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Picking the best players from the 21-season history of the Premier League was obviously difficult. To make the process (slightly) more feasible, we set certain criteria for induction.
For inspiration, we turned to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, which honors past players and figures in Major League Baseball and various other organizations. From the baseball hall, we picked up two guiding principles, both of which have to do with the No. 5.
Five-Man First Class
In 1936, the National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted its first class, which included five men. The five players were Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson—all legends of the game.
We think the five-man first class was a good idea because it made the honor of being a first-class inductee all the more distinguished and rare.
Also, like our Hall of Fame, the baseball hall began inducting members well after the sport became established. Major League Baseball, of course, had been around for much longer than 21 years, but the principle is the same.
Five-Year Waiting Period
Our criteria for induction were simple. Players must have featured for a Premier League team during the Premier League era—those who only played before the 1992-93 season were not considered.
That's why you won't see players like George Best here.
To narrow down the field even further, we considered only players who have been retired for five years or more. For our purposes, then, a player must have retired by 2008 to be considered for induction. Doing so lends perspective to a player's career.
We borrowed the idea, again, from the baseball Hall of Fame.
Based on the five-year rule, you won't see players like Thierry Henry, David Beckham, Cristiano Ronaldo or Ryan Giggs here.
Other notable and deserving players narrowly missed out, but we'll leave that discussion to you. Now, for the inductees.