Born: Mouscron, 6 January 1980
Signed: 2 August 2001 from Olympique Lyonnais (£4.5m)
Fulham debut: Manchester United 3-2 Fulham, 19 August 2001
Fulham appearances: 219
Fulham goals: 44
Honours: UEFA InterToto Cup (2002)
Sold: 31 August 2006 to Tottenham Hotspur (£2m)
When we first clapped eyes on Steed Malbranque in a Fulham shirt during a pre-season friendly at Crystal Palace in the summer of 2001, it was clear we had someone special in the ranks. The talented French midfielder reiterated that early assessment with an all-action display on the opening day of the Premier League season at Old Trafford that ended Jaap Stam’s Manchester United career early and became the creative hub of Tigana’s team that quickly established themselves in the top flight.
Malbranque scored ten goals in 48 appearances as the Whites easily avoided the drop and reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup. The classy midfielder starred as Fulham won the InterToto Cup and then progressed to the third round stage of the UEFA Cup in their first European campaign, carrying his sensational form into the domestic programme, topping the goalscoring charts with thirteen goals as Fulham ultimately beat relegation with Chris Coleman succeeding Tigana in the dug out.
The Belgian-born midfielder, who was exceptionally unlucky not to win a senior cap for France, saved some of his best football for the following season as Coleman’s charges defied the grim pre-season predictions to finish in ninth. Malbranque ripped Manchester United to shreds in a famous win in October 2003 – scoring one goal and making another – and was consistently class for Coleman, whether played out wide or in his favoured number ten role. He was outstanding in the 1-0 win over Chelsea in April 2005 and it was fitting that his final goal for Fulham gave the Whites a first away win of a disappointing season at Manchester City in April 2006.
The Frenchman left for Tottenham on transfer deadline day in the summer of 2006 after a contract dispute with Coleman – and went on to star in the top flight for both Spurs and Sunderland before returning to his native France, where he is still playing amateur football.