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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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.”

8th February – Carl Jenkinson

Carl Jenkinson celebrated his birthday today by helping West Ham to a 1-1 draw with Manchester United and despite a late goal it was still a very good point and performance.

It wasn’t such a good time for his parent club Arsenal this weekend who got beat by local rivals Tottenham Hotspur but the player is developing into a top quality right back who has been getting better as the season has gone on. It is good to see him now he is 23 getting first team football as he could easily challenge for the right back spot in the national team. His form this season has proved he is good enough for the top flight and with Mathieu Debuchy getting injured a few times this season he could have got plenty of opportunities at the Emirates.

Jenkinson started his career at Charlton Athletic but got his first taste of professional football at Welling United who he joined on loan in 2010 and went on to play 10 league games. He had to wait until November to get his next taste of football at Conference Premier Side Eastbourne Borough but after just four appearance he was recalled by Charlton. He made his first appearance for Charlton in the Football League Trophy Southern section semi final against Brentford. His performances for the rest of the season were impressive and this led to him being linked with moves away from the club.

Jenkinson CA

In June 2011 he joined Arsenal and made his debut in the Champions League qualifier against Udinese after coming on as a second half substitute. This was a meteoric rise for the defender but he seemed to be taking everything in his stride and put in decent performance. However, it wasn’t long before it was too much of a step up as he was part of the Arsenal side that were demolished 8-2 by Manchester United but he did set up Robin Van Persie’s goal, however his game was ended early after being sent off late in the game.

Jenkinson Arsenal

After returning he did show some potential but unfortunately his development was stalled as he spent three months on the sidelines after a stress fracture in his lower back. At the start of the 2012-13 season Jenkinson started the first five matches and once again gained plaudits for his performances, particularly against Manchester City and was rewarded with a new long term contract by the club shortly after. He ended the season with 21 appearances and in the following campaign he once again was a part of the starting lineup. He featured 22 times throughout the season and got his first career goal on the final day of the season against Norwich City.

On the 31st July the right back joined West Ham on loan for the whole season but had to wait until a 2-2 draw with Hull City on the 15th September to make his debut due to injuries. But he quickly established himself in the first team and has put in some consistent performances.

Jenkinson WH

The final word can go to Theo Walcott. “Carl always wants to learn, which is great to see. He’s eager, he wants to perform and he is getting better every game. He’s got bags of confidence, all the lads are encouraging him and it’s showing in his performances.”

11th September – Andrea Dossena

Not many players have as good a week as Andrea Dossena did in March 2009 as he scored against both Real Madrid and Manchester United for Liverpool.

Unfortunately he did not live up to his potential in the Premier League and despite this fantastic week for both him and the club he will largely be forgotten by a lot of fans. The left back struggled to adapt to the pace of the English game but he has had some success throughout his career. Now at the age of 33 he is a free agent and he can be signed outside of the transfer window so he could be playing for a new club soon.

Dossena began his career at Italian side Verona and after impressing as a youth player, he was promoted to the first team squad and made his debut on the 18th November 2001 in the derby against Chievo. He spent four seasons at the club, playing 99 Serie A games and scoring three goals before signing for Treviso in 2005.
Dossena Verona
His stay at Treviso was only for one season but he performed well in his 21 games to convince Udinese to sign him in 2006. Over the next two seasons he was a consistent left back and played in 63 league games and was awarded an improved contract in October 2007. However, by the end of the season he was being linked with moves away and on the 4th July 2008, he signed for Liverpool for an undisclosed fee.
Dossena Udinese
He was seen as the direct replacement for John Arne Riise and made his debut on the 16th August in a 1-0 win over Sunderland. Although he played well in this game, his form was poor for the large majority of his time at the club and didn’t get back into the side until an injury to first choice left back Fabio Aurelio. He once again did not convince the fans and manager that he was the right man for the job and was replaced by Emiliano Insua.

Now when he did get the chance he was played on the left wing and he was quite successful in this position, scoring his first goal for the club on the 10th March 2009 after coming on as a substitute against Real Madrid in the Champions League and then four days later repeating this by scoring against Manchester United in a 4-1 win at Old Trafford.

He only played 18 league games for Liverpool and signed for Napoli on the 8th January 2010, making his debut in the Coppa Italia against Juventus. He rediscovered his early career form at Napoli and played a lot of games at the club but it was not until the final game of the 2011-12 season that he became a fan favourite as he scored twice against Siena to guarantee the club Europa League football for the next season.
Dossena Napolu
After falling out of favour he joined Palermo on loan in January 2013 and played 11 times for the club before joining Sunderland on a free transfer on the 2nd September 2013. He made his debut in a 2-1 win over Newcastle United, however he was sent off in his next game against Hull City for a ridiculous challenge on David Meyler. At the end of the season after making just seven league appearances he was released.

The final word can go to Rafael Benitez. “We are happy with him because we know that he is a good player and he is working hard but we also know he can get better. Dossena is keen to learn and he will get better with more games and more time.”

17th June – Jordan Henderson

Jordan Henderson will be hoping that England can recover from their defeat against Italy and qualify for the knockout stages of the World Cup and he will be surely wishing for that on his birthday.

In their first game, England did not play too badly and Henderson showed a lot of energy and commitment but maybe could have got closer to Andrea Pirlo in the game. However, there were a lot of positives and the midfielder did play a big part in starting attacks. He has came a long way since making his professional debut as a halftime substitute in a 5-0 loss to Chelsea in 2008.
Henderson Sunderland
He started his first game for Sunderland soon after in a League Cup game against Blackburn Rovers but did not play for the club again that season. However, he did join Coventry City on loan in January 2009 making his debut in a 2-1 defeat to Derby County. After some impressive performances his loan was extended until the end of the season and soon after scored the first goal of his career against Norwich City. Unfortunately he fractured his fifth metatarsal in April and after 10 appearances he returned to Sunderland.
Henderson Coventry
In the 2009-10 season Henderson broke into the first team and was a regular in the side and went on to score his first Premier League goal against Manchester City on the 19th December 2009. He played a lot of the season on the right hand side of the midfield but showed his versatility to cover for injuries and suspensions in the middle of the park. His form earned his a new five year deal at the club and was a very good start to his Premier League career as he finished the season with six assists.

At the start of the next season he was once again in great form and he caught the attention of England manager Fabio Capello who called him up for a friendly against France. But he had to wait until the 5th December to score his first goal of the season in a 1-0 win over West Ham. At the end of the season he won Sunderland’s Young Player of the Year award for the second season in a row. This turned out to be his last at the club and after 79 appearances he left to join Liverpool.

Henderson then made his Liverpool debut against his former club Sunderland in a 1-1 draw and then later in the month scored his first goal for the club against Bolton Wanderers. He had a few ups and downs in his first season but he did start in the final of the League Cup which they won and also played the full 90 minutes of the FA Cup final but this time he was on the losing side. Henderson ended the season with two goals in 44 appearances.
Henderson Liverpool
He almost left the club at the start of the next season and it wasn’t until November that he made his first league start but a month later he scored his first goal in Europe, helping the team beat Udinese in the Europa League. He had a much better second half to the season and ended it with five league goals. The 2013-14 season was probably the best of his career as he became a regular in the side and almost won the league title.

The final word can go to Brendan Rodgers. “Jordan is a terrific young talent. People forget his age. He came here with a big price tag and it was always going to take him time. The great thing about him is he works his socks off every single day.”