Amongst the many blessed and talented careers in football, there are always players who rise above the rest and are remembered for having that extra special relationship with their club.

Players that stick with less successful teams and sacrifice money and trophies, tend to leave special legacies that show their love for a club through their loyalty and commitment. Of course, the successful teams leave another type of legacy that all in sport aspire to: one of glory that only winners enjoy.

There is always one talisman linked with a great team. We look at the great teams in the history of European football and when we name a team, the name of a great player always follows.

Real Madrid of the 50s- Ferenc Puskas; Ajax of the early 70s- Johan Cruyff; Bayern Munich of the mid 70s- Franz Beckenbauer; Liverpool in the late 70s and early 80s- Kenny Dalglish; AC Milan in the late 80s and early 90s- Marco Van Basten, and now with the great Barcelona history will remember Lionel Messi.

These players and their deeds have been well documented in European Football. Let us take a look at some other men who transcended the player/club relationship.

Gabriel Batistuta, Fiorentina, 1991-2000

A record 168 goals in 269 Serie A matches for Fiorentina doesn’t tell anything like the full story. This was a love affair on an epic scale, kindled when Batistuta -already an Argentina international – stayed at the club after relegation in 1993, scoring 16 times as they were promoted at the first attempt. The following season, he scored in each of the first 11 games of the season, breaking Enzo Pascutti’s 30 year old record, and went on to finish as top scorer as Fiorentina won the Coppa Italia. When he left, it was with the blessing of a crowd who recognised his right to seek a league title which he did in his first season at Roma. In 1996 fans honoured him with a life size bronze statue behind the goal at Artemio Franchi.

Gary Rowell, Sunderland 1974-1984

Lord Rowell as he is known on Wearside, was the genuine local boy made good – a supporter who grew up to score over a hundred goals for his home town club, mostly whilst the team bounced between the old Divisions 1 and 2. Rowell’s staggering popularity with the Wearside faithful was demonstrated when he received a hero’s ovation at the Sunderland vs Norwich League Cup Final at Wembley in 1985 – despite having transferred to Norwich at the start of the season! Rowell’s name is still sung at Sunderland games 27 years after he left the club, with supporters proud to claim (to the tune of ‘Yellow Submarine’) that “we all live in a Gary Rowell world”.

Johnny Haynes, Fulham 1952-1970

Fulham are a small London club, more noted for their pretty ground on the Thames than their football. They never won a trophy and yet for 18 years they boasted the man Pele called the best passer of a ball he had ever seen – Johnny Haynes. Players tended to be more loyal then and it helped when the abolition of the maximum wage in 1961 saw his salary rise 400 per cent to 100 GBP a week, but Haynes could easily have made that and more elsewhere.

Matt Le Tissier, Southampton 1986-2002

Known by Saints fans as ‘Le God’, Le Tissier played his entire professional career for the small south coast club despite his sublime skills attracting attention from many larger clubs. The Saints continually defied the odds to stay in the top division of English football. His fearsome reputation for scoring spectacular goals and an amazing record from the penalty spot (he scored 48 of 49 attempts) never went to his head, with him once describing his deceptive pace, “I’m actually slower than I look.” This sense of humour and his enduring loyalty to his first and only club, ensured that Le Tissier will never have to buy a drink in Southampton.

Ramazan Tavsancioglou 2005-2011

Bringing things closer to home ‘Rama’ wore his heart on his sleeve in every game he played for South Melbourne FC. He exited the club after Eddie Krncevic was appointed head coach in 2011 but fans could not forget his special relationship with the club and continued to sing his name even after he joined arch rivals Oakleigh Cannons.

Every club in every league, in the four corners of the globe has special players that seem to mean more to the fans and become heroes to the legions but as time goes on and the landscape of football and life changes these type of relationships between player and fans are less likely to occur. For every Steve Gerrard there are ten Fernando Torres and whilst the latter line their pockets for personal fortunes it the former that the fans and history tend to remember.

We salute these special players.