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Football’s most memorable debuts

Armstrong and Mackay-Steven

Celtic new boys Gary Mackay-Steven and Stuart Armstrong marked their debuts for the Parkhead club on Wednesday night with a goal in each in the champions 3-0 away win at Partick Thistle.

Continuing the theme of successful debuts, Scottish Fans looks at five of the most memorable from world football;

Zinedine Zidane – France vs. Czech Republic, 1994

One of the greatest players ever to take to a football field had a typically impressive impact on his international debut for Les Bleu. 22 year-old Zidane, playing for Bordeaux at the time, started on the bench for this friendly, only months after a World Cup that France had infamously failed to qualify for.

The French found themselves 2-0 down however and turned to the young magician for inspiration, he did not disappoint. Zidane struck twice in quick succession late on, securing a draw and restoring a modicum of confidence to a national side bereft of it! Four years later of course, Zizou would make his greatest contribution to French football in Paris…

Wayne Rooney – Manchester United v Fenerbache, 2004

The current United captain is closing in on the club’s all-time goal-scoring record; rather fitting now considering that his debut at the club saw him register a hat-trick in his first ever Champions League match.

His long awaited debut had come later than hoped, with the England striker recovering from a metatarsal injury that had seen his European Championships cut short. For United fans though, the wait was well worth it. Rooney struck three times against the Turkish side, capping off his treble with a supremely confident free-kick. It would be almost another three years before Rooney won his first league title and truly began to fulfil his promise, but this cold night in Manchester was as romantic a debut as one could hope for.

Ronaldo – Real Madrid v Alaves, 2002

One could argue that the Brazilian superstar never reached his peak level whilst playing in Madrid. Injuries had already begun to plague his career and the heights he hit in Barcelona and Milan seemed to elude him in his remaining seasons. However, he made a huge impact on debut for the reigning, defending European champions.

Il Fenomeno was introduced against Alaves with a little over twenty-five minutes remaining, subsequently scoring twice in the remaining period, leaving the pitch to a standing ovation. Ronaldo would finish the season with a respectable 23 goals to his name, but his genius remained only fleeting.

Lionel Messi – Argentina vs. Hungary, 2005

Currently the second best player in the World and one of the greatest of all time, Messi’s international debut failed to mirror that of Zidane. Coming on as a substitute for forward Lisandro Lopez, Messi would be sent back from whence he came within a minute of his Argentina bow.

Picking the ball up and moving forward, Messi caught Hungarian opponent Vilmos Vanczak in the face with a flailing arm. The referee proceeded to blow his whilst, giving Vanczak a yellow card for a tug on Messi, but brandishing a red for the little maestro, 44 seconds into his debut.

Jonathan Woodgate – Real Madrid vs. Athletic Bilbao, 2005

Yellow card, own-goal, another yellow card. Off.

Jonathan Woodgate


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