Category Archives: Footballers’ mad moments

Five players who didn’t last at their new club

Occasionally some players with a big reputation will arrive at a certain club, and somebody – be it the club or the player himself – will have a swift change of heart. Here’s five players from recent years that didn’t last too long.

Sol Campbell (Notts County)
League Two side Notts County in signed the former Arsenal man August 2009 on an astonishing five-year deal. “I bought into a dream and I wanted to make that dream a reality,” Campbell later said. “It took me less than a month to realise that it was all heading to a different conclusion”. He played once for the club.

Dietmar Hamann (Bolton Wanderers)
Following seven successful years at Liverpool, German player Didi Hamann joined Bolton Wanderers on a free transfer. He has a change of heart and within 24 hours, bizarrely he became a Manchester City player. “I am the only manager to get £400,000 for a player who never kicked a ball for the club,” Bolton’s then-boss Sam Allardyce said back in 2006. “Didi Hamann is a history breaker. This is the best transfer deal I have ever done in my life.”

David Unsworth (Aston Villa)
One-cap-wonder David Unsworth left Everton for Aston Villa in the summer of 1998 for £3 million. He moved back to Merseyside just a few weeks later before the season began for exactly the same fee. The reason? The defender didn’t like the commute from the Midlands back to Liverpool as his wife flat out refused to move. “It’s quite clear that it’s David’s missus who wears the trousers in their house,” said Aston Villa manager John Gregory. “In my time as a player it used to be a case of ‘pack the china, love, I’m going to a new club somewhere else in the country’. But all that seems to have gone out of the window.”

Martin Demichelis (Atlético Madrid)
One that went under the radar was recently-retired Argentine defender Martin Demichelis’ tenure at Atléti. He moved to the Spanish capital in July 2013, but simply didn’t fancy it and opted to join former Malaga boss Manuel Pellegrini at Manchester City for a reported £4.2 million salary. He was on the Spanish side’s books for a mere two months and didn’t turn out for them even once.

Dani Osvaldo (Boca Juniors)
The Argentine-born Italian international has been something of a journeyman throughout his career, despite his obvious talent. He has previously been on loan with South American giants Boca Juniors in 2015 where he quickly became a fan favourite. He has short stints for a number of clubs, but when he returned to Buenos Aires in 2016, his enthusiasm for the game soured upon arrival and he was sacked by coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto for smoking in Boca’s dressing room. He’d only been at club mere weeks. He retired at the age of 30 to focus on playing in a blues-rock band.

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Watch: The greatest dive of the year (so far)

You’ve got to hand it to Lucas Fonseca. The Brazilian player has some incredible agility. On Sunday when Bahia faced Flamengo, Fonseca over-reacted in spectacular fashion to Flamengo striker Paolo Guerrero semi-air punch following a high challenge from the Bahia man.

Fonseca managed to be knocked to the ground Street Fighter-style despite the fact that Guerrero’s hand was a good three feet away. Watch the magic below.

The best dive of the year by some considerable distance.

 

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Tony Adams isn’t the first bizarre managerial appointment.

With the recent appointment of former Arsenal defender Tony Adams as the new manager of La Liga side Granada, it raised many an eyebrow. His previous managerial position was with Azerbaijani outfit Gabala, which ended in 2011. Before them he was the Portsmouth manager for a tenure which lasted 16 games and collected a total of 10 points.

But he isn’t the first managerial appointment which has made the entire planet go “huh?” in shock.

Real Sociedad have a track record in recent times for bringing some British managers to La Liga. Chris Coleman spent half a season with the Basque side before resigning after a falling out with the club’s president (he lost only one of his previous eleven games before quitting). And most recently David Moyes spent a brief period with Sociedad. It wasn’t all bad for the Scot’s stint in La Liga. He did manage to beat Barcelona 1-0 and shared a packet of crisps with a fan after being sent to the stands during a game.

Edgar Davids was one of the finest midfielders of his generation, having played for Ajax, Milan, Juventus, Barcelona and Inter. But it was a bit bizarre when in 2012 he became manager of Barnet. Especially as he has joined as the much-missed role of player-manager. He lasted two years. Discipline was a major problem for Davids in the 2013–14 season. He was booked in each of the first eight league games he played, and he was sent off three times in those first eight games.

Chelsea have gone through roughly one million managers since Roman Abramovich took ownership of the London club. Some were, on paper, fantastic but simply didn’t work out (Villas-Boas, Benitez, Scolari). But one stood out for being a bizarre appointment. And that was Avram Grant who took over in September 2007 after the ever-popular pantomime villain José Mourinho. His only season for the blues witnessed him finish second second in the Premier League, League Cup and Champions League.

I have to mention Gary Neville. He was appointed manager of Valencia in December 2015. Peter Lim, who owns a controlling stake in the La Liga side, also owns 50% of Salford – the club who Neville owns alongside Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and brother Phil. He lasted just four months in Spain, and left Valencia 14th in the league, only six points clear of the relegation zone. Theyt had won only three of their 16 league games under Neville, also failing to keep a single clean sheet.

Good players don’t always make good managers

 

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Things turn ugly for Swedish hero Larsson.

Henrik Larsson is regarded by many in his native Sweden as a footballing hero. And rightly so. But the former Celtic striker was at the centre of some unsavoury scenes at the end of Helsingborgs’ 2-1 defeat to Halmstad last week.

Helsingborgs’ defeat meant that the club would be relegated for the first time in 23 years. Naturally this was catastrophic for fans of The Reds. But it turned ugly after the final whistle when supporters ran on to the pitch, most of whom had their faces covered by scarves and balaclavas, attempted to pull the jersey off Larsson’s son and HIF striker Jordan Larsson.

The 45-year-old Helsingborg manager then proceeded towards the supporters, appearing to be ready to defend himself if things turned a bit violent, which looked like something of an inevitability.

“I didn’t see that they attacked Jordan but if I had, I would have gone in there towards him,” the former Barcelona and Swedish international said afterwards. “I was not going to run from there. If they turn on me, they turn on me.”

Larsson left his position as manager a few days ago. His son is still with the club, but it rumoured to be moving to another Allsvenskan club.

 

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Is that it for Big Sam?

England manager Sam Allardyce is under serious pressure right now having been filmed giving advice to undercover Telegraph reporters posing as Far East businessmen on how to “get around rules” about third-party ownership of players. The 61-year-old said it was “not a problem” to bypass the rules which in 2008 were banned by his employer, the FA.

He spoken about knowing agents that were “doing it all the time”, the former Sunderland manager, talked about a deal for which he would be paid £400,000 a year to address investors in a firm that wanted to buy footballers in Singapore or Hong Kong around four times over the year.

Big Sam also mocked his predecessor Roy Hodgson, calling him “Woy”, and also spoke negatively about his assistant Gary Neville in the secret recordings. Allardyce also criticised the England players in the Euros, but personally I see little problem with that as it’s merely an opinion – and one that many England fans share.

Having only been in charge for England after one game, it’s safe to say his future as England manager is in jeopardy. The FA requested a full transcript of the meetings with the undercover reporters.

Stand by for further updates.

 

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Yaya’s agent given the Guardiola ultimatum.

Yaya Touré’s agent Dimitri Seluk has been in the media before. Who can forget the episode back in 2014, when he claimed Yaya was so upset with Manchester City for not wishing him a happy birthday with a cake, the Ivorian was thinking of leaving the club.

“What happened at his birthday meant the club don’t care about him. It was proof,” Seluk said at the time. “None of them shook his hand on his birthday. It’s really sick”.

I know.

Now Seluk has got himself on the wrong side of current Man City boss Pep Guardiola. Touré was left out of the 25-man squad earlier this month and has yet to feature for City this season.

That led the Ukrainian to criticise Guardiola, questioning whether the former Bayern Munich and Barcelona boss had “the balls to say that he was wrong to humiliate a great player like Yaya”.

Guardiola was not pleased.

pepguardiola

“His manager spoke. In that moment, Yaya is out!” the Catalan said in a press conference on Tuesday. “Except if Mr Dimitri Seluk comes back into the press conference or his friends in the media, if he has not got the courage to call me, go to the media and apologise to Manchester City, the first one. The second one, his team mates and after that, the trainer. When that happens, Yaya will be part of the group and will have the same chance to play all of the games”

“I cannot imagine in my period when I was a football player,” Guardiola said. “My manager going to the media and speaking against Johan Cruyff, about this and about that.”

He’s right about that. Can you imagine if a footballer’s agent was to criticise a figure such as Alex Ferguson?

yayaagent

Guardiola has received criticism in the past from agents and players. At Bayern Munich for example, Franck Ribery said the 45-year-old “lacks experience” and  “talks too much”. Others, such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, famously disagreed with Guardiola’s ethics, which cost the Swede his career at Barcelona, which he called at the time his “dream club”.

Yaya Touré it seems could well be on his way out of the blue half of Manchester. Seluk is incredibly outspoken and don’t forget that Guardiola has in the past turfed out big name players such as Ronaldinho, Eto’o, Deco, and of course Ibrahimovic to name but a few.

But this is a man who also knows what he is doing. Pep Guardiola after all has won 14 trophies in the first four years of his managing career and is globally considered as one of the best managers in the world.

Like birthday cake-gate, we’ll see how this plays out.

 

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Super Mario regrets Liverpool, but insists the future is bright.

Well, it’s safe to assume that we won’t be seeing Mario Balotelli around Merseyside again. Not unless he joins Everton. The Italian striker was in the news this weekend having scored twice for his new club Nice against the mighty Marseille in a 3-2 win, and also claiming that his stint for Liverpool was “the worst decision of my life”.

The 26-year-old – he’s only twenty-six – scored four goals in 28 appearances in all competitions for the Reds. He scored only the one goal in 20 Serie A games on loan at Milan last season before Jurgen “The Normal One” Klopp deemed him surplus to requirements and Balotelli joined Nice on a free transfer.

balotellinice

“Apart from the fans, who were fantastic, and some players who I got on really well with, I didn’t like the club,” the former Man City striker said. “I had two coaches, with Rodgers and Klopp for a short time, but neither their methods nor their personality left me with a good impression”

I rate Balotelli highly. I think he’s a gifted player. But, and I’m sure I’m not alone here, he appears to have a lack of interest at times. I’ve seen him train a few times and needless to say, he’s wasn’t exactly giving it 100%.

But perhaps Balotelli can turn it around at Nice (I know, I know, we’ve said that before). He’s 26 now. When he was 18 or 19 and promising if difficult player, managers made allowances. Ask Roberto Mancini.

He still regards himself as an elite player. When asked about the Ballon d’Or, he said “I think I could have already won it by now, but by working hard in training I could still win it in the next two or three years.”

The truth is that he’s been nowhere near making the final three, let alone winning it. But he’s right. It’s not too late. Football is a short career and regrets last a lot longer. I wonder is Super Mario finally realising this and will he get down to showing the world what a remarkable player he truly can be.

 

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Ibra could be the gift that will keep giving for the English press

As we all know by know, Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic is on his way out of PSG. This week he was rumoured to be linked with Manchester United. He hasn’t announced where his next club will be, but the talk of him coming to the Premier League after Euro 2016 is carrying more and more weight,

The 34-year-old has won titles with every club he has been with. He has been a sheer success everywhere (though his one season with Barcelona is probably considered otherwise due to his spat with Pep Guardiola, despite winning five trophies during his time in Catalonia).

Clearly a phenomenal player, it’s his character that could make him every reporter’s dream. I’ll just leave this video here to illustrate my point.

Wherever Ibra goes, it won’t be a chilled atmosphere – on or off the pitch.

 

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When Souey caused Turkish delight (and drama).

One of the most memorable moments from the Istanbul Derby (known locally as the Kıtalararası Derbi), happened twenty years ago this week.

In April ’96, Graeme Souness made headlines when he planted a massive Galatasaray flag into the centre circle of the pitch of fierce arch-rivals Fenerbahçe after his Galatasaray side had beaten them in the Turkish Cup final.

Needless to say, the Istanbul Derby is one of the most tense fixtures in world sport. The mustachioed Scotsman near caused a riot that night, yet his actions made him a hero among the Galatsaray faithful, who compared him to national hero Ulibati Hasan, who was killed as he planted the Ottoman flag during the Siege of Constantinople in 1453.

The Galatasaray fans haven’t forgotten him.

 

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Great players don’t always make great managers.

As full time rang out in the Volkswagen Arena, Zinedine Zidane walked into the tunnel knowing that he has to lead his Real Madrid side back from a two goal deficit against a Wolfsburg side that they were supposed to be favourites against.

Things haven’t been going to well for Zizou. Along with the Champions League loss, the derby defeat to Atléti is a big no-no for the former World Cup winner’s coaching CV for the Real Madrid faithful. While Zidane likely won’t be sacked immediately, a swift exit from the Champions League, and Florentino Perez may not stick with the Frenchman after the season’s end.

zidane1

But other high profile players have also had a go of management. Some have done enormously well at both sides of the beautiful game – think Johan Cruyff, Pep Guardiola, Fabio Capello, Diego Simeone or Giovanni Trapattoni. But some less so.

One of the greatest players of all time Diego Maradona. A genius on the ball, his managerial record hasn’t set the world on fire. The Argentine, with one-time team mate Carlos Fren, led Mandiyú of Corrientes (1994) and Racing Club (1995) in management, but with little success. Years later, el Diego became manager of the national team for two controversy-filled years, before deciding to take up the role of boss of Dubai-based club Al Wasl in the UAE Pro-League. He was sacked after a year.

DiegoMaradona

Bobby Charlton is one of the greatest Englishmen to ever play. They’ve recently named a stand after him at Old Trafford. When Charlton became the manager of Preston North End in 1973, he signed his former United and England team-mate Nobby Stiles as player-coach. His first season ended in relegation.

Arguably the greatest Bulgarian to ever kick a ball is the great Hristo Stoichkov. His management skills left a lot to be desired, having once claimed that he “doesn’t believe in tactics”. The former Barcelona star failed to guide Bulgaria to the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2008 followed by a disastrous short stint at Celta Vigo which saw the club relegated.

Let’s hope Zizou doesn’t end up in that kind of a bracket.

 

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Cantona, van Basten and other players whose career was cut short.

Dean Ashton scored a beaut of a bicycle kick Monday during his former team-mate Mark Noble’s testimonial match at Upton Park. It brought back memories. In his prime, Ashton had everything it took to succeed as a player at the highest level. Sadly in late-2009, the former Norwich striker was forced to retire after failing to recover from a long-term ankle injury sustained during international duty with England a year previous.

But he is not the only player who has cut a great career in football short.

Eric Cantona famously quit football at the age of 30. But not due to injury. Age 30 is when some players are at the peak of their powers and the Frenchman was certainly a prominent player in the English game. Some Premier League players will remember Espen Baardsen, the former Tottenham goalkeeper, who hung up his boots (and gloves) in 2003 at the age of 25 having claimed to have simply lost interest in the game.

cantonafrance

 

David Bentley was once described by former England manager Steve McClaren as “the next David Beckham”. The player had buckets of talent. He retired in 2014 at the age of 29 – and he had been without a club for year previous to that. But it could be worse – he now owns a restaurant in Marbella in Spain.

Many will remember Fabrice Muamba, who, at the age of 24, suffered a cardiac arrest during an FA Cup match between Bolton and Spurs in 2012, from which he recovered despite his heart having stopped for an astonishing 78 minutes.

2121363_w2

And of course, and possibly the greatest player to not play a lengthy career is the great Marco van Basten. The Dutch superstar played his last game in 1993 at the age of 28 due to an injury that forced his retirement two years later. The three-time Ballon d’Or winner. managed to enjoy a decent career in the game as a manager, having been boss of the Netherlands, Ajax, Heerenveen and AZ. He’s currently the assistant manager for the Netherlands.

 

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The eastern promise of Vladivostock

If you support Cork City and ever made an away trip to Finn Harps’ Finn Park in Ballybofey, that journey one-way is around five and a half hours by car and I’m sure it’s not much fun. But that is absolutely nothing when you compare to Russian side FC Luch-Energiya Vladivostock.

Being located in far eastern Russia, the city is not far from the borders of China and North Korea. This presents problems to the club where travelling to away games take a financial toll. A trip to Moscow, where many of the country’s teams are based, is a seven hour flight. In fact, a fixture against Baltika Kaliningrad, in a Russian enclave squeezed in between Lithuania and Poland, sees a round trip of over 9,000 miles. That would be like Bohemians having to travel to Dallas, Texas for a league match.

nDbwK

“It’s not as bad for other teams because they only need to travel this distance once a year,” said former-defender Matija Kristić in 2008. “We have to do it for all away matches”. But that still doesn’t satisfy CSKA Moscow and Russian international goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev who, following a 4-0 loss to the side, said said that “they should play in the Japanese League”.

With the club operating on an approximate €4 million budget per season, the club is operating on a shoestring budget when you take in salaries and, most crucially, the cost of flying the entire team, coaches and staff a whopping 125,000 miles per season.

Sadly, the air travel is necessary. The only other real option is by rail. And Moscow to Vladivostock on the world-famous Trans-Siberian Railway takes six days. Not exactly ideal.

here has been much controversy about whether the Russian league should be split into Western and Eastern leagues, much like in the MLS. This has yet to happen, and until then Luch-Energiya Vladivostock will have to keep on trekking. Literally.

 

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The Messi/Suarez penalty wasn’t disrespectful…it was entertaining and fun.

You’ve probably heard that Leo Messi and Luis Suarez successfully performed something of an audacious penalty in Barcelona’s 6-1 win over Celta Vigo at the weekend.

If not, welcome back to planet Earth, and here it is:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLgmHCIuZ3I

What amazed me – and others – is how many people considered the penalty to be disrespectful to the opposition. This is 100% not a view that I share.

Barcelona were 3-1 up at the time of the penalty. It was audacious, yes. But it was glorious, entertaining and fun. Isn’t that what the beautiful game is supposed to be?

When a player nutmegs another player, that can be very humiliating for the opposing player. Yet nobody considers that to be disrespectful. But why this?

Eamon Dunphy had a strong opinion about it. “I thought it lacked class,” the 70-year-old said on 2FM. “You have to respect your opponents and you have to respect the history of the game. None of the great players of the past would have ever dreamt of doing anything like that.”

Of course, Eamon must have forgotten the great Johann Cruyff who scored an identical penalty with a little help from Jepser Olsen while playing for Ajax in December 1982. He also said in the same interview that Messi “was way out of order, he should apologise and if he doesn’t, he loses a little in my eyes.”

Eamon isn’t alone. People went bezerk on Twitter. Yet, I fail to see how it is disrespecting the opponents. I thought it was entertaining, cheeky, and most importantly, fun – much like a nutmeg. Besides, isn’t the object of the game is to score as many goals as possible in order to win?

But I haven’t heard a strong argument as to how it is disrespectful. What did you think?

 

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The top 20 players of 2014 (part 2)

The first part of my top 20 players of 2014 earlier in the week caused some debate on Twitter. Maybe this second part now might cause a little more, even if it is my honest opinion. Here is the the final ten best players.

10. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG & Sweden)
Ibra is an absolute genius at football. But you knew that already. His speed, technique, ability and absolute audacity make him one of the most entertaining players to watch in world football. He is guaranteed goals and guaranteed headlines, though it’s not always consistent. Sweden’s finest ever export is the biggest name in Ligue 1 and looks to add even more silverware to his already stuffed trophy cabinet.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9AmBRuYoMc

9. Gareth Bale (Real Madrid & Wales)
A remarkable player that plays alongside other remarkable players. Admittedly Bale didn’t see much international action (though he did manage to bang in three goals in both games he played in 2014), his club form has gone from strength to strength for Real Madrid. A crucial ppart to Carlo Ancelotti’s starting XI, he can, like his Portugese team-mate, be the difference between winning and losing.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MW4mvdRtILQ

8. Neymar (Barcelona & Brazil)
Neymar has long had his doubters, but his genius is there. His World Cup was ended by injury, but the frenzy that surrounded him didn’t disappoint. At club level, he has gelled well with Lionel Messi despite much doubt from the likes of Johann Cruyff that the two superstars wouldn’t gel. The new Brazil national team captain is consistent, skillful, lethal and mesmerising on the ball.

7. Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich & Germany)
The only goalkeeper on this list is in fact the best goalkeeper in the world. By far. His agility, reflexes, speed, ball distribution and all-round entertainment make the 28 year old stand out as one of the finest ‘keepers to ever be produced from Germany. Aside from his phenomenal club form, he won the World Cup with Germany as well as the Golden Glove award for being the best goalkeeper in the tournament. A master of his position.

6. Luis Suarez (Liverpool/Barcelona & Uruguay)
A controversial choice I have no doubt many will think, but hear me out on this one. His bite on Giorgio Chiellini in the World Cup and subsequent justified ban had many calling for his head. All the negatives aside, this is one of the most intelligent game-changing players to ever wear a Liverpool (or Uruguay) shirt. Just look where Liverpool last season and how close they were to that elusive Premier League title compared to now. He’s fitting in superbly alongside Messi and Neymar at Barcelona which makes the South American trio one of the most feared attacking line-ups in the global game.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R40_TDSmb70

5. Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich & The Netherlands)
A fine World Cup and fantastic club form, it’s difficult to ignore Robben. Easily one of the best wingers in the world, he has a knack of skipping past players and leaving them for dead. The speed, dribbling skills, vision and his consistency in delivering his world-class performances make him one of the most in-demand players in the game. He will be 31 next month but, and like so many in this top 20, shows absolutely no sign of slowing down. Literally.

4. Sergio Aguero (Man City & Argentina)
When Sergio Aguero joined Man City from Atlético Madrid in 2011, the City fans knew they were getting a good player. But did they truly realize what a great player they were getting? Aguero is one of the most lethal strikers playing in Europe today. If not, then the most lethal. The Argentine striker currently has the highest goals per minute ratio in the history of the Premier League averaging a goal every 115 minutes and was recently named the Football Supporters’ Federation Player of the Yearfor 2014. I’m sure even father-in-law, Diego Maradona, is highly impressed.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_1BG9ntkURw

3. Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich & Germany)
An all-round attacking genius and he’s only 25. Muller has enjoyed possibly his finest 12 months in his career to date with Bayern Munich’s phenomenal form and Germany’s triumphant World Cup win. Easily the stand-out player for club and country, Muller is an extremely gifted and versatile attacking player. You will be seeing this phenomenon up high on lists like these for a very long time to come.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qjsiehqqlvI

2. Lionel Messi (Barcelona & Argentina)
In 2014 Messi was World Cup runner-up, broke Telmo Zarra’s record as the highest scorer in the history of La Liga, scored his 400th professional career goal at the age of just 27, not to mention put on some of the most dazzling displays any football can watch. But despite all that, he is a very, very close 2nd in this list. That’s certainly not to take away the sheer brilliance of the Argentine international – I could write 500,000 words on his absolute genius but for now let me show you. Check out this video below.

1. Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid & Portugal)
At the time of writing, in 179 league appearances, Cristiano Ronaldo has scores 202 goals for Real Madrid which includes a La Liga record of 23 hat-tricks. Think about that for a minute. Yes indeed, 2014 has been nothing short of phenomenal for Cristiano Ronaldo. And unless you’ve been living on the moon for the last twelve months, I’m sure you knew that already. Watch this:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Memrmvd_S9Q

Honourable mentions to Toni Kroos, Paul Pogba, Xavi Hernandez, Mario Gotze, Eden Hazard, Javier Macherano and Cesc Fabregas who have all also played out of their skin during the past twelve months, but just missed out narrowly on this list. But maybe next year.

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The time Harry Redknapp brought on a fan as a substitute

To turn out and play for your club alongside all of your heroes is something we can only dream about. Many daydream about it as they sit in their seats or stand on the terraces. Many will reckon they can do a better job than the centre forward who happens to be having a nightmare that afternoon. But nobody, outside of the inner circle of a football club, will don the jersey and play in a match.

But it actually happened.

It’s 27 July 1994 and West Ham United are playing an away pre-season game against Oxford City and almost from the off, Harry Redknapp was getting abuse from one particular hardcore Hammers fan from behind the away team’s bench.

“There was a guy next to the dug out,” Redknapp would later explain on the Jonathan Ross Show last year. “Big West Ham fan. He has Hammers tattooed on his arms and he had the earrings with Hammers on them. He started after about two minutes ‘Harry, we haven’t got Lee Chapman up front again this year? When are we gonna get a decent striker?’ He kept going on about Chapman, he wouldn’t leave me alone.”

Harry Redknapp chats to Steve Davies in the crowd at Oxford

“Anyway at half time I made five substitutions. So the subs go on, I’ve got no more subs, after two minutes we get an injury and I now I’ve only got ten men. So I turned to him, and he’s still shouting at me, I went ‘Oi. Can you play as good as you talk?’ He went ‘I’m better than that Chapman’. I said ‘Go on, get your gear on, we’ll have a look at you’. He said ‘What do you mean?’ and I said ‘You’re playing!'”

The fan in question was Mr Steve Davies, a courier from Milton Keynes, who had been sucking on cigarettes for the first half and was considering getting his third beer. Davies was unsurprisingly unprepared.

“He said ‘I haven’t got any boots’,” Redknapp recalled. “I said ‘what size are you?’, he said ‘nines’. I said to Eddie the kitman to get him a pair of boots. He takes him up the changing room, he gets changed, he comes waddling back. He’s got feet like this (hands pointing outwards).”

“He gets to the touchline and he’s coming on. He says ‘where do you want me to play?’ and I say ‘go up front because I wanna see if you’re better than Chapman’.

Harry Redknapp sends Steve Davies on at Oxford

When the stadium announcer saw Davies take to the field, he sent an assistant down to get the name of this new signing so he could announce it to the crowd. When he asked Redknapp who the unfamiliar face was, the response was only marvellous in true Harry Redknapp style. “Haven’t you been watching the (recent 1994) World Cup? Tittyshev, the Bulgarian striker?” Redknapp said before the assistant, in a bid to cover his blushes said “I thought it was him”.

But there was more to come from the Hammers fan. He wouldn’t only play for his boyhood club – he actually SCORED for his boyhood club. “It was like time stopped still – it was the greatest moment of my life,” the courier from Milton Keynes would later recall.

“And I got to be honest,” admits ‘Arry. “On the night he was better than Chapman.”

 

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