EVERY Premier League club’s best foreign player... ever!
Note: Players from across the UK and the Republic of Ireland count as homegrown here. Many individuals from those national sides came through academies at English league clubs, so it didn’t feel right to include them. Sorry Gareth. Sorry Roy. Sorry everybody.
Arsenal: Thierry Henry
A romantic might pick Dennis Bergkamp. Yet while the stylish Dutch master was easily the best player in England for a season during 1997/98, Henry had a claim to that title for five years or more.
Signed from Juventus in 1999, Henry became Arsenal’s all-time top scorer in less than seven seasons. Of the players who’ve scored 100 Premier League goals, only Sergio Aguero (0.69 goals per game) can better Henry’s 0.68. And the French No.14 was so much more than a penalty box predator, as his assist record shows.
Yet reducing Henry to numbers is to miss the magic. He would beat defenders with blistering pace, confound them with tricks and, just occasionally, do something nobody else would even dream of doing. A dazzling player who made Match of the Day must-see TV all on his own.
Bournemouth: Joshua King
It’s the Norway international with the world’s most English name! Bournemouth first reached England’s top tier in 2015, so – with due respect to Max Gradel’s silky skills – it’s their current squad that contains the cream of the club’s overseas talent.
King has been key to Bournemouth’s modern success, the 26-year-old having played 100+ Premier League games and scored 36 goals despite not always playing in his preferred centre-forward position. In particular, his 16 league goals in 2016/17 led to the club’s best-ever finish of ninth.
King’s main challenger as top foreign Cherry is a younger team-mate. Nathan Ake has only been a full-time Bournemouth employee since June 2017, but the Dutch centre-back has been imperious. How long Bournemouth can keep him is another matter.
Others have boasted more elan. Anthony Knockaert shone in Brighton’s 2016/17 promotion season, Pascal Gross had a superb debut last term, while Valencia legend Vicente showed flashes of his elite ability at the end of his career from 2011 to 2013.
Yet Bruno stands above them all. Arriving in 2012 on a free transfer, few predicted that the Catalan right-back would not only lead Brighton into the Premier League, but still be bearding around in England’s top tier in 2018 at the age of 38.
Bruno is neither quick nor physically imposing, but his reading of the game and technical ability remain undiminished. Key to Brighton’s promotion to the Prem, the club captain has racked up over 200 appearances for the Seagulls and he isn’t done yet. A club legend.
Burnley: Johann Berg Gudmundsson
Slim pickings from a side that’s built its success on a largely-British core. Especially as selecting the Bath-born 'Austrian' Ashley Barnes seems like a bit of a cheat.
The ‘Beast of Burnley’ Brian Jensen is a better shout. The Danish keeper features in over 300 games for Clarets and played in the 2009 play-off final that earned Burnley promotion to the Premier League. However, he wasn’t always a wholly convincing first choice.
Instead, let’s go with the first Burnley player to feature in a World Cup since 1982. Iceland winger Gudmundsson has been a first-team fixture since his 2016 arrival and contributed directly to 10 league goals (eight assists, two goals) in last season’s impressive seventh-place finish. Having just turned 28, Gudmundsson has plenty of time to cement his place as Burnley’s best import.
Cardiff: Aron Gunnarsson
If only English players counted. As it is, Cardiff have had a UK base to their modern successes and – notwithstanding the colossal displays of Ivory Coast defender Sol Bamba as the club were promoted last season – picking an all-time great foreigner is tricky.
Iceland captain Gunnarsson comes close, though. He has racked up 260 appearances for the Bluebirds since arriving in 2011 as an all-action midfielder, and scored 13 goals in his first two seasons.
Age and injuries have limited his game over time, but he won the club’s player of the season award in 2016/17 thanks to his performances as a midfield destroyer. Some Cardiff fans scratched their heads when the 29-year-old got a new one-year deal this summer, but his fine display in Cardiff’s 4-2 win over Fulham this season show there’s life in the old Iceman yet.