11 Times Futera Brought You Boss-Level Rookies
We’re reminiscing about some top-level Futera rookies from yesteryear to show you just a small sample size of all the times we debuted a star.
We want to take you back on a mystical journey through the footballing archives to look at some incredible players we were the first to feature on a sports trading card.
All of the players on this list have gone on to create magical moments in the game, as well as racking up a bunch of appearances. However, in this blog, the only appearance we’re interested in is their first time on a Futera card.
Before we start waxing lyrical about these awesome Futera rookies, how about we quickly catch you up on what a rookie card is.
What are rookie cards?
If you’re a pro in the game of card collecting you can skip to number No. 1 on our list. But if you’re new here we’re conscious that you might not know your rookies from your 1 of 1s, so here’s a very brief description.
A rookie card in football is generally the first time an athlete has featured on their own trading card. Usually this moment comes when they’ve made it to first team performance levels.
Generally, in this blog we’re looking at Premier League legends where Futera was the first publisher to feature those players on a trading card as they broke through the ranks at their respective clubs.
Although look out for number 2 on the list, he’s the fox in the Premier League hen-house.
1. Jamie Carragher
The ex-Liverpool legend has now turned his attention to winding up Gary Neville every weekend as part of Sky Sports punditry team. However, before that he was a thoroughbred Premier League defender with three League Cup, two FA Cup, and two European Super Cup honours, as well as a UEFA Cup and Champions League winners medals swinging merrily in his trophy cabinet.
Over his glittering career as a stalwart of the Reds’ backline, Carragher made 737 appearances and pulled on the famous three lions 38 times too.
But back in 1998, Carragher made, arguably, his most important appearance yet, as he graced his first trading card. We published the Jamie Carragher rookie card as part of our Liverpool collection that year.
2. Robert Lewandowski
Everyone who’s anyone knows about the rangy Polish striker. He may be 33-years young with over 650 league appearances in Germany and Poland under his belt, but the giant goalscorer is still doing just that. In fact, this season alone he’s already racked up 22 matches scoring a whopping 27 goals.
So, we’re delighted to say that we were the first to commit the big man to card. Back in the heady days of 2010, people were delighted at the latest gadget - the Apple “iPad - moaning about the “Lost” finale, and singing along to “Like a G6”. What a time to be alive.
Meanwhile, we confidently created the Lewandowski rookie card, adding the fresh-faced target man as a Future Stars Card in our World Football collection. I think we can all agree we got that one right…
3. Harry Kewell
While Lewandowski might still be gracing football pitches across Germany and the world, Harry Kewell has since hung up his boots. But here we’re more concerned with the start of his career than what he’s doing now.
The Kewell Futera rookie card first hit the shelves as part of our 1997/98 Leeds United Fans’ Selection collection. That first edition proudly states the Australian midfielder had made 14 appearances so far that season, scoring twice.
Kewell would, of course, go on to make hundreds more appearances for clubs across the world including Liverpool, Galatasaray, Al-Gharafa, Melbourne Victory, and Melbourne Heart.
4. Mark Viduka
Staying with the Aussie/Leeds connection for a moment, we come to another Premier League legend who first appeared in the trading card space as a result of his Futera rookie card.
Mark Viduka was a fans’ favourite over at Elland Road for four years back in the early Noughties. But we first featured him when he was donning the red shirt of Melbourne Knights circa ‘94.
The bio on the back of that first card hailed Viduka as a “classy striker” and prophetically predicted that the big man was “Destined for a career overseas”.
Shine overseas he did. His career in England saw him amass 240 appearances and 92 goals for Leeds, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United.
5. Stan Lazaridis
Completing an unexpected Australian trio in this collection of stellar Futera rookies is Stan Lazaridis. Probably one for the older generation, but no less impressive.
In that same Australian NSL Collection which saw us feature young Viduka, came a similarly fresh-looking Lazaridis. We commented in the card’s bio that the diminutive midfielder was just off the back of a breakout season in the NSL with West Adelaide and a big fan of beating defenders down the left flank.
Those qualities served him well as he went on to make 260 appearances in England, shared out between West Ham United and Birmingham City, from 1995 to 2006. After that spell in the West Midlands. Lazaridis returned to his native Australia with Perth Glory.
6. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Next up on our list of awesome Futera rookies is a name passed down through Premier League goalscoring folklore. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink terrorised defences up and down the league from 1997 onwards.
Either side of a brief spell in Spain with Atletico Madrid, Hasselbaink smashed them in for Leeds, Chelsea, Middlesbrough, and Charlton Athletic. He also turned out for Cardiff City, rounding off his career with seven goals in 36 appearances for the Bluebirds.
But, while he would go on to secure his Premier League legend status, winning two Golden Boot awards, we first featured him on his original stint in England. That ‘97/’98 Leeds Fans’ Selection run is starting to look like one heck of a collection as Hasselbaink joined Kewell on the list of rookies to be uncovered from the deck.
7. Nicolas Anelka
From one former striker with 100 Premier League goals under his belt to another now. With three FA Cup, two Premier League, and two Champions League medals in his locker, Nicolas Anelka is a big name.
Anelka’s 125 Premier League strikes came with a clutch of sides including Chelsea, Manchester City, West Bromwich Albion, Bolton Wanderers, Liverpool and, of course, Arsenal – where it all began.
In fact, it was while he was with the Gunners that we first added the Frenchman to card. The ‘97/’98 Arsenal Fans’ Selection collection featured Anelka on a puzzle card with Martin Keown and Tony Adams. But, if that doesn’t count, we also made him the main man on another card in that run too. That little Anelka number is now going on eBay for over $70.
8. Jonathan Greening
Now, Jonathan Greening’s career was a little less goal-strewn than that of Messrs Viduka, Hasselbaink and Anelka. But we’d have the Englishman general patrolling the Futera United midfield any day of the week.
Through his Premier League career, Greening made a whopping 252 appearances for Manchester United, West Brom, Middlesbrough, and Fulham.
However, his card-based debut came as part of our 2000 Man Utd Fans’ Selection Collection at a time when Sir Alex Ferguson had moved him into the Red Devils’ midfield for their pre-season tour to the Far East.
9. Wes Brown
So far in our countdown of top Futera rookies you might have noticed a distinct lack of defenders. However, lining up at the back alongside Carragher in our collection is Wes Brown.
During his time with United and Sunderland, Brown managed to rack up over 300 Premier League appearances. Plus, the stoic centre-half also has a whopping five League winners medals to his name– more than anyone on our selection so far.
Brown’s rookie card is actually kind of a big deal too. The defender hadn’t appeared before, that is until we released our Platinum Manchester United collection to celebrate the Red Devils’ Treble success in 1999.
10. John O’Shea
Joining Brown in our rookie selection is another Manchester United and Sunderland stalwart, John O’Shea. It was in our 2001 Man United FX collection that O’Shea made his trading card bow.
The card itself names O’Shea as a Man United one to watch following his return from a loan spell on the south coast with Bournemouth.
The former Ireland International has earned his reputation as a Premier League legend after racking up a total of 445 appearances.
11. Nolberto Solano
Here's a man who needs no introduction to Newcastle, Aston Villa, and West Ham fans. Probably the best Peruvian to ever grace the league, Nolberto Solano or “Nobby” was a cult hero in the North East during his time with the Magpies.
But with over 300 appearances in the Premier League, his wingback wizardry, free-kick finesse and pinger of a left-peg have ensured Nobby’s legend reverberates around the minds of Premier League fans to this day.
Much the same as a few names on this list, it was another Fans’ Selection run which gave the infamous Peruvian his trading card debut. We featured Solano in our 1999 Newcastle collection.
We think you’ll agree that the list has some pretty stellar names on it. There would be a pretty heavy collection of accolades hanging in the collective trophy cabinet too, we think.
Of course it’s always cool to look back at great players, especially when we were the first to feature them. But, we’re not living in the past, we also have our eyes firmly fixed on today’s next big names. Check out who we’re tipping from the current crop of Barcelona youngsters to make it big.
On the other hand, we’ve featured a lot of Premier League players in this piece. But if you’d like to stay in the league, how about we tell you about six Man City prospects we think we’re going to be seeing a lot of going forwards? Our ‘Headliners’ releases introduce you to some of Pep’s future stars.