TEN players who pointlessly retired from international duty

Playing for their country should be the pinnacle of any player’s career. Most people would give their right arm to stand and sing the national anthem wearing the colours of their nation, but in recent years, it seems as if national service has become a chore for some. The constant pressure on players, especially England’s, to perform has become a source of much frustration to the professionals and the criticisms they face is often not worth the hassle.

Although some like David Beckham and indeed David James, who said he would never retire from international duty, would always make themselves available for England, more and more players are simply dropping out of the international scene for no particular reason. Here are ten figures who ended their international careers for no apparent reason:

Top 10 European Cup Finals

The moment Fernando Torres rounded the goalkeeper and completed Chelsea’s unlikely path to Munich, all eyes in West London were firmly fixed on the big day. Forget the issues over home advantage, forget the suspensions and injury concerns and forget the fact Chelsea only came sixth in the table, this will be the biggest night of Roberto Di Matteo and his side’s lives. Hopefully the game can live up to the billing and just to remind you what a treat you’re in for, here are 10 of the best Champions League Finals:

10. Barcelona 3 Manchester United 1, 2011

Think back to last year, when Manchester United dreamt of winning the trophy on home soil against a side widely regarded as one of the greatest ever. The odds were stacked firmly against them and the first half showed why, as Pep Guardiola’s men enjoyed 67% of the possession. Pedro gave them a 27th minute lead, but Wayne Rooney’s equaliser gave United a glimmer of hope. It wasn’t to be though, as second half goals from Lionel Messi and David Villa secured Barcelona’s fourth Champions League title.

9. Borussia Dortmund 3 Juventus 1, 1997

Little fancied Dortmund had the opportunity to prevent Juventus sealing a second successive title in a row on home territory in Munich and after their semi-final win over Manchester United, nobody could rule it out. Sure enough, Karl-Heinz Riedle scored twice in the first half to give the Bundesliga boys the lead and despite Alessandro Del Piero pulling one back in the second half, local Dortmund lad Lars Ricken fired home in the 71st minute, just 16 seconds after coming on a substitute. The result was a surprise as Juve were a side packed with talent, including French superstar Zinedine Zidane. However, Zidane barely featured in the final thanks to the close attentions of a certain Paul Lambert, now in the dugout at Norwich City.

8. AC Milan 4 Barcelona 0, 1994

With Milan missing some key players through injury and suspension including Dutch legend Marco Van Basten, Barcelona went into the final in Athens as firm favourites. However, the Italian outfit produced one of the greatest ever displays by a side in a final, destroying their Spanish opponents on the night. Two goals from Daniele Massaro set them on their way, before Dejan Savicevic and Marcel Desailly sealed the triumph with second half goals. The Milan coach that night? None other than Fabio Capello.

7. Manchester United 1 Chelsea 1 (United won 6-5 on penalties), 2008

United and Chelsea met in the first all-English final in Moscow having battled each other all year for the Premier League title, a battle that the Reds came out on top. Inevitably, Cristiano Ronaldo was the man to open the scoring, nodding past Petr Cech after 26 minutes. However, on the stroke of half-time, Frank Lampard snatched an equaliser and that’s the way it remained for the rest of the game. Didier Drogba got himself sent off for slapping Nemanja Vidic though and the Blues went into the shootout minus their best striker. However Ronaldo’s miss left Chelsea captain John Terry needing to score to give his side their first European Cup win. The rest, as they say, is history. Terry slipped, sending the ball cannoning into the post and after a couple of successful penalties, Edwin Van der Sar dived right to keep out Nicolas Anelka’s spot kick, sealing another victory for United.

6. Celtic 2 Inter Milan 1, 1967

Celtic became the first British side to pick up the trophy after a pulsating 2-1 victory over Italian giants Internazionale in Lisbon. Jock Stein’s side outplayed their Italian counterparts with a brand of attacking football that set the tournament alight. Despite going down to an early penalty, Celtic fought back and Tommy Gemmell levelled things up on 63 minutes. The greatest moment in the club’s history was completed when striker Stevie Chalmers pounced with seven minutes remaining to send the European Cup back to Scotland for the first and only time.

5. Liverpool 3 Borussia Monchengladbach 1, 1977

Liverpool became the second English side to pick up the trophy after seeing off their German rivals in Rome. Terry McDermott opened the scoring after 28 minutes and although Danish midfield Allan Simonsen’s equaliser threatened to spoil the party, nothing could stop the Reds lifting the cup. Tommy Smith headed his side into the lead, before Bertie Vogts brought down Kevin Keegan in the area. Phil Neal tucked away the resulting penalty and Liverpool began the run of six consecutive victories in a row for English sides.

4. Manchester United 4 Benfica 1, 1968

A year after Celtic became the first British side to win the competition, United subsequently picked up the honour for the English teams. Ten years on from the Munich air disaster and Sir Matt Busby led his side out at Wembley looking for European glory. Bobby Charlton gave them the lead, but they were pegged back by Jaime Graca’s strike for the Portuguese side. Extra time then followed and United ran out comfortable winners followed goals from George Best and Brian Kidd, before the skipper Charlton put the icing on the cake, slotting home to seal a famous victory.

3. Real Madrid 7 Eintracht Frankfurt 3, 1960

In terms of quality, this game is considering one of the greatest ever played as Real Madrid dismantled Frankfurt at Hampden Park in front a massive 127,000 crowd. The Germans took an early lead, but the rest of the game became a showpiece for two of the greatest players to have walked this planet. Alfredo Di Stefano bagged a hat-trick and Hungarian Ferenc Puskas scored four as the Spaniards went onto to lift the trophy for the fifth successive time since the competition begun.

2. Manchester United 2 Bayern Munich 1, 1999

Fergie’s side headed to Barcelona looking to complete a fabled treble having secured the Premiership and the FA Cup already. Without suspended talisman Roy Keane and midfield maestro Paul Scholes, United had to shuffle their pack and this looked evident early on as Mario Basler’s sixth minute goal gave Bayern the perfect start. The Germans then dominated throughout, hitting the woodwork twice and they looked certain to pick up the trophy as the game headed into stoppage time. As Peter Schmeichel headed into the opposition’s penalty area, United were clutching at straws, but Ryan Giggs’s mishit shot was turned in by Teddy Sheringham to the amazement of everyone inside the Nou Camp. 30 seconds later, United won another corner which Sheringham headed downwards, leaving Clive Tyldesley to scream the immortal words ‘AND SOLSKJAER HAS WON IT.’ The Champions League couldn’t get anymore dramatic until…

1. Liverpool 3 AC Milan 3 (Liverpool won 3-2 on penalties), 2005

For a club enriched with European history, Liverpool had endured a pretty baron spell since the 1980’s. However, they travelled to Istanbul looking to rectify that against a strong AC Milan side. Milan showed just how strong they were though, scoring with the game just a minute old after veteran skipper Paolo Maldini volleyed in a free kick. Two further goals, both from Hernan Crespo, left Liverpool staring down the barrel at half-time. Instead of capitulating altogether, they put together one of the greatest comebacks of all time. Skipper Steven Gerrard grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck, nodding home the first, before Vladimir Smicer’s ambitious effort from range somehow beat Dida in the Milan goal. After Gattuso brought down Gerrard in the box, Xabi Alonso stepped up to level the game. His penalty was saved, but he smashed home the rebound, completing an astonishing recovery. Neither side could find a way through for the rest of the game, though Liverpool keeper Jerzy Dudek pulled off an astonishing double save from Andriy Shevchenko. And Dudek proved to be the hero of the hour again, saving from first Andrea Pirlo and then Shevchenko to hand Liverpool their greastest victory of all.

The Premiership Review: 2011/12

The dust has settled on yesterday’s remarkable end of season finish that significantly reduced the life expectancy of everyone watching. Manchester City are the Champions, ending 44 years of hurt, while Bolton joined Blackburn in sliding through the trapdoor into the Championship. Here is the Coin Toss’s definitive review of the best ever Premier League season, starting with the Top 10:

MANCHESTER CITY

Position: 1st

BBC’s August Predictions: 2nd

Top Scorer: Sergio Aguero (23)

Hero: Vincent Kompany

Zero: Carlos Tevez

What can you say about Manchester City. Champions for the first time in 44 years, but boy did they leave it late! 2-1 down with five minutes of stoppage time on the clock at the Etihad Stadium when first Edin Dzeko, and then Sergio Aguero found the net to send the blue half of Manchester into delirium. It was the fitting end to a season that has been so topsy-turvy for Roberto Mancini’s men. They went unbeaten until Chelsea beat them 2-1 in December, a run of 14 matches that included the 5-1 win over Spurs and of course that infamous 6-1 drubbing of United at Old Trafford. The wheels then came off the City bandwagon as they seem to implode under the pressure, winning just one game in five in a miserable run in March and April, a spell that saw them slip eight points behind United. However, Vincent Kompany’s header saw off their bitter rivals at home and they were ahead until the end of the season before the last ditch heroics sealed the title. Off the field, it’s been a tumultuous year as well. The Carlos Tevez affair soured the first half of the season and Mario Balotelli went from lovable rogue to deplorable idiot with some petulant behaviour against Arsenal and Sunderland. However, none of that matters now as City finally achieved the dream set out for them by their Arab owners three years ago. Accusations that they bought the title may helped the bitter and twisted deal with City’s victory, but nobody at the Etihad will care one jot. Mancini still has some tough egos to handle and the dressing room balance isn’t quite right yet, but he has some star quality in that squad that can enable him to build a legacy at City for years to come.

Season Rating: 10/10

 

MANCHESTER UNITED

 Position: 2nd

BBC’s August Prediction: 1st

Top Scorer: Wayne Rooney (27)

Hero: Wayne Rooney

Zero: Dimitar Berbatov

Although both halves of Manchester will wake up horribly hungover this morning, those with Red leanings will feel a whole lot worse than their counterparts in Blue. United were so close to spoiling City’s party and did everything they needed to do on the final day. The defending Champions were keen not to relinquish their crown without a fight and set off in August in sparkling form, spanking Bolton, Spurs and Chelsea and of course, the memorable 8-2 win over Arsenal. However, United were playing catch-up to City after the shock of that 6-1 defeat and miserable performances against Newcastle and Blackburn at the turn of the New Year seemed to rule United out of contention. However, Sir Alex brought Paul Scholes out of retirement and United’s season swung into action as they notched up 34 points out a possible 36 to overhaul City going into the final part of the season. However, remarkably for Sir Alex and his boys, they blew it. A shock defeat to Wigan was followed by them throwing away a two goal lead against Everton and losing at the Etihad sealed their fate. United need to strengthen significantly in the summer as they can be sure those around them will.

Season Rating: 7/10

ARSENAL

Position: 3rd

BBC’s August Prediction: 5th

Top Scorer: Robin Van Persie (30)

Hero: Robin Van Persie

Zero: Per Mertesacker

Oh to be an Arsenal fan. The final day perhaps reflected their season as a whole, dreadful start against West Brom before gradually clawing their way back to find a winner and therefore a third place finish that guarantees them Champions League football next year. Quite frankly, Arsenal were appalling at the beginning of the year, losing 8-2 to United and suffering the embarrassment of a 4-3 reversal against Blackburn. The loss of Cesc Fabregas, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy in the summer left the squad threadbare and Wenger’s refusal to spend any money seemed to have finally hit them hard. By the time Spurs took home the North London derby spoils in October, Arsenal’s title hopes were already in tatters, much earlier than their usual March collapse. Although the fans just about refrained from calling for Arsene Wenger’s head, unrest was obvious at the Emirates. However, an eight match winning streak saw them roar into contention for a Champions League spot. In true Arsenal style, they promptly ruined this by losing three in a row. Just two more defeats all season followed though, against QPR and Wigan, and Arsenal gradually overhauled Spurs in the race for third spot that became all-important after Chelsea’s run to the Champions League final. Arsenal fans should feel happy at the way the season has gone, especially considering how it started. Spending money is imperative this summer to try and challenge for trophies again, while it’s fair to say, without Robin Van Persie, Arsenal would be nowhere the Champions League. Their hopes all rest on keeping the Dutchman at the Emirates.

Season Rating: 8/10

 

TOTTENHAM

Position: 4th

BBC’s August Prediction: 6th

Top Scorer: Emmanuel Adebayor (17)

Hero: Emmanuel Adebayor

Zero: The FA

Think back to February. Tottenham had just smashed Newcastle 5-0 at home and were nicely positioned in third, with a shot at the Premier League title not out of the question. Everyone, including Sir Alex Ferguson were commending the quality of football that the side were piecing together. The fans could barely believe nothing had gone wrong before a huge Fabio Capello-shaped hole appeared in their season. His sacking as England manager left Harry Redknapp the overwhelming favourite for the job. For whatever reason, Spurs capitulated, picking up just six points from a possible 27. As the England saga dragged on, Spurs just couldn’t seem to win a game, undoubtedly affected by the speculation surrounding their manager. They just about recovered, winning three of the four last games to hang on to fourth spot, but they now rely on Chelsea losing the Champions League Final to Bayern Munich. It’s an unfortunate situation for a side that at times this season, looked unplayable, with the skills of Luka Modric, Gareth Bale, Rafael Van Der Vaart and Emmanuel Adebayor giving the White Hart Lane faithful some of the best displays they’ve seen in years. A Chelsea victory would leave the future of the club uncertain though, Bale and Modric are yet to commit if Spurs don’t reach the Champions League, while Daniel Levy is struggling to find the money to pay Adebayor’s wages permanently. Redknapp has assembled a good squad and Champions League football would enable him to add further quality to that. The 19th of May is therefore a very important date for Tottenham fans.

Season Rating: 8/10

 

NEWCASTLE UNITED

Position: 5th

BBC’s August Prediction: 15th

Top Scorer: Demba Ba (16)

Hero: Demba Ba/Papiss Cisse

Zero: Gabriel Obertan

The Toon Army fans are still in dreamland having seen their side produce a remarkable season of football. When Alan Pardew replaced Chris Hughton as manager last year, the fans were outraged at yet another supposedly awful decision from Mike Ashley. How wrong they were. Pardew made a collection of signings that can only be described as brilliant. Yohan Cabaye joined from Lille, Davide Santon signed from Inter Milan and more importantly Demba Ba was acquired on a free transfer from West Ham. Subsequently, the Magpies went unbeaten until the 19th of Novemeber when they lost to Manchester City. Many expected the bubble to burst, but they just carried on in a similar vein of form with Demba Ba scoring left, right and centre. A 3-0 win over Manchester United showed this Newcastle side was made of tough stuff and the signing of Papiss Cisse proved to be the decision of the season. Six straight wins left the fans dreaming of the Champions League again and although they missed out by the slimmest of margins, the club can be proud of what they achieved. There were so many magical moments, none more so than Cisse’s stupendous volley against Chelsea and just imagine if Ba and Cisse could score at the same time. Hanging onto their best players is now the next task for the PFA’s Manager of the Season Pardew and if he can make another couple of signings like last season, Newcastle are onto a winner.

Season Rating: 9/10

 

CHELSEA

Position: 6th

BBC’s August Prediction: 3rd

Top Scorer: Frank Lampard/Daniel Sturridge (11)

Hero: Roberto Di Matteo

Zero: Andre Villas Boas

Last summer proved rather eventful for the Blues, with Roman Abramovich choosing to replace Carlo Ancelotti with Andre Villas Boas after he failed to win a trophy in 2010/11. However, only Juan Mata was purchased that added any real quality to Chelsea’s squad and the Blues struggled from the outset with their patchy form leaving them fighting for Champions League contention. This wasn’t the plan for Abramovich at all, who expected another title at Stamford Bridge. However, it wasn’t just the poor form that hindered Villas Boas, but also his decision to alienate the senior players, creating dressing room unrest. With Chelsea’s Champions League campaign hanging by a thread after a 3-1 defeat away at Napoli, the most expensive manager in history was discarded and assistant Roberto Di Matteo placed in charge. Things soon changed as Di Matteo harnessed the senior players, inspiring the club to an FA Cup victory and the Champions League final, after a stunning semi-final win over Barcelona. He unfortunately failed to secure fourth position though, leaving the Blues needing a win in Munich to remain in Europe’s premier competition. Chelsea’s summer hinges on this game and Di Matteo could be given the job permanently if he pulls off what looked previously impossible. Oh, and he even got Fernando Torres to score!

Season Rating: 6.5/10

 

EVERTON

Position: 7th

BBC’s August Prediction: 7th

Top Scorer: Nikica Jelavic (9)

Hero: David Moyes

Zero: The Everton Coffers

Another season, another top half finish for David Moyes. Once again, the Scot worked wonders with the limited resources at his disposal, but those resources looked to have cost the Blues dearly in the first half of the season. A draw with Blackburn ensured they only occupied 14th position in January and without a striker that could ever find the net, never mind on regular occasions, it looked as if Everton were heading for a poor finish. However, Moyes was allowed a little leeway in January and he used it wisely, bringing in Nikica Jelavic from Rangers for £5.5 million, while Steven Pienaar returned on loan from Spurs. This did the trick for Everton and Jelavic made the transition to English football look easy as he finally provided the Blues with a threat upfront to go with their excellent midfield. They went on a nine game unbeaten run to end the year in their traditional seventh position and they will hope to add one or two quality players in the summer. However, Liverpool seem to have a hoodoo on them at the moment, winning all three games against them this season, including the FA Cup semi-final. Moyes will want to end that next year.

Season Rating: 8.5/10

 

LIVERPOOL

Position: 8th

BBC’s August Prediction: 4th

Top Scorer: Luis Suarez (11)

Hero: Daniel Agger/Martin Skrtel

Zero: Take your pick – Kenny Dalglish, Stewart Downing, Jordan Henderson, Andy Carroll or Luis Suarez for other matters.

Kenny Dalglish revitalised a Liverpool team that lost its way under Roy Hodgson last year and after spending £100 million combined from January and the summer on a host of talent, many pundits predicted a return to the Champions League for the Reds. The season turned out to be an absolute catastrophe though, with Liverpool missing talisman Steven Gerrard for the first half of the year. Big signings Carroll, Henderson and Adam didn’t pay off while £20 million man Stewart Downing contributed a remarkable zero goals and zero assists to the Liverpool effort this year. Luis Suarez shone in patches but his eight game ban for racially abusing Patrice Evra brought the club into disrepute, especially after the players ran out wearing T-Shirts supporting the Uruguayan. After Christmas, their form only got worse and a run of six defeats in seven games ended all hopes of a Champions League finish. Just to compound their misery, they lost the FA Cup final and a final day defeat to Swansea left everyone questioning Kenny Dalglish’s future. Absolutely wretched year at Anfield.

Season Rating: 2/10

 

FULHAM

Position: 9th    

BBC’s August Prediction: 11th

Top Scorer: Clint Dempsey (17)

Hero: Clint Dempsey

Zero: Bobby Zamora

Mark Hughes’s sudden departure caught Fulham unawares in the summer and although they picked a good replacement in Martin Jol, they made a dreadful start to the season that saw them languishing just above the drop zone in November. However, the team began to gel together under Jol and they patched together more consistent form right up until the end of the season that saw them sneak into the top half of the table. The fans can be pleased with a ninth placed finish, a position that further underlines the Cottagers’ consolidation of their Premier League place. They are indebted to Clint Dempsey though for his impressive tally of goals and everyone involved with Fulham will be praying the club hangs onto the American next season. Pavel Pogrebnyak came in January and notched a decent tally of six goals, proving himself to be an impressive replacement for Bobby Zamora who quit for QPR in the search for more money. However, fans will want to see more of Bryan Ruiz who has disappointed since his big money move from FC Twente. They will expect Jol to make some solid additions and once again be competitive in mid-table without ever really threatening any of the big boys.

Season Rating: 7/10

 

WEST BROM

Position: 10th

BBC’s August Prediction: 13th

Top Scorer: Peter Odemwingie (10)

Hero: James Morrison

Zero: Once again, the FA

West Brom were impressive last time around, finishing in 11th position and they expected something similar under Roy Hodgson again. The Baggies made a terrible start though, winning just one of their first seven games that saw them battling the drop. Hodgson however, turned his side’s fortunes around and relatively consistent form, including victories over Liverpool and Chelsea, saw them finish in a promising tenth position. The FA may have poached Hodgson from his dugout at the Hawthorns, but there is a promising squad for the new man to work with. They have a pair of decent strikers in Odemwingie and Shane Long and in midfield, there is some unsung quality, with the likes of Chris Brunt, James Morrison, Graham Dorrans and Youssouf Mulumbu pulling the strings. If Roberto Di Matteo doesn’t get the job permanently at Stamford Bridge, what odds on a return to the Midlands…

Season Rating: 7/10

10 Things the Premiership taught us this week

  1. City won the title in ‘Fergie Time.’ Doesn’t irony have a lovely ring to it.
  1. Sergio Aguero was worth every penny of that £35 million. Composure personified.
  1. Arsenal have developed something of a backbone recently. Sealing their Champions League spot after the season they’ve had is a decent result.
  1.  Did anyone want to QPR to stay up over Bolton? The team that bought the title  beat the one that bought survival. Wanderers should keep hold of Owen Coyle though, he’s a decent manager.
  1. Everton and David Moyes, take a bow. Another seventh placed finish and this time above Liverpool. Fantastic stuff.
  1. Alex McLeish has to be the most hated manager in the Premier League. Villa were woeful again and only beat relegation by the skin of their teeth.
  1. Tottenham may have blown third spot recently, but they will be donning the Munich colours come the 19th of May. Squeaky bum time.
  1. Great finishes for both Paul Lambert and Brendan Rodgers. What they have both achieved this season is nothing short of sensational. Wonderful advert for promoted teams.
  1. James Morrison has developed into a quality footballer. Two assists for both West Brom goals underlines why he has become such an important figure at the Hawthorns.
  1. The best Premier League season ever? I think so…

Top 10 Deadline Day Deals

It only comes round twice a year and it’s always far more exciting than Christmas. Christians have Easter, children have birthdays, but for us football fans, the most important dates on our calendars are August 31 and January 31. Yes, it’s transfer deadline day. Prepare yourselves for a day of endless rumours of who goes where. Has Michael Owen been spotted in a Brighton supermarket? Did Fernando Torres really check into that Liverpool estate agent? And surely that wasn’t Lionel Messi in the dark sunglasses making his way through Leeds/Bradford Airport with a load of LUFC officials in tow. Either way, put your work on hold, pop on Sky Sports News and settle down for the day. But not before you’ve enjoyed The Coin Toss’s Top 10 Deadline Day moves.

  1. Rafael van der Vaart, August 2010 – This one had everything. Tottenham transfer activity on the final day of the window. A close call as to whether the paperwork had been completed in time to seal the move. And it was a star player brought to the Premier League for a bargain price as well. Spurs sealed a last gasp £8 million move for the Dutch international midfielder, a move that was left late as Rafa’s proposed switch to Bayern Munich fell through the day before. Still, Tottenham and Real Madrid thrashed out a deal with two hours to spare and Spurs made a world class acquisition to aid their Champions League campaign.
  1. Robinho, August 2008 – The deal that announced Manchester City as real contenders on the European stage. Following the Abu Dhabi United Group’s takeover earlier that day, manager Mark Hughes was given an infinite amount of cash to spend on deadline day. He gave a perfect demonstration of City’s new found wealth, snapping up Brazilian superstar Robinho from Real Madrid for £32.5 million. Although rumour has it Robinho thought he was signing for Chelsea, a deal was completed just before midnight and City had their marquee man. Unfortunately it didn’t turn out to be a match made in heaven as Robinho struggled to adapt to the Premier League, but it could have been worse as City were also chasing the man below…
  1. Dimitar Berbatov, August 2008 – This was an ongoing transfer saga throughout the summer, as Tottenham reported Manchester United for breaking league rules by unsettling the player after admitting their interest. A deal looked unlikely and when Manchester City had a bid accepted for the Bulgarian hitman, the striker headed north for contract talks. However, Sir Alex craftily whisked him away in a taxi from the airport and swooped with a late move, breaking the club’s transfer record with a bid of £30.75 million. If only he’d known…
  1. Carlos Tevez/Javier Mascherano, August 2006 – One of the more bizarre moves to be completed on deadline day, but West Ham fans couldn’t believe their luck when two Argentinean internationals landed at Upton Park in 2006. Neither could Alan Pardew, who had been offered the players as a result of third party ownership, a move that ended up with the Hammers lucky to avoid a points deduction after irregularities were found in the transfer. Mascherano had little effect and soon left for Liverpool, but Carlos Tevez’s goals proved priceless in their fight against relegation, keeping the club up on the final day with a goal against Manchester United.
  1. Andrei Arshavin, January 2009 – Whatever Arsenal fans think of the Russian now, they cannot escape the excitement that surrounded his deadline day move from Zenit Saint Petersburg. The deal was on/off for most of the window and Arshavin in fact departed his London hotel on deadline day morning with the intention of going home. However, Arsene Wenger finally met Zenit’s asking price with two hours of the window left and after complications due to compensation payments from the player himself and poor weather conditions in England, the move wasn’t actually completed until 24 hours later. It was all worth it though, as the midfield maestro soon marked his arrival in the Premier League with a four goal salvo against Liverpool.
  1. Robbie Keane, January 2009, January 2010 – Keane has to be included in this list for two moves on deadline day, although this isn’t difficult as the Irish striker has had more clubs than Tiger Woods. Firstly, Keane rejoined Spurs for £12 million after a disappointing spell at Liverpool, but his second spell at White Hart Lane didn’t last that long either, as the next January, Keane joined Celtic on loan after falling down the pecking order in manager Harry Redknapp’s plans. The forward in fact almost made it onto this list on four occasions, indeed his move from Leeds United to Spurs in 2002 was two days before deadline day and his move last year on loan to West Ham was also completed just a day before the window shut. Shame he went to Villa early this season.
  1. Ashley Cole/William Gallas, August 2006 – Another deadline day move that sent shockwaves around the country. Cole publicly fell out with the Arsenal board after Chelsea tapped up the England international the previous season. The left back made it quite clear he wanted to make the switch across London, especially given the size of the contract on the table. The two clubs couldn’t agree a few however, and with directors still locked in a bitter dispute, a deal looked unlikely. However, William Gallas’s falling out with Mourinho over playing out of position at left-back at Chelsea paved the way for a deal, as a figure of £5 million plus the Frenchman was agreed for Cole’s services. And so the legend of ‘Cashley’ Cole was born into existence.
  1. Marouane Fellaini – It’s not often Everton spend big, so this deal for the Belgian midfielder is well worth including in the list. David Moyes is never allowed a free reign on the chequebook, but he somehow persuaded Chairman Bill Kenwright to part with £15 million to sign the man with the giant afro. The record signing from Standard Liege had been attracting interest from Europe’s biggest teams and therefore the Toffees pulled off a massive coup bringing him to Goodison Park. Fellaini hasn’t disappointed either, displaying a level of tenacity and skill in the middle of the park that has seen the big boys sniffing around him again.
  1. Fernando Torres/Luis Suarez/Andy Carroll, January 2011 – How could you forget the striker switch-around that occurred on the last day on January the previous year? The Suarez deal had been in the pipeline for some time, but wasn’t officially completed until Liverpool freed up some funds, funds that eventually came from the sale of Fernando Torres. Having handed in a transfer request two days before, following an earlier bid rejection from Chelsea, the Spaniard completed his move early in the day for £50 million. This then prompted Kenny Dalglish to go and find a new striker, which unfortunately led him to Andy Carroll. He made the Newcastle centre-forward the most expensive British player of all time at £35 million, swooping on deadline day to the astonishment of the footballing world. Anger on Tyneside soon turned to amazement as they made a ridiculous profit on a man who had scored just 11 Premier League goals in his entire career. It is unlikely the Premiership will ever see another deadline day like this one.
  1. Wayne Rooney, August 2004 – It’s easy to forget that Manchester United brought Rooney in from Everton way back in 2004 now the striker has been at the club so long. In fact, they completed the deal on deadline day for a fee of £27 million after the young forward produced some sensational performances at Euro 2004. United only revealed their interest after Newcastle had a bid accepted for Rooney, but England’s talisman chose to head to Old Trafford instead of joining the Toon Army. The rest, they say, is history.

The Woes of David De Gea

Sir Alex Ferguson must be wondering if he persuaded the wrong star to come out of retirement this January. While Paul Scholes filled a hole in midfield left by Darren Fletcher’s illness, the Manchester United boss will have been wondering what Edwin Van Der Sar is up to these days after Saturday’s game with Liverpool.

The Dutchman’s calming presence between the sticks at Old Trafford was one of the main explanations of the recent success United have enjoyed, indeed the veteran stopper marshalled the meanest defence in the Premier League, whilst looking unflappable himself under every cross, shot and other flying ball that came his way. The same cannot be said for the man who was earmarked as his long-term successor at Manchester United. No-one expected David De Gea to slot into Edwin’s shoes with consummate ease, but something tells me even the Spaniard’s worst nightmares couldn’t have conjured up this scenario.

The latest criticism levelled at the goalkeeper came after he hesitated following a Steven Gerrard corner, allowing Daniel Agger to guide the ball into an empty net, setting Liverpool on their way to a 2-1 victory over their bitter rivals. It is just the latest of a string of errors following an erratic start to his time at Old Trafford. He started badly in the Charity Shield win over Manchester City, being caught out again from a cross that allowed Joleon Lescott a free header, before letting an Edin Dzeko strike from range slip through his fingers. Not too many eyebrows were raised, indeed this was still pre-season essentially, but his mistake from Shane Long’s shot during the opening game of the season against West Brom had a few people muttering behind their hands. A few shaky performances later and people were openly questioning the decision to pay Atlético Madrid£18.9 million for his services. To De Gea’s credit, he has produced a few performances out of the top drawer, displaying his superb shot-stopping ability, in particular from Ramires during the 3-1 win over Chelsea in Septmeber, not to mention a couple of spectacular saves that won his side a point against Stoke City. His inability to command the penalty area is worrying everyone concerned with the club however, and after a dreadful display against Blackburn on New Year’s Eve, Fergie finally dropped De Gea for Anders Lindegaard. Now, De Gea has failed to grasp his second chance with the blunder against Liverpool, where do United go from here?

Obviously the club has made the effort to defend their under fire signing. Fergie told BBC Sport that other players were to blame for Agger’s goal, stating “Our own players created a problem for the first goal. They didn’t give him [De Gea] enough room to deal with it.” One would expect Ferguson to back his player publicly, any manager who openly criticises their own players is in deep trouble, but the problem is, we’ve heard it all before. After that mistake against Blackburn, the manager chose not to focus on the mistake, but more the positive character traits of the man himself, insisting “he’s been terrific, the boy. He trains very well, so it’s easy to manage that.” It doesn’t take an MI5 analyst to see Fergie’s attempts to cover up his young star, indeed De Gea probably needs that fatherly arm around him right now.

Short on confidence, the Premier League is an unforgiving place for a struggling goalkeeper. Just ask many of those former England contenders. Paul Robinson, Rob Green, Scott Carson. Just three examples of decent keepers whose careers were sent spiralling down the pan after certain high profile mistakes. The way sides like Stoke or Blackburn approach the game makes life difficult for a goalkeeper without the command of his penalty area. This is where De Gea struggles. He lacks the communication skills that say Joe Hart, for example, has in abundance, or the ability to claim a hanging ball that all top keepers need. This isn’t a problem faced by the leading La Liga keepers, as the Spanish league doesn’t feature sides with the so-called ‘rugby’ tactics. If De Gea is to achieve his potential with the Red Devils, he needs tutelage in this area and fast. He also seems to lack the physical presence to deal with the Premier League’s more aggressive forwards. Good job Duncan Ferguson has long gone.

Too many people rated De Gea as a top prospect for him to fail completely. Many scouts round Europe had their eyes on the Spaniard, indeed Fergie and his scouting had picked him out well before Van Der Sar retired. To write off one of the game’s brightest stars would be premature, but it’s difficult to know what United can do for the time being. His demeanour after the cup tie was almost depressing, the man seemed to be suffering on a personal level, hoping for the turf to open and swallow him up. To discard the man at this stage could prove a fatal blow to his confidence and ruin him forever. Lindegaard is a capable understudy and has made it clear he isn’t at Old Trafford to hold hands with Michael Owen on the substitutes bench. To keep picking the underperforming Spaniard would be an insult to the Dane and in fact to Fergie’s selection policy. But De Gea needs further acclimatisation time that will allow him to adjust to the demands of his new country. Food for thought for Sir Alex.

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