20th June – Juliano Belletti

Juliano Belletti was a World Cup winner in 2002 and will be hoping that Brazil improve this time around after a disappointing opening draw against Switzerland.

The right back was unfortunate that he played at the same time as Cafu as he would have gained a lot more than 23 caps. But he should still be proud of his international career and how influential he was for the clubs he played for.

Belletti started his career at Cruzeiro in Brazil and was given his debut in 1994 but after failing to break into the team, he was involved in a swap deal, joining Sao Paulo. Once again, he wasn’t first choice and was loaned out to Atletico Mineiro and this is where his career started. The club finished second in the table with Belletti scoring five times.

Soccer - FIFA Confederations Cup 2003 - Group B - Brazil v USA

On his return to Sao Paulo he was finally seen as their first choice right back and stayed at the club until 2002 when his performances had been spotted by clubs in Europe. It was Spanish side Villarreal that took a chance on him. He stayed with them for two years, playing 59 La Liga games, scoring six times before moving to Barcelona.

In his first season he helped the club win the league title but his second was slightly harder as he was in and out of the side. However, he did manage to score his one and only goal for Barcelona in this season. After coming on as a substitute in the Champions League final against Arsenal, Belletti scored the winning goal. This would be his greatest moment but he didn’t get much luck with injuries in the following campaign.

Belletti Barca

With limited opportunities the right back joined English side Chelsea on the 23rd August 2007 and made his debut two days later in a 4-0 win over Portsmouth. In his first season he made the right back position his own and scored against Wigan Athletic and Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea would reach the Champions League final and despite Belletti scoring in the penalty shootout, the team would go on to lose against Manchester United. With the arrival of Jose Bosingwa at the start of the next season, the defender struggled to keep hold of his place and was seen as more of a utility player.

Belletti Chelsea

After three seasons, 94 appearances, five goals, a Premier League title and two FA Cup medals, Belletti had gained cult hero status but his time was up and he returned to Brazil to join Fluminense. Just one year into his new contract he was released due to injuries but he did give it one more try signing for Ceara. However, 12 days later he decided to retire.

The final word can go to former Chelsea and Brazil manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. “I know him very well. I know Belletti from when he started to play at Sao Paulo. I know his potential. He helps us in whatever position we put him in; midfield, right back, any position.”

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28th September – Willy Caballero

Manchester City definitely needed real competition for Joe Hart and in the summer they signed birthday boy Willy Caballero as they believe they can really push the England number one.

The new goalkeeper is 33 today and this would suggest that he is in the best years of his career and won’t want to just sit on the bench behind Joe Hart. This could be a stroke of genius from Manuel Pellegrini as it will either make Hart play better or if he does have another dip in form like he has done at times during the last two seasons there is an able deputy.
Willy MCFC
Cabellero is also an Olympic gold winner as helped Argentina win the football tournament in 2004 and he started his career in his country of birth with Boca Juniors, making his debut in 2001. He stayed at the Argentinean giants for three years and helped them win the Argentine Primera Division, the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup all in 2003.

But in 2004 he decided it was time for him to try and make his mark in Europe and joined Spanish side Elche. After a difficult start he returned to Argentina in 2006 when he joined Arsenal de Sarandi and appeared in 13 league games for them. When he went back to Spain he got his confidence back and became Elche’s undisputed number one goalkeeper and produced a lot of fantastic performances in his 186 league games for the club which convinced Malaga to sign him on the 10th February 2011.
Willy Elche
He made his debut against Villarreal in a 1-1 draw on the 20th February and went on to play in every game until the end of the season. The goalkeeper quickly became a fan favourite as his saves and consistent performances helped the club eventually pull away from the relegation zone after a very difficult season.

The following season started better for the club and the goalkeeper kept his place in the starting lineup and on the 1st October he became a record holder for Malaga. He did not concede a goal for 480 minutes beating Pedro Contreras’ previous record of 429. Unfortunately just a few days later he was sent off against Levante for handling outside the box and his team went on to lose the game 3-0.

He quickly returned to the side and on the 18th January 2012 his contract was extended by the club, tying him down until 2016. However, a fracture in his left hand caused in a game against Espanyol on the 25th March meant he had to sit out the rest of the season. Caballero returned to full fitness and only missed two league games all season during the 2012-13 campaign and helped his team finish in 6th place in La Liga and was seen as one of the best keepers in the division.
Willy Malaga
On the 8th July 2014 he was reunited with former Malaga manager Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City after they paid a fee believed to be around £6 million for his services. He made his debut in the Community Shield as City lost 3-0 to Arsenal but he had to wait until the 27th September to make his Premier League debut in a 4-2 win over Hull City.

The final word can go to Manuel Pellegrini. “Caballero can be in any team, he is a very good goalkeeper. If you want to be a top goalkeeper you must have all the attributes, good distribution, to know when to go for the ball, to be good one on one and to not concede early goals. Replacing Hart with Caballero doesn’t make a difference.”

31st August – Pepe Reina

Pepe Reina is now without doubt the best second choice keeper in world football both at club level and international level and he should be at a top club playing every single game.

Now at Bayern Munich, the goalkeeper is behind Manuel Neuer in the pecking order but at least he has experience of sitting on the bench as he has done it for Spain for a number of years as he has watched Iker Casillas. Some would argue that he should still be Liverpool’s first choice but Brendan Rodgers went with Simon Mignolet even though Reina fits his style of football.

Reina started his career at Barcelona and from 1997 he was the first choice goalkeeper for the reserve side before being called up to the first team in 2000 after injuries. He made his debut in a 3-3 draw with Celta Vigo on the 2nd of December. In total he made 33 appearances for the club that season and helped them reach the semi finals of the UEFA Cup.
Jose Reina
In the following season he had to settle for a place on the bench for most of the campaign but did still play in 16 games. In July 2002 he joined Villarreal and was their undisputed number one barely missing a game in his three seasons at the club and became one of the most consistent goalkeepers in Europe. He played 136 times in all competitions before joining Liverpool in July 2005.
Reina Villarreal
He made his Liverpool debut in the Champions League qualifier against Welsh side TNS. His first season at the club was very successful as he helped them win the FA Cup and also a huge success personally. On the 3rd December against Wigan Athletic he kept his sixth consecutive clean sheet in the Premier League, and then went on to break the clean sheet record in all competitions after not conceding for 11 games.

In his first season he played 53 games and he holds a Liverpool record of conceding the fewest amount of goals in 50 games, conceding just 29. And at the end of the season he was awarded the Golden Glove for keeping 20 clean sheets and in the FA Cup final he saved three of West Ham’s four penalties to lift the trophy.

The 2006-07 season was just as impressive for the keeper as he once again won the Golden Glove after keeping 19 clean sheets and was also a hero in another penalty shootout against Chelsea in the Champions League semi final. Once again in the 2007-08 season he won the Golden Glove for the third consecutive season with 18 clean sheets and on the 2nd February 2008 he became the quickest goalkeeper in Liverpool history to reach 50 clean sheets.
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Reina continued to be Liverpool’s number one for the next few seasons and in 2011 he broke the club record for clean sheets in a 2-0 win over Chelsea. But after a red card in a 2-0 defeat to Newcastle United it meant that his streak of 183 consecutive Premier League appearances came to an end.

On the 19th July 2013 he signed for Napoli on a season long loan and helped them win the Coppa Italia but after 41 appearances his loan was not made permanent and he returned to Liverpool. On the 8th August 2014 Reina left Liverpool after 394 games and joined Bayern Munich.

The final word can go to Rafael Benitez. “Pepe’s record at Liverpool is very good. He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He’s had a lot of clean sheets and you can see the confidence the defenders have in him. When he plays, the defenders look very comfortable and that is so important.”

28th August – Bojan Krkic

A player going from Barcelona to Stoke City is not a transfer that many football fans expect to see especially when they have played over 100 times for the Spanish giants.

Bojan will take time to settle in the Premier League but with him signing a four year contract at Stoke he will definitely have the opportunity to adapt to the pace and power of the league. The 24 year old still has the best years in front of him and after a very impressive pre season much is expected of him over the season and if Mark Hughes’ side can perform like they did last year then they could push for Europe.

The striker, who can also play on the wing, started his career in Barcelona’s B team and impressed for them in the 2006-07 season by scoring 10 goals in 22 games and went on to become the youngest player to play for Barcelona on the 16th September 2007 against Osasuna after coming on as a substitute. Three days later he then made his debut in the Champions League against Lyon. On the 20th October 2007, aged just 17 years and 53 days he started his first game and scored in the 25th minute against Villarreal. He finished his first season as a professional with 10 goals, including one in the Champions League against Schalke.

For the 2008-09 season Bojan was handed the number 11 shirt but he had to settle for a place on the bench for the majority of the season. But he played a role in helping the club win La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa Del Rey. He was particularly effective in the Copa Del Rey by scoring five goals in the competition, including one in the final against Athletic Bilbao.
Bojan Barcelona
The 2009-10 season followed a similar pattern with him being used mainly off the bench but he had a fantastic end to the season which saw him score seven times in the final 12 games. In the following season he changed number once again and was given the number nine shirt. However he found himself behind David Villa, Pedro and Lionel Messi in the pecking order and didn’t quite hit the standards of the season before but he did play his 100th game for Barcelona and marked it with a goal against Getafe.

On the 22nd July he signed for Roma with a buyback clause giving Barcelona the option to re-sign him. He had to wait until the 1st October to score his first goal for the club against Atalanta and ended the season with seven goals in 33 appearances. After just one season he joined AC Milan on loan and after just three goals in 27 games he returned to former club Barcelona who took up the buyback option.
Bojan Roma
Without playing again for Barcelona he was sent out on loan, this time to Ajax. He had a tough start at the club by picking up a hamstring injury that would keep him out for a part of the first half of the season. But when he returned he helped Ajax win the league with four goals in 24 games.
Bojan Ajax
Stoke City signed him on the 22nd July 2014 for an undisclosed fee and he made his debut in a 1-0 loss against Aston Villa but put in a good performance.

The final word can go to Mark Hughes. “Anyone who knows European football will be aware of him as a player. He’s desperate to prove himself in the Premier League and we’re pleased to be able to offer him that platform.”

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.”

4th August – Antonio Valencia

Antonio Valencia was the first Ecuadorean to win the Premier League and he could play a crucial role once again at Old Trafford next season.

If new manager Louis Van Gaal plays a 3-5-2 formation then this could suit Valencia perfectly as he would be able to play as one of the wing backs and be very effective as he has proved he can play both on the right wing and at right back. Although there are doubts over his future it could be a big mistake if Van Gaal does let him go because they have already lost quite a few experienced Premier League players this summer.

Valencia started his career at El Nacional in Ecuador and it wasn’t long before he broke into their first team and was being linked with moves to Europe, in particular Spain. But in his last season at the club he helped them win the 2005 Clausura Tournament and after 11 goals in 83 league games he decided to move to Europe.
Valencia EN
In 2005 he signed for Villarreal but he struggled to break into their first team and only played twice before being loaned out to Recreativo de Huelva and he was an important player for them, helping them to win the second division in Spain and gain promotion to La Liga. Although he only played 12 times he impressed enough to get some interest from other clubs and he joined Wigan Athletic on loan on the 3rd August 2006.

It did not take long to settle in England and he scored his first goal in an emphatic 4-0 win over Manchester City. However, he picked up an injury soon afterwards and was ruled out for three months before returning in January against Everton. Although he only got one goal and one assist his performances were good enough to convince the club to extend his loan deal and then make it permanent in January 2008. He would go onto make 88 appearances for Wigan but was continually linked with moves away and manager Steve Bruce confirmed that he turned down the chance to join Real Madrid.
Valencia WA
Eventually he did leave Wigan and joined Manchester United for a fee in the region of £16 million and in his first season he impressed the fans with his pace and crossing ability. His greatest moment came in the final of the League Cup when he set up the winning goal against Aston Villa for Wayne Rooney. In all competitions he played 49 times and scored seven goals.

His next season was very stop start because of injuries but he did still play enough games to pick up a Premier League winners medal and started in the Champions League final defeat to Barcelona which led to him signing a new contract with the club. During the 2011-12 season he proved his versatility by playing a lot of games at right back and he looked very threatening from this position and at the end of the year he was awarded the Fans and Players’ Player of the Year awards.
Valencia MU
After his fine form he was awarded the famous number seven shirt however this only lasted a season before returning to the number 25 and after signing a new three year deal in the summer he will want to get back to his best form under Van Gaal.

The final word can go to Sir Alex Ferguson. “Antonio is a player we have admired for some time now, having spent the last two years in the Premier League with Wigan. I am sure his pace and ability will make a significant contribution to the team.”

16th July – Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale is one of the few players in the world that can be compared to Lionel Messi and teammate Cristiano Ronaldo but at the age of 25 he will only get better.

The Welsh international hasn’t always had the easiest career and has worked hard for his success and now playing for Real Madrid he will certainly get to pick up a lot of trophies and score a lot more goals before the end of his career. He will also be hoping to help Wales qualify for a major tournament in the near future and there will be a lot of pressure on him and Aaron Ramsey to deliver when the 2016 Euros qualifying starts.

Bale started his career at Southampton and became the second youngest player to ever play for the club when he came on the 17th April 2006 against Millwall at the age of 16 years and 275 days. It did not take him long to become a first team regular and when he broke into the side at the start of the next season he was known as a free kick specialist as he scored two in the opening two games of the season. He finished the year with five goals in 43 games and left for Tottenham Hotspur in May 2007.
Bale Soton
He started off brilliantly at his new club, scoring against Fulham, Arsenal and Middlesbrough in his first four starts, however an injury against Birmingham City meant he missed the rest of the season. Bale then struggled to break into the Spurs side and he was considered their second choice left back for the majority of the next two seasons. However, things changed in April 2010 as he scored the winner against Arsenal and then three days later once again got the winning goal against Chelsea. These results played a big part in the club qualifying for the Champions League.
Soccer - UEFA Champions League - Group A - Tottenham Hotspur v Inter Milan - White Hart Lane
It was in the Champions League where bale showed everyone how much potential he had, firstly he set up all four goals in a qualifying match against Young Boys, then scored against FC Twente in the second group match. But it was against Inter Milan and Maicon, who was known as one of the best defenders in the world at the time, where he announced himself to the world. Although they lost 4-3 away, Bale scored a hatrick and then in the return match he set up two goals. Some would argue that Maicon never fully recovered from these two matches.

He continued to play well in all competitions but it was in his final year at Spurs that he went to the next level and his 26 goals convinced Real Madrid to pay a world record fee for the winger and in September he joined the Spanish giants. His first half a season was tough though as he struggled with injuries but he did score on his debut against Villarreal. But he did justify his price tag by scoring a sublime goals in the final of the Copa Del Rey against Barcelona and then scored the important second goal against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final.
Bale RM
Bale finished his first season at Real with 22 goals and 16 assists and now that he has settled more into the league and learned more about his teammates, he will have even more success.

The final word can go to the former Spurs manager Harry Redknapp. “He’s an amazing player. He’s got everything, there’s not a weakness in his make-up. He can head the ball, he’s as strong as an ox, he can dribble and shoot. Most important of all, he’s a smashing lad.”