Best XI – January Transfer Targets

The winter transfer window is on us and this episode of Best XI sets out to look at XI players who moved in the January window and proved to be masterpieces.

The January transfer window is a kind of anomaly as pointed out by Gino listing out the reasons behind the existence of the window. Without going into the veracity of the necessity of the window, one can safely say that clubs strain their necks to pick up hidden jewels and place punts on players to see through a rough patch that their club may have been going through.

This month’s Best XI is going to pick on a XI which have already moved this January or should be moving shortly, given all indications.


Goalkeeping is a spot that demands continuity and acclimatization with a team so this is a spot that seldom features moves in the winter window.  Classic cases of when, a prominent goalkeeper has moved in the winter transfer window, has involved him failing continuously in his club leading to a move out. Some prominent names who have made such a move includes Tim Howard (Man Utd to Everton), Jens Lehmann (Milan to Borussia Dortmund).The other end of the move is from a demand point of view where a prominent club has the requirement of buying a backup keeper and hence gone after a big name move in the winter. Some prominent names who have made such a move includes Shay Given (from Newcastle to Man City), Anders Lindegaard (Aalesunds FK to Man Utd)

For 2013 window, there has been only a handful goalkeeping move and so we would be pointing at a goalkeeper who hasn’t yet moved (as of 20th January) but his position in his current club is untenable and would be on the verge of a move.

Maarten Stekelenburg has been Holland’s #1 since the retirement of Edwin Van der Sar and when he moved to Roma in the summer of 2011, it was thought of as a end to the uncertainty that prevailed at the Italian capital where several goalkeepers – Doni, Julio Sergio, Bogdan Lobont had been tried without anyone of them securing the #1 spot. Stekelenburg has played 43 times for Roma since his transfer but only 10 of them have come in the current season. With the advent of Zdenak Zeman as the manager, Stekelenburg has been often shunted out and it is Mauro Goicoechea , the former Montevideo goalkeeper  who switched to Roma in the summer who has been favoured appearing 12 times already. The Dutchman would not take a #2 billing for long and his continued absence from the first team shows that a January move is imminent. Expected destinations could be Fulham, but more interesting theories link him to CL opponents Milan or Barcelona, both of whom feel a new #1 is required.


We have 4 defenders in this team and the first of them is Pablo Armero, the 26 year old Colombian who switched from Udinese to Napoli. Armero had a breakout year in 2011-12, amassing 12 assists in Serie A which was second highest in the league behind Andrea Pirlo’s 13 assists.

Based on such stupendous performances and given Udinese’s policy of buying low and selling high, it was expected that Armero would be cashed upon soon. That he stayed 2012-13 season was a surprise and he couldn’t reprise the same level of performance of previous season. There were only 2 assists and Udinese punted on a winter move apprehending that the value may fall further. Finally he moved to Napoli, who are flying high in the league, just behind league leaders Juventus. As is almost traditional of a January transfer, it is a loan with redemption value and Napoli has paid 1 mn € for the loan.

Domagoj Vida is a 23 year old Croatian central defender who has already seen career highs and lows. Back in 2010, on the back of stupendous season for local team NK Osijek and Croatian U21 team, Vida had earned a transfer to German giants Bayer Leverkusen for 2.5 mn€. But it was to be a terrible time for the young man and he featured in a handful matches in Bundesliga. Sold back to Dinamo Zagreb in 2011, for just about half the value that Bayer had paid, Vida set about repairing his reputation.  He racked up 8 goals and 5 assists in a season and a half for the Croatian champions. This time a equally illustrious European club in Dynamo Kiev came calling and paid 5 mn € for the centre back.

The tale of Johan Djourou is one of unfulfilled promise. Bought as a 17 year old in 2004, the Ivory Coast born central defender with Swiss nationality, played over 130 matches for Arsenal scoring once and assisting 6 goals. In the 8 years, he only spent only half a season away from Arsenal (on loan to Birmingham). But with injuries and off form plaguing him, his place in the team was long gone. A loan move to Hannover 96 would give him the time and space to recover fitness and form and with no redemption option in the loan, Djourou is expected to return to Arsenal in the summer.

Mathieu Debuchy was probably one of the few players who emerged 2012 Euro championship as a French player who enhanced his reputation. His performance especially in the opener with England (which France drew 1-1) was hailed as outstanding by the British press. A move to the Premier League was mooted but didn’t materialise. But it was only a short wait and 6 months down the line, Newcastle United have put their faith on the man who had spent his entire career of 10 years at Lille. The right back signed a 5 and half year deal with the Magpies costing them 6.2 mn € on the transfer fee.


It might be the year of the home-coming for the Brazilians. A whole host of young Brazilian players who had started promising careers in Europe, stuttered and opted to return to homeland. The most prominent such player is Alexandre Pato of Milan, but another player who had established himself in Europe – Renato Augusto of Bayer Leverkusen. Once hailed as a prodigy from the stables of Flamengo, Renato captured the fan’s hearts with his creativity in passing, ball control, pace and dribbling. In 5 seasons at Leverkusen, he scored 12 times and provided 27 assists. But terrible luck with injuries meant that he played only 11 times this season.

Corinthians which bought Pato, also swooped in for Renato Augusto, paying 3.5 mn €, roughly half his market value. Like Pato, it is expected that this will be a brief sojourn in the Brazilian league for this talented playmaker and soon he would be back to Europe.

Another talented Bundesliga midfield playmaker who has opted for pastures anew is Ivan Perisic. Like the other transfers, this too was a step down in the sense that Perisic went from champions Dortmund to struggling Wolfsburg. Bought for close to 5 mn € in 2011 when he signed a 5 year deal for Dortmund, Perisic has been a moderate success scoring 12 times and providing 7 assists in his 64 matches over a season and a half at Dortmund. But with the 23 year old struggling to get a consistent spot in the Dortmund side, it was felt that a 8mn € to Wolfsburg, making him the most expensive Bundesliga acquisition of this January window, a win for everyone.

When Perisic joined Dortmund, one of the player he was expected to make up for was Nuri Sahin. The Turkish born player had an outstanding season with Dortmund, propelling them to the Bundesliga and on the back of it had earned a 10 mn € move to Real Madrid. But in a team of superstars, Sahin hardly featured. After a year of struggles, he chose to go out on loan to fallen English giants Liverpool but Anfield didn’t turn out happy hunting for him. Liverpool paid 5 mn € but only 12 appearances (thought he scored 3 and assisted 3) was scant reward. Halfway through his 12 month loan, Sahin chose to go to his old pastures – at Dortmund and this time on a one and a half year loan. The move, even if makes sense for Dortmund, slightly shows up Sahin’s adaptability issues and any future move out of Germany would be highly debated.

Our next midfield player is one of the most sought after – Yann M’Vila. A Rennes youth product, he has been highly sought after for some seasons now but the expected move to a Premiership club (especially Arsenal, given Arsene Wenger’s influence) never materialised. Disciplinary problems, which forced him out of the French U21 team, may have been one of the factors. But with big money clubs like Rubin Kazan along with mandatory EPL interest from the likes of Fulham ensures, that M’Vila will probably have played his last match in for his childhood club.

The final midfielder in our XI is Wesley Sneijder. Probably the most talented Dutch midfielder of his generation, he has now been shunted out of two European bigwigs – Real and Inter. At 28, he still has a good 3-4 years at the top but once one of the prime targets of Sir Alex Ferguson, has finally been sent to the European backwaters of Galatasary. A dismal Euro 2012 and tactical inflexibility along with huge wages forced his move out of Inter and no considerable interest from any club in the big 5 leagues of Europe.


Our sole forward will not play anytime soon and is probably one of the biggest (and may turn out to be the smartest) gamble of the window. Fiorentina, had completely overhauled their team in the summer and brought in the one of the brightest young manager in Italy – Vincenzo Montella. A great half season, in which they sit in the top 6, means this team is on the verge of European qualification. But they do lack a positive goal getter. Luca Toni is on his last legs and Stefan Jovetic is a wonderful talent but is more a second striker with creative instincts. The capture of Giuseppe Rossi from Villareal for 10 mn € is thus a great gamble, since Rossi is still out injured and would not be fit to play till at least April. The Viola have though backed Rossi, to regain the form which saw him score 32 times for Villareal in the 2010-11 season before injury struck him in the 2011-12 season.

It will be a great story if Rossi manages to bring Viola back to European football only a year after they finished 13th and reinstate a career which has promised so much.

Best XI : Transfer Deals

Best XI is a compilation of interesting events or snippets from the football world across different locations that we share with you. Best XI will seek to be about topics you are interested in and want explored. You may mail your requests to This month we showcase some memorable transfers in football market


Kaká: Sao Paulo to AC Milan (2003) for $12.2 Million

Kaká was creating quite a reputation for himself in Brazilian Football with São Paulo, scoring twenty-three goals in 59 appearances. A steady European interest culminated with him signing for the Rossoneri. He became quite a fan favourite in Milan and had a great spell with them. Kaká scored seventy goals in 193 appearances for AC Milan before moving to the Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2009. The charismatic owner of Milan, Silvio Berlusconi later referred to the amount he paid for Kaká as peanuts.

Alan Shearer: Southampton to Blackburn Rovers (1992) for $5.3 Million

In the summer of 1992, there was a transfer tussle between Blackburn Rovers and Manchester United for the then up-and-coming English striker Alan Shearer, who came through the ranks at Southampton and made quite a name for himself. Flushed with Jack Walker’s millions, Kenny Dalglish, the then Blackburn manager convinced Shearer to sign on the dotted lines. Even though he was hampered with injuries in his first season but he still managed to score 16 goals for his new club. In the 1993-94 season, his 31 goals helped Blackburn to finish second in the league table but it was his 34 goals in the 1994-95 season that clinched the one and only Premier League title for Blackburn.

P.S. After being snubbed by Shearer, Sir Alex Ferguson bought a certain Frenchman in 1992. We shall come to that later.

Patrick Viera: AC Milan to Arsenal (1996) for $5.7 Million

After an unproductive spell at Milan, Arsene Wenger bought the Frenchman to Arsenal. With his compatriot Emmanuel Petit, Viera formed a formidable midfield partnership that helped Arsenal do the double (Premier League and FA Cup) in 1998. He became the club captain in 2002 and was an important cog in the ‘Invincibles’ season.

He only scored 32 goals for the club but his contribution towards Arsenal goes beyond that. All that for just under $6 Million!

Gianfranco Zola: Parma to Chelsea (1996) for $7.3 Million


Signed in 1996 from Parma, Zola quickly adapted to English Football and helped Chelsea secure the FA Cup that season. He also became the first Chelsea player to win the Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year award. A year later, he scored the winner in Cup Winner’s Cup match. In his seven-year spell with Chelsea, Zola scored 80 goals and is still regarded as a hero in Stamford Bridge.

Roberto Baggio: Fiorentina to Juventus (1990) for $13.6 Million


Baggio was sold to Juventus in 1990,amid outcry from Fiorentina fans, for what was a world record transfer fee of that time for any player. Soon after, there were riots in the streets of Florence leavingaround 50 people injured. Baggio replied to his fans, saying: “I was compelled to accept the transfer“. In the match he played for Juventus against Fiorentina in 1990, he refused to take a penalty; and when substituted he picked up a Fiorentina scarf thrown onto the field by fans and kissed it. He claimed: “Deep in my heart I am always purple“, the colour of Fiorentina.

Although he suffered a number of injuries in his time with Juventus, Baggio still managed to score seventy-eight goals in 141 appearances, in his five-year spell with the Old Lady.

Luis Figo: Barcelona to Real Madrid (2000) for $56 Million

In 2000, Luis Figo was part of one of the most controversial and (in)famous transfer deals in Football history. He made a move from Barcelona to their hated rivals, Real Madrid. Despite being a success at Barça and a fan favourite for five years, in his return to Nou Camp in 2002 for a league match, Figo got one of the vilest receptions from Barcelona fans.

He was part of the Galácticos era of Real Madrid that included the likes of Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo and many more brilliant footballers and assembled a team that won almost everything that is there to be won.

Thierry Henry: Juventus to Arsenal (1999) for $17 Million

After an unhappy spell in Juventus, Arsene Wenger brought Thierry Henry to Arsenal in 1999 and thus started his love affair with Arsenal. He became one of the greatest players to grace English Football and broke Cliff Bastin’s record to become the highest ever goal-scorer for Arsenal. During Henry’s time, Arsenal won two Premier League titles and 3 FA Cups. He appeared two hundred and fifty four times for Arsenal and scored 174 goals. He came back for a short loan spell in 2012 and scored one goal in 4 appearances.

Robinho: Real Madrid to Manchester City (2008) for £32.5 Million


Robinho made it to the list, not because he had a great time with Manchester City but this transfer started the era that built a new power centre in English and World football. On summer transfer deadline day, Manchester City was bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group, and infused with the millions of the Abu Dhabi royal family, City splashed out the cash for Robinho, who was nailed down to go to Chelsea but came to Manchester.

His time at City was patchy at best. With occasional signs of brilliance, Robinho never really warmed up to the club or the fans or the city. He scored fourteen goals in 41 appearances before moving to AC Milan.


Peter Schmeichel: Brondby to Manchester United (1991) for £505,000

A UEFA Cup run with Brondby in 1991 which was ended by AS Roma in the semi-finals cemented Schmeichel’s standing as one of best in his position. Following his showings on the international scene, Manchester United bought him in 1991 for £505,000, a price which was described in 2000 by Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson as the “bargain of the century.” Schmeichel played the bulk of his career for United, eight years in total. With United, Schmeichel won five FA Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, one League Cup, and finally played his last match with United in ‘that night in Barcelona’.

Cristiano Ronaldo: Manchester United to Real Madrid (2009) for £80 Million

After a successful five-year spell in English football, playing for Manchester United, winning everything possible for the team, the Portuguese moved to Real Madrid in a record transfer deal for any player, in 2009. Despite winning the La Liga, just last season, Ronaldo has already scored more than 100 goals in just over three seasons and has a healthy rivalry with Argentine Lionel Messi, who plays for Barcelona.

Eric Cantona: Leeds United to Manchester United (1992) for £1.2 Million

After missing out on Alan Shearer, Manchester United shocked the world of football when they signed Cantona from Leeds in 1992, and it has proven to be one of the defining moments of Sir Alex Ferguson’s extraordinary era at the club. Cantona became a legend at United, with a host of unforgettable performances and goals helping the club to 4 league titles in five seasons. He also fired a dramatic winner against Liverpool in 1996 to win the FA Cup final at Wembley, and a second double in three seasons. Even after his dramatic retirement in 1997, the Frenchman left behind some fantastic memories.

Europe’s Best XI for 2011-2012 Season

Best XI is a compilation of interesting events or snippets from the football world across different locations that we share with you. Best XI will seek to be about topics you are interested in and want explored. You may mail your requests to

The Champions League Final on May 19 at the Allianz Arena marked an end to the latest European season. With its fair share of drama, controversies on and off the pitch and above all footballing brilliance, it has been quite an enthralling season. Let’s take this opportunity to look back at the season that is gone to decide upon a team of eleven players that can be put across as Europe’s Best XI.

Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer

The Bavarian shot-stopper in his first season at the club has been in imperious form. He set the club record of maximum time without conceding a goal bettering the previous record of Oliver Kahn. Bayern Munich has been sort of unlucky as they ended the season trophy-less but they went on to play the final of Champions League, the DFB-Pokal Cup and finishing runners–up behind Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. During the course of the season, Neuer was hugely influential for his team as Bayern conceded the least number of goals in the domestic league. In the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, he saved penalties from Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo to take his side through to the final. So probably there is no other candidate who could stake his claim as the keeper of the team more than Neuer.



Defender: Branislav Ivanovic

The Serbian defender was probably the most consistent performer of the Champions League winning Chelsea backline. He is not a traditional right-back but was preferred in the position ahead of the inconsistent Jose Boswingwa. Ivanovic always provided security at the back with his no-nonsense approach, at the same time he was never shy of going forward and helping out his strikers. Chipping in with a few goals added further dimension to Ivanovic’s repertoire (five goals, which includes the winning goal against Napoli, from a defender in a season is an asset to any team). Chelsea’s topsy turvy season took a complete U-turn under their care-taker manager Roberto Di Matteo and it was his defensive organisation that won plaudits. Ivanovic’s virtuoso performance in the way to the final, especially against Barcelona in two legs of semi-final, deserves special mention.

Defender: Mats Hummels

It can be safely said that Mats Hummels is the most talented upcoming defender in Europe. At such a tender age, the maturity shown by this lad is tremendous. His game-reading, positioning, tackling is top-notch and in spite of being a centre-back, his ability to bring the ball out of the defence to initiate attacks marks him special. His vision and eye for a pass is quite exceptional unlike other rugged German defenders of recent times. For the last two seasons, his partnership with Neven Subotic has been a hallmark of the brilliant Die Borussen side and when Subotic was absent for a period last season due to injury, Hummels single-handedly marshalled the defence to see his side through that difficult phase. Keep an eye out for Hummels as he will continue to develop as one of the finest modern defenders.

Defender: Vincent Kompany

It has been quite a fairy tale season for Vincent Kompany, the captain of the Manchester City side that reclaimed the League after a gap of 44 years. Kompany was a true leader of the side in every sense of the term. He led from the front with his solid displays right through the season. It is hard to remember a single match where he took a wrong step. With the experienced Kolo Toure absent at the start of the season, he took up the responsibility to settle City’s defence. Kompany was so important to Roberto Mancini’s plan that when he was absent in City’s line-up due to injury and suspension, his team’s performance clearly suffered and coincided with a slump in their form. Along with this, Kompany’s ability to chip in with important goals was crucial in City’s success. City fans will fondly remember his header against their archrival Manchester United in probably the championship deciding match.

Defender: Giorgio Chiellini

The Italian defender who is considered by many as a suitable successor to Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini was a standout performer of the unbeaten Juventus side. In what has been a standout season for the bianconeri, the side only let in a staggering 20 goals throughout the season. Chiellini who is strong in the air and never hesitates to go in for tackles stood up for the challenge every time and together with his fellow defenders formed a defence which was nothing short of a rock wall. At the same time it is interesting to note that Chiellini had one of the highest conversion rates in terms of accurate passes which shows how he helped his team to build up attacks from the back, thus providing a solid foundation on which the team’s success was built.

Midfielder: Yaya Toure

What a buy this Ivorian midfielder has proven to be for the newly crowned English champions! For the last two seasons, he has justified every penny that has been spent after him. This season he has gone from strength to strength and has responded every time City has looked to him to get out of a crisis situation. There are opinions that bench strength of City is what that makes them stronger than their closest opponents, but Toure is probably one of the fewplayers who can’t be replaced in this brilliant City side. When he was away on duty for his national side in AFCON, City was visibly short of options to replace this midfield dynamo. What makes Toure special is his ability to adjust his game according to his team’s need and situation. Mancini has preferably used him as a deep-lying midfielder but whenever required pushed him up to create havoc in the opponent box. His consistency throughout the season was a treat to watch.

Midfielder: Xavi Hernandez

It’s sometimes very difficult to assess the level of impact of this midfield maestro’s contribution to the all-conquering Barcelona side. May be a few statistics will make clear the high level of standard that Xavi maintains week-in and week-out. He made an incredible average of more than 100 passes per game with an ability to find his teammate at 92.6% accuracy. In terms of creating goal-scoring opportunities, Xavi plays second highest number of key passes in the team behind the one and onlyLionel Messi. Make no mistake, he is the man who makes this genius Barcelona side tick. His contribution will only be felt properly once he decides to hang up his boots.

Midfielder: Andrea Pirlo (C)

The best masterstroke of Juve coach Antonio Conte was signing of this midfield general. The way Pirlo inspired the Turin giants to their dream season is quite exceptional. In the opening game of the season that saw Juve demolish Parma 4-1, Pirlo created two goals and completed 110 passes! Gigi Buffon later told La Repubblica: “It’s the bargain of the century for us. Seeing him play in front of my back line, it made me realize that God does exist.” Pirlo carried this form throughout the season and lived up to his nickname of l’architetto (the architect) . On the field, his poise, control and vision was remarkable to say the least, he played the second most number of passes after Xavi in the continent and conjured up the maximum number of assists (13) in Serie A. Along with these, his class, composure and leadership skills helped Juve to its record-breaking season.

Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo

Just look at Cristiano Ronaldo’s statistics for the season (60 goals in fifty-five games!); except the genius of Leo Messi, it is difficult to see which other present day footballer can scale those heights. He led Madrid to their 32nd La Liga title last season thereby ending Barca’s reign for the last three seasons. Ronaldo scored the winning goal in the season’s last El Clasico derby at Nou Camp which literally ended Barca’s hopes of a consecutive fourth La Liga title. It was also a big response from Ronaldo who has been previously criticized for his lack of match-winning performances in the El Clasicos. It will be interesting to see whether Ronaldo manages to win his second Ballon D’Or this year.

Forward: Lionel Messi

The boy wonder has continued to amaze the football world with his exceptional talent this season too. He managed a staggering 73 goals this season, by far the highest ever scored by a player in a single season. In terms of assists, he is second highest behind Mesut Ozil. In terms of trophies, he and his Barcelona team may have ended the season on a disappointing note but on the personal front, he has pushed the level higher and higher – the highlight of his season being the scoring of five goals in a single match against Bayer Leverkusen. The Messi magic has continued to startle us for the last four seasons and words are no longer sufficient to describe his achievements.

Forward: Sergio Aguero

Last season was his first in English football and what a special one it turned out to be for Sergio ‘Kun’ Aguero. He scored quite a few crucial goals that helped Manchester City to their title after 44 years. Every City faithful will probably remember for years the goal Kun scored in the stoppage time against QPR that ultimately clinched their title from the grasp of their fiercest neighbour Manchester United. He became the talisman for City as the season progressed and scored goals when it mattered the most. His partnership with David Silva was quite exciting at times and besides scoring goals, Kun helped his team with some assists too.

So that’s the team selected as representative of Europe’s Best XI for the season 2011-2012. There is no denying the fact that some wonderful players had to be left out of this team in spite of their brilliant individual performances throughout the season. Special mention must be made of Robin Van Persie, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mesut Ozil, David Silva, Joe Hart, Mario Gomez, Franck Ribery and Antonio Valencia who were brilliant last season. However, it doesn’t matter whether these gifted players get into a team or not, they will continue to perform at top level for coming seasons and mesmerize every football fan.

Best XI

Football is a beautiful game and the excitement that a 90-minute match can pack in, is not comparable with too many sports across the world. We see brilliant teams with sublime individuals creating magic on the field  but… football’s magic is sometimes tarnished with some not-so sublime moments of ‘play-acting’ on the pitch. While acts like diving, faking injuries et al can be annoying on the one hand, they can be quite funny to watch, on the other. This month we have put together XI somewhat upsetting yet hilarious moments on the pitch which had ‘purists’ tearing their hair out!

  • Brazilian great Rivaldo is known to many for his sublime left foot. But you can watch him displaying some additional skills too! This was one bizarre incident of the 2002 World Cup that I recall. An innocuous corner kick turned into a farce by Rivaldo during the semi-final match between Brazil and Turkey.


  • Juergen Klinsmann is a German great but some Albiceleste fans might not welcome him with open arms. Most English football fans who have seen Klinsmann in action for Tottenham Hotspur will concur that despite his brilliance with the ball and sublime skills, he had this habit of falling over a bit too easily. Hell, he at times even celebrated his goals by mocking his diving skills!

  • This was Ecuador against Chile: Bryan Carrasco grabs the arm of Edson Montaño and strikes himself to create another ‘sublime’ moment in South American football!

  • In my opinion, Alberto Gilardino here was shot by an unknown sniper, so please leave the kid alone! Even in real-time it was clearly a dive and the referee promptly produced a yellow card. Now, isn’t that hilarious?

  • One moment David Villa was writhing with pain and the next, he was ready to participate in a brawl! Amazing healing powers, must be in the DNA.

  • Robert Pires is one of the best footballers to grace the shores of Great Britain but didn’t really cover himself with glory in this case. Pires came to English Football with Portsmouth but it seems he came back with lot more than some of the sublime skills that he displayed at Arsenal.

  • Emmanuel Eboue showing his not so perfect skills off the ball! There are a lot more Eboue moments but this one was surely one of the most desperate tries by him.

  • Taking only one incident from Cristiano Ronaldo’s compilation is an injustice to his ‘talent’ but we have to give others some space too!

  • Captain Fantastic’s not so ‘fantastic’ moment on the pitch! Steven Gerrard represents everything good about Liverpool – talent, passion and guts, but this incident might even have ‘The Kop’ cringing in disbelief.

  • Dynamo Kiev’s Olexandr Aliyev showing his own set of healing powers in Champions League game against Arsenal. Amazing stuff!

  • We will end with some of the modern day masters of the ‘art’. Mind you, this is ‘more than a simulation! Barcelona is considered the epitome of club football, right now. Players like Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi create poetry on the football pitch. Sometimes players like Javier Mascherano, Pedro and Sergio Busquets, create some jarring notes on the football pitch that has fans gasping for fresh air.

Best XI

This month we opted to come up with our very own choice of some marvellous players who unfortunately, never quite got an opportunity to showcase their skills on the ‘Greatest Show on Earth’.

These extra-ordinary footballers were no ‘mere mortals’ but were plain unlucky not to have participated in the FIFA World Cup. This Best XI team can give any good team a ‘run for their money’.  

Let us see who they comprise (not in any particular order) –

I – Bernard ‘Bert’ Trautmann (Ger)

Bernard ‘Bert’ Trautman

 Bernhard Carl “Bert” Trautmann, OBE (born 22 October 1923) is a German former professional footballer who played for Manchester City from 1949 to 1964. Brought up during times of inter-war strife in Germany, Trautmann joined the Luftwaffe early in World War II, serving as a paratrooper. He fought on the Eastern Front for three years, earning five medals including an Iron Cross. Later in the war, he was transferred to the Western Front, where he was captured by the British as the war drew to a close. One of only 90 of his original 1,000-man regiment to survive the war, he was transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp in Ashton-in-Makerfield, Lancashire. Trautmann refused an offer ofrepatriation, and following his release in 1948 he settled in Lancashire, combining farm work with playing as goalkeeper for local football team, St. Helens Town.

Performances for St. Helens gained Trautmann a reputation as an able goalkeeper, resulting in interest from Football League clubs. In October 1949, he signed for Manchester City, a club playing in the highest level of football in the country, the First Division. The club’s decision to sign a former Axis paratrooper sparked protests, with 20,000 people attending a demonstration. Over time, he gained acceptance through his performances in the City goal, playing all but five of the club’s next 250 matches.

Though recognised as one of the leading goalkeepers of his era, he never played for his native country. Trautmann met with German national coach, Sepp Herberger in 1953, who explained that travel and political implications prevented him from selecting a player who was not readily available, and that he could only consider including Trautmann if he was playing in a German league. Consequently, Trautmann’s international isolation prevented him from playing in the 1954 World Cup, in which his countrymen were victorious. Trautmann’s only experience of international football came in 1960, when the Football League decided to include non-English players to represent the League in representative matches for the first time. Trautmann captained the League against the Irish League, and also played against the Italian League.

 II – Steve Bruce (England)


Steve Bruce

Born in Corbridge, Northumberland, he was a promising schoolboy footballer but was rejected by a number of professional clubs. He was on the verge of quitting the game altogether when he was offered a trial with Gillingham. Bruce was offered an apprenticeship and went on to play more than 200 games for the club before joining Norwich City in 1984.

In 1987, he moved to Manchester United, where he achieved great success, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, Football League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup. He also became the first English player of the twentieth century to captain a team to The Double. Despite his success on the field, he was never selected to play for the England national team. Commentators and contemporaries have described him as one of the best English players of the 1980s and 1990s never to play for his country at full international level.

III – Matthias Sammer (Germany)

Matthias Sammers

Sammer played for his hometown club, Dynamo Dresden from 1987 to 1990, the club his father, Klaus had played for and managed. He was one of the first notable East German players to join a Western club after the German re-unification when he signed with VfB Stuttgart in 1990 (the first being Andreas Thom, who joined Bayer Leverkusen from BFC Dynamo). He then went on to play with Italian clubs Internazionale (1992–1993) and Borussia Dortmund (1993–1998). He won two East German championships with Dynamo Dresden (1989, 1990) and three German championships (1992 with VfB Stuttgart, 1995 and 1996 with Borussia Dortmund). During his time in Dortmund, he also won the UEFA Champions League in 1997. Sammer also scored the last ever goal for the East Germany football team before re-unification.

IV – Nigel Winterburn (England) 

Nigel Winterburn

Winterburn was born in Arley, Warwickshire. He began his career with Birmingham City but never played for the first team, though he did earn youth caps for England while with the club. He joined Oxford United, but never played for their first time either, and then in 1983 he was signed on a free transfer by Dave Bassett to join Wimbledon, who were on a steady climb up the divisions after gaining promotion from the non-league pyramid six years earlier. Wimbledon achieved promotion to the First Division in 1986 and Winterburn earned England Under-21 honours. In their first season within the elite they achieved a top-half finish and got to the quarter finals of the FA Cup, when they were beaten by eventual finalists, Tottenham Hotspur.

Winterburn won the Wimbledon supporters Player Of The Year in each of the four seasons he spent at Plough Lane. George Graham was seeking a long-term replacement for captain Kenny Sansom and in the summer of 1987, Arsenal paid Wimbledon £350,000 and Winterburn went to Highbury.

He is best known for his role alongside Tony Adams, Martin Keown and Lee Dixon, forming a celebrated defensive line in the Premier League and European football during the 1990s.

V – Lee Dixon (England) 

Lee Dixon

Dixon was a boyhood Manchester City supporter. He began his professional playing career in the lower divisions. On leaving school in 1980, he joined Burnley as an apprentice in 1980, turning professional in 1982, then signed for Chester City (where he experienced finishing bottom of the whole Football League in 1983–84), Bury and later Stoke City.

Dixon was signed by Arsenal boss, George Graham in January 1988, following the departure of England right back, Viv Anderson to Manchester United. This was the first time that Dixon had played in the First Division.

It took a while for Dixon to be given a first team role at Highbury. With England international Kenny Sansom at left-back, the equally left-sided Nigel Winterburn had been a guarded success in the unfamiliar right-back role, though Dixon did make his debut against Luton Town in February 1988 and played six times in total before the season ended. In the new season, Winterburn moved across to left back, allowing Dixon to take over the No.2 shirt, which he duly did for well over ten years. Displaced Sansom left Arsenal the following winter.

Dixon was a marauding right-back, ever willing to support his winger, David Rocastle and his attacking skills were still noted even though his main job (and the main priority of the side as a whole) was to defend. He also had a short spell during this period as the club’s penalty taker.


VI – Bernd Schuster (Germany) 

Bernd Schuster

Schuster was an important part of the FC Barcelona team during the 1980s, leading the game from midfield and scoring many goals. His club president, Josep Lluís Núñez and some trainers like Helenio Herrera, Udo Lattek, Terry Venables and Luis Aragonés had difficult relations with him. He won, however, the European Silver Ball in 1980 and Bronze Balls in 1981 and 1985. At age 21, in 1981, he received a bad injury on his right knee by Athletic Bilbao defender, Andoni Goikoetxea.

His move to Real Madrid was controversial due to the strong rivalry between Barcelona and Madrid. Bernd Schuster’s style complemented the group of home-grown Madrid players known as la Quinta del Buitre who led the team to a dominance of the Spanish Championship through the 1980s.

Bernd Schuster signed with Atlético Madrid in the fall of 1990 and helped improve the performance of Atletico’s traditional games based on back-passes. His long precise passes helped restore Atlético Madrid as a prominent club.

In 1993, Bernd returned home to Germany to play for three seasons with Bayer Leverkusen. Despite his contributions, the club was unable to capture Bundesliga and German Cup titles but his performances inspired much of the country to push for a place for him in the 1994 World Cup squad. In the national TV-Station ARD “Goal of the year” election Schuster won the first three places in 1994.

He was part of the West German side that won the 1980 UEFA European Football Championship in Italy, appearing in two of Germany’s four matches. His performances there helped him earn the Silver Ball Trophy honour as Europe’s second best player in 1980 behind Golden Ball winner, and Germany team-mate Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. Overall, Schuster won twenty-two caps for the West German national team and retired from the German national team at the age of 24, due to his repeated disagreements with the German Football Association, then national team manager, Jupp Derwall and teammates, including Paul Breitner. His refusal to take part in a match against Albania, in order to be home for the birth of his second son David, caused a sporting scandal at the time.

According to Schuster himself, his premature retirement from the German National Team was due to a major disagreement with the managements of both Barcelona and the German National Team on either side of a friendly match against Brazil.

VII – Valentino Mazzola (Italy)


Valentino Mazzola

Mazzola’s career with Venezia started modestly, with a tenth-placed finish in 1940 and a twelfth-place finish the next season. In 1941, however, the team won the Coppa Italia Final against Roma and finished third in the league in 1942.

Mazzola then made his debut for the national side on April 5, 1942, when he scored a goal.

As they finished third in the league, Venezia were only a single point behind Torino, who promptly began to take notice of Mazzola. The only problem was that Juventus had a verbal agreement with Venezia that they would sign Mazzola. However, Torino eventually offered two hundred thousand lira plus two players and won the player’s signature.

Although the deal was intended to be kept secret, news of the upcoming move got out and as Venezia played Torino, the crowd began to taunt Mazzola, calling him a “sell-out”. An outraged Mazzola clenched his fists and promptly led Venezia to a 3-1 win.

With Torino, Mazzola won the wartime league title in 1943. In 1944, the championship ended early, but Mazzola managed to score 10 goals (in context, however, Silvio Piola scored 31).

In 1946, Mazzola helped the team to the title, which they won over Inter Milan by 13 points. The next season, Torino won the title again, beating second-placed Juventus by 10 points. In 1948, Torino broke numerous records, including ending the season with the biggest ever advantage over the second-placed team (they beat Milan to the title by 16 points) and on May 11, 1947, Torino provided 10 of the 11 players who took to the field against Hungary. Mazzola played 12 matches with the Italian National Team and scored 4 goals.

In the 1948-49 season, Torino won the last title they would get until 1976. Mazzola scored 109 goals in the Italian Championship with Venezia and Torino over 8 years.

Despite suffering from illness, Mazzola was determined to attend the match he had organised for Torino, in Lisbon, in 1949. On May 4, on the return journey from the game, the aircraft carrying Mazzola and the rest of the team crashed, killing everyone on board and leaving only one first-team player at Torino alive.


VIII – George Weah (Liberia) 

George Weah

As the future goal-scoring master looked for his golden ticket, he worked for the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation as a switchboard technician, whilst playing in Liberia for Young Survivors, Bongrange Company, Mighty Barolle and Invincible Eleven.

It was at Invincible Eleven that Weah caught the eye of the visiting scouts: not only did his 24 goals in 23 games win his side the title, but also earned him his much awaited move abroad.

Weah moved to Europe in 1988 when he was signed by Arsène Wenger, the manager of Monaco, who Weah credits as an important influence in his career. At Monaco, Weah was a member of the team that won the French Cup in 1991. In the 1990s Weah subsequently played for Paris Saint Germain (1992–95), with whom he won the French league in 1994 and became the top scorer of the UEFA Champions League 1994–95; and AC Milan (1995–1999), with whom he won the Italian league in 1996 and 1999. In 1995 he was named European Footballer of the Year and FIFA World Player of the Year. Weah also became famous at Milan for scoring a wonder goal against Verona at the San Siro. After leaving Milan in January 2000, Weah moved to Chelsea, Manchester City and Olympique Marseille in quick succession, before leaving Marseille in May 2001 for Al Jazira FC, in the United Arab Emirates.

As successful as he was at club level, Weah was not able to bring over that success to the Liberian national team. He has done everything with the squad from playing to coaching to financing it, but failed to qualify for a single World Cup, falling just a point short in qualifying for the 2002 tournament. All this led to Weah being known as one of the best footballers never to have played in a World Cup.

IX – Ryan Giggs (Wales) 

Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs is the most decorated player in English football history.[1] He also holds the club record for competitive appearances. During his time at Manchester United, he has won 12 Premier League winners’ medals, four FA Cup winners’ medals, three League Cup winners’ medals and two Champions League winners’ medals. He has two runners’-up medals from the Champions League, three FA Cup finals and two League Cup finals, as well as been part of the team five times when it finished second in the Premier League. In recent years, Giggs has captained the team on numerous occasions, particularly in the 2007–08 season when regular captain, Gary Neville was ruled out with various injuries.

Giggs has a number of personal achievements. He was the first player in history to win two consecutive PFA Young Player of the Year awards (1992 and 1993), though he did not win the PFA Player of the Year award until 2009. He is the only player to have played and scored in every season of the Premier League and he also holds the longest run of successive scoring seasons in UEFA Champions League history (11). He has been elected into the PFA Team of the Century in 2007, the Premier League Team of the Decade, in 2003, as well as the FA Cup Team of the Century. Giggs holds the record for the most assists in Premier League history, with 269.

At international level, Giggs played for the Welsh national team prior to his retirement from international football on 2 June 2007, and was once the youngest player to ever represent his country. Wales only played in the World Cup in 1958 under the tutelage of Jimmy Murphy, the former United assistant manager of Sir Matt Busby.

[1]“Ryan Giggs wins BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2009”

X – Alfredo Di Stefano (Argentina-Columbia-Spain)


Alfredo- di- Stefano

Alfredo Stéfano Di Stéfano Laulhé, born into a family of Italian immigrants from Capri, is a former Argentinian footballer and coach, widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time. He is mostly associated with Real Madrid and has been instrumental in their domination of the European Champions’ Cup during the 1950s, a period in which the club won the trophy in five consecutive seasons from 1956. Di Stéfano played international football mostly for Spain, but he also played for Argentina and Colombia.

Di Stéfano, nicknamed “Saeta rubia” (“blond arrow”), was a powerful forward with great stamina, tactical versatility and vision; who could play almost anywhere on the pitch. He is currently the fourth highest scorer in the history of Spain’s top division, and Real Madrid’s second highest league goalscorer of all time, with 216 goals in 282 league matches between 1953 and 1964.

In November 2003, to celebrate UEFA’s Jubilee, he was selected as the Golden Player of Spain by the Royal Spanish Football Federation as their most outstanding player of the past 50 years. He was named by Pelé as one of the “top 125 greatest living footballers” in March 2004 (in September 2009 he said Di Stéfano was the best argentinian player “ever”). Di Stéfano was voted fourth, behind Pelé, Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff, in a vote organized by the French weekly magazine, France Football consulting their former Ballon d’Or winners to elect the Football Player of the Century.

XI – George Best (Northern Ireland)


George Best

George Best (22 May 1946 – 25 November 2005) was a footballing great from Northern Ireland, who played for Manchester United and the Northern Ireland national team. He was a winger whose game combined pace, acceleration, balance, two-footedness, goalscoring and the ability to beat defenders. In 1968, he won the European Cup with Manchester United, and was named the European Footballer of the Year. When fit, he was an automatic choice for Northern Ireland, but he was unable to lead them to World Cup qualification, despite being capped 37 times and having scored nine goals.

In 1999, he was voted 11th at the IFFHS European Player of the Century election, and 16th in the World Player of the Century election. Pelé named him as one of the 125 best living footballers in his 2004 FIFA 100 list and Best was named 19th, behind Gerd Müller, at the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll. In his native Northern Ireland, the admiration for him is summed up by the local saying: “Maradona good; Pelé better; George Best.”

He was one of the first celebrity footballers, but his extravagant lifestyle led to problems with alcoholism, which curtailed his playing career and eventually led to his death in November 2005, at the age of 59. His cause of death was multiple organ failure brought on by a kidney infection, a side effect of the immuno-suppressive drugs he was required to take after a liver transplant. In 2007, Gentlemen’s Quarterly magazine named him as one of the 50 most stylish men of the past 50 years. In 2011, he was voted ‘Best Manchester United Footballer On Earth’.


Krishnendu Sanyal is a Manchester United fan and worships Sir Alex Ferguson and Roy Keane. Krish is a management grad by education and an accidental entrepreneur by occupation. He can be reached on twitter @kriacked or at

Worst XI Soccer Injuries

The Best XI section is an attempt to connect similar football events across different locations and share them with you. Best XI will seek to be about topics you are interested about and want explored. Send in your topics for the month of December to and we will incorporate that.


FIFA Law 12 Serious foul play says:

“A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.

A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play.

Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play unless there is a clear subsequent opportunity to score a goal. The referee must send off the player guilty of serious foul play when the ball is next out of play.

A player who is guilty of serious foul play should be sent off and play is restarted with a direct free kick from the position where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick) or a penalty kick (if the offence occurred inside the offender’s penalty area).”

So one may defend his/ her superhero saying football is a body-contact game and that the player in question was not showing malicious intent. The crux of the fact remains that the one at the receiving end has been robbed of his living, his career and may be, his dream.

This edition, Best XI brings the darker side of football. The worst XI tackles ever seen on a football pitch

 1. Roy Keane on Alf Inge Haaland

Roy Keane missed most of the 1997–98 season because of a cruciate ligament injury, caused by an attempt to tackle Leeds United player, Alf-Inge Haaland in the ninth Premier League game of the season. As Keane lay prone on the ground, Haaland stood over Keane, accusing the injured United captain of having tried to hurt him and of feigning injury to escape punishment; an allegation which would lead to an infamous dispute between the two players four years later. They made headlines again in the 2001 Manchester derby, a game in which Alf-Inge Haaland played.

Five minutes from the final whistle, Keane was sent off for a blatant knee-high foul on the Norwegian in what was seen by many as an act of revenge. He initially received a three game suspension and a £5,000 fine from the FA, but further punishment was to follow after the release of Keane’s autobiography in August 2002, in which he stated that he intended “to hurt” Haaland. Keane’s account of the incident was as follows:

“I’d waited long enough. I f***ing hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that you c**t. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.”

An admission that the tackle was in fact a premeditated assault, it left the FA with no choice but to charge Keane with bringing the game into disrepute. He was banned for a further five matches and fined £150,000 in the ensuing investigation. Despite widespread condemnation, he later mentioned in his autobiography that he had no regrets about the incident, “My attitude was, f**k him. What goes around comes around. He got his just rewards. He f**ked me over and my attitude is an eye for an eye.”

2. Martin Taylor on Eduardo

On 23 February 2008, in the third minute of Birmingham’s home match against Arsenal, Taylor committed a foul on Croatian international striker Eduardo da Silva as a result of which Eduardo suffered a compound fracture to his left fibula and an open dislocation of his left ankle. He received treatment on the field for seven minutes before undergoing surgery at a local hospital, and was transferred to a London hospital the following day. The injury was so disturbing that Sky Sports, who were broadcasting the game live, decided not to show replays of the incident. Taylor was sent off for the offence.

In his post-match interview, Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger called for a life ban for Taylor, but retracted his remarks later that day, admitting they had been excessive and made in the heat of the moment. Shortly after the match, Birmingham City issued a statement asserting Taylor’s lack of malicious intent and his distress at the injury, and sending their best wishes to Eduardo.

At president Sepp Blatter’s personal request, FIFA’s disciplinary chairman reviewed the matter, suggesting that the Football Association increase Taylor’s punishment from the standard three-match ban; they refused to do so as there was no suggestion of intent.

3. Abou Diaby on John Terry

On 25 February 2007, while participating in the 2007 Football League Cup Final against Chelsea, Diaby, while attempting to clear the ball out of the Arsenal defence, accidentally kicked rival defender John Terry in the face. Unconscious, Terry was stretchered off and hospitalized, but recovered to return to the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff for the trophy presentation following Chelsea’s 2–1 win. Though Arsenal lost, Diaby was credited with an assist on the team’s only goal of the match, which was converted by Theo Walcott.

It is still open to debate whether Diaby in fact committed a tackle, or in the circumstances the boot was high enough to be deemed dangerous play. To be fair to Diaby, he was trying to clear the ball from a natural position and there was no way he could have anticipated the consequence. But John Terry would have taken it with a pinch of salt.

4. Michael Brown on Ryan Giggs

On 2006-07 season, Michael Brown came under criticism from the media for a two footed lunge on Manchester United player Ryan Giggs, however as Brown was booked for the incident no further action could be taken. Brown had also been involved in media controversy later for some of his tackling, most notably tackles on Ashley Cole and Sean Davis.

5. Denis Irwin on David Busst

David Busst’s short lived playing career came to an end on 8 April 1996, whilst playing for Coventry against Manchester United. Two minutes into the match, having ventured forward after his team won a corner, Busst collided with United players Denis Irwin and Brian McClair, resulting in extensive compound fractures to both the tibia and fibula of his right leg. The match had to be delayed for 12 minutes while blood was cleaned off the grass. It is reputed that Manchester United’s goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel vomited on the pitch upon seeing the injury and had to undergo counseling afterwards, along with a number of other players. The injury is often cited as one of the worst in the history of football.

Busst’s injuries were so bad that at one point he ran the risk of having his leg amputated. While in hospital, Busst contracted MRSA, which caused further damage to the tissue and muscle in the injured part of his leg. Despite having 26 operations, Busst remained a member of the official Coventry squad for a further seven months, but never played again and retired from the game following advice from his doctors on 6 November 1996 at the age of 29. It was however, not the break that ended his career, but the infections he suffered afterwards.

His testimonial match, played on 16 May 1997 against Manchester United, was a sell-out.

6. Harald Schumacher on Patrick Battiston

Harald Schumacher, of then West Germany, is best remembered for a highly controversial incident in the 1982 FIFA World Cup semi-final against France when he collided with and seriously injured French defender Patrick Battiston. Battiston had just Schumacher to beat after a through ball from Michel Platini, but shot wide of the goal. Instead of trying to defend the shot, Schumacher appeared to jump directly at Battiston, and collided with him in mid-air. Battiston was knocked unconscious, and later slipped into a coma. He also lost his two front teeth and had a damaged vertebra. He received oxygen on the pitch. Michel Platini later said that he thought that Battiston had died, because “he had no pulse and looked pale”. The Dutch referee Charles Corver did not award a free kick for the incident. Schumacher then proceeded to take the goal-kick and play resumed. Germany would eventually go on to win the game on penalty kicks after the match was tied at 3–3.

After winning the game, the goalkeeper caused more controversy when he was told that Battiston had lost three teeth, and replied: “If that’s all that’s wrong with him, I’ll pay him the crowns.” Schumacher later apologised in person to Battiston, and the apology was accepted by Battiston.

A French newspaper poll asked who was the least popular man in France, and Schumacher beat Adolf Hitler into second.

When West Germany and France met again in World Cup 1986, Battiston said that the incident was “forgiven and forgotten”. However, he said that he was wary of getting “close to Schumacher” and said that he would hold a distance of at least 40 meters from the German goalkeeper. Schumacher would mostly refrain from commenting on the incident.

In his autobiography, Anpfiff, published in 1987, Schumacher said the reason he did not go over to check on Battiston’s condition was because a number of French players were standing around Battiston and making threatening gestures in his direction.

7. Felix Muamba-Musasa on Buti Ngulube

This comes with a caution: Not for the faint hearted.

In a ghastly incident from South African Premier Soccer League game on 24 May  2009 between the Mpumalanga Black Aces FC and the Carara Kicks, Buti Ngulube had his leg broken into half causing a “tranverse break” of a tackle by Felix Muamba-Musasa.

Both were chasing a 50-50 ball down the sideline, Ngulube had the first touch but caught Musasa’s trailing boot. Musasa was given a red card immediately. Federation inflicted further an eight game suspension on charges of misconduct relating to unsportsmanlike behaviour and assault.

8. Ben Thatcher on Pedro Mendes

Thatcher gained notoriety on 23 August 2006, in a game between Manchester City and Portsmouth. Whilst challenging with Pedro Mendes for a loose ball, Thatcher viciously and intentionally led with his elbow, knocking Mendes into the advertising hoardings rendering him unconscious. In the immediate aftermath, Thatcher is seen to be indignant and visibly irate with his now prostrate, motionless opponent. Mendes required oxygen at pitchside and suffered a seizure while being transferred to hospital, where he spent the night. Mendes was discharged from hospital the next day, but remained under medical supervision. Thatcher, who issued a written apology to Mendes, was investigated by the FA as a result of the challenge. He was disciplined and his barrister, Rupert Bowers, read a written apology following the hearing. Greater Manchester Police noted receipt of many “statements of complaint” and also chose to investigate the matter. On August 30, Manchester City announced that Thatcher would be banned for six matches, two of which would be suspended and fined six weeks’ wages for the challenge. This punishment is separate from the sanctions made by the FA, who suspended Thatcher for eight matches, with a further fifteen game suspended ban for two years.

The incident was the second time in less than three weeks that a Thatcher elbow had hospitalised an opponent, following an incident on August 4 in a pre-season tour of China, when his challenge caused a career-threatening collapsed lung for Yang Chungang, a 20-year-old midfielder from Shanghai Shenhua. Thatcher also faced possible action from Lancashire Police over a clash with ex-Blackburn Rovers player Ralph Welch; during a reserve game at Ewood Park in February 2006.

9. Commins Menapi on Riki Van Steeden

In the 2006-2007 season, Commins Menapi became the first player to be sent off in a New Zealand Football Championship Grand Final with a nasty studs up kick on Auckland City defender Riki van Steeden. Van Steeden’s leg was broken in the incident and Waitakere United lost the final 3-2. However, he would not be suspended for the OFC Champions League final against Ba F.C. because of the OFC and New Zealand Football being two separate organizations.

10. Rachid Bouaouzan on Niels Kokmeijer

In his second season, while playing in the Eerste Divisie, Bouaouzan reached the Dutch news headlines due to a heavy foul on Niels Kokmeijer, his opponent playing for Go Ahead Eagles on December 17, 2004. Kokmeijer’s leg was broken badly and he was subsequently forced to retire from professional football. Sparta Rotterdam suspended Bouaouzan for the rest of the season, which was more than the 10 match ban the KNVB awarded him. Besides that he was taken to court by the Dutch government for battery, a unique moment in Dutch football history. Bouaouzan was sentenced to a conditional six months in jail. In April 2008 the highest Dutch court confirmed this.

At the end of the season Sparta Rotterdam qualified for the play-offs where Bouaouzan returned on the pitch. In the last and final play-off match, Bouaouzan scored Sparta’s winning goal over Helmond Sport, thus securing them a spot in the Eredivisie for 2005–06.

11. Boris Johnson on Maurizio Gaudino

Let us end this grave article on a jovial note.

Maurizio Gaudino is a retired German football midfielder. He was capped five times for Germany in 1993 and 1994, and was in their squad for the 1994 World Cup. Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson is a British journalist and Conservative Party politician, who has been the elected Mayor of London since 2008.

So the remotest of chances they would ever meet on football pitch was to be in a charity match.

In 2006, in a charity football match between England and Germany, consisting of celebrities and former players, Boris Johnson came on as a substitute for England in the 85th minute, and infamously rugby tackled former German international Maurizio Gaudino, in a vain attempt to win the ball with his head.