26th June – Paolo Maldini

Paolo Maldini is one of the greatest defenders to have ever played football and spent his full career at one club.

To play over 900 times for a team like AC Milan and over 100 times for Italy just shows how talented Maldini was. He was known for his positional sense and his reading of the game which led him to being labelled as the defender that doesn’t need to tackle.

Maldini Italy

Maldini made his debut on the 20th January 1985 against Udinese at the age of 16. In the following campaign he became a regular and was handed the number three shirt, which his father Cesare had also worn. With a promising start titles came soon after and the 1987-88 season marked his first Serie A title and this was down to Maldini and his fellow defenders as they conceded 14 goals Over the next two seasons, his form translated to European football as Milan won the European Cup back to back.

In the early 90s Milan became known as The Invincibles as they went the whole 1991-92 season unbeaten and a record 58 games without losing. They not only won three consecutive titles but they also reached three consecutive Champions League finals, winning one of them against Barcelona.

Maldini AC

The club went through a transitional period after Fabio Capello left and several of the more experienced members of the squad moved on. But Maldini was still showing his ability and he was rewarded by being made Milan captain . After he galvanised the squad, he led them to another Serie A title in the 1998-99 season.

It wasn’t until Carlo Ancelotti was named manager that they finally began to dominate in Europe again with Maldini lifting the Champions League trophy as captain for the first time after defeating Juventus on penalties in 2003 and was named man of the match. In the space of six years Milan got to the final three times. Maldini opened the scoring in 2005 against Liverpool and played in the 2007 final which they won against the same opposition becoming the oldest captain to lift the trophy.

Maldini

Maldini during this period would also go on to break Dino Zoff’s Serie A appearance record after playing his 571st league game. He did announce his plans to retire at the end of the 2007-08 season however his performances were still of the highest quality and he was convinced to stay on.

On the 16th February 2008, Maldini played in his 1000th professional game after coming on as a substitute against Parma. One season later he decided it was time to hang up the boots and played his 902nd and last game for Milan against Fiorentina on the 31st May 2009. Milan then decided to retire his number three shirt to honour their captain.

The final word can go to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. “Maldini was the best and toughest defender I ever faced. He had everything: he was a complete defender, who was strong, intelligent, and an excellent man-marker.”

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23rd June – Zinedine Zidane

Zinedine Zidane was a fantastic footballer that amazed fans all over the world and is now proving that he is equally adept at being a manager.

It will be interesting to see what he does after leading Real Madrid to three Champions League trophies. He has surprised a lot of pundits by showing tactical knowledge but it shouldn’t be a surprise after everything that happened to him during his playing days.

The midfielder started his career at French side Cannes and made his professional debut on the 18th May 1989 against Nantes and in his first full season he helped the club to a fantastic 4th place in Ligue 1.He showed a lot of talent in his early years and this earned him a move to Bordeaux in 1992.

While at Bordeaux it seemed like he was consistently linked with moves away from the club due to his form but for whatever reason it seemed like clubs were not willing to take a chance on him. But in 1996, and his finally year at the club, he won the Ligue 1 Player of the Year. During his time there he played 139 league games and scored 28 goals.

Zidane Bordeaux

Juventus signed Zidane and he was an instant success in Italy and even though they had just won the Champions League many believed that he would improve the squad. In his first season they reached the final again but were beaten by Dortmund, however they did win the Serie A title. In the following season he scored seven times in 32 games as they retained the title and once again they reached the Champions League final but were beaten, this time to Real Madrid. In 1998 he was named World Player of the Year.

Zidane Juve

He stayed with Juventus until Real Madrid paid a world record fee for the playmaker in 2001. In his first season he got his hands on the Champions League trophy and scored one of the greatest goals ever seen against Bayer Leverkusen. At Real Madrid the trophies didn’t flow as often as he would have hoped but he did help them win the La Liga title at the end of the 2002-03 season. His ability was never questioned but occasionally he did show a different side and his disciplinary record was not the greatest and he received more red cards than people realise.

Zidane RM

On the international stage he also showed these two sides of his game by scoring two goals in the final of the 1998 World Cup final and being named the best player of Euro 2000. However, he might always be more remembered for his headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the final of the 2006 World Cup. This would be his last moment as a footballer.

The final word can go to Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano. “He dominates the ball, he is a walking spectacle and plays as if he had silk gloves on each foot. He makes it worthwhile going to the stadium.”

19th June – Kleberson

Kleberson might not have been a success at Manchester United but he played a big part in Brazil winning the World Cup in 2002.

The midfielder should also be someone that players in their World Cup squads should look up to as he was not a starter at the beginning of the tournament but by the end became an integral part of the team. After starting the quarter final against England he would go on to set up one of Ronaldo’s goals in the final against Germany.

It was his performances at first club Atletico Paranaense, where he played 100 league games and was a part of their title winning side in 2001. After the World Cup it was becoming harder for the Brazilian side to keep hold of him with many big European clubs interested in signing him. On the 12th August 2003, it was Manchester United who signed him for £6.5 million. Unfortunately he didn’t get off to a great start and picked up an injury in just his second appearance.

Kleberson AP

His time at Old Trafford only lasted two seasons and 30 appearances in all competitions but he did manage two goals in home wins against Blackburn Rovers and Everton. He then moved on to Besiktas in 2005 and it started off well with the midfielder playing 46 times in his first season but then his contract was terminated as he claimed that he was not getting his wages on time.

Kleberson MU

Flamengo signed Kleberson on a free transfer but he was unable to play for the club until February 2008 due to issues with his previous club. There were even more problems between the player and Besiktas and it ended with his new club having to pay a fee and Besiktas having to compensate the player. When he finally did get back to playing without any complications, he quickly rediscovered his form and became an influential player for the team and even earned a recall to the national side.

While on international duty he picked up an injury in a friendly against Estonia, which was meant to keep him out for a long time, however he came back early and played in the 2-1 win over Gremio which secured his second Brazilian Serie A title.

Kleberson Flamengo

After one more season at the club, he returned to first club Atletico but it ended terribly as they were relegated to Serie B and therefore Kleberson signed for Bahia. He scored his first goal for his new club against former side Flamengo but other than that it was largely unspectacular. He then moved on to America, playing for Philadelphia Union, Indy Eleven and Fort Lauderdale Strikers before retiring in 2016.

The final word can go to former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson. “He is an athletic midfield player who can play in a number of positions. One of the reasons we sold Seba Veron was because we knew we were getting Kleberson – that shows how highly we regard his talent.”

11th June – Vagner Love

Vagner Love at one point was one of the most highly rated strikers in Europe and was expected to become one of Brazil’s main goalscorers.

Love started his career at Brazilian side Palmeiras, where he helped them return to the top flight. He stayed for two seasons but scored 27 times in 42 league games and this led to him being by bought by Russian side CSKA Moscow. There were many rumours that he did not settle and was looking to leave, however he remained committed to his team and became a club hero by scoring in the 2005 UEFA Cup final which CSKA would go on to win against Sporting Lisbon. It was in this competition that he made a lot of headlines, by finishing as the competitions top scorer in the 2008-09 campaign.

On the 29th August 2009 it looked as though his time in Russia had came to an end as he returned to Palmeiras on loan. He, again showed he knew where the back of the net was by scoring five goals in 12 games. Due to the player stating concerns over his safety he cut the loan spell short and signed for his childhood team Flamengo.

At Flamengo, the striker was a massive success and formed a fantastic partnership with the former Inter Milan player Adriano, scoring 23 goals in 26 games. However, they could not convince Love to stay permanently.

Love Flamgo

This led to the player returning to CSKA where he helped the club win the Russian Premier League in 2013 and would also manage to hit over 100 goals during his two spells with the team. Once again he did leave and signed for Shandong Luneng and he would continue his goalscoring form with 28 goals in 43 games in his two seasons in China.

LOve CSKA

He has since became a little bit of a traveller, but someone that can guarantee goals. After his contract was rescinded in China, he joined Corinthians and finished as the top scorer as they would go on to win the Serie A title. But would only stay for almost exactly a year, joining French side Monaco and would be a fairly decent player for the club. He will be mostly remembered for scoring a goal in a victory over PSG.

Love Alanyaspor

After just half a season, Love signed for Turkish side Alanyaspor and was initially seen as a flop as he failed to score in his first seven games but then scored 23 times in just 20 games meaning he won the Golden Boot. He followed this up with an incredible start to the next season with 11 goals in 16 games and this led to Besiktas signing the striker midway through the season.

The final word can go to Monaco President, Vadim Vasilyev. “Vagner Love is a striker who has shown all his value in his career. We have had problems scoring goals and we are convinced Vagner Love can provide us with all his quality in that department.”

7th June – Cafu

Cafu is one of the best ever right backs in football and will be hoping that his country Brazil can win the World Cup in 2018.

The right back helped his country win the trophy in 1994 and 2002 as well as the Copa America twice and will be looking on keenly this summer to see how his national side get on. The only statistic that anyone needs to hear to prove how good Cafu was is that he is the most internationally capped Brazilian player of all time.

But it wasn’t always easy for the defender as he was turned down by a lot of clubs when he was younger and could not get signed, however, in 1988 he was given the opportunity to show his talents at home town club Sao Paulo. It did take him a little while to break into the first team but when he did he was influential in helping the club win back to back Copa Libertadores and World Championships in 1992 and 1993. Just a year later he was named South American Footballer of the Year.

Cafu SP

1995 was an interesting time for Cafu as he signed for Brazilian team Juventude but never played a game for the club and moved to Spanish side Real Zaragoza where he won the Cup Winners’ Cup. After 17 appearances he returned to Brazil, joining Palmeiras, this once again though was only a short stay and he was being linked with moves back to Europe.

Italian side Roma signed the right back and he was loved by the fans for his willingness to fly forward and join the attack as well as his solid defending. In 2001 he helped the club win Serie A and the Supercoppa Italiana but these would be his only trophies during his six year spell. After 163 league games and 5 goals, Cafu made the move to AC Milan.

Cafu Roma

In his first season with the club, he won Serie A for the second time in his career and in the following campaign played a part in reaching the Champions League final, which they unfortunately lost to Liverpool, in arguably the greatest game in the competitions history. He did manage to get revenge for this defeat just two years later by winning the Champions League against the same opposition.

Cafu AC

His final season for the club was the 2007-08 season where he was not an automatic pick but in his last professional game he did manage to grab a goal in a 4-1 win over Udinese. To show how much he was loved in Italy, he has been named in both Roma and AC Milan’s Hall of Fame.

The final word can go to England World Cup hero Geoff Hurst. “Cafu was the complete package. It’s not often I find myself waxing lyrical about a defender, but Cafu was that and so much more. Sir Alex Ferguson once jokingly asked whether Cafu had two hearts, on account of his tireless running and unstinting stamina.”

13th March – Edgar Davids

Going from winning the Champions League, Eredivisie and Serie A title to managing Barnet just shows how crazy Edgar Davids career was but he was certainly a very good player and one that was instantly recognisable.

Due to glaucoma Davids had to wear protective glasses and this made him stand out on the field to anyone that watched him play but for people that loved football they could see that not only was he one of the most combative and energetic midfielders he also had a lot of creativity and could see passes that attacking midfielders would have been proud of.

Davids Ajax

Davids is now 41 and started his career at Ajax, making his debut on the 6th September 1991 in a 5-1 win over RKC Waalwijk. The midfielder spent five years at the club and helped them to three league titles as well as a UEFA Cup and the Champions League in 1995. In total he played 106 league games and scored 20 times before moving to Inter Milan at the start of the 1996-97 season. Unfortunately he wasn’t very successful at the club and after just 19 games he left for Juventus in December 1997 for £5.3 million.

He quickly became an important member of the side and was known as the driving force in the midfield and had six very successful years at the club. He picked up three Serie A titles as well as two Italian Supercups but sadly for him and the club during his time there he reached the Champions League final twice but would go on to lose both games. In January 2004 his time with Juventus was over and he joined Barcelona in loan. They were nowhere near the team they are now and were struggling in midtable but recently appointed Frank Rijkaard realised they needed more of a presence in the centre of the park and Davids was the perfect man. After he joined the club soon found form and they would rise up to second in the table by the end of the season and this was seen as the catalyst for their dominance of Spanish and European football.

Davids Juve

Surprisingly in the summer of 2004 he made the move back to Inter Milan, however he once again only lasted one season and was released from his contract in August 2005. Davids then joined Tottenham Hotspur and was an instant success and quickly became a favourite. In both years he would help the club finish fifth but he only managed one goal in a 2-1 win over Wigan Athletic.

Davids TH

Davids returned to Ajax on the 28th January 2007 and helped the club win the KNVB Cup by scoring the winning penalty against AZ. But a broken leg in the following pre season meant he couldn’t have the same impact in his second spell. On the 20th August 2010 he made another surprising move, this time joining Championship side Crystal Palace. He would only stay until the 8th November but he still described the experience as one of the best of his life.

After this spell he stayed in London and wanted to get back into the game so joined Barnet as player-manager on the 11th October 2012 and would be named as man of the match on his debut in a 4-0 win over Northampton Town. However, despite his early success he could not keep Barnet in the Football League and after failing to challenge for promotion he resigned from the club on the 18th January 2014 with a 36% win rate.

The final word can go to George Burley after he left Crystal Palace. “It was a privilege to work with him, everybody at the club enjoyed it, he’s been a world class player. It was a great experience for everyone at the club and if you asked me to do it again I would.”

9th March – Juan Sebastian Veron

Manchester United have spent a lot of money over the years and a lot of this has been on Argentinean midfielders, including Juan Sebastian Veron.

Obviously Angel Di Maria has been grabbing all the headlines lately for his somewhat average performances after a massive money move and to a lot of the Old Trafford faithful it must feel like déjà vu. Veron came to Manchester United with a reputation of being one of the best players in the world and he will forever go down as one of Alex Ferguson’s biggest flops as he struggled to adapt to life in England and failed to produce the goods while in the Premier League.

Now 40, Veron started his career in Argentina with Estudiantes, where he is currently chairman, in 1993. During his second season at the club he became a valuable member of the team and helped the club get promoted to the top flight. After 60 league games he would leave and join Argentinean giants Boca Juniors. While there he lined up alongside Diego Maradona but he would only last 17 league games before moving on to try his hand in Europe.

JSV Estudiantes

In 1996 he joined Italian side Sampdoria, who were managed by Sven Goran Eriksson at the time, and was an instant success. This convinced Parma to splash out on the midfielder after an impressive 1998 World Cup and he was once again one of the first names on the team sheet as the club won the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup. Despite this success he would only stay the one season and was signed once again by Eriksson, this time for Lazio and he would go on to even better things.

JSV Sampdoria

During the 1999-00 season he was the driving force and it was not a surprise that they were so successful as Veron was one of the best attacking midfielders in the world at that point and would create numerous chances for the strikers. Lazio ended the season winning Serie A, the Coppa Italia and the Italian Super Cup as well as lifting the European Super Cup. His second season was not quite as productive as he was involved in a lot of off field matters that seemed to affect his performances.

On the 12th July 2001 Veron was signed by Manchester United for £28.1 million which was a new British transfer record. But the midfielder never lived up to this price tag and despite some impressive performances in the Champions League, he never quite showed his talents in the Premier League. Injuries also didn’t help his situation but he did manage to pick up a Premier League winners medal at the end of the 2002-03 season. After 51 fairly disappointing league games, Veron somewhat surprisingly moved to another English club, signing for Chelsea for £15 million.

JSV MU

At Chelsea he got off to a good start by scoring a winning goal against Liverpool at Anfield but not a lot went right for him after that and he only ended up playing 15 times in total for the club. When Jose Mourinho was appointed manager he loaned Veron out to Inter Milan for two seasons and his performances were better in Italy as he helped the club win the Coppa Italia twice. He did return to Chelsea but it wasn’t for long as he was quickly loaned back out to Estudiantes until the end of his contract. He was back to his best in his homeland and played for a further six seasons and was even voted South American Footballer of the Year in 2008 and 2009 as well as best player of the 2009 Copa Libertadores as his side went on to win the competition.

The final word can go to Alex Ferguson. “He is a marvellous player. He brings a nice pace to the team. What we have done is bring in a really top player, one of the best in the world. He’s a fantastic footballer and will bring a personality to the team.”