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Tuesday 17 June 2014

Grand entrances: Five opening-day debuts to remember

Ahead of the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League fixtures, we pick five classic curtain-raising debuts

  • 1994: Jurgen Klinsmann dives into Barclays Premier League action with a debut goal

  • Klinsmann is all smiles after settling a seven-goal thriller at Sheffield Wednesday

  • 1996: Middlesbrough's Fabrizio Ravanelli scores the first of three against Liverpool

  • The White Feather sends Boro fans into raptures as Liverpool's David James looks on

  • 2003: Cristiano Ronaldo bamboozles Bolton's defenders on his Man United debut

  • 2011: Sergio Aguero comes off the bench and hits the ground running for Man City

  • 2012: Swansea's Michu fires two of five unanswered goals past QPR's Rob Green

  • The Spaniard would go on to score 18 goals in an impressive first campaign

With the fixture list for the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season due out at 9am BST on Wednesday 17 June we remember five of the best performances on opening days over the last 22 seasons by players new to the English top flight.

You can share your memories of great opening-day debuts in the Barclays Premier League by going to Facebook.com/premierleague or using #BPLkickoff on Twitter.

Klinsmann's class outs at Hillsbrough

Sheffield Wednesday 3-4 Tottenham Hotspur
20 August 1994

If Sir Alan Sugar suspected that he had pulled off one of his better deals when three weeks earlier he had moored his yacht off Montecarlo and succeeded in convincing Jurgen Klinsmann to swap Monaco for North London, the Tottenham Hotspur chairman had confirmation when the striker, who had score five goals for Germany at the FIFA World Cup in June, made his Barclays Premier League debut.

In a seven-goal thriller at Hillsborough the forward had a hand in two of Spurs’s goals before popping up to head the visitors into a 4-2 lead and endear himself to supporters with a celebratory swan dive in response to criticism for his reputed tendency to go to ground too easily. Although the former Stuttgart and Inter Milan forward spent just one season in his first spell at White Hart Lane before moving to Bayern Munich, he scored 21 top-flight goals and won the Football Writer's Footballer of the Year award.

White Feather ruffles Reds

Middlesbrough 3-3 Liverpool
17 August 1996

Middlesbrough had caused a stir in the summer with the capture of the man who had scored for Juventus in the UEFA Champions League final the previous May, and Fabrizio Ravanelli answered expectations with a hat-trick against Liverpool on his Barclays Premier League debut.

The Italian cancelled out Stig Inge Bjornebye’s early penalty, equalised again after John Barnes had restored the Reds' lead and popped up with another strike with nine minutes remaining to reply to Robbie Fowler’s effort. "I am very happy and honoured to keep the ball and the shirt,” said Boro’s No 11. “I will put them alongside my trophies."

‘The White Feather’, so named for his hair, celebrated his goals by pulling his shirt over his head in a trademark goal celebration Boro fans would see on 13 further occasions in the English top flight that season. Unfortunately for Bryan Robson’s charges, Ravanelli’s goals were not enough to keep his side in the Barclays Premier League. The Italian would return to British shores and make a similar impression at Derby County, for whom he scored the first goal in a 2-1 opening day win over Blackburn Rovers.

Ronaldo's grand entrance

Manchester United 4-0 Bolton Wanderers
16 August 2003

After impressing for Sporting Lisbon in a pre-season friendly against United, Alex Ferguson was persuaded by his own players to sign Cristiano Ronaldo, and the 18-year-old Portuguese winger immediately set about repying the faith with a dazzling 29-minute cameo at Old Trafford. After coming on for Nicky Butt with his side a goal to the good, Ronaldo ran Bolton’s rearguard ragged with his skill, speed and impudent array of tricks.

The Portuguese lured a penalty from Bolton captain Kevin Nolan, which Ruud van Nistelrooy missed, but the Netherlands forward scored soon afterwards after a move in which Ronaldo supplied the cross. Ronaldo did not score against Sam Allardyce’s side but did everything to suggest there would be more to come.

“When we first saw him play for Sporting Lisbon, he impressed us the same way Eric Cantona did when we played Leeds,” said Ryan Giggs, after scoring twice in the match. “He is a great prospect and he is going to put on more great performances like he did today. He lifted the crowd and the players and there are not many who can do that.”

Ronaldo went on to score 84 League goals, win three Barclays Premier League titles and claim a UEFA Champions League winners’ medal during his six seasons at Old Trafford. He was sold to Real Madrid in 2009.

Aguero double augurs well

Manchester City 4-0 Swansea City
15 August 2011

The signing of Sergio Aguero from Atletico Madrid in the summer of 2011 was a further signal of Manchester City’s determination to contend for their first Barclays Premier League title. After being rested for City’s Community Shield encounter with Manchester United, with manager Roberto Mancini believing him to be short of match fitness, ‘Kun’ was on the bench for the Barclays Premier League opener against Swansea City. Aguero appeared as a second-half substitute and City fans were treated to a memorable debut. Aguero doubled his side’s lead just nine minutes after coming on, set up David Silva’s goal and rifled in a 30-yard wonder strike in added time to round off 4-0 win.

"He's decent, isn't he?" said Joe Hart, the Manchester City goalkeeper. "He's come in at £38m, which is a big price tag, but it looks like £38m well spent." Aguero produced 23 top-flight goals that season, the last of which, with the final kick of the final match of the season, sealed the Barclays Premier League title victory for the Citizens.

Michu makes his name

Queens Park Rangers 0-5 Swansea City
18 August 2012

Very little was known about Michu when he arrived as one of a clutch of imports from the Spanish Liga by new Swansea manager Michael Laudrup, but the former Real Mallorca and Levante manager knew he was getting value for money. The attacking midfielder had scored 16 goals for Rayo Vallecano the previous season and Laudrup saw him as the perfect replacement for the Tottenham Hotspur-bound Gylfi Sigurdsson.

Michu was called upon to play in the hole in Laudrup’s 4-2-3-1 formation and he started his first match in the Barclays Premier League as he meant to go on. Swansea routed Queens Park Rangers 5-0 at Loftus Road two spectacular goals from Michu and an assist for another.

"It's been an unforgettable day,” Michu said. “It couldn't have gone better. It's my first real game for Swansea City and I scored two goals and started in great shape. I hit the crossbar as well and could have got a hat-trick.”

The Spaniard went on to score 18 goals in 35 Barclays Premier League appearances, including both goals in a 2-0 success at Arsenal and a final-day effort against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

To find out the full fixture list for the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season, visit www.premierleague.com from 9am BST on Wednesday 19 June.

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Key Points

  • Ahead of the release of fixtures for the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season, we look at five impressive opening-day debuts
  • Jurgen Klinsmann's swan dive and Fabrizio Ravanelli's hat-trick against Liverpool are two highlights
  • The fixtures for the new Barclays Premier League season will be released at 9am BST on 18 June