nine goals, including a hatrick against Swansea City, in the first seven Premier League games as Chelsea lead the table and look like the team to beat this season.

The final word can go to the Premier League’s highest ever scorer Alan Shearer. “Everything impressed me about Diego Costa, he is tailor made for the Premier League. The way he runs the line, in behind and can hold the ball up. He is going to love the Premier League and the Chelsea fans will love him. When it is not going for them they have a goalscorer who can get them out of it.”

20th August – Alvaro Negredo

Alvaro Negredo started last season fantastically at Manchester City and despite a difficult end to the campaign it seems strange that he is being linked with moves away from the club.

23 goals in 48 games is a phenomenal record for a player at a new club in a different country and this is also while competing with the talents of Sergio Aguero, Edin Dzeko and Stevan Jovetic for a starting place. A foot injury has stopped him being fit for the start of the season and it could be a blessing in disguise for both player and club because it means he is less likely to leave the club.

Negredo started his career at Rayo Vallecano and after impressing for the ‘B’ team (scoring 28 goals in 40 games) he made his professional debut in early 2005 in the second division of Spain. After scoring one goal in 12 games he moved to Real Madrid’s affiliate team Real Madrid Castilla and in his second season he scored 18 times which convinced first team manager Fabio Capello to put him in the Real Madrid squad for some Copa Del Rey games but he unfortunately did not make it onto the pitch.

In July 2007 he joined Almeria and the newly promoted side performed well above expectations and Negredo was a huge part of that. He ended the campaign as their top scorer with 13 goals, including strikes against Real Madrid in a 2-0 win and Sevilla in a 4-1 win. He followed this up with a brilliant start to the next season with five goals in the first six games and was a regular scorer right through the season and ended it with 19 goals in just 35 games.
Negredo Almeria
This form led to Real Madrid resigning the player due to a buyback clause in his contract but the manager at the time Manuel Pellegrini could not guarantee him first team football so he moved on almost straight away to Sevilla. Negredo later revealed that he admired Pellegrini’s honesty during the whole situation.

The 2009-10 season was interesting for the striker as he was first choice but he did go through some barren spells in front of goal and was also sent off three times over the course of the season, however he did still manage 14 goals in all competitions. 2010-11 was a much kinder season to Negredo as he continually scored goals and finished the season with braces against Villarreal, Deportivo, Real Madrid, Osasuna and Espanyol. He ended his second season with 27 goals in all competitions and was one of the most feared strikers in Spain.
Negredo Sevilla
His final season at the club ended with him finishing as the highest Spanish goalscorer in La Liga with 25 goals and was therefore awarded the Zarra Trophy. He was helped by scoring a hatrick in the victory over Celta Vigo and all four goals in a 4-3 win over Valencia on the last game of the season.

On the 19th July 2013 Negredo signed for Manchester City and helped the club win both the Premier League and the League Cup with 23 goals in his first season, including five in the Champions League.
Negredo MC
The final word can go to Tim Sherwood who compared him to Premier League record scorer Alan Shearer. “They both score goals. I haven’t studied Negredo as much as I knew Alan but they both score every type of goal, they hold the ball up well. He is probably the most similar to Shearer as there has been in recent years.”

12th August – Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli is loved by a lot of football fans but this is not always because of what he does on the pitch and has gained a lot of attention for his antics off the pitch.

While he does do some extraordinary things off the field, he certainly has proved over the years that he is a phenomenal footballer and a lot of people forget. At the age of just 24 he has the potential to become one of the best goal scorers in the game and one of the most feared strikers in the world. One thing that can always be said about Balotelli is that he turns up on the big occasion.

Balotelli began his career at Lumezzane and made his debut in Serie C1 at the age of just 15 against Padova on the 2nd April 2006. He was linked with big clubs in Europe and joined Inter Milan. He made his Serie A debut against Cagliari on the 16th December 2007 and three days later he scored twice in a Coppa Italia game against Reggina and then gained even more attention after scoring twice against Juventus in the same competition.
Balotelli Inter
In the following season he became Inter’s youngest ever scorer in the Champions League after netting against Anorthosis Famagusta. However, his second year was more difficult as him and then manager Jose Mourinho did not get along and he was frozen out of the squad. Despite this and him having to make a lot of appearances as a substitute he still managed to score 20 league goals in just 59 games before leaving.

Manchester City signed the striker and he made his Premier League debut against Arsenal on the 24th October but he had to wait until the 7th November before scoring his first goals for the club in a 2-0 win over West Brom. However, in the same game he was sent off. But he recovered from this and scored a hatrick against Aston Villa in December and was then later named man of the match in the final of the FA Cup which they won 1-0.
Balotelli MC
The striker then started the new season brilliantly with three goals early on and then the opening two goals in the 6-1 win over Manchester United at Old Trafford. After the first goal he also revealed a t-shirt that said ‘why always me’. Despite a very good season in which he scored 17 times in 32 games in all competitions he also picked up his four red cards during the season and it looked like manager Roberto Mancini had lost patience with his striker. However, when he was most needed he turned up for City and provided the assist for the Sergio Aguero goal that won them the Premier League title in the 94th minute against QPR.

His final season at City was much tougher after only scoring one Premier League goal in 14 games before leaving in January 2013 for AC Milan. He was sensational for the club straight away and proved his quality by scoring twice on his debut and then went on to finish the season with 12 goals in just 13 games.
Balotelli AC
Last season Balotelli kept up a good goalscoring record by hitting the back of the 14 times in Serie A and was a bright spot in an otherwise terrible season for the Italian club.

The final word can go to Roberto Mancini. “I think that Mario is one of the best players of his age in Europe. His style of play will suit the Premier League, and because he is still so young there is a big chance to improve. He is strong and exciting player, and City fans will enjoy watching him.”

8th June – Javier Mascherano

Javier Mascherano could be the most important player in the Argentina squad and even though he won’t get the headlines like Lionel Messi or Sergio Aguero, their hopes of winning the World Cup could depend on how well he plays.

The midfielder will play just in front of the back four allowing the more attacking players to go and do what they do best with the knowledge that one of the best ball winners in Europe is protecting their defence. It is a job that only a few players can effectively do and Mascherano is one of the best at it.

The 30 year old began his career at River Plate and in his first season he won the Clausura Championship and also helped the club reach the semi finals of the Copa Libertadores, unfortunately they lost to rivals Boca Juniors on penalties. Several European clubs tried to sign Mascherano at this time, including Real Madrid but River decided to keep that player for another season. However, this one was less successful as they struggled in the league and once again lost in the semi finals of the Copa Libertadores.
LIBER CUP MASCHERANO
In 2005 he did leave the Argentinean side for Corinthians in Brazil but he suffered a stress fracture in his left foot which meant after just nine games he would not play again that season. After six months out he returned to a struggling side who were battling relegation and although his performances were still very high, the team were struggling. After just 28 games for the club, one of the most bizarre transfer happened in world football as he and Carlos Tevez joined West Ham. Mascherano did not have the same impact as Tevez and he only played 15 league games for the Hammers and in Janauary 2007 he was on the move once again.

Liverpool signed him and he made his debut against Sheffield United on the 24th February in a 4-0 win and was praised by manager Rafael Benitez. “He is young but he has great experience having played for his country. It’s clear that he is one of the best midfielders in the world but he can get better with us.” Mascherano and Xabi Alonso’s partnership in the centre of midfield was a key part of Liverpool’s run to the Champions League final.
Mascherano Liverpool
In 2008 he signed a new four year deal and within a month he scored his first Premier League goal with a 20 yard strike against Reading. The 2009-10 season was a little harder for the hard tackler as he picked up two red cards during the season and had the worst disciplinary record in the league but he was considered undroppable when available and he was quickly becoming a fans favourite. However, after the 2010 World Cup he told new manager Roy Hodgson that he wanted to leave the club.

In August 2010 he joined Barcelona and his time there did not start well as his league debut ended in a 2-0 defeat to newly promoted Hercules at home. It was a difficult first season at the Spanish club with a lot of his early appearances being as a substitute and then in the second half of the season playing out of position as a central defender. But he performed well in this position, especially in the Champions League and he started the 2011 final alongside Gerard Pique and helped his team to a 3-1 win over Manchester United. Since then he has played most of his games in defence and has been a consistent performer for the team and even though he is not the tallest, he has never let the team down.
Mascherano Barca
He is yet to score for Barcelona in his 184 appearances but he is a valued member of the team and this summer was awarded a new contract keeping him at the club until 2018.

His teammates know how important he is and the final word can go to Lionel Messi. “He has turned into a fundamental player for us. He hasn’t had a bad game for us since Guardiola put him in the middle of the defence.”

2nd June – Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero is one of the best strikers in the world and will be hoping that he can prove it at the World Cup.

The striker has achieved so much in the game and is only just turning 26 today but it is not surprising that he has became one of the best in the world. He made his professional debut for Independiente at the age of just 15 years and 35 days becoming the youngest player to play in the division. He did not play again for seven months but when he did he became the youngest player to play in the Copa Libertadoras. On the 26th November he scored his first goal in a 2-2 against Estudiantes. During the 2005-06 season he became a first team regular and scored 18 times in 36 league games and was being linked with moves the Europe.
Aguero Independiente
On the 30th May he joined Atletico Madrid and Argentina legend Diego Maradona had a lot of praise for the striker. “The fact that people haven’t seen much of him in Europe means he hasn’t got the exposure Messi has had. But Aguero is just as good.”

He didn’t settle straightaway in Spain and only scored six times in his first season but after Fernando Torres left for Liverpool, Aguero became the star man. Still only 19 he finished the season as the third highest goalscorer in La Liga at the end of the year with 19 goals. He scored important goals against Barcelona, Real Madrid, Valencia, Sevilla and Villarreal that helped the club finish fourth and qualify for the Champions League for the first time in over 10 years.

In the next season he continued to get better as his partnership with Diego Forlan was improving and he scored his first Champions League goal in a 3-0 win over PSV. The 2009-10 season was a bit slower for everyone at the club but he managed to score twice against Chelsea in the Champions League. They were knocked out of the competition but won the Europa League with Aguero providing the assists for both goals in the final.
Aguero Atletico
His most successful season was the year after though as he scored 20 league goals and scored in seven consecutive games towards the end of the season. In his final game for the club he scored a hatrick against Mallorca with the second being his 100th for the club in all competitions.

On the 28th July 2011 he joined Manchester City for £38 million and made his debut on the opening day of the season against Swansea City. He came on as a substitute on the 59th minute and scored twice as well as providing a goal for David Silva. On his third start he scored his first hatrick in a 5-1 win over Wigan Athletic. He scored 23 times in his first season but the most important was with the last kick of the season that won the Premier League title for the club.
Aguero MC
The 2012-13 season was more difficult as he suffered an injury early on and it took him till the 29th September to score his first of the season. He went on to score another 11 Premier League goals as the club failed to defend their title but after missing the whole of the next preseason he started the season brilliantly by scoring against Newcastle United and then twice against Manchester United in a 4-1 win. On the 24th November he scored his 9th and 10th goals of the season against Tottenham Hotspur which meant that he now had the best minutes to goal ratio ever in the Premier League. He also scored five times in six league Champions League group games. He missed a lot of the season through injury but ended it with 28 goals in 34 games as well as winning back the Premier League title.

The final word can go to Ossie Ardiles. “He’s very, very quick and clever. He’s very intelligent and can score goals very, very easily. He lives to score goals, he’s a proper centre forward, he always wants to be close to the box.”