Here is the next installment of the series. I know, I know, the League ended almost a month ago. But at least four of these next five gents will be front and centre over the next month.
Liverpool: Dirk Kuyt (NED)
One of the few positives in Liverpool’s disastrous season, Kuyt gets mention for sheer effort… and lack of injury. With Alonso out the door and Torres and Gerrard spending too much time on the physio’s table, it was left to the Iain Dowie look-a-like to show some guts. Kuyt gave his all, game in and game out.
Future: The Dutchman is beloved by the Anfield faithful but he could join the potential exodus from Merseyside this summer.
World Cup-bound? Yes. Kuyt is competing with some superstars (Robben, Sneijder, Van Persie) for playing time on the Oranje. But he has a habit of scoring big goals for Holland. Watch for him this tourney.
Manchester City: Carlos Tevez (ARG)
The first player to move between Manchester teams since Terry Cooke in 1999, Tevez must have had it in his heart to prove his old boss wrong for letting him go. The Argentine scored more goals this season than he did in his previous two with United, leaving his fellow City strikers in the dust. Welcome to Manchester, indeed.
Future: The future looks bright for City… and Tevez should be their leading light.
World Cup-bound? Yes. But the striker now admits he may end up on the bench for a team that boasts an impressive front line, including Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, and Diego Milito.
Wayne Rooney (ENG)
With the departure of his team-mate and “friend” Cristiano Ronaldo, it was up to Rooney to step into the breach for United. Rooney did it as a serious contender for this season’s Golden Boot, laying waste to defenders and scoring some lovely goals. He looked on pace to snap Denis Law’s record for most goals in a single season by a United player, but an ankle injury at the beginning of April forced him out for two weeks, and he finished out the campaign without scoring again.
Future: Rooney no longer has to play feeder for the flamboyant Portuguese and that’s been reflected in his goal tally. At 24, he is already a United legend.
World Cup-bound? Yes, yes and yes again. Get in, son. (Sorry for the unbridled favouritism).
Portsmouth: Aruna Dindane (IVO)
Dindane was brought to Pompey as one of several hired guns, but he was never going to get that much action. His contract stipulated that if he played more than 21 games, the cash-strapped Pompey would have to pay Lens an extra 4 million pounds. But Dindane has made a career of doing a lot with a little, and scored nine times in all competitions. One wonders what he could have done, if he’d been allowed to play the entire season.
Future: Dindane has signed for a team in Qatar, which is where all football elephants go to die.
World Cup-bound? Yes, and with Ivorian superstar Didier Drogba out of the team, Dindane might get a chance to shine on the world stage.
Stoke City: Matthew Etherington (ENG)
Let’s face it: Stoke are boring to watch. They played to not lose and had the worst goal scoring record away from home in the league. But reformed gambler — and Hammer — Matthew Etherington had a good season. He led his team in both goals and assists (in the league‘s Top Ten, actually), which earned him the Potters’ Player of the Year.
Future: Etherington is frustrated he isn’t earning as much as some of his team mates. But after his rebirth at the Britannia, Stoke fans are praying he stays.
World Cup-bound? No. While he may have had an outside chance, the odds were that an England appearance was never in the cards for this left winger.
Up Next: Part IV, Sunderland to Wolverhampton — and then Part V: my Starting XI. That’s a lot of Roman numerals…