FourFourTwo's 100 best foreign Premier League players ever: 90-81
Words: Richard Edwards, Seb Stafford-Bloor, Jon Spurling, Chris Flanagan, Alex Hess.
90. Philippe Albert
With his relaxed demeanour, elegant playing style and tremendous ’tache, the Belgian defender became a folk hero on Tyneside. His attacking forays assisted Newcastle in overloading opponents, as the Entertainers came close to ending the club’s interminable trophy drought.
But while that beautiful chipped goal to cap a 5-0 thronking of Manchester United in October 1996 deserves its regular outings on Premier League Years, Albert’s defensive qualities shouldn’t be overlooked.
He enjoyed five years with Newcastle and a loan spell at Fulham, before heading home to Belgium, where he started a new life trading fruit and veg. As you do. RE
89. Dirk Kuyt
Signed from Feyenoord as a free-scoring striker, Kuyt looked destined to be just another forward to experience cringe-inducing difficulty in turning Eredivisie goals into Premier League currency. Before he could fail as a striker, however, the Dutchman reinvented himself as a winger – or, more accurately, as an inside forward on the right of a 4-2-3-1 system that anticipated the tactical trend of the decade ahead.
Kuyt was the unsung hero of Rafa Benitez’s finely tuned Liverpool team which peaked in the 2008/09 campaign, when they lost two games all season and narrowly missed out on the title. Unsurprisingly, the Anfield faithful grew to love a player who was preposterously hard-working and had a knack of scoring in big games. AH
88. George Boateng
This particular Boateng was the kind of player loved by every fan of the clubs he represented. Seeing as the Dutchman made nearly 400 Premier League appearances for Coventry, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough and Hull, that amounts to some substantial affection – and rightly so.
While he was more than a mere ball-winner, Boateng’s defining characteristic was his tenacity in hunting down and retrieving possession. Was he the most gifted of midfielders? No. But he gave all of himself to every cause, and watching him play was often a stirring experience for the traditionalists among us. SSB
87. Bacary Sagna
For seven years at Arsenal, the Frenchman was a model of consistency as well as the archetypal modern full-back: fast, combative in the tackle and the instigator of countless attacks. There were few finer sights at the Emirates than Sagna in full flow, his beaded braids gleaming in the sun.
He won just one trophy with Arsenal, the FA Cup in 2014, before announcing his intention to leave for Manchester City. He gradually forced his way into the reckoning there, although as he turns 34, he has in recent times had to curtail those turbo-charged runs down the right wing. JS