Best Premier League players EVER: 100 greatest footballers in England's top flight since 1992
It's given us Sir Alex Ferguson, Kevin Keegan and Arsene Wenger. It's given us mayhem, magic and Mike Dean. It's given us Centurions, Invincibles and Treble winners.
There's no division in football quite like the Premier League, where the geniuses and madmen of the game flock to write their name in history. For 28 years, we've witnessed incredible sights - and some of the greatest players to ever live.
Here at FourFourTwo, we've decided to rank the top 100 footballers to appear in the Premier League - that's England's top tier since 1992 - based on their impact. That's a combination of their ability, status and the moments they gave us over the years.
Every lunchtime this week, we'll be bringing you our countdown - so far, we've done 100-61...
Do you agree with our list? Passionately disagree? Who should be at number 1? Make sure to let us know @FourFourTwo!
100. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
If you had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer coming off the bench then you always had a chance. Manchester United’s baby-faced assassin was the ideal supersub for the Reds during his eleven-year playing spell at Old Trafford. After scoring six minutes after coming off the substitutes bench in his Premier League debut against Blackburn, the Norwegian forward went on to add another 16 Premier League goals during substitute appearances for the United - more than any other player. He finished his Premier League career in 2007 with 91 league goals in 235 Premier League appearances for United.
99. Emmanuel Petit
French midfielder Emmanuel Petit formed an iconic partnership with fellow countryman Patrick Vieira as Arsenal won the league and cup double in the 1997/98 season. While Vieira displayed power and presence in the heart of that Gunners’ side, Petit was the calm, reliable influence which counter-balanced his partner’s occasional feverish game. Petit also had a spell at Chelsea where he helped the Blues finish in the top six for three years straight.
98. Mark Schwarzer
While the Premier League has a long list of enduring goalkeepers - some of whom you'll find further on - Schwarzer’s name is the first that springs to mind when you think of the evergreen Premier League keeper. His 514 Premier League appearances in goal are only bettered by David James. He enjoyed his finest years in the league at Middlesbrough then Fulham, losing a UEFA Cup final with both. Although he did not make a league appearance for either, his final two years were spent in consecutive title-winning squads for Chelsea and Leicester - a great footnote to an excellent career.
97. Philippe Coutinho
If there was ever a title for ‘Master of cutting inside from 35 yards out in the inside left channel and firing a shot into the opposite top corner during a big game’ - then it was Philippe Coutinho. The little Brazilian dazzled Premier League fans with a mixture of silky dribbling and wonderful curling efforts during his five years at Liverpool. Coutinho registered 41 goals and 35 assists in 152 league matches for the Reds, including a goal in five separate outings against Liverpool’s title rivals Manchester City. City were glad to see the back of the Brazilian when he completed a £105 million move to Barcelona in 2018.
96. David James
Fourth on the league’s all-time appearance list and the second-highest clean sheet record of any goalkeeper in Premier League history, David James is known for much more than his radical hairdos. James had a long career in the Premier League as a number one goalkeeper for Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth and totalled a staggering 169 clean sheets whilst at these clubs. That record stood until Petr Cech bettered that total in 2015.
95. Leighton Baines
Having made over 400 appearances for Everton and Wigan Athletic in the top-flight, Leighton Baines can only be described as a dependable option at left-back. His defensive astuteness coupled with his influence in the final third makes him an all-round reliable great. The Toffees’ No.3 holds the record of the most Premier League assists of all-time made by a defender, having set up 53 goals from left-back. Baines’ ability to produce from set pieces, which includes a superb free-kick record, makes him one of the most technically gifted defenders in Premier League history.
94. Jordan Henderson
While Liverpool’s front three continue to dominate the headlines, Jordan Henderson’s development from young Sunderland prodigy to a Champions League-winning captain has been nothing short of remarkable. The England international has been ever-present during Liverpool’s rise under Jurgen Klopp, and Henderson’s 71% tackle success and his 85% passing accuracy demonstrate how he is the heartbeat of this Reds side.
93. Shay Given
Shay Given may not have picked up any Premier League honours during his career, but he was seen as a reliable option in goal for the likes of Newcastle, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke City. The Irishman made 451 Premier League appearances during his career, registering 113 clean sheets in England’s top-flight. He also helped Newcastle and Manchester City reach the Champions League despite the dominance of of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea in the early 2000s.
92. Trent Alexander-Arnold
The fact that Alexander-Arnold is included on this list, just two-and-a-half years after breaking into the Liverpool team, speaks volumes about his ability. The right-back is an unstoppable attacking force and broke the Premier League record for assists by a defender last season with 12. Scarily, he might get even better.
Middlesbrough fans couldn’t believe their eyes when they signed Brazilian attacking midfielder Juninho. They were equally astounded by his trickery and flair that dazzled Boro fans over three different spells at the Riverside Stadium. ‘The Little Fella’, as he was called in the north-east, contributed to 47 goals (18 goals and 29 assists) in 125 appearances for Boro.
90. Chris Sutton
One half of the fabled SAS – alongside Alan Shearer – who fired Blackburn Rovers to Premier League glory in 1995. Just like his later punditry style, Sutton was a no-nonsense sort of striker: big, strong in the air and deadly when it mattered most. Banged in 83 Premier League goals for five different clubs – with 80 of them coming for Norwich and Blackburn.
89. Jamie Carragher
Carragher is as synonymous with Liverpool as his long-time team-mate Steven Gerrard, after spending his entire 17-year career at Anfield. A strong, intelligent and reliable defender who played across the back four, the defender made 508 Premier League appearances for the Reds, the ninth-highest number of all time.
88. Steve McManaman
While the all-round midfielder was best known for his success away from the Premier League with Real Madrid, McManaman enjoyed a great deal of success for Liverpool during the inaugural years of the Premier League. Able to play across the entire midfield and useful in both penalty areas, the former Liverpool man contributed to 100 goals (51 assists, 49 goals) during his 275 Premier League appearances, which also included a two-year spell towards the end of his career at Manchester City between 2003 and 2005.
87. Gary Pallister
Defender Gary Pallister was a regular for Sir Alex Ferguson’s United side when they won four Premier League titles in five years between 1992 and 1997. Pallister was highly-rated by his fellow peers and was named in the PFA Team of the Year for three consecutive years between 1992 and 1995, and again in 1998. After 317 league appearances in a nine-year spell at Old Trafford, Pallister then moved to Middlesbrough where he spent three more years in the Premier League.
86. Brad Friedel
While Brad Friedel was not the most spectacular of Premier League goalkeepers, he was certainly one of the more well-respected men between the sticks. After starting his career as a second-choice option at Liverpool, the American was first-choice for the likes of Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur in a long career on the English shores. Friedel was deemed a reliable option by those three clubs, and played in every single Premier League game between 2004 and 2012. Overall, Friedel made 450 top-flight appearances and registered 132 shutouts.
85. Peter Crouch
Crouch will always remain one of the Premier League’s most surreal players. At 6ft 7in tall and with an impressive goal return, while he appeared for the likes of Aston Villa and Southampton early on in his career, not even Liverpool or Tottenham could resist the temptation of Crouch’s abilities. It is still incredible how someone so tall could score the countless number of bicycle kicks the England international managed to pull off.
84. Alisson Becker
Behind every world-class team is a solid pair of hands, and Alisson has proved to be exactly that for Liverpool since his arrival at Anfield in 2018. The Brazilian has kept an astonishing 31 clean sheets in 56 Premier League appearances since arriving from Roma, which is even more impressive considering he’s only conceded 28 times. Allison also averages around 30 passes per match, which shows how much his team trusts his distribution from the back.
83. Gareth Barry
The Premier League’s all-time record appearance-maker, Barry played 653 top-tier games for Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton and West Brom – and could yet add to that record next term, despite being 39. A steady, dependable midfielder with an excellent left foot, the 53-time England international won the title with City in 2011/12.
82. Robbie Keane
The Republic of Ireland forward’s knack for goals was as memorable as his iconic cartwheel celebration. While he emerged into the Premier League with consistent goal-scoring displays for Coventry City and Leeds United, it was his time at Tottenham where Keane excelled the most. He managed to reach double-digit goal tallies in seven consecutive Premier League seasons between 2002 and 2008 at White Hart Lane, while the Irish striker also found the net regularly during short-term stints at Liverpool, West Ham and Aston Villa.
81. Riyad Mahrez
Left-backs beware. The worst thing you could do is let the Algerian winger cut inside on his left foot and bend a shot into the far corner of the net. Mahrez has shown incredible consistency and impact in the final third since making his Premier League debut in 2014. Mahrez played a vital role in Leicester City’s shock Premier League title win in 2015/16, scoring 17 goals for the Foxes that season and subsequently winning the PFA Player of the Year Award. After securing a long-waited move to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in 2018, the winger helped his new club win the title in his first season and scored a crucial goal on the final day of the season against Brighton to secure it.
80. Freddie Ljungberg
The Swede’s attacking thrust from the wing was a hallmark of Arsene Wenger’s celebrated Arsenal side of the turn of the century. Ljungberg was named Premier League Player of the Season as the Gunners won the title in 2001/02, before playing a key part in their ‘Invincibles’ season two years later.
79. Tim Cahill
If there was a hanging cross into the opposition penalty area at Goodison Park, then Tim Cahill was guaranteed to meet it. The Australian had a knack for arriving in the right place at the right time which allowed him to score 56 league goals for Everton between 2004 and 2012. His versatility as a midfielder, No.10 and striker made it impossible for defenders to track him in the final third.
78. Emile Heskey
While Heskey was recognised for his goal-scoring prowess - having scored 110 goals in over 500 Premier League appearances - the former England international will also be known for the link-up play which earned him 53 assists during his league career.
After impressing for boyhood club Leicester City, he was snapped up by Liverpool for a then-club record £11 million fee. While the Reds’ 2000/01 season is remembered for their success in cup competitions, Heskey’s 14 goals in 36 Premier League games that year is nothing to be sniffed at. It’s certainly a lot better than his goal record at Birmingham, Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa.
77. Michael Essien
The relentless Michael Essien was a key box-to-box midfielder for Chelsea for Jose Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti’s title-winning Chelsea teams. While goals and assists weren’t the Ghanaian’s strong suit, his versatility across the defence and midfield, alongside his general all-round play, made him a reliable player for a very successful Blues side in the 2000s and 2010s.
76. Kevin Phillips
Kevin Phillips’ goal-scoring record during the late '90s and early 2000s was a joy to behold. His Premier League goal tally of 30 during the 1999/00 season earned him the European Golden Shoe Trophy, and remains the only Englishman to win the award to this day. Phillips continued this prolific run over the next couple of seasons with Sunderland, before replicating his form at Southampton for two seasons. While his Premier League record at Aston Villa, Birmingham and Crystal Palace was less fruitful, he will always be remembered for his prolific early years, with a particular thumping goal against Chelsea in 1999 still living long in the memory.
75. Gary Speed
The late Gary Speed was a consistent and reliable midfielder during his long and established career in the Premier League. An important player for Leeds, Everton, Newcastle and Bolton during his time in England’s top-flight, Speed was also a natural-born leader and inspirational figure in football. The fact he played top-level football in a fast-paced league well into his thirties showed his strong levels of fitness and professionalism. A well-respected member of the Premier League who is missed by the football community.
74. Ian Wright
This Arsenal legend was blessed with devastating pace and a range of impressive finishing which wowed the Gunners and Premier League fans alike. Once through on goal, there was little anyone could do to stop Wright scoring - whether it be through a clinical finish or a deft chip.
Wright registered double-digit goal tallies in each of the first six Premier League seasons while at Arsenal, totalling 124 goals in 191 appearances for the north Londoners. The England forward left Highbury in 1998 as the club’s record goalscorer at the time, and even managed to net nine times in 22 league appearances during a cameo season at West Ham.
73. Patrice Evra
The Frenchman was one of the greatest all-round full-backs of his generation, as he made the left-back spot at Manchester United his own for nearly a decade. Quick, athletic, prominent in the air, an expert crossing ability in the final third as well as a leader on and off the pitch - Patrice Evra had it all. The full-back was often the first man on the Red Devils team sheet as United won five Premier League titles in seven years between 2006 and 2013. He totalled 273 league appearances for United during this time, helping them to 97 Premier League clean sheets.
72. Sami Hyypia
He may not share the longevity of Jamie Carragher or the success of Virgil Van Dijk, but Sami Hyypia remains one of the most reliable centre-halves Liverpool have had in the Premier League. The 6ft 4in Finnish international helped the Reds to 125 clean sheets during his decade at Anfield and was named in the PFA Team of the Year in 2000 and 2002. Hyypia also showed his threat in the opposition penalty area, scoring 22 league goals from centre-back.
71. David De Gea
Manchester United’s Spanish goalkeeper may have made some calamitous errors since joining the club from Atletico Madrid in 2011, but he has certainly made up for it with the number of top-class saves over the years. The Spaniard’s excellent reflexes in key moments has earned him a spot in five PFA Teams of the Year since 2012, while he also won the Golden Glove in the 2017/18 season despite United finishing second in the table behind Manchester City.
70. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Arguably one of the best strikers of a ball in Premier League history. Leeds fans fell in love with Hasselbaink after he signed for the club in 1997, but it's his Chelsea days he's mainly remembered for. His lethal partnership with Eidur Gudjohnsen was the perfect blend of power and intelligence. Plundered 127 goals, many of them spectacular.
69. Carlos Tevez
It takes a lot of nerve for a player to move from one Manchester club to the other, but boy did Carlos Tevez have that. The Argentinian striker had such a diverse goalscoring skill set that he could find the net from anywhere on the pitch. Close range header in the six-yard box? Check. Poacher’s finish inside the area? You bet. Long-range stunner? Not a problem. For West Ham, Man United and Man City, Tevez had that unpredictable element about him.
68. Roberto Firmino
“Mo Salah, world-class but not every day. Sadio Mane, world-class but not every day. Roberto Firmino, world-class pretty much every day,” said Jurgen Klopp about his iconic front three. The Brazilian forward is the vital glue that gels Liverpool’s forward trio together and is the perfect example of a modern forward who regularly turns provider on the occasions where he is not scoring.
67. Les Ferdinand
One of the truly great strikers of the early Premier League era, Les Ferdinand was a No.9 in the classic mould. Great in the air, lightning fast and intelligent in the box. He scored the bulk of his 149 Premier League goals for QPR, Newcastle and Spurs, and remains 10th in the all-time scorers list.
66. Dimitar Berbatov
Tall, technical and a terrific skillset: Dimitar Berbatov was an influential presence up front in the Premier League for Tottenham, Manchester United and Fulham. The Bulgarian forward breezed through English defences with ease and used his high levels of confidence to score some spectacular goals. Notable highlights include a hat-trick for Manchester United against Liverpool in 2010, and an incredible solo assist for a Cristiano Ronaldo goal against West Ham in 2008. Oh, and two Premier League titles in 2009 and 2011.
65. Matt Le Tissier
Le God, as he was dubbed by Southampton fans, is known for two things above all else: his prowess from the penalty spot and his love for a Sausage and Egg McMuffin. His laissez-faire attitude towards fitness might have cost him a few extra England caps, but Le Tissier was a man who always seemed content with his place in the world. A maverick talent, the Guernsey-born playmaker is revered and adored by fans of almost every club.
64. David Seaman
A title winner with Arsenal two seasons before the advent of the Premier League, Seaman also finished on top of the pile twice in the post-1992 era. A superb shot-stopper, the England international represented the ideal insurance policy behind Arsenal’s famous back four in the 1990s.
63. Dion Dublin
Dublin started life as a sturdy centre-back, but flourished as a striker for the likes of Manchester United, Coventry City and Aston Villa. He missed out on a Premier League winners' medal due to injury in 1992/93, while he shared the Golden Boot with Michael Owen and Chris Sutton in 1997/98 as he fired Coventry to their best-ever finish of 11th.
62. Fernando Torres
Other strikers beat Torres for longevity, but few were as spectacular as the Spaniard at his devastating peak. Torres struck 24 goals in his maiden season at Liverpool and continued in the same vein thereafter, although signs of decline were present even before his underwhelming spell at Chelsea.
61. James Milner
Central midfielder, winger, emergency full-back, wing-back...is there any position that James Milner cannot fill? The versatile Englishman is not the most glamorous of players but his technical versatility has made him a key player for Aston Villa, Manchester City and Liverpool over the years. Comfortable with both feet, reliable in possession and a cool head from the penalty spot are but a few qualities Milner can bring to a team. He will go down as one of England and the Premier League’s most underrated players.
60. Romelu Lukaku
While he may not be everyone’s cup of tea *cough cough Manchester United fans cough cough*, the Belgian was a nightmare for Premier League defenders due to his athletic frame and clinical left foot. Lukaku became the youngest foreign player to reach 100 top-flight goals in England, having featured for Chelsea, West Brom, Everton and Manchester United throughout his time in the Premier League.
Even though the forward did not score a single Premier League at Stamford Bridge, he registered double-digits goal tallies in seven consecutive seasons between 2012 and 2019. The striker left Old Trafford for Inter Milan after that, having netted 113 goals in 252 top-flight matches.
59. Gareth Bale
The making of a world superstar began in the Premier League, as Gareth Bale dazzled fans and confused full-backs during a six-year spell at Tottenham. The Welsh winger was named in the PFA Team of the Year for three consecutive seasons between 2010 and 2013, while his goal tally of 21 goals in 33 league matches in 2012/13 earned him a then-world record move to Real Madrid.
58. Jermain Defoe
It didn’t matter which Premier League club Jermain Defoe played for, he always managed to find the net on a regular basis. 162 goals for six different Premier League clubs justifies his standing here. After breaking onto the Premier League scene with West Ham, Defoe made his name at Tottenham Hotspur, scoring 91 top-flight goals for Spurs over two different spells which sandwiched a free-scoring tenure up front for Portsmouth. Even when he was written off by everyone following a move to Toronto in the MLS, Defoe then came back to play to England for Sunderland, scoring 34 goals in 84 games to maintain his status as one of the English league’s clinical finishers.
57. Paolo Di Canio
From scoring wonder-goals to shoving referees, the fiery Italian made his presence felt in English football during his time at Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham and Charlton.
Hammers fans remember Di Canio with most fondness after watching him, in his former manager Harry Redknapp’s words, “do things with the ball that people can only dream of”.
56. David Ginola
Alex Ferguson was aggrieved when Ginola scooped the PFA Player of the Year award ahead of his Treble heroes in 1998/99, but the Frenchman was tremendous that season. The tricky winger dazzled supporters at Newcastle and Tottenham (less so at Aston Villa), and left numerous opposition full-backs with twisted blood.
55. Jay-Jay Okocha
Skills so nice they named him twice; Okocha, one of the finest African players to have graced Premier League, wowed the Bolton faithful with a bag of tricks and unstoppable free-kicks. Okocha was the crown jewel of a Bolton side who, under Sam Allardyce’s stewardship, reached the now unimaginable heights of the League Cup final and the second round of the UEFA Cup.
54. Gary Neville
Jamie Carragher may have joked that “no one wants to grow up and be a Gary Neville”, but the Manchester United legend remains the best right-back the Premier League has seen. A dependable defender and underrated crosser of the ball, Neville won eight titles at Old Trafford.
53. Jamie Vardy
Vardy’s rags-to-riches story is well known by now, but that doesn’t make it any less remarkable. The former factory worker spent much of his debut Premier League season out wide, before spearheading the Foxes’ improbable title triumph of 2015/16 with 24 goals. Fast and fiery, he’s been prolific ever since.
52. Claude Makelele
You know you’re a good player when you have a position named after you. During his five seasons at Chelsea, Claude Makelele redefined the central defensive midfield role in this country so much so that the deep-lying position in front of the back four is still referred to as the ‘Makelele role’. The Frenchman could destroy opposition midfields before mopping up the mess he left behind. He was combative in the tackle and impossible to get around but could also dictate play from deep and even get forward into advanced areas and affect matters there too. Makelele was a key part of Jose Mourinho’s back-to-back title-winning team at Chelsea in 2005 and 2006, missing just nine games over the two campaigns.
51. Raheem Sterling
At both Liverpool and Manchester City, Sterling has been one of the brightest sparks in England’s top-flight due to his clever trickery and ability to hurt teams in the final third. The England winger has scored double-digit goal and assist tallies in every Premier League season since the 2017/18 campaign, following a rise to form under Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola.
50. Denis Irwin
Alex Ferguson once said that Irwin was the only certain selection in his best ever Manchester United XI. The Irish left-back rarely hogged the headlines despite his set-piece prowess, and was a key cog in Ferguson’s teams throughout the 1990s and won seven titles at Old Trafford.
49. Teddy Sheringham
England favourite Teddy Sheringham set the tone for the free-scoring Premier League by being the division’s Golden Boot winner in its inaugural season. From that moment on, the striker would end up being a goal machine for Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Portsmouth and West Ham in England’s top-flight.
He also displayed the ideal qualities of the perfect all-round English centre-forward. On top of his all-time Premier League goal tally of 146, Sheringham also registered 76 assists as the Englishman showed his talent of collecting the ball from deep and turning provider throughout his successful career which included three Premier League titles.
48. Michael Owen
If Michael Owen finished his career the way he started it, he would surely be close to the summit of this list. The diminutive whizz kid inspired a generation of Liverpool fans, starring in their UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup treble and winning the 2002 Ballon d’Or. Injury problems meant that his stints at Newcastle and Manchester United were ineffectual, but his 150 Premier League goals, mostly for Liverpool, still has him 9th in the all-time top-scorers list.
47. Robbie Fowler
The England striker burst onto the Premier League scene in 1993 - and not just with his goalscoring prowess. Fowler was one of the Liverpool ‘Spice Boys’ group, which included Jamie Redknapp, Stan Collymore and David James, who made their name due to off-field controversies. Fowler found the net 120 times in the Premier League during his first spell at Anfield, which included a four-minute hat-trick against Arsenal in August 1994, but the Englishman also had good goal returns at Leeds United and Manchester City in the Premier League too.
46. Jaap Stam
Defender Jaap Stam won a Premier League title and was named in the PFA Team of the Year in each of his three seasons at Manchester United. In the 79 league matches where the Red Devils fielded the Dutch centre-back in their starting line-up, United lost just five times. Strong, quick and timely in the challenge, Stam was a dominant figure during his time on English shores.
45. Robert Pires
Even though Arsenal had the likes of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp in their priceless early 2000s team, Robert Pires still managed to show off his dazzling displays among a plethora of stars.
The French winger not only helped Arsenal to a league and cup double in 2002, but also won that season’s Football Writers Player of the Year. His precision play, acute finishing and skilful showboating can be summed up by his memorable goal away at Aston Villa during that double-winning season. After picking up a long ball, Pires flicked the ball over George Boateng’s head before casually clipping a cute effort over none other than Peter Schmeichel. A brilliant hat-trick over Southampton in 2003, which was capped off by a 40-yard chip over the helpless Saints ‘keeper, was another example of the French flair that the midfielder brought to north London.
44. Yaya Toure
His brother Kolo was an Invincible, but Yaya Toure was a true indispensable for Manchester City for years. Powerful is an overrated word when referring to midfielders, but Yaya was a colossal of the game; he outran and out-thought opponents, he was equally adept at defending and attacking, and he carried City on his back at times. Silva was elegant, Aguero was prolific and Kompany was a rock - Yaya Toure was a mix of the best bits.
43. Cesc Fabregas
Few Premier League youngsters have made as big an impact as Fabregas early in his Arsenal career, with the Spaniard regularly dominating games in his teens and early 20s. He left England for Barcelona in 2011, before returning as an older, wiser midfielder at Chelsea, where he won two titles.
42. Sadio Mané
A talent at Southampton, a superstar at Liverpool. Mané has hit sensational form over the last two seasons at Anfield, jointly winning the 2018/19 Golden Boot. He finished fourth in last year’s Ballon d’Or vote, and can take as much credit as anyone for the Reds’ extraordinary domination of this year’s title race.
41. Luis Suarez
Suarez’s time at Liverpool was filled with controversial moments. Allegations of diving, stamping, biting and discriminatory abuse clouded his time at Anfield, but there is no doubt that the Uruguayan was a top-class player for the Reds.
After a relatively slow start to his Anfield career, by his standards at least, the striker burst into life in the Premier League, netting 54 goals in 66 league matches between 2012 and 2014. Suarez won the top-flight’s Golden Boot award in the 2013/14 season after scoring 33 times for runners-up Liverpool, while the Uruguayan also picked up the Football Writers’ Player of the Year during the same season.
40. Xabi Alonso
Although Alonso’s greatest achievements with Liverpool came outside of the Premier League, with Champions League and FA Cup victories, the Spaniard departed for Real Madrid in 2009 regarded as one of the classiest midfielders the division has seen. His passing and vision were exceptional, while the audacious goal he scored from his own half against Newcastle in September 2006 exemplified his outstanding technique.
39. Robin Van Persie
Arsenal were off Robin Van Persie’s back as quickly as they were on it. After several injury-hit seasons, Van Persie turned talisman in the wake of Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri’s departures from North London, scoring 30 league goals in the 2011/12 season. A move to Manchester United followed - for a bargain £24 million after refusing to sign a new contract - where Van Persie would prove the difference-maker in Sir Alex Ferguson’s final Premier League triumph.
38. Sol Campbell
Campbell’s move from Tottenham to rivals Arsenal in 2001 remains one of the most controversial Premier League transfers ever, but heralded an era of enormous success for player and club. A rock at the heart of Arsene Wenger’s defence, the England international marshalled the ‘Invincibles’ team of 2003/04 and won two league titles with the Gunners.
37. Michael Carrick
The former Manchester United and England man played alongside the likes of Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard throughout his career. All of these all-action midfielders relied on the composure and security that Michael Carrick brought in a deep-lying playmaker role. Often perceived as one of the most underrated English midfielders of all-time, Carrick was a regular figure in a Manchester United side that won 17 trophies between 2006 and 2017.
36. Nicolas Anelka
“Le Sulk” represented six different Premier League clubs during his career, winning the title with Arsenal and Chelsea. Anelka was named PFA Young Player of the Year with the Gunners and clinched the Golden Boot at Chelsea, notching a total of 125 league strikes, which places him 16th in the all-time charts.
35. Ruud Van Nistelrooy
The ultimate poacher. You could make a strong case for Ruud van Nistelrooy being the best player in Premier League history inside the penalty area. The Dutchman just knew how to stick the ball in the net, and proved it 95 times across five glittering campaigns with Manchester United.
34. Tony Adams
‘Mr Arsenal’, as he is more commonly know, was the ideal centre-half in terms of defensive ability, composure and leadership. He was appointed the Arsenal captain at the age of just 21, and was a lynchpin in the club’s famous back four alongside Steve Bould, Lee Dixon and Nigel Winterburn. Adams led the Gunners to two league and FA Cup doubles during the Premier League era while he was also named in the Premier League Team of the Year three times during the 1990s.
33. Gianfranco Zola
The pint-sized Italian charmed football fans at Stamford Bridge and beyond during his seven years in the Premier League. Zola reached double figures for top-flight goals in just two seasons as a Chelsea player, but his wonderful technique and tactical intelligence allowed him to create countless chances for team-mates too.
32. Harry Kane
Kane doesn’t turn 27 until July but he’s already 13th in the all-time Premier League goals ranking. The Tottenham frontman has made the net bulge 136 times in 198 top-flight outings, but he’s a real all-rounder who also possesses brilliant passing ability and fine link-up play.
31. David Silva
Silva will depart Manchester City this summer, but his Premier League legacy has long since been assured. The Spanish wizard has won four titles during his decade in England, during which time he’s recorded the seventh-most assists (and he’s only four behind fifth place) in the league’s history.
30. Edwin Van der Sar
An early pioneer of the modern ball-playing goalkeeper. Perhaps the only fault you can pick with Van der Sar's Premier League career is that he spent so much of it with Fulham. The Dutchman was simply sublime during a four-year spell in West London, before Manchester United came calling in 2005. At just 2 million quid, he ranks alongside Fergie's best ever bargains. The rock on which four Premier League titles were subsequently built.
29. David Beckham
Given the extent to which Beckham now transcends football, it’s easy to forget what a magnificent player he was. The Premier League’s greatest ever crosser won six titles with Manchester United, and ended three of his eight full seasons at Old Trafford as the division’s leading assist-provider.
28. N’Golo Kante
Small in stature but gargantuant in his influence in midfield - the Premier League has not quite seen a player like N’Golo Kante before. The 5ft 6in central midfielder currently averages around four interceptions and 10 recoveries a match as he uses his immense stamina to cover every blade of grass on a weekly basis.
The Frenchman was pivotal to Leicester City’s success when they stunned the world by winning the Premier League in 2016, forming an unlikely partnership with Danny Drinkwater in the heart of the Foxes midfield which supported the lightning quick Jamie Vardy up front. He then had a similar influence in Chelsea’s 2016-17 title-winning season, becoming the first player to win a Premier League winners’ medal in consecutive seasons with two different clubs.
27. Dwight Yorke
Yorke established himself as one of the Premier League’s most impressive attackers at Aston Villa, before moving to Manchester United in 1998. He struck up a fantastic strike partnership with Andy Cole at Old Trafford, where he won three titles before later top-flight spells at Blackburn, Birmingham and Sunderland.
26. Andy Cole
Cole enjoyed one of the best debut campaigns in Premier League history, notching 34 goals for promoted Newcastle in 1993/94. He never quite hit those individual heights again but was still a regular scorer for Manchester United, with whom he won five titles in eight seasons.
25. Eden Hazard
Among the most entertaining players the Premier League has seen, Hazard developed into a world-class attacker at Chelsea. In seven years at Stamford Bridge he won two titles, scored 85 goals, provided 54 assists and finished in the top two of the PFA Player of the Year vote three times.
24. Didier Drogba
He signed his first professional contract at 21, but late bloomer Didier Drogba is widely regarded as one of Africa’s greatest ever strikers and Chelsea’s most iconic frontman. His prowess in big games and astonishing physicality didn’t just win Chelsea four titles, they became hallmarks of the Blues’ reinvention after Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003.
23. Virgil van Dijk
Liverpool conceded 28 league goals before Virgil van Dijk’s mid-season debut in 2017/18, afterwards, they only let in ten. Only conceding 22 the following season, he’s single-handedly a reputedly leaky defence into the most steely in the league.
22. Kevin De Bruyne
Cut loose by Chelsea, Kevin De Bruyne returned to the Premier League with a point to prove, and boy has he proved it. His 60 Premier League assists in less than 150 appearances fail to paint the complete picture of pinpoint passes, crosses and moments of genius De Bruyne brings most pitches he walks onto. It may help that he plays in one of the most talented Premier League sides in history, but De Bruyne is arguably the most talented of the lot.
21. Nemanja Vidic
Manchester United’s tough-tackling centre-half was an indispensable player for the Red Devils. The Serbian made 211 league appearances for the club during eight years at Old Trafford, with his dominating presence at the back leading United to five Premier League titles. Vidic is widely recognised as one of the greatest central defenders to step onto these shores from Europe and he is one of only three players - alongside Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo - to have won the Premier League Player of the Year award more than once.
20. Peter Schmeichel
Shot stopping, handling, positioning, claiming crosses and rushing off his line, the Great Dane was a pioneer in the world of modern goalkeepers. Schmeichel helped Manchester United to five Premier League titles and was a pivotal figure in the Red Devils’ 1999 treble-winning side. The Dane also has the honour of being the first goalkeeper to score a goal in the Premier League, having found the net for Aston Villa in a defeat to Everton in 2001.
19. Vincent Kompany
Vincent Kompany is every manager’s ideal centre-back. A natural-born leader who is strong, quick, excellent in the air - and a bloody nice chap too. As well as being a defensive rock in City’s most successful period in their history, Kompany also showed his worth in the opposition’s penalty area, coming up with crucial title-winning goals for the blue half of Manchester. The winning goal in a home league tie against Manchester United in 2012 and a stunning long-range effort against Leicester City in 2019 are two classic Kompany classics…
18. Dennis Bergkamp
The ‘Flying Dutchman’ has wowed England’s top-flight with some epic goals over the years. Bergkamp’s hat-trick against Leicester City in August 1997 - which were the top three goals on Match of the Day’s Goal of the Month competition - was also’ bettered by a dazzling touch and finish against Newcastle five years later. His spatial awareness, his eye for a special goal, as well his ability to pick out seemingly impossible balls to teammates, made him one of Europe’s great exports to the Premier League.
17. Petr Cech
One of the cornerstones of Jose Mourinho’s great Chelsea side, Cech’s outstanding 15-year spell in the Premier League with the Blues and Arsenal earned him a reputation as one of the greatest goalkeepers to grace the English game. A four-time league winner at Chelsea, the Czech Republic great holds the league record of 202 clean sheets.
16. Mohamed Salah
Mohamed Salah’s arrival in Liverpool ignited their transition from a promising team to a great one. In recent memory, only his teammate Virgil van Dijk has had such an astonishing first season at a Premier League club, a 32-goal year in which everything the Egyptian touched turned to gold. He then won the Golden Boot again in his second season at Liverpool, before helping Liverpool to what will almost certainly become a record-breaking title. There's arguably been no one who's had such an impact on one club in Premier League history, ever. Salah's turned nearly men to conquerors - of England, Europe and the world.
15. Sergio Aguero
Martin Tyler bellowed Sergio Aguero’s name into history as he seized the starring role in the league’s most dramatic finish. Aguero will always be remembered for that title-winning moment of magic nearly eight years ago, but has done so much more since to justify his place amongst the Premier League greats. Now with 180 Premier League goals to his name, he’s closing in on the top three all-time scorers, only seven behind Dwight Yorke. He’s done it in only 258 games too, boasting the best goals-to-games ratio in Premier League history.
14. Ashley Cole
Arguably the best full-back to have ever graced the division, Cole was both an attacking force and a defensive rock. He was a key part of two title-winning teams at Arsenal but reached his peak across London at Chelsea, despite only lifting the Premier League trophy once at Stamford Bridge.
13. Rio Ferdinand
Emerging when he did at the end of the 90s, you'd have been forgiven for thinking Rio arrived in the Premier League as part of that first wave of foreign imports. English centre-halves just weren't meant to be that skilful, that quick, that intelligent, that cool. As a teenager, he rejected a scholarship to the Central School of Ballet to focus on football. In reality, though, he never gave it up, playing with such grace and balance with West Ham, Leeds, Manchester United and England, you half expected to look down and see him in a pair of pink slippers. The world's most expensive defender twice over, his partnership with Nemanja Vidic at United is considered one of the all-time great pairings. The benchmark against which all ball-playing centre-backs should be measured.
12. John Terry
Statistically, John Terry is the most successful Premier League captain of all time, lifting five Premier Leagues trophies, one more than Roy Keane and Vincent Kompany. Every possible domestic honour was hoisted above Terry’s shoulders during his 19 years at Chelsea, whose fans still hang his “Captain. Leader, Legend,” banner. A defender of the classic mould - Terry was always willing to put his body on the line whilst imperious in the air - his 41 league goals are the most scored in the Premier League by any defender.
11. Ryan Giggs
Not only did Ryan Giggs make a whopping 672 league appearances for United, but he stayed right at the top right until the end, even after his 40th birthday. He’s the ultimate stalwart of the Fergie era - his 13 Premier League titles and 162 assists are both comfortable records. As the league and the sport grow ever more draining, we may never see those numbers matched.
10. Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira is quite possibly the most complete player to ever grace English shores. A juxtaposition of a player, the 6’4" Frenchman was physically imposing and tough in the tackle, yet effortless and elegant on the ball; part classic English workhorse, part continental game-reader, he became talismanic of the successful first era of Arsene Wenger's Arsenal reign.
9. Roy Keane
“You would look at him busting a gut and feel that you’d be betraying him if you didn’t give everything yourself,” Gary Neville said of Roy Keane. The Irishman wasn’t just Sir Alex Ferguson’s captain, he was his representative, a mirror to his manager’s win-at-all-costs attitude on the field. Keane carried Manchester United through their successes in the late ‘90s, a guardian in midfield to the Class of ‘92. He terrified anyone who shared the grass with him with his hard tackling and tenacity. Roy Keane was the first player you’d take into battle with you.
8. Steven Gerrard
"As an all-round player, he was the best. He could do everything - both feet, score goals, defend, tackle, get around the pitch and lead." In James Milner's opinion, there is only one winner.
The driving force behind so many great Liverpool sides that always somehow fell short, Gerrard sadly never got his hands on a Premier League winner's medal. The fact he's still so revered and respected in the game tells its own story, though. As Milner perfectly summarises, Gerrard was the complete midfielder. Most of his truly great moments probably fell outside of Premier League duty, but there's no doubting his impact on English football's top flight.
7. Paul Scholes
In a ferocious United side, Paul Scholes provided a quiet grace; a midfielder with a passing range and reading of the game like no one had before at Old Trafford - or has had since. But that’s not all he was - he had the stamina of a champion to match. In nearly 500 league appearances for Manchester United, Scholes lifted 11 titles and became publicly revered by the likes of Xavi and Andrea Pirlo. Not just one of the greatest midfielders of all time, Scholes is a unique personality in a sea of Premier League cliches. Never has there ever been an English player like Paul Scholes, let alone a player like him in the Premier League.
6. Frank Lampard
So few footballers have ever been blessed with the natural ability and pure workrate of Frank Lampard. Adept in almost any midfield role, whoever he was teamed with, Lampard is widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of a particularly golden generation, and one of the most well-rounded midfielders to ever play the game. In thirteen years at Chelsea, Lampard lifted three titles and became the club’s all-time record scorer. He’s also the only midfielder to have scored over 150 goals in the league since 1992, and finished as the Premier League top assist provider three times.
5. Eric Cantona
"When the seagulls follow the trawler..." If we're talking about pure impact, Eric Cantona would have this wrapped up before voting started. The Frenchman's transfer from Leeds to Manchester United in June 1992 heralded two things: the dawn of the new Premier League era and the start of a period of unprecedented success for the Red Devils. Cantona was the genius behind the club's first title under Ferguson, and three subsequent league triumphs, providing a youthful yet talented team with a genuine world-class focal point.
Collar popped, chest out, Cantona relished centre-stage, dragging United over the line and achieving god-like status among United fans. The first true megastar of the Premier League era.
4. Wayne Rooney
Few sights in football have ever been as much fun as a young, riled-up Wayne Rooney. A player who always seemed plugged-in to the emotional current of a match, he was often at his most brilliant when his cool deserted him a little. That volley against Newcastle in 2005 being a prime example.
He wasn't all passion, mind. In his pomp Rooney was a sublimely gifted footballer; a burly, barrelling No.9 and a mooching playmaker rolled into one. Quick, strong, intelligent, industrious, a great passer and a selfless team player, that he's both Manchester United's record goalscorer and third in the all-time Premier League assists tally is testament to the range of his abilities. Oh, and that overhead kick against City probably deserves a mention too.
3. Alan Shearer
How could any reasonable discussion not include Alan Shearer, who banged in an utterly ridiculous 260 Premier League goals between the league's inception and 2006? A classic No.9, Shearer combined aerial prowess and a poacher's instinct with an absolute cannon of a right foot. A Premier League winner with Blackburn in 1994/95, Big Al later became a legend with his boyhood club Newcastle United. His goalscoring record still stands and it may be a very long time before he's finally dethroned. The man simply was goals.
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2. Cristiano Ronaldo
Had Ronaldo stuck around in England a little longer, this whole debate would probably be a waste of time. The Premier League might not have got the very best of CR7, but it certainly got the most fascinating phase of his career, his evolution from bandy-legged show pony to unstoppable force of nature. A player who had it all: blistering speed, skill, strength, ice cold finishing and the dedication to bring it all together on the training pitch to devastating effect. His displays throughout the 2008/2009 season surely rank alongside the greatest single season performances in Premier League history. Talent and dedication wise, there's no question he's up there, but did he do it for long enough to really be considered the greatest of all time?
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1. Thierry Henry
No one has won the Golden Boot more times. No one assisted more in a season. No one has terrorised defenders with such a combination of bewitching grace and phenomenal power. He was the catalyst in two Premier League titles for Arsenal, carried them on his back during the dark days and lit up English football with his signature swagger.
Thierry Henry isn’t just the King of Highbury or a once-in-a-generation striker though. He represents the artistry with which Arsene Wenger’s greatest sides flourished. He made football fun; it looked classy, effortless and beautiful all in one. He may have left Arsenal in 2007, but Henry at his peak would have thrived in any era, in any team in Premier League history.
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