25th March – Mehmet Ekici

Mehmet Ekici might not be the biggest name in world football but he is proving that he is a fantastic footballer in Turkey and one that will probably be linked with a move to England in the near future.

The midfielder has always had very good ability but now he is back in Turkey he is proving that he can grab goals from the middle of the pitch. He obviously learnt a lot from his early years in Germany and has benefitted from that which is why it is not a surprise to see him performing so well at the moment in a league that is nowhere near as strong. Ekici is now 25 and will be hoping that he can get one more chance at least in the better leagues in Europe.

He started his career at Bayern Munich and featured regularly for the second team from 2007 and was one of their more impressive players during the 2009-10 season which saw him score 12 goals in 29 games and this caught the attention of the first team as he was promoted to the squad along with David Alaba. He was included in the Champions League squads for two seasons but unfortunately never got on the pitch and injuries stopped him from getting him on the pitch in other competitions.

Ekici BM

To guarantee more first team opportunities in July 2010 he joined Nurnberg on a season long loan to prove that he could cope with the top flight in Germany. He would go on to play 34 times in all competitions and score four goals and get eight assists which was a decent season and it led to him being linked with permanent moves away from Bayern Munich.

On the 18th May 2011 he did leave permanently and joined Werder Bremen for a fee believed to be around €5 million. He got off to a good start at his new club and scored his first goal on the 17th September 2011 against his former team Nurnberg. However, he struggled to keep his place in the team on a regular basis and over the next three seasons he only played 41 league games and he was slightly forgotten about.

1. FC Nürnberg - Eintracht Frankfurt 3:0

This meant he needed something new to kick start his career and so on 15th August 2014 he joined Turkish side Trabzonspor. Once again he has started to show his talents and so far this season so far scored nine goals in 21 league games which has brought him to the attention of other clubs. It will be interesting to see where his career can take him next but he will certainly want to be adding to his 10 international caps which is not as many as he should have gotten as he was very well liked by former manager Guus Hiddink.

Ekici WB

The final word can go to Werder Bremen sporting director Klaus Allofs. “We are delighted to have found in Mehmet a player that fits perfectly into our plans. He is a young player with German roots, who has had a strong season.”

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13th February – Eljero Elia

Southampton have had a fantastic season so far and to help them secure European football next season they brought in winger Eljero Elia on loan and he looks to be a fantastic addition.

At the age of 28 he has been around a while and many people believe he hasn’t quite lived up to his potential and has had a few fallings out in his career which have stopped him reaching the very top but he is showing now that he can succeed at the very top. Koeman will be hoping his unpredictability helps him on the pitch and if they can secure a top four place then Elia will have a big part to play.

Elia ADO

Elia began his career at ADO Den Haag and made his professional debut at the age of 17 against Groningen and he went on to play a further three games over the season and scored his first goals against AZ. In the following seasons he was a first team regular but after several disagreements with the new coach at the club he left for Twente in 2007. In his first season he played 30 times and scored two goals but produced some exciting performances and when Steve McClaren became manager he seemed to get the best out of him, scoring 11 goals and being named the Dutch Football Talent of the Year in 2009. This led to him being linked with moves away and he eventually left for German side Hamburg. His first season at the club was blighted by injuries and he only managed to play 24 games and in his second season he began to get frustrated at not getting more chances in the first team and was subsequently fined after he claimed the club didn’t look after him when he was injured.

Elia Twente

On the 31st August 2011 he made the move to Italian giants Juventus but once again he found first team opportunities limited and after just one season he was on the move again this time to Werder Bremen. Elia found it difficult to adapt to the team’s style of play and was also suspended by the club after being caught speeding. A better second season meant the club changed their mind about selling him but it wasn’t long before he was causing controversy again and manager Viktor Skrypnyk decided to drop him before the Nordderby against former club Hamburg.

Elia WB

This seemed to be the last straw at the club and it was announced that he would be joining Southampton on loan soon afterwards. He made his debut for the club in a 1-0 win over Manchester United and then followed this up in the next Premier League game with two goals in the win over Newcastle United. Southampton fans will be hoping he can keep up his early promise and just give them the extra energy needed in their push for the top four.

The final word can go to Ronald Koeman. “He is a good option for us. I believe in his qualities. He is fast, can play from the left and right, and can take people on one on one. He is hungry and that is the most important thing. We need really good players who want to develop themselves.”

15th October – Mesut Ozil

He might be a World Cup winner and used to be known as the ‘King of Assists’ but Mesut Ozil has yet to convince fans of the Premier League that he was worth the transfer fee paid by Arsenal.

With an injury that is likely to keep him out of action for a while, it at least gives Ozil time out of the spotlight as every time Arsenal play poorly, he is the scapegoat and the one everyone points the finger at. Sometimes he hasn’t been able to influence games as much as someone with his talent but he has been shoved out wide and Arsene Wenger does need to take some of the blame.

The 26 year old started his professional career at Schalke and was being labelled as the next big thing in German football. He played 39 times for the club but only scored one goal and after a falling out with Mirko Slomka he moved to Werder Bremen in January 2008. He quickly settled at his new club and began fulfilling his potential. He helped the club win the DFB-Polka Cup in 2009 and scored the winning goal in the final against Bayer Leverkusen. Ozil was also excellent in the UEFA Cup that season and was a major reason why they reached the final.

In his second full season at the club he helped them to 3rd in the Bundesliga, contributing nine goals and also 17 assists in 31 league appearances. This would be his final season at the club and he finished his time at Bremen with 16 goals and 55 assists in 108 games and after a very good World Cup on the 17th August 2010 he joined Real Madrid.
Ozil WB
Ozil made a fantastic start to his career in Spain and his form over the season kept the Kaka on the bench. He finished the season with 25 assists which was the most in Europe and after Jose Mourinho became manager, his number changed from 23 to 10 suggesting that he would be the first choice. He was a crucial in helping the club to their 32nd La Liga title after another 17 assists in the league and even chipped in with two goals on the final day of the season against RCD Mallorca which meant that Real were the first club ever to reach 100 points in a single season.

For a third season in a row nobody came close to him in terms of the number of assists he got. But there were reports that he was not happy and wanted to leave but he rejected these claims and proved with his 26 assists that he was willing to fight for his place. In his three full seasons at the club he played over 50 times and it was quite surprising that on the 2nd September 2013 he joined Arsenal for a fee believed to be £42.5 million. This was seen as a huge signing and the Real Madrid players were disappointed that he left, particularly Cristiano Ronaldo who benefitted a lot from him.
Ozil RM
The attacking midfielder made his debut away to Sunderland and it only took him 11 minutes to get his first assists as he set up Olivier Giroud. He had an even better home debut as he was involved in all three goals in a 3-1 win over Stoke City. His first two goals would come in a 4-1 win over Norwich City just over a month later but after a good November and December he started picking up niggling injuries and this slightly affected his form. Despite a shaky second half of the season he still helped the club win the FA Cup.
Ozil Arsenal
He needed a positive start to this season but it hasn’t quite happened to him and this injury will not help him but surely his quality will come through and provide a lot more goals for his teammates in the years to come.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “He is a great player, with proven quality at both club and international level. We have watched and admired him for some time as he has all the attributes I look for in an Arsenal player.”

29th September – Per Mertesacker

Per Mertesacker may have won the World Cup in the summer but he now faces a big task in helping Arsenal compete for the Premier League and Champions League.

Although they are unbeaten in the league they have not been convincing and Dortmund destroyed them in the first Champions League game. But as Mertesacker has proven in the past he usually gets better as the season goes on and his partnership with Laurent Koscielny has been one of the best Arsenal have had for a while. The 30 year old has never been blessed with pace so there is no reason why his performances should drop in the later years of his career.

The 6 foot 6 defender started his career at Hannover and after playing under his father in the youth teams he made his league debut in November 2003 against FC Koln. Early in his career there were suggestions that he would not become a footballer and pursue another career, especially after a shaky start which saw him score an own goal and also broke his nose.
Mertesacker Hannover
But he recovered from this and became known as one of the most promising defenders in Germany and was also known as a defender that timed his tackles perfectly, only picking up two yellow cards in his 76 league appearances for Hannover. After three years he played his last game for the club on the 13th May 2006 against Bayer Leverkusen and opened the scoring in a 2-2 draw.

After an impressive 2006 World Cup, Mertesacker joined Werder Bremen. He did not get off to a quick start at the club as he was out injured for the first month of the season but when he did return he became a rock in the centre of the defence. In November he scored his first Champions League goal against Chelsea in a 1-0 win.

The 2007-08 season was a mixed bag for the defender as he received the first red card of his career in a 6-3 defeat to Stuttgart but played in every game he was available and helped the club finish as runners up in the league, finishing with just two less wins that eventual champions Bayern Munich. For the rest of his time at the club he proved he was more than just a defender that won headers as he had improved a lot when he had the ball at his feet. This was part of the reason why Arsene Wenger signed him.
Mertesacker WB
He played 210 times for Bremen before joining Arsenal on the 31st August 2011. They had just been beaten 8-2 by Manchester United at Old Trafford and desperately needed reinforcements at the back. Mertesacker started well and was consistent throughout his first season before it was cut short by injury in February 2012. He returned for the start of the 2012-13 season and helped keep two clean sheets in the opening two games against Sunderland and Stoke City. His performances continued to improve and he was awarded the man of the match after a 1-1 draw away to Manchester City.
Mertesacker Arsenal
Arsenal fans then loved the centre back even more after he scored his first goal for the club in a 5-2 win over Tottenham Hotspur and this was when the German and Koscielny were in great form together and were arguably the best centre back partnership in the league. But it was last season that he showed his top form as he was voted into the Premier League Team of the Year for his fantastic performances and on the 4th March 2014 he was rewarded with a new contract by the club.

The final word can go to Arsene Wenger. “I think he is a good player. He is a good organiser as well, he understands the game, he is an intelligent player. Now we look less nervous at the back, and I think he contributes to that.”

7th April – Franco Di Santo

Argentina have one of the best strike forces in world football so it is really surprising to see that a Wigan Athletic player was included in their squad.

Franco Di Santo who is 25 today was called up in 2012 and has gone on to make three appearances for his country. His manager at the time Roberto Martinez summed it up perfectly by saying: “He’s come back after sharing a dressing room with Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero. As a striker, that’s as nice a dream as you can have.”

The striker first came to England in 2008 joining Chelsea as an 18 year old for £3.4 million after he scored 26 goals in 76 matches for Chilean club Audax Italiano. Remarkably he finished as the top scorer for Chelsea’s reserves even though he was only there for half a season which led to him being part of the first team squad in the next preseason and on the 31st August he made his Premier League debut against Tottenham Hotspur. Although he didn’t score that season he showed a lot of promise and was linked with loan moves away from the club. Even though the fans did not see the best of him his teammates were clearly impressed and defender Ricardo Carvalho gave him the nickname ‘Crespito’ which means Little Crespo in reference to Hernan Crespo who was a phenomenal striker.
Di Chelsea
Blackburn Rovers were the team to take a chance on him and on his debut against Aston Villa he provided an assist for David Dunn and was a constant threat and manager Sam Allardyce was very impressed and decided to extend his loan till the end of the season. However, his time was limited after Christmas and he did not play as much as he would have hoped but he did play well in a game against local rivals Burnley, once again setting up Dunn and this time grabbing a goal himself.
Di Blackburn
It looked as though his talents were going to waste until Wigan Athletic signed him for £2 million and although his goal record did not improve, his performances were consistent and under Roberto Martinez he was definitely a vital part of their team and helped them play an exciting style of football. During his time at the club he seemed to score important goals including a last minute winner against Sunderland, two against relegation rivals QPR and once against Southampton which helped the club to an away victory. He was also crucial in helping the team win the FA Cup against Manchester City so he will surely look back on his time at the club fondly.
Di Wigan
Di Santo is currently playing in the Bundesliga at Werder Bremen so he is still highly rated and at the age of 25 he could become the striker everyone thought he was going to become. Former Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari thought the future should have been built around him and he will get the last word on the striker saying after a preseason game. “It’s important for us to put some good young players in the team. Di Santo scored one goal for us and it’s good for him that he played in this match. He will grow as a player and we can continue to build for the future of the team for the next 11, 15 or 20 years.”