18th July – Nabil Fekir

Nabil Fekir might not have played a massive part in France winning the 2018 World Cup but he is a very talented player and one that many clubs in the world would love to have.

It has not always been easy for the attacking midfielder and he has come along way since being released at the age of 14 for not being strong enough and has always shown his drive and determination by holding out until Lyon signed him again. Despite interest from rivals Saint Etienne, Fekir wanted to show that the youth coaches at Lyon had made a big mistake in letting him go in the first place.

He would go on to make his professional debut on the 28th August 2013 as a substitute against Real Sociedad in a Champions League qualifier and three days later he made his full Ligue 1 debut against Evian. In his first season he played a total of 17 games, with his best coming against Bastia in which he scored and assisted goals for Bakary Kone and Alexandre Lacazette.

Fekir

In the following campaign he became a regular and after scoring 15 goals he earned his first call up to the France squad and was also named the Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year. At the start of the 2015-16 season Fekir scored a hatrick against Caen but shortly afterwards suffered a horrendous injury that kept him out of action for the rest of the season.

Fekir France

This could have slowed down his career but he bounced back and during the 2016-17 season he played 49 times and scored 14 goals. After the sale of Maxime Gonalons to Roma, Fekir was named the new club captain which was seen as a slight shock at the time but he had already proved his love for the club previously. One of his first big moments as captain was to score two goals against Saint Etienne but due to the rivalry between the teams he almost caused a riot by celebrating his second in front of their supporters and the game was stopped for almost 40 minutes.

Fekir Lyon

In June 2018 it looked as though the playmaker would sign for Liverpool and everyone expected the transfer to go through but the negotiations were unsuccessful.

Despite a promising start to his international career he hasn’t had the best of luck as he suffered a long term injury playing for his country against Portugal. In addition to this he has had to pull out of many squads because of niggling problems but despite this he still seems to be a valuable member of the squad. He will be proud that he was brought on for Olivier Giroud in the World Cup final win over Croatia.

The final word can go to French manager Didier Deschamps. “Fekir is a player with great potential. I consider that he can bring us something different. He plays in different roles to others. He can score and set up others to score as well.”

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10th July – Ludovic Giuly

Ludovic Giuly was a key part in Barcelona’s rise to dominance and maybe doesn’t quite get the credit he undoubtedly deserves.

The winger will never be put in the same category as other Barcelona stars such as Ronaldinho or Lionel Messi but he certainly helped the club reach the very top of European football.

Giuly started his career at Lyon, at the age of 18, against Cannes in 1995 and quickly became a fan favourite and was lovingly known as ‘the magic elf’ due to his height. His best season for the club was the 1996-97 season when he scored 17 times but he didn’t quite keep up these stats and moved on to Monaco in January 1998.

Giuly Monaco

It took him till the final day of the season to score his first goal but in the following campaign he was a key figure in helping the club win Ligue 1. However, the club had a terrible time defending the title and eventually finished 11th but Giuly did manage to score seven times.

An injury kept him out of most of the 2001-02 season as well as the World Cup but he returned to help the club win the Coupe De la Ligue and also reach the final of the Champions League which he unfortunately suffered an injury and many believe that this cost them. His performances though had caught the attention of others and in June 2004 Barcelona signed him.

Giuly Barca

He would score on his debut and end the campaign as the club’s second top scorer as well as lifting the La Liga trophy. The following season they also won the league title and also the Champions League with Giuly’s big moment coming in the semi final as he scored the only goal against Milan. Despite this he could not hold a place in the team in the 2006-07 season and it was time to move.

Italian side Roma picked him up but this move only lasted one season and he would move on to PSG on the 18th July 2008. The club were not in a good place and they really struggled during his three year spell at the club with disappointing league finishing positions but he did help them win the Coupe de France.

Giuly PSG.jpg

After this he returned to Monaco, who at the time were in Ligue 2, he was expected to help the club return to the top flight but it was another tough spell for him and after one season he was frozen out of the starting 11 so he was allowed to join Lorient on a free transfer. This would be his last season and after 727 career appearances Giuly announced his retirement.

The final word can go to former Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard. “I don’t have a lot of things to teach Ludo. He can be a provider, but one of his great qualities is that he can score goals. It would be a shame to condemn him to play only on the flank.”

28th June – Fabien Barthez

Fabien Barthez is a World Cup, European Championship, Champions League and Premier League winner yet his abilities as a goalkeeper were still questioned.

The Frenchman had a fantastic career and should be up there with the best goalkeepers ever and if some of his previous coaches are to be believed then he was actually a better outfield player than in goal.

Barthez began his career at Toulouse, making his debut in 1991 against Nancy. He established himself as the club’s number one, playing 26 times during the 1991-92 season. At the end of this season he joined Marseille and would go on to win the French Cup and Champions League in his first campaign and in doing so becoming the youngest keeper to win the competition.

Barthez Marseille

After this the club went through many controversies and would suffer relegation to the second division. Many expected Barthez to leave, however he stuck around and helped the club win the title. He stayed until 1995, when he joined Monaco and gained even more success by helping the club win Ligue 1 in 1997 and 2000. During this time he also helped France win the World Cup and European Championships.

Barthez Monaco

Manchester United signed Barthez for £7.8 million in 2000 and would quickly become a fan favourite for his remarkable reaction saves. He helped the club win the Premier League title but he did still show some problems in his game, most notably in an FA Cup tie with West Ham as he stood there with his hand in the air appealing for offside as Paolo Di Canio scored

The start of the 2001-02 season was a struggle for him as high profile mistakes against Deportivo and Arsenal led to some wanting him to be dropped from the team. However, manager Alex Ferguson backed Barthez to bounce back. The following season ended with another league title but once again he had some ups and downs and he was heavily criticised especially after defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League, which turned out to be his last game for the club as he was dropped for Roy Carroll.

Barthez MU

With the signing of Tim Howard, Barthez knew his time was up at Old Trafford and returned to Marseille on loan. His form returned but in February 2005 he allegedly spat on a referee and was given a six month ban. After his ban and 102 games for Marseille it looked as though his career was over as he announced his retirement from the game.

On the 17th December 2006, Barthez was convinced to sign for Nantes but after a decent start he was involved in more controversy, involving an altercation with a fan, that forced him to leave the club.

The final word can go to Alex Ferguson. “Fabien is a World Cup winner and not only has the personality but the vast experience that is required at Manchester United. Apart from his obvious goalkeeping skills, he has the personality to play on the biggest stage.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

12th June – Thomas Sorensen

Thomas Sorensen was a fantastic goalkeeper for a long time in the Premier League and will be disappointed with how all of his former teams have done this season.

The keeper, who played over 100 times for Denmark, will be hoping that his national side will perform better in the 2018 World Cup. Sorensen knows about the pressure of playing for his country as well as being the man that replaced Peter Schmeichel.

Sorensen started his career at Odense but didn’t manage to play a first team game for the club and had to go out on loan to Vejle in December 1995. After an impressive start he was dubbed the new Schmeichel but after a mistake against Viborg, he was dropped and wouldn’t play for the club again. He returned to his parent club but was again loaned out, this time to Svendborg, and he played the full season as number one.

In the summer of 1998, Sorensen moved to Division One club Sunderland and was an instant success smashing the club’s record of clean sheets with 29 as the club won the title and returned to the Premier League. In their first two seasons back, he helped them finish 7th in the league and gain hero status by saving a penalty from Alan Shearer in a victory over rivals Newcastle United. Injuries cost the side during the 2002-03 season with the keeper only playing 21 games and they were eventually relegated from the top flight.

Sorensen Sunderland

After 197 games and being courted by many big clubs, it was time for the Dane to move on and he signed for Aston Villa for £2 million. In his first three seasons he was their undisputed number one, only missing four games, and once again delighted both the Villa and Sunderland fans by saving another Alan Shearer penalty. During the 2007-08 season he was replaced by Scott Carson as the number one and decided it was time to leave at the end of the campaign.

Sorensen AV

Stoke City signed the keeper after a trial and was made first choice, helping the club to a 12th place finish in their first ever Premier League season. While at Stoke he became a penalty saving expert and he saved five out of six he faced but his position was coming under threat from new signing Asmir Begovic. He started the first nine games of the 2010-11 season, however this would be the last time he would be first choice and in his last three seasons at the club he would only feature 12 times.

Soccer - Barclays Premier League - Stoke City v Bolton Wanderers - Britannia Stadium

His last career move was to Australian side Melbourne City on a two year deal. He played 30 times in his first season but then only 10 in the next campaign so at the age of 41 and 575 appearances to his name Sorensen decided to retire.

The final word can go to former Stoke manager Tony Pulis. “Thomas is a fantastic acquisition. I believe he is a very, very good goalkeeper.