26th March – Simon Kjaer

Simon Kjaer has been one of the more consistent centre backs around Europe in recent years but it seems like every time he is close to a really big move his form plummets and mistakes creep into his game.

The centre back is still only 26 but has a lot of experience and has played in some big games for both club and country so his career will more than likely get better. Over the years he has been linked with transfers to Liverpool, Manchester United and Chelsea to name a few and it is felt that he would be good in the Premier League and the English top flight definitely needs more top quality defenders.

Kjaer started his career at Danish club Midtjylland and even at a young age he was linked with big moves and even had a trial with Real Madrid in August 2007 but unfortunately a deal could not be agreed. Instead he signed a new five year deal with his first club and made his debut in a 2-0 win over AGF on the 30th September 2007. He would play 21 times for the club before making the move to Italian side Palermo in July 2008.

Kjaer Palermo

He would have to wait until October to make his debut as a half time substitute in a 3-1 defeat to Fiorentina. Despite the loss Kjaer played well and quickly established himself as an important member of the side and ended the season with 27 appearances and three goals. After a very successful first season he was named the 2009 Danish Talent of the Year and during the 2009-10 campaign he would go on to produce even better performances, ending with a very consistent World Cup which meant once again that many other clubs were looking at him and Palermo had to accept they were going to lose him in the summer.

On the 8th July 2010 he made the move to Wolfsburg but unfortunately Kjaer and the club got off to an indifferent start and were not achieving what they had expected to. After manager Steve McClaren was sacked, Felix Magath took over and it was much tougher for Kjaer to get a regular place in the team and was made a scapegoat by the new manager for the problems Wolfsburg were having.

Kjaer Wolfsburg

After making three appearances at the start of the 2011-12 season the centre back made the move to Roma on a season long loan. This was also not a good move for him as he struggled to show his quality and was even sent off against Lazio in a 2-1 defeat which led to the club not buying him permanently and he had to return to Wolfsburg. After burying the hatchet with Magath he would eventually get back into the team but he only lasted one more season.

His next move was to Lille in France and was very impressive in his first campaign helping the club to 21 clean sheets and was included in the Ligue 1 Team of the Season after they only conceded 26 goals in 38 league games. The defender has continued to put in good performances and has proven that when he is on form he can be a leader and one of the best in Europe.

Kjaer Lille

The final word can go to Palermo director Walter Sabatini. “I have heard that Juventus and their observers have been watching Kjaer. There is also an interest from Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. But he’ll stay, even he knows that. All is well, he wants to complete his development. Simon should be valued based on the qualities he has.”

Advertisements

16th March – Theo Walcott

Theo Walcott burst onto the scene and went to the 2006 World Cup without playing a single minute in the Premier League and he continues to divide opinion.

At the age of 26 he still has a long career in front of him but he seems to have been around for a long time and maybe hasn’t developed as much as some Arsenal fans hoped. However, on his day his pace is frightening and he can be one of the deadliest finisher in Europe. Unfortunately after going to the World Cup so young a lot was expected.

Walcott England

Walcott started his career at Southampton and became the club’s youngest ever player at the age of 16 years and 143 days after coming off the bench against Wolves in a 0-0 draw. Just four days later he would make his full debut against Leeds United and would go on to score in the game. This began a remarkable rise for him as he would go on to score against Millwall and Stoke City.

Walcott Soton

This form alerted some of the biggest clubs in England and after just 23 professional games he joined Arsenal on the 20th January 2006. He would have to wait until the start of the following season to make his debut and made a good impression setting up a goal for Gilberto Silva against Aston Villa after coming on as a substitute. His first goal for the club would come in the League Cup final against Chelsea, unfortunately they would go on to lose the game 2-1.

During the 2007-08 season he would score his first home and Champions League goals against Slavia Prague and his first Premier League goals against Birmingham City on the 23rd February 2008.The biggest compliment given to Walcott was that at the start of the following campaign he was given the number 14 shirt, previously worn by Thierry Henry. But after a positive start a dislocated shoulder meant he missed a lot of the season and after recovering he was rewarded for his form by being given a new contract. Yet again the 2009-10 season was marred by injuries and restricted to just 15 league starts but in the Champions League he produced one of his best performances in a 2-2 draw with Barcelona. This must have given him confidence as he quickly became an important player for the club and started the next season very well with a hatrick against Blackpool in a 6-0 win.

Walcott Arsenal

But controversy was to follow after he admitted to diving to try and win a penalty in an FA Cup against Leeds on the 8th January 2011. He ended the season with a career high nine goals in the league and 13 in total which showed that he was getting better every season. Despite playing more games the next season he didn’t match his previous efforts and it was a little tougher for him.

Walcott was a striker at Southampton and many fans felt that is where he should be played and in the 2012-13 season he was given the opportunity and proved that he could play in that role. In his first game as a lone striker he scored a hatrick and provided two assists in a 7-3 win over Newcastle United and shortly after signed a new deal that put an end to any speculation he was about to leave. At the end of the season he finished 14 goals and 12 assists in 32 Premier League games and a further seven goals in other competitions. Two bad injuries in the next season limited his playing time but he still managed in five goals in 13 games. This season he has slowly been coming back from his injury but will be hoping he can make a difference towards the end of the campaign.

The final word can go to Harry Redknapp who gave him his professional debut. “The kid can run through puddles and not make a splash. He’s lightning, he drifts over the ground and he’s a fantastic talent. I hope this kid can go on and be a top player. He’s got a long way to go but I’m sure he can.”

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.”

18th February – Bobby Robson

Bobby Robson has gone down as one of the greatest managers ever after an excellent career but more importantly to him he went down as one of the few genuine nice people in the world of football.

There isn’t anyone that says a bad word about Bobby Robson and he is loved all over Europe after managing in Portugal, Holland, Spain and England with most clubs he was at holding him in a very high regard. It is very rare for someone to be loved as much as him by all football fans and everyone will remember him for a long time to come.

Robson started his career with Fulham in 1950 as an inside forward and spent six years at the club playing 152 games and scoring 68 goals before moving to West Brom for a club record fee of £25,000. He finished as the club’s top scorer during the 57-58 season was also given the captain’s armband but in 1962 he returned to Fulham. His second spell lasted five years and in 1967 he joined Vancouver Royals as player-manager.

Robson Fulham

He only spent a year in Canada before returning to Fulham for a third spell, this time as manager. He could not save them from relegation and was sacked in the following campaign. But he was given a chance by Ipswich Town in 1969 and he would build one of the best teams ever seen at the club. After four average years he led the club to fourth place in the First Division and won the Texaco Cup during the 1972-73 season which was the start of something special. For the next nine seasons they only finished below sixth once but in that same season they won the FA Cup so that made up for it.

His reign at Ipswich lasted 13 years and he even won the UEFA Cup in 1981 but even more remarkably during his time at the club he only signed 14 players and made up the rest of the squad with players that came through the youth team. These achievements landed him the England job and it is fair to say that he has been one of the most popular England managers ever. But it could have been so different after he offered his resignation after England failed to qualify for Euro 84. He didn’t have much success in the Euros but his record in World Cups was very good as he led England to the quarter finals in 86 and were only beaten by Diego Maradona’s Hand of God goal and a bit of magic from the Argentinean. But in 1990 after being hated by many sections of the media he went closer than any other England manager to winning the trophy and reached the semi finals before being beaten on penalties by West Germany. On arrival back home the team and manager were cheered and nobody wanted Robson to leave the job.

Robson England

Robson had already accepted a job offer from PSV after the FA told him they weren’t renewing his contract before the World Cup. While in Holland he won the league title twice before moving to Sporting Lisbon in 1992, where he hired a young Jose Mourinho to be his interpreter. After a decent first season in which the club finished third, he had took them to the top of table but was surprisingly sacked. Rivals Porto were quick to appoint Robson and they went on to beat Sporting in the Portuguese Cup final and would go on to win the title in the next two seasons.

After his success in Portugal he made the move to Spain and joined Barcelona and he led them to the Spanish Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup but was moved upstairs into a general manager position after just one season. He only spent one more year in Spain and returned to PSV for a short spell before he finally came home.

Newcastle appointed Robson in September 1999 and he turned the whole club around right from his very first home match. They went on to beat Sheffield Wednesday 8-0 with Alan Shearer scoring five goals. In just over one season he took Newcastle from bottom of the table to qualifying for the Champions League, finishing fourth and then third in the next campaign. Such was the turnaround that a fifth place finish was disappointing in his final full season in charge.

Robson NUFC

Robson was sacked after a slow start and every Newcastle fan will agree that the club haven’t been the same since and the fans still love him today. Unfortunately aged 76 on the 31st July 2009 he passed away and the news was very hard for most to take that followed football including players, coaches and fans.

The final words are difficult to choose because of how many good things were said about Bobby but Alex Ferguson summed up everything by saying. “I was never too big or proud to ask him for advice which he gave freely and unconditionally. And I’m sure I’m speaking for a lot of people when I say that. There is not a person I would put an inch above Bobby Robson. Always a smile, always a friendly word with never a mention of his own problems. The world, not just the football world, will miss him.”

16th February – Ron Vlaar

Tim Sherwood has a big challenge in keeping Aston Villa in the Premier League but more importantly for them it looks like they will have their captain Ron Vlaar available for the run in.

Although it is scoring goals that has been the major problem for the team, having their captain back will still be a big boost and it will make Sherwood more confident in his back four. Vlaar had been having a great season before getting injured and that was coming off the back of a great World Cup with Holland and therefore has been linked with moves away, mostly to Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United. He would not look out of place at Old Trafford but he doesn’t seem to be distracted by these reports and will surely be as consistent as ever from now until the end of the season.

The defender now 30 has plenty of experience and started his career at AZ making his debut at the age of 20 on the 32rd April 2005 against RKC Waalwijk and then played a few days later in the semi final of the UEFA Cup against Sporting Lisbon. It was expected he would become a first team regular in the following season but this didn’t happen and he only played 10 games in total for AZ before leaving for Feyenoord on the 28th December 2005.

Vlaar AZ

In his first half a season at the club he played 16 times but an injury in the following preseason meant that he had to sit out the first half of the following campaign. But after recovering he did become an important member of the side and scored his first goal against FC Utrecht. Once again though his development stalled after being ruled out for most of the 2007-08 season after surgery on a cruciate ligament injury. He returned to training but picked up yet another injury and missed another season.

After two years on the sidelines he came back and scored a great goal in the KNVB Cup against Harkemase Boys on the 24th September 2009. His performances began improving and was getting more praise from everyone and during the 2011-12 season he helped Feyenoord qualify for the Champions League after they finished second in the Eredivisie.

Vlaar Feyenoord

But on the 15th July he joined Aston Villa, however the deal initially seemed like it wouldn’t be completed after he returned to Holland. After another turn of events he did eventually join the Premier League club on the 1st August. Shortly after he was named captain due to the continued absence of Stiliyan Petrov. He went on to score his first goal for the club in the 6-1 win over Sunderland with a 30 yard strike and his second goal was even more spectacular in the 2-2 draw with Wigan Athletic.

Vlaar AV

The club know how important he is to the team and how much he helps the younger players in the squad so they need to keep hold of him if they stay in the top flight and help them become more than a team that battles relegation.

The final word can go to teammate Andreas Weimann. “Ron is our captain so everyone knows he’s important. Ron was always our leader and captain. He’s always been vocal and the player we look up to in the changing room. There are definitely signs that he has grown in confidence even more since the World Cup in Brazil.”

10th February – Radamel Falcao

Radamel Falcao has been one of the most prolific goalscorers in Europe over the last few years but his move to Manchester United has been very stop start because of injuries and he hasn’t quite lived up to what people expected.

Just four goals in 16 games is not that great for someone with his talents but as everyone knows the English league does take more time to adapt than any other. It is up in the air whether he will be given more than just this season at Old Trafford but it is not just him that is suffering, Robin Van Persie doesn’t look the same player this year and Wayne Rooney is being asked to play a lot deeper which has restricted his goalscoring opportunities.

Falcao is now 29 but remarkably he made his debut 16 years ago as a 13 year old in the Colombian Categoria Primera B on the 28th August 1999 for Lanceros Boyaca. Over the next two years he played eight games and scored one goal which is incredible. His performances convinced Argentinean side River Plate to sign him and after playing in their youth team he finally made his first team debut in 2005. Manager Reinaldo Merlo placed a lot of trust in Falcao and he repaid him with seven goals in seven games. But a knee injury meant that he was out for the next six months.

Falcao RP

He recovered from this and after two great seasons he was being linked with moves to Europe and eventually on the 15th July 2009 he joined Portuguese side Porto and was an instant success, scoring in the first four league matches and finished his first season with 34 goals in all competitions. The Europa League became his favourite competition as he scored a lot of goals in both years and ended the 2010-11 season with 17 goals in 14 games and just proved to everyone he should be playing at a higher level. He had found the back 72 times in all competitions for the club in just two seasons.

FC Porto's Colombian forward Radamel Fal

On the 18th August 2011 Falcao did make the move away and joined Spanish side Atletico Madrid. The goals kept flowing for him and he was once again lethal in the Europa League, helping the team win the trophy like he had done with Porto. He ended his first campaign with 36 goals, the highest ever for a player in his first year at the club. In the following season he inevitably scored goals but he also adapted his game slightly and became more than just a goalscorer and this was most shown in the Copa Del Rey final win over Real Madrid when he produced a fantastic performance and didn’t even score which would have been a rare for him earlier in his career.

Falcao AM

Then came one of the most surprising moves when he decided to leave Atletico and join Monaco. It seemed like it was going to be business as normal for the striker when he scored on his debut against Bordeaux. After hitting 11 goals in 19 games he suffered an injury that not only kept him out for the rest of the season but also the World Cup. He did return on the 10th August 2014 and scored against Lorient and then added another against Nantes before making another surprising move on loan to Manchester United.

It took him until the 5th October to score his first goal in a victory over Everton but they haven’t really flown for him since and he needs a productive end to the season if he wants to stay at the club.

The final word can go to another former Colombian striker that played in the Premier League Faustino Asprilla. “He’s a great goalscorer, a natural finisher and is among the best in the world in that position. His move took everybody by surprise. I’m sure he will do very well for Manchester United.”

2nd February – Gerard Pique

Gerard Pique has won everything in the game and it is always surprising when he gets criticised by pundits and has to go down as one of the most consistent central defenders in the last 10 years.

Yes it could be argued that the defender, who turns 28 today, has always been in great teams and therefore has never been tested fully but nobody can take away all his winners medals, including the World Cup, European Championship, four La Liga, two Copa Del Rey, two Club World Cup, three Champions League and a Premier League title. It could even be argued that he is one of the few mistakes Alex Ferguson made, letting him go so early in his career.

Pique MU

The defender actually started his career as a holding midfielder at Barcelona but signed his first professional contract with Manchester United and made his debut in October 2004 as a substitute in a League Cup win over Crewe Alexandra. His performances for the reserves earned him an extended contract and would go on to make his full Premier League debut on 29th March 2006 against West Ham as a right back.

During the 2006-07 season Pique went out on loan to Real Zaragoza and formed a solid partnership with Gabriel Milito in the centre of the defence. After 22 games he returned to Old Trafford and was told he would be part of the first team squad and in the 2007-08 season he made enough appearances to pick up a Premier League winners medal but it was in the Champions League where he showed his true potential. He scored on his first start in the competition against Dynamo Kiev and added another against Roma as the club went on to lift the trophy.

Pique RZ

On the 27th May 2008 the defender joined Barcelona and his first season could not have gone much better as he helped the club win a treble, including beating former club Manchester United in the final of the Champions League becoming only the fourth player in history to win the competition two years in a row with different teams. His other Champions League win with Barca was also against his former club and although he has stated he enjoyed his time at Old Trafford it must have made it even sweeter to lift the trophy.

Pique Barca

Throughout his time at the club he has always been first choice and with former captain Carles Puyol retiring he is now seen as the best defender at the club and although things haven’t been so easy for Barcelona in recent years, Pique’s performances have still be very good. With over 300 games at two of the biggest clubs in the world and being first choice for Spain while they were dominating the international stage just proves that he should be considered as one of the best of his generation, especially when there aren’t a lot of great central defenders around at the moment.

The final word can go to his former manager at Barcelona, Pep Guardiola. “I do not believe that there is any other player in Europe playing at his level. He is very competitive and ambitious. He is strong in the air and dominates at set pieces.”