FourFourTwo's 100 best foreign Premier League players ever: 40-31
Words: Richard Edwards, Jon Spurling, Seb Stafford-Bloor, Alex Hess, Chris Flanagan.
40. Brad Friedel
Friedel experienced some very literal resistance on his entry to English football, being denied work permits for moves to Newcastle and Sunderland before finally arriving at Liverpool in 1997. That was a trying time on the field, too, because the American was not a success at Anfield and would last just three seasons before being sold to Blackburn.
Friedel's physical resilience is often celebrated, but perhaps his emotional durability warrants equal praise: early failure has destroyed the career of many a goalkeeper and yet in his case it seemed highly instructive. He rebuilt his reputation at Ewood Park during Rovers' promotion season and spent eight successful years at the club before taking his secure hands and obstinate shot-stopping to Aston Villa and, eventually, Tottenham.
Even for a goalkeeper, his eight straight ever-present Premier League seasons between 2003 and 2012 is a remarkable achievement, testament to both his conditioning over that period and the high standards he was able to maintain. SSB
39. Arjen Robben
Robben's career has soared to such heights since leaving England that it's easy to forget those first exciting glimpses of him as a young player. In the present day, he's synonymous with a specific series of actions: collecting the ball on the right, cutting infield and driving into or across the penalty box.
At Chelsea that wasn't quite so; he was more of a complement to Jose Mourinho's other players than an outright match-winner. He produced individual moments, certainly, but Robben was more regularly an exclamation point on moves – see his goal against Norwich at Stamford Bridge or his first for the club in Russia against CSKA Moscow.
There were times when he looked like the perfect Mourinho component: lightning quick, direct and highly economic. He would become a better player at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, but also a more self-indulgent one; he was never more exhilarating to watch than he was between 2004 and 2007.
Chelsea were excellent without him, but they were frequently terrifying when he was fit and available. SSB
38. Marc Overmars
“I bought him because of his pace and his eye for goal,” explained Arsene Wenger after securing the Dutchman’s services in summer 1997.
Like several of his new team-mates, the former Ajax winger took a few months to adjust to the vagaries of the English game. But in the new year, his stellar displays helped drive his team towards the club’s second domestic double.
Overmars served notice of his growing effectiveness in the team when he scored both goals in a confidence-boosting 2-1 home win against Leeds in January 1998; he then grabbed what was essentially a season-turning winner at Old Trafford in Arsenal’s April showdown with title rivals Manchester United, and netted twice on May Bank Holiday weekend as Arsenal clinched the league with a 4-0 win against Everton at Highbury.
He joined Barcelona after Euro 2000 alongside Gunners team-mate Emmanuel Petit, but never enjoyed those Highbury heights again. JS