Steve McClaren’s Newcastle United completed the signing of promising Serbian forward Aleksandar Mitrovic this week for an eye-opening fee of around £12.5m. The 21-year-old ‘wonderkid’ follows a long line of centre forwards who, since the retirement of the great Alan Shearer, have attempted to fill the goalscoring void at St James’ Park.
We at Shoot thought it might be a good idea to take a look back at some of these players and ask, where are they now?
But first, a little bit of context.
In 2006, Alan Shearer retired from professional football after scoring a Premier League record 260 goals in a career spanning two decades. At one time, Shearer held the record for the biggest transfer fee ever recorded – £15m in 1996 – and in the 2005-2006 season, he broke the all-time Newcastle United goalscoring record. He remains as one of the finest goalscorers to ever grace the British game.
Name: Michael Owen
Fee: (Real Madrid, £17.5m)
Then: In the summer of 2005, it took a last-minute intervention from Newcastle manager Graeme Souness to prevent Alan Shearer’s planned retirement. After some convincing, Shearer agreed to continue in a player-coach role until the end of the 2005-2006 season. However, this meant that a replacement for the powerhouse forward would have to be found sooner rather than later. In Spain, fellow England international Michael Owen had just finished his first season with Real Madrid. Despite scoring a credible 13 league goals, Owen knew his time at the club was limited as Madrid invested huge sums on the likes of Robinho and Julio Baptista. On August 25, 2005, Newcastle gave Owen his escape in a club-record transfer of around £17.5m. The media speculated that Owen made such a shock move so to guarantee game time in the build up to the 2006 World Cup. Unfortunately for Owen, an injury in the opening game of the said competition would leave him on the sidelines for almost a year. He would go on to play only three games in the 2006-2007 season.
Now: At his best, Michael Owen was untouchable on the football field. The former Liverpool star is perhaps one of the most underrated footballers to ever grace our game. Had injuries not prevented progression during his mid-twenties, Owen might now be regarded in the same light as the likes of Shearer and Lineker. However, he is abit of a forgotten man in that sense. In a career spanning 15 years, Owen scored a remarkable 163 league goals and averaged almost a goal every two games for his country. He currently works as the leading commentator for British broadcaster BT Sport.
Name: Obafemi Martins
Fee: (Inter Milan; £10m)
Then: Upon Shearer’s decision to retire and Owen’s continued injury problems, Newcastle needed to quickly fix the gaping hole in their forward line-up. Talented Nigerian forward Obafemi Martins had been continuously raising eyebrows around Europe since his debut for Inter Milan as an 18-year-old in 2002. The pacey forward looked like the ideal man to lead the Newcastle line for the considerable future. In his first season for the North East side, Martins scored a credible 17 goals in 46 appearances. Unfortunately for Martins, in his second season with the club, Newcastle’s new manager, Sam Allardyce, preferred to utilise the talents of Michael Owen and, as a result, Martins found himself frequently sidelined.
Now: Martins is now 30 and playing for Seattle Sounders FC in the MLS. He had three relatively successful seasons with Newcastle between 2006 and 2009, but struggled to fill the goalscoring boots of the great Alan Shearer. In 2009, Martins moved from Newcastle to Wolfsburg for a fee of close to £10m. He then had spells with Rubin Kazan, Levante and Birmingham City before moving to the Sounders. Throughout his career, Martins has faced accusations regarding his birth certificate. It has been claimed on several occasions that several Nigeria internationals, including Martins, have fabricated their ages in official documents. Whether or that’s true or not, we’ll probably never know!
Name: Mark Viduka
Fee: (Middlesbrough, free)
Then: Despite coming towards the end of an illustrious career, Australian legend Mark Viduka still appealed to Newcastle and, in the summer of 2007, became Sam Allardyce’s first managerial signing. The former Leeds United and Celtic forward had graced the Premier League since 2000 and, in that period, had scored over 80 goals. After Leeds United suffered a financial meltdown in 2004, Viduka became one of the first casualties, signing for Middlesbrough in time for the 2004-2005 season. During the 2005-2006 season, Viduka spearheaded Boro’s assault on Europe, helping the club reach an unprecedented UEFA Cup final.
Now: Since retiring in 2009, Viduka has stayed well out of the limelight. He was last pictured coaching the Melbourne Knights’ youth team back in his native Australia. According to former team-mate Stewart Downing, Viduka stands as the best player he’s ever shared the pitch with. His time at Newcastle was largely marred by injury. He was released after Newcastle’s relegation in the 2008-2009 season.
Fee: (Deportivo La Coruna, £5.7m)
Then: Very much like Mitrovic, Xisco was, in 2008, a 21-year-old ‘wonderkid’ plying his trade in Europe. The young Spanish Under-21 international had not long broken into the Deportivo La Coruna side and was somewhat of a steal for Newcastle in the summer of 2008. On deadline day 2008, Newcastle signed Xisco for a initial fee of £5.7 million, rising to £7 million. Just 12 days later, Xisco scored on his debut for the club. However, this fairytale start was short-lived. After only four months at the club, Newcastle attempted to sell Xisco only for the deal to be blocked by FIFA who did not allow for a player to be registered for three clubs in one season.
Now: Xisco has been voted as one of the worst strikers to ever grace the Premier League. Despite spending five years with the club, Xisco only ever featured in nine Premier League games, scoring once. After being released by Newcastle in 2013, Xisco moved back to Spanish football with Segunda Division side Cordoba. In 2015, after featuring sparsely, Xisco was loaned to RCD Mallorca where he managed to net nine goals in 16 games.
Name: Leon Best
Fee: (Coventry, £1.5m)
Then: By winning the Championship “Player of the Month” award for September 2009, Leon Best cemented his position as one of the top players outside the Premier division. Newly-relegated Newcastle United saw Best as the answer to their goal scoring problems. However, in his first season with the club, Best struggled to registered any goals and saw his position increasingly taken by the emerging Andy Carroll and the dependable Peter Lovenkrands. During the same season, Best managed to break into the Republic of Ireland’s starting line-up, often starting upfront alongside Robbie Keane.
Now: Best is currently looking for a club after being released by Blackburn Rovers. He has spent the last three seasons out on loan with several Championship sides. Unfortunately for the talented Republic of Ireland international, injury would prevent him from ever reaching his potential. Despite not registering in the 2009-2010 campaign, Best started the 2010-2011 season in the form of his life. In 11 Premier League games, Best netted an impressive six times! However, this bliss was short lived and, by March 2011, Best was on the injury table. On July 2012, Best was signed by Blackburn Rovers for a fee of around £2m. Just a month after signing, Best was again struck down by injury and, subsequently, struggled to break into the team. He has never quite managed to rediscover his scoring touch despite impressive natural ability.
Name: Demba Ba
Fee: (West Ham, free)
Then: The man with the glass knees…or that’s what Stoke believed anyway. In 2011, Stoke had agreed a fee with German side Hoffenheim for their star striker, Demba Ba. However, just weeks later, the move collapsed after Ba’s perceived knee problems meant he failed the medical. On January 28, 2011, West Ham swooped in on their man, signing Ba on a ‘pay as you play’ deal. After just 12 appearances for the club, Ba already had seven goals. Following the Hammers’ relegation to the Championship, Ba used an escape clause in his contract to move to Newcastle United. In his first season with the club, Ba scored a Shearer-esque total of 16 Premier League goals.
Now: Ba is currently playing for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese Super League after recently moving from Besiktas in the Turkish top division. In terms of his career with Newcastle, Ba remained in goalscoring form until 2013 when, to the shock of many, Premier League giants Chelsea snared the Toon’s star man for around £8m. His stay at Chelsea was short lived – just a season – and by 2014, Ba was a Beskitas player. In 44 games during the 2014-2015 season, Ba scored an impressive 27 goals, including five goals in the Europa League.
Name: Papiss Cisse
Fee: (Freiburg, £9m)
Then: Very much like Ba, Cisse was a proven goalscorer in the German Bundesliga but, at the same time, fairly unheard of. When Newcastle decided to sign him in the January window of 2012, many fans questioned his pedigree. However, it didn’t take long for Cisse to change their minds. In just 14 games for the club, he scored a staggering 13 goals. He had gone from a virtual unknown to one of the most feared strikers in Europe in just a four-month period. The highlight of this spell was Cisse’s “Goal of the Season” wonder-strike against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
Now: Newcastle fans had to pinch themselves when Cisse came on the scene in 2012. However, the goalscoring exploits unfortunately soon dissipated. In his following season, he managed a grand total of eight goals in the Premier League. However, in the 2014-2015 season, Cisse’s form looked to be back on track. In 22 Premier League games, the striker scored a credible 11 goals. In March 2015, he found himself on the back pages for the wrong reasons as he appeared to spit on his opponent, Manchester United’s Jonny Evans. He was subsequently banned for a total of six games. He remains with the Toon Army.
Name: Loic Remy
Fee: (Queens Park Rangers, loan)
Then: After QPR’s relegation from the Premier League in the 2012-2013 season, the transfer of the their star man, Loic Remy, seemed an inevitability. On August 5, 2013, Newcastle announced that they were signing Remy on a season-long loan. In his first year with the club, Remy wasted no time in adhering himself to the Geordie faithful. In just 27 Premier League games, Remy managed a credible tally of 14 goals. Come the end of the season, Remy’s form meant he was subject to several high profile bids. In July 2014, Liverpool activated Remy’s release clause of £8.5m and looked set to sign the talented Frenchman on a long-term contract.
Now: Unfortunately for Remy, his move to Liverpool couldn’t be completed because he failed the medical. However, Chelsea wasted no time in taking advantage of the situation and signed Remy in a 2014 deadline day deal. During the 2014-2015 season, Remy largely had to make do with a place on the substitutes’ bench due to the impressive form of Diego Costa. Yet, when called upon, Remy continued to hit the back of the net on a regular basis. In 21 league games for Chelsea, Remy netted a total of seven times. His unstable position at the club has seen him linked with several big-money transfers to fellow Premier League sides. Despite his manager, Jose Mourinho, stating that Remy is not for sale, Alan Pardew’s Crystal Palace remain interested in the France international.