The Last Chance Saloon

Last updated : 02 March 2002 By Rich Godden
With this seasons competitions seemingly the most open in years they all must feel that they are in with a shout.

Laurent Blanc has won nearly everything at both club and international level. But after a poor season at Inter Milan last year, which saw them miss out on a Champions League berth, Blanc is back on the big stage with Manchester United. Upon his arrival at Old Trafford, Blanc said, “I am happy and honoured to end my career in a club like Manchester United and to have the opportunity to win many more titles”. So far things could not have gone much worse since his arrival: United have been conceding goals for fun and it appears that the jury is already out on Blanc despite a recent revival by the Red Devils that has seen them rise to the top of the Premiership. Blanc openly admits that he is not the quickest of defenders but it has been his ability to read the game that has made his career so successful. Replacing Jaap Stam was never going to be easy but Blanc is the man whom Fergie thinks will bring him success in his final year as manager at Old Trafford. Could Fergie have conjured up yet another masterstroke or will his final year as coach at United end with a Blanc trophy cabinet?

In the 90's you would have been hard pressed to find a better midfielder than Andreas Möller. Having won both the World Cup and European Championships at international level for Germany, he also has a hatful of domestic and European medals to his name. His time at Borussia Dortmund was highly successful following on from his exciting presence in Juventus' UEFA Cup winning side of 1993. At Dortmund he won a Champions League medal in 1997 after ousting his former club Juventus from their highly coveted status as champions of Europe, not to mention a share of domestic honours that any player would be proud of. Nowadays, he finds himself out of the German national side after retiring to concentrate on his new side Schalke and making them a European force as he did at Juventus and Dortmund. Only a final day collapse last season saw them miss out on a Bundesliga title, which they thoroughly deserved to win after playing some magnificent football. Möller has never been a popular player in the eyes of rival fans but his creativity in the playmaker role has made him a hero with the fans of all of the clubs that he has graced with his presence. Schalke have not started this campaign too well but they cannot be written off, with Möller's magic always a threat.

After a glittering career, spanning 14 years, it seems likely that Fernando Hierro will cut short his career at the end of the 2003 campaign after he opted to extend is current contract by just a year. On the matter of Hierro's unique contract, Real Madrid sporting director Jorge Valdano said, “The contracts follow our guidelines for this season which means that some of the player's payments will be fixed and a substantial part will vary according to results”. Although this news has delighted Real Madrid fans, who thought Hierro had just one more season left in him, he will be sorely missed not just on the field but off it as well. The influential Hierro has never let his side down and will not go out without a bang. And after Real's £48 million capture of Zinedine Zidane, eager for European success after failing to win the Champions League in 5 seasons at Juventus, it seems certain that Hierro will add yet more medals to his vast collection. In his 12 years at Real, many of which have been as captain, Hierro has won an astonishing five league titles, two Spanish Cups, two Champions League Trophies and the Inter-Continental Cup. This makes up for a lack of success with the Spanish National side, who have failed on the big stage at each of the five major championships that Hierro has played at. During his time with Spain, Hierro has collected over 80 caps whilst scoring 27 goals, the most scored by a Spaniard, all this despite being a defender. With Spain having already booked their place at the 2002 World Cup in Japan & South Korea, there is all to play for in what could prove to be a memorable final few seasons for Fernando Hierro. However, niggling injuries could bring an early end to Hierro's career after the World Cup.

After announcing his retirement from international football shortly after Euro 2000, Arsenal captain Tony Adams revealed that the 2001/02 season would be his last in football. At a press conference, Adams revealed the factor behind his decision, “I've given a lot of time and effort to this football club and I think it might be time to see my family”. Arsenal fans were left devastated by the news. For years Adams has been a part of some of Arsenal's most famous triumphs: the last minute championship win in 1989; the famous domestic cup double in 1993 followed by a Cup Winners' Cup triumph against Parma the following year. But the crowning moment of Adams' success at Arsenal was summed up in 1998- the league and cup double, Adams himself clinching the Premiership title with the fourth goal in a 4-1 demolition of Everton. Fortune has not favoured Arsenal in recent years, with the Gunners finishing as runners-up to Manchester United for the past three seasons and falling in the finals of the UEFA Cup in 2000 and the FA Cup in 2001. Adams has missed much of the past few seasons down to niggling injuries which just won't go away. And with continued failure in the Champions League, Arsenal have got to prove the doubters wrong this year- with Adams leading by example as usual.