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We continue our countdown of our 50 best players of 2008-09, and at 41 is the man curiously famous for his teeth, Porto's French left-back, Aly Cissokho...


41. Aly Cissokho (Vitoria de Setubal & FC Porto)

40. Juan Sebastian Veron (Estudiantes & Argentina)

At this point last year no-one, not even his mother, would have possibly imagined that Aly Cissokho would be considered one of the most promising left-backs in the business 12 months on. But the truth is that from a player lost somewhere in France's second division to one that almost joined AC Milan, Cissokho's fairytale needed just 365 days to unfold.

Cissokho's story began on June 2 2008, when modest side Vitoria de Setubal announced the signing of the player on a three-year deal from FC Gueugnon, a club from the second division in France. It was a signing like many others, from a club struggling with financial problems and whose main goal is to stay in the top-tier of Portuguese football.

At the Estadio do Bonfim, he became a regular first-team member and his performances did not take long to catch the eye of FC Porto, who were desperate to find a left-sided defender as neither of the club's available options - Nelson Benitez and Jorge Fucile - were giving coach Jesualdo Ferreira any peace of mind.

On January 9 2009, Porto completed the signing of Cissokho for €300,000, less than 24 hours after he had turned in an eye-catching performance against the Dragons for the League Cup. Porto seemed to have finally found a quality piece for what was one of the weaker areas of their team, but Cissokho immediately rejected the thought of being a 'saviour'.

If not a saviour, he at least became a key member of Jesualdo Ferreira's side, automatically jumping into his first-team plans upon his arrival. His first glimpse of European football came against Atletico Madrid in the Champions League Round of 16, but it would be against Manchester United that he would shine the most.


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After an impressive performance against the Red Devils in a 2-2 draw at Old Trafford, speculation concerning Cissokho's future immediately began to surface, just three months after his arrival in Oporto. Another impressive display against United, now at the Estadio do Dragao, merely confirmed that there was definitely something about him.

Lyon, Tottenham Hotspur and Hamburg were some of the sides vying to sign Cissokho, who had become one of the most sought-after defenders in the game. The player, however, always distanced himself from those rumours, insisting that he was enjoying life with the Dragons.

Although Porto were out of the race for the Champions League trophy, domestically there was still the league and the Portuguese Cup to fight for. Cissokho would go on to help his club win both, with Porto topping the league by four points and claiming the cup with a 1-0 success over Pacos de Ferreira.

By the time the season came to an end, Cissokho was admitting he was "unsure" about his future at the Estadio do Dragao and on June 14, Milan moved in quickly to struck a €15m deal for the left-back. He appeared to be all set to sign for the Italian giants but just three days later, the deal was called off after a medical revealed a dental problem with Cissokho.

Now, after returning from his holiday, Cissokho says his mind is at Porto, but speculation continues to link Lyon with an interest in the Frenchman's services.

Is Cissokho good enough to play for a major European club? Definitely. He may be just our 41st pick but he deserved a spot in our Champions League team of the year despite playing just four games in the competition and that alone should prove his quality.

Porto are a side known for being good at doing business as well as developing their players, so staying at the Estadio do Dragao one more year may provide Cissokho with just the opportunity to grow and earn a deal from a title-winning side, which AC Milan have not been, in the summer of 2010.

2008-09 HONOURS

FC Porto
Portuguese League, 2009
Portuguese Cup, 2009

Luís Mira, Goal.com


41. Aly Cissokho (Vitoria de Setubal & FC Porto)





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