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Leo Messi: Genuinely the World's Best

by Al 12. January 2012 08:44

For Barcelona and Argentina's Leo Messi, life at the pinnacle of his profession is becoming routine. Winner of the Ballon d'Or for the third year in a row, there is no questioning his status as the world's best player. The 24-year-old has signed exclusively for Icons since 2006, and our relationship has gone from strength to strength ever since. The world's best player and the home of signed football memorabilia. It makes for a dream partnership.

We first met with Leo Messi as an 18-year-old on May 5th, 2006. The little Argentinian made his debut for both Barcelona and his country the previous season, but had made fewer than 30 first-team appearances in total. It was still more than enough to convince us he had a huge future. Below is a photo of Leo at that first ever signing in Barcelona. Since that day we have conducted six more exclusive signing sessions together. (We have also improved our photography skills considerably!)

Messi's footballing brilliance is not easy to put into words, suffice to say he is beyond hyperbole. A devastating combination of breathtaking speed and power, close control, and extraordinary technical ability lands him in a league of his own. For all his talent, even the outstanding Cristiano Ronaldo cannot get close. So inevitable was Messi's Ballon d'Or triumph that the Portuguese didn't even bother to attend at the ceremony in Zurich.

Messi's hat-trick of Ballon d'Or awards coincides with three consecutive La Liga wins for Barcelona. It's no coincidence. Since the beginning of the 2008/09 season, Messi has fired a remarkable 169 goals in 187 Barcelona appearances, with dozens of assists to boot. Never before has a player dominated world football quite like this at the tender age of 24. He has become only the fourth player to win the Ballon d'Or three times, alongside legends Marco van Basten, Michel Platini and Johan Cruyff. Messi will eclipse them all.

Along with dozens of individual accolades, Messi has accumulated five La Liga titles, three Champions League wins and a Copa del Rey. Indeed, the only piece of silverware missing from his sparkling CV is a World Cup with Argentina. At 24, however, he has time on his side. He will get further chances to emulate the feats of Pele and Diego Maradona at international level. In terms of pure ability though, he is more than a match for the pair of them already.

"Off the pitch I am just normal," said Messi in Zurich. And he's right. Humble, unassuming and polite, he is a pleasure to work with. On the pitch, however, he is unlike any footballer the world has ever seen.

Our most recent meeting with Leo came on December 5th of last year, just over a month ago (pictured below). You can view our fantastic range of personally signed Messi products - including home and away shirts, boots and photos - here.

Follow Icons on Twitter and Facebook for news on our signings, and a chance to win amazing signed football memorabilia!

A Year in Review: Luis Suarez

by Al 2. December 2011 05:27

2011 has been a whirlwind for Liverpool's explosive striker Luis Suarez. Following his £22.7m transfer from Dutch champions Ajax in January, Suarez has established himself as one of the most dangerous strikers in the Premier League and a worthy proprietor to Liverpool's iconic no7 shirt. This week we met up with the Uruguayan hotshot in London for our second signing session together. 

An unspectacular return of 11 goals in 29 appearances for Liverpool in 2011 does not tell the full story for Suarez. Boundless energy and enthusiasm combined with outstanding skill and technique have made him a Kop favourite. The fiery Uruguayan was an instant hit at Anfield, scoring 16 minutes into his debut against Stoke City in February. He has been Liverpool's shining light all year. He further endeared himself to Kopites with his first Merseyside derby goal against Everton in a 2-0 win in October.

Suarez has never been a character to shy away from the spotlight, and since his move to England he has made for compulsive viewing. Goals continue to arrive sporadically for the Uruguayan, but he has been at the heart of Liverpool's finest moments this year. When the ball is not at his feet, he is usually furiously barking orders at teammates or madly sprinting after lost causes. He has tireless endeavour to match sublime talent, and he has become one of the most entertaining (and controversial) players around.

While trophies at Liverpool remain a work in progress, Suarez has already tasted glory with Uruguay in 2011 at the Copa America in Argentina. One of the stars of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Suarez was similarly effective this summer in Argentina. He was named Player of the Tournament and scored four goals in total, including a brace in the semi-final against Peru and one in the final against Paraguay. His excellent form at international level continued when he sensationally netted all four of Uruguay's goals as they beat Chile 4-0 in a World Cup qualifier in early November. He now boasts 26 goals in 52 games for Uruguay, and it's surely only a matter of time before the floodgates open at Liverpool too.

We held our first signing with Luis back in March of this year, and we were delighted to catch up with him for a second time this week. Check out our superb new range of signed products from the Liverpool star.

The famous no7 shirt

Brand new Adidas boot

Trademark goal celebration

To view the full range click here

How much do you know about Ferenc Puskás?

by Al 23. November 2011 05:56

The announcement of FIFA's nominees for the Goal of the Year Award always creates a buzz at Icons. Football is our passion, and nothing gets our juices flowing like sensational goals. Leo Messi, Wayne Rooney, Zlatan Ibrahimovic - this year's list features some stellar names. But there is one man who knew more about scoring goals than any of them... We only wish we could have signed him up at Icons.

Ferenc Puskás was captain and chief magician of Hungary's great 'Magical Magyars' team of the 1950s and the most prolific European goalscorer of all time. Now, you may well be familiar with the name of the Real Madrid legend, but how much do you really know about Puskás? In 2009 the FIFA Goal of the Year Award was renamed in his honour. But before we take a look at all the nominees for the 2011 FIFA Puskás Award, we'll spare some time for the man who lent it his name.

In a remarkable career that lasted from 1943 until 1966, Ferenc Puskás - who passed away at the age of 79 in 2006 - scored 616 goals in 620 club games and 83 in 84 for Hungary. He won an Olympic gold medal, ten domestic titles in Hungary and Spain, and a trio of European Cups with Real Madrid. 

The short, stocky striker made his footballing breakthrough at Hungarian side Kispest, where he scored a remarkable 187 goals in 177 games between 1943 and 1949. Kispest became the Hungarian Army team in 1949 and changed its name to Budapest Honved, hence the nickname 'The Galloping Major' that Puskás later acquired. During the 50s Puskás - who had a sledgehammer of a left foot - scored 165 goals in 164 games for Honved, and thrived in a Hungary side that dominated world football.

The 'Magical Magyars' were Olympic Champions in 1952 and runners-up at the 1954 World Cup, where Puskás played (and scored) in the final against West Germany despite injury. In the years prior to that unfortunate 3-2 defeat, Puskás had been the inspiration behind an unbeaten run of 32 games by Hungary's 'Golden Team'. That run included the 'Match of the Century' against England at Wembley in 1953 in which Puskás scored a brace in a legendary 6-3 win. He scored two more when they hammered them 7-1 a year later in Budapest too. The Magyars were broken up after the Hungarian Revolution in 1956 and Puskás emigrated to Spain. After refusing to return to Hungary he was banned for two years by UEFA but eventually joined Real Madrid in 1958.

For an all-conquering Madrid side, Puskás smashed 242 goals in 262 games, winning the Spanish Pichichi four times in eight seasons. Between 1960-65 Puskás won five consecutive La Liga titles with Madrid. He won consecutive European Cups in his first two years in Spain too, and won it again in 1966. In 1962 he even turned out for the Spain's national side at the World Cup in Chile having taken Spanish nationality. Still a lethal force till the end, he finally retired at the age of 38 in 1966.

Back to the present now, and the list of nominees for the 2011 FIFA Puskás Award features some goals that the great man himself would be proud of. Watch them at the links below and let us know your favourite on Twitter @icons_football

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Benjamin De Ceulaer (Belgium)

Giovani Dos Santos (Mexico)

Julio Gomez (Mexico)

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

Lisandro Lopez (Argentina)

Leo Messi (Argentina)

Neymar (Brazil)

Heather O'Reilly (USA)

Wayne Rooney (England)

Dejan Stankovic (Serbia)

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Icons Legend of the Week #17: Robin Van Persie

by Al 21. November 2011 11:44

Icons will be conducting an exclusive signing session with Arsenal captain and talisman Robin Van Persie this week. One of the deadliest strikers in the world, we couldn't be happier to have the sensational Dutchman on board. Pre-order signed shirts, boots and photos now and have them in time for Christmas.

Arsenal's Robin Van Persie is blasting his way into the record books. With 31 goals in 29 Premier League games in 2011 – including ten in his last five – the masterful Dutchman is closing in on Alan Shearer's record of 36 goals in a calendar year. 

Van Persie is averaging 1.07 goals per game in 2011. No other player in Premier League history has sustained such a high rate of goalscoring over a full year. Indeed, back when Shearer set the record in 1995, his goals came at the lower rate of 0.87 per game. The same applies for Thierry Henry's 34-goal haul in 2004. In other words, what we are witnessing from the rampant Van Persie is unheard of in the Premier League. Statistically, the 28-year-old can claim to be the best striker the Premier League has ever seen.

Form is temporary but Van Persie – who inherited the Arsenal captaincy from the departed Cesc Fabregas this summer – has maintained this level of performance for nine months now (discounting the close season). This is not simply a man in form; this is a man cementing his status as one of the best players in the world. Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger has always seen Van Persie as the eventual successor to fellow Arsenal and Holland legend Dennis Bergkamp. It is now clear the comparisons are justified.

Van Persie is a graceful player, but the deft touches and subtle movement are complimented by utterly devastating finishing. Van Persie is a master of both power and finesse, and a frequent scorer of stunning goals. His game is varied and unpredictable, and although predominantly left-footed, his right foot – or "chocolate leg", as he affectionately terms it – has become an equally dangerous weapon in recent seasons.

Wenger brought Van Persie to Arsenal from Dutch side Feyenoord at a cost of £2.75m in 2004. He can count that purchase among his very best. While precociously gifted, however, the young Dutchman was temperamental and injury-prone. But Wenger is a man who knows how to extract the absolute best from his players. The ill-discipline has been tempered, and a more mature Van Persie now seems to have put the worst of his injury problems behind him.

Injuries have certainly proved Van Persie's biggest hurdle, and his progress at Arsenal has been stalled on numerous occasions since 2004. Until now, every one of his seasons in an Arsenal shirt has been blighted by injury. He counts a broken toe, a fractured fifth metatarsal, a recurrent knee injury and a twisted ankle among his worst, and has never once finished a season with 30 league appearances. Arsenal will be hoping this is the year that changes.

Injury prevented him from scoring his first goal until January last season, but since the floodgates opened the goals have continued to flow. He finished 2010/11 with 18, equalling the record held by Cristiano Ronaldo and Thierry Henry for goals between the turn of the year to the end of the season. That outstanding run also included goals in nine consecutive away games, and he finished only two behind joint leaders Dimitar Berbatov and Carlos Tevez in the race for the Golden Boot, despite only featuring in 25 games.

This season he leads the scoring charts with 13 goals from 12 games. Since surpassing 100 goals for Arsenal in October he has added another 10. He's now left with seven games to score the six goals required to beat Alan Shearer's calendar year record.

Whether he manages it or not, 2011 is sure to go down in Premier League history as Robin Van Persie's year.

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Five of the Best: Penalty Blunders

by Al 8. November 2011 12:01

Having already brought you a collection of great penalties in our 'Five of the Best' series, we now turn our attention to the other end of the spot kick spectrum. We have scoured the web in search of the worst penalties we could find, and these are the five we eventually settled on. Watch them. Laugh. Then watch them again.

*Remember to open video links in a new tab.

Roberto Baggio

Oh Roberto. The Divine Ponytail gets it all wrong here with one of the most infamous penalty misses of all time. After Italy and Brazil had served up a goalless 120-minute snoozefest at the USA '94 World Cup final, the game went to a penalty shootout. Baggio's dreadful deciding penalty brought to an end a dreadful final. Four years later he became the only Italian player to score at three World Cups, but he ended his career knowing he would never get closer to the trophy than that afternoon at the Rose Bowl.

Henry and Pires

Robert Pires and Thierry Henry's Laurel and Hardy moment. Two of the most skillful and elegant players ever to grace the Premier League combine for this truly embarrassing penalty cock up against Manchester City in 2005. The pair fail spectacularly as they attempt to recreate this classic 1982 Johan Cruyff penalty. Pires, unable to kick the ball forward to the onrushing Henry, shouldered most of the blame. Much to the relief of both parties, however, Arsenal were able to hang on to their slender 1-0 lead. A relieved Arsene Wenger reflected: "I felt disbelief. But Robert is a lucky boy because the team has not been punished." 

Amir Sayoud

Al Ahly's Amir Sayoud made a name for himself in September with this hilarious penalty blunder in an Egyptian Cup tie. Sayoud runs up, stalls, kicks the ground, slips, and scuffs the ball before falling flat on his face. He then receives a booking for his troubles.

Mehmet Aurelio

This could well be the worst penalty ever taken. Blasting a penalty high or wide is one thing, but Mehmet Aurelio - playing for Real Betis in the Spanish second division at the time - couldn't have hit the ball further away from the goal if he'd tried.

Diana Ross

Back to USA '94 for this one, as Motown Diva Diana Ross opens up the occasion in farcical fashion. After dancing her way up the pitch at a cringeworthy opening ceremony emceed, bizarrely, by Oprah Winfrey, Ross drags her penalty kick well wide of the goal. In accordance with the planned stunt, however, the goal spectacularly breaks in two anyway. It's a poor penalty from Ross, lacking power and accuracy and executed with poor technique. Maybe Oprah Winfrey would have done a better job?

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Five of the Best: Penalties

by Al 31. October 2011 11:10

Penalties are next up in our 'Five of the Best' series. From the World Cup final to Swiss football's 12th tier, this collection of spot kicks has something for everyone. What are your favourite penalties? Get in touch and let us know on Twitter or Facebook.

*Remember to open video links in a new tab.

Zinedine Zidane

This is the kind of sublime skill and audacity for which France legend Zinedine Zidane will always be remembered. At 0-0 in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy, the stage could hardly have been bigger. Zidane's final professional game was subsequently marred by his notorious sending off and France's eventual defeat, but with this wonderful penalty he became only the fourth player in World Cup history to score in two different finals. He was named the best player of the competition and awarded the Golden Ball. It was only a shame he couldn't lift the World Cup at the end of it all.

Ezequiel Calvente

The perfect 'switch-hit' penalty here from Spain Under-19s' Ezequiel Calvente at the 2010 European Championship in France. Shaping to hit the ball with his right foot, the Real Betis midfielder shifts to his left at the last second to send the keeper the wrong way. He might not have tried it had Spain not been 2-0 at the time, but we're very glad he did.

Joonas Jokinen

Former Finnish youth international Joonas Jokinen became an internet phenomenon when he executed a spectacular somersault as he smashed home a penalty for Swiss side FC Baar in April. An amateur outfit who play in the 12th tier of Swiss football, Baar were hosting rivals FC Sempach in a local derby, and what's more, it was 0-0 when this penalty was taken. We salute you, Joonas.

Joe Hart

This is not the first of our 'Five of the Best' series in which Joe Hart has featured (see the fifth video here). Indeed, the Manchester City and England stopper appears to be a man of many talents. Here he is stepping up for England Under-21s in the penalty shootout of their 2009 European Championship semi-final against Sweden. High and powerful into the roof of the net, he looks as comfortable taking penalties as he does facing them.

Xabi Alonso

An absolutely perfect penalty from Spain's Xabi Alonso in a friendly against Argentina in 2009. For the best view of this one watch the replay at 0.57 seconds.

...Oh, what the hell. Here's one more:

Morons in the park

Ouch.

Five of the Best: Manchester United Derby Moments

by Al 21. October 2011 09:47

Sunday sees the 161st Manchester derby take place at Old Trafford, with reigning Premier League Champions Manchester United looking to take three points and leapfrog their noisy neighbours into top spot. The Manchester derby has thrown up some iconic moments over the years, and having already recalled five great City moments, we turn our attentions to United.

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The Wayne Rooney bicycle kick

Prior to this wonder strike in February last season, Rooney had only managed five goals for United since August. Questions were being asked of United's talisman, but what a way to prove the old adage that while form is temporary, class is permanent. The scores were level at 1-1 in the 77th minute when Nani's floated cross sparked this magical moment of inspiration from Rooney. It was named Goal of the Season, and sent United eight points clear at the top of the table on their way to the title.

3-2 comeback at Maine Road

Brian Horton's City side were cruising at half-time in November 1993, 2-0 up courtesy of a Niall Quinn brace, but United's Eric Cantona-inspired second-half comeback made for one of the most remarkable derbies in memory. Sir Alex's side have developed something of a penchant for a dramatic comeback, and this ranks among their very best. Roy Keane's winner came right at the death, and judging by his celebration, he rather enjoyed it.

5-0 revenge at Old Trafford

In 1994, five years after the painful 'Demolition Derby' 5-1 defeat at Maine Road, Sir Alex and United exacted this sweet revenge. Ukranian Andrei Kanchelskis stole the show with a hat-trick, but Cantona's opener was superb too, as was Mark Hughes's finish at 1.30. This thrashing came at a time when United were completely dominant over City, who failed to record a single derby win during the nineties.

Michael Owen's 96th minute winner

Old Trafford explodes at Michael Owen's notorious 96th minute winner in September 2009. In one of the most gripping Manchester derby's of all time, City's Craig Bellamy looked to have snatched a point for the Citizens when he made it 3-3 in the dying minutes, but up popped substitute Michael Owen in the depths of Fergie time...

Gary Neville shuns Schmeichel

Ok, so it's not exactly Keane v Vieira, but here Gary Neville makes it abundantly clear to United legend Peter Schmeichel how he feels about his decision to join rivals City in 2002. Talk to the hand, Peter!

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Five of the Best: Manchester City Derby Moments

by Al 21. October 2011 04:38

With 22 points from a possible 24 so far this season, Roberto Mancini's Manchester City are enjoying their best start to a league season since 1897. The Sky Blues are top of the table and two points clear of Manchester United, but this Sunday's titanic clash at Old Trafford will put their ambitions to the test. With Sheikh Mansour's billions taking City to another level, the Manchester derby is more competitive than ever, and to honour this momentous footballing occasion, we've dug out five of City's best ever Manchester derby moments.

*Remember to open video links in a new tab or window.

The 2011 FA Cup Semi-final

We'll start with City's most recent highlight. A landmark 1-0 victory over United at Wembley sent the Citizens on their way to their first trophy in 35 years. Yaya Toure's winner (at 3.24) was the obvious highlight of their afternoon, but City fans might enjoy another viewing of Dimitar Berbatov's remarkable miss from three yards (0.40), and Paul Scholes' late sending off (5.15). All in all, not a bad day at the office for Roberto Mancini's side. 

The 1989 'Demolition Derby'

Events at Maine Road on 23rd September 1989 stunned English football. Newly-promoted City had won only one of their first six First Division matches, but that day they defied the odds to thump Sir Alex Ferguson's United 5-1. Fighting between rival fans spilled onto the pitch and delayed kick-off by ten minutes, but the result remains City's greatest ever derby win. Having spent large sums of money to bolster the United squad that summer, Ferguson was deemed fortunate to avoid the sack.

Denis Law's backheel

"I was inconsolable. I did not want to score the goal that sent United down," reflected Denis Law on the backheeled goal that (sort of) relegated his old club in 1974. After joining United in 1962, the Scot fired his way to legendary status at Old Trafford with 237 goals in 11 illustrious years. But after moving to City for one final season before his retirement, Law's return to Old Trafford turned out to be the ultimate heartbreaker... For him, that is. For City fans it was quite the opposite. Results elsewhere meant that United would have been relegated regardless, but for Blues it was the perfect way to see their rivals go down.

Gary Neville feeds the Goat

November 2002, and with the scores level at 1-1 in the final Manchester derby to be played at Maine Road, this awful blunder from Gary Neville - United captain for the day - gifted City's Shaun Goater a goal. City went on to win 3-1, and Neville's gaffe was immortalized in poem: "Derby day, the scores were level, then the Goat was fed by Neville".

Joe Hart is really, REALLY fast

Injury time at Eastlands in November 2008, and with City trailing 1-0, goalkeeper Joe Hart comes forward for a corner. He may look a little lost in the opposition's box, but when United launch a counter attack he knows exactly where he needs to be. Not only does he make up the entire length of the pitch at the speed of a 100-meter sprinter, he somehow manages to claw Wayne Rooney's 60-yard lob round the post. Incredible.

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Five of the Best: Goalie Goals

by Al 6. October 2011 10:01

When goalkeepers take matters into their own hands… or feet? 

There are few things more exhilarating in football than watching a goalkeeper sprint over the halfway line in injury time to join his team's last attack. Goalie goals are rare and wondrous things. Here at Icons we have been digging through the archives to bring you five of the best. Click on the names to watch the goals! 

*Remember to open video links in a new tab.

Pat Jennings

During the 1967 Charity Shield against Manchester United, Spurs' stopper Jennings became the first goalkeeper to score a goal in a televised match in England. Ball in hand in his own six yard box, the Northern Ireland international nonchalantly launched an enormous punt upfield. The ball bounced in front of his opposite number Alex Stepney, over his head and into the net. Cue some oddly subdued celebrations from the Spurs players.

Andres Palop

In injury time of their 2006/07 last-16 UEFA Cup tie against Shakhtar Donetsk, Spanish side Sevilla were in desperate need of a goal. With time slowly ticking away, the wonderfully named Andres Palop joined the attack for a last-ditch corner and sent Sevilla fans (and the commentators) bonkers with a header into the corner of the net. The Andalusians went on to win the trophy that year, with Palop the hero again, saving three penalties in the shoot-out in the final against RCD Espanyol.

Jimmy Glass (1.30 for the goal)

Carlisle United v Plymouth Argyle in 1999 was not a game expected to live long in the memory of football fans, but Carlisle's on-loan goalkeeper Jimmy Glass (pictured above) had other ideas. With just 10 seconds remaining and relegation to the Conference looming, Glass, playing his last game for the club, swept a loose ball home to keep Carlisle in the Football League, sending poor old Scarborough down in their place. Fantastic drama.

Anonymous

We have no idea who on earth this man is, but Leo Messi would be proud of this goal.

And finally... Jose Chilavert

You can't talk about goalie goals without a mention of Paraguay's goalkeeping goal-machine Jose Chilavert. This opportunist effort from inside his own half is one of his finest. Our Managing Director, Dan, met the man himself in Buenos Aires recently; here he is looking slightly larger than you may remember him...

(He's the one on the right)

Welcome

by Dan 28. November 2008 08:40

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About Icons Memorabilia

Welcome to the icons blog, we'll be regularly posting here about what's going on with our star signings and what new products have arrived

We love what we do so we'll also be talking about what's going on in the world of football and sport in general.

We'd really appreciate your feedback and comments too.

Cheers - The icons.com team.

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