Abel Xavier

Abel Xavier is a former Portuguese right back who was born in Nampula, Mozambique on 30th November 1972. He moved to Portugal as a youngster, where he was snapped up by Estrela da Amadora. After appearing for Portugal at the U17 World Cup in Scotland, Xavier made his club debut in 1990. He performed well for Estrela da Amadora for three years, earning himself a move to Benfica in 1993. That year also saw him make his full international debut. He helped Benfica to a league title win in 1994. In 1995 Xavier signed for Bari, but made just 8 appearances in Italy before moving to Real Oviedo a year later. His spell in Spain was much more successful, but in 1998 he was on the move again, joining Dutch giants PSV. Xavier picked up a Dutch Super Cup winners medal in his one and only season at the Phillips Stadion. On 14th October 1998 he scored his first international goal in a 3-0 win over Slovakia.

On 3rd September Xavier signed for Walter Smith's Everton. Smith cited Xavier's versatility as justification for the deal. He had previously been on trial at West Ham. Xavier made his debut in a League Cup tie at Oxford, and quickly became one of the most recognisable players in the country, due to his flamboyant bleached hair and beard. He wasn't bad on the pitch either. Xavier added an air of calm to the defence, and also looked good going forward. A successful first campaign at Goodison Park won him a spot in Portugal's Euro 2000 squad. He appeared against England in a 3-2 group stage win on 12th June, and also in the 2-1 semi-final defeat to France. Xavier was involved in controversy in that match after he gave away a penalty deep into extra time with a handball. He was subsequently banned from international football for nine months (later reduced to six on appeal) after an angry confrontation with referee Gunter Benko. Xavier had quotes attributed to him saying he was concerned that the length of the ban would reduce his transfer appeal, which naturally didn't go down too well with Everton and Walter Smith. He was initially dropped by the Toffees at the start of the 2000/01 season, but made his way back into the team following an injury crisis. Xavier's form was inconsistent, and he also suffered a few injuries. He made his last appearance of the campaign on April 21st in a 4-1 defeat at Arsenal, where he was sent off. Xavier recovered from another fitness setback in September 2001, enjoying a good extended run in the Everton first team.

On 30th January 2002 Xavier made the surprise move across Stanley Park to join Liverpool for £800,000. His Goodison Park contract was due to expire that summer, but he was only offered a pay as you play deal by Everton. Despite not scoring once for their rivals, Xavier needed just 16 minutes to get off the mark for Liverpool, helping the Reds to a 6-0 win on February 9th 2002. He also scored in a 4-2 Champions League defeat at Bayer Leverkusen. Xavier was part of Portugal's World Cup squad that year, but made just one substitute appearance in a 1-0 defeat against South Korea. He fell out of favour at Anfield a month into the 2002/03 season. Xavier pulled on a Liverpool shirt for the final time on 4th December 2002 in a League Cup draw with Ipswich, before moving to Galatasaray on loan in January 2003.

Xavier signed for Hannover 96 in the summer of 2003, but failed to make much of an impact for the Bundesliga outfit, with just 5 appearances in 2003/04. He spent the winter months of 2004 in search of a new club. He trained with Blackburn in December 2004, before joining Southampton in January 2005, alongside former Everton teammate Alex Nyarko. Agent Barry Silkman set up the trial, but Saints boss Harry Redknapp decided against brining the former Portuguese international to St Marys, just as he had done for West Ham years earlier. Xavier eventually signed for Roma on a short term deal, where he played just 3 times.

On 31st August 2005 Xavier signed for Middlesbrough on a free transfer. He started well at the Riverside, but failed a drugs test (for dianabol) in November, which resulted in an 18 month ban (later reduced to 12 on appeal). Middlesbrough stuck by Xavier, and he returned for the 2006/07 season. He scored in a 5-1 win over Bolton on 20th January.

After leaving Middlesbrough in the summer of 2007 Xavier signed for MLS outfit Los Angeles Galaxy. He lined up alongside the likes of David Beckham and Landon Donovan, but had a difficult relationship with manager Ruud Gullit. Xavier hung up his boots in 2008. He has since converted to Islam and changed his named to Faisal Xavier.