20 Best Manchester City Players in the Premier League Era

Rob Pollard@@RobPollard_Featured ColumnistSeptember 12, 2013

20 Best Manchester City Players in the Premier League Era

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    Manchester City have one of the most colourful recent histories in English football.

    Having been part of the Premier League during in its inaugural 1992/93 season, they ended up spending the 1998/99 season in the old Division 2 (now League One), before winning the Premiership in dramatic circumstances in 2011/12.

    It's been an incredible journey for everyone associated with the club. It may not be a history littered with silverware but it's been full of incredible highs and excruciating lows.

    Here, we look at City's 20 best players since the Premier League was formed, celebrating those who made this rich history possible. Players are ranked on the basis of their ability, how many appearances they made and how many special moments they were involved in with City.

    Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013/14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity

20: Peter Beagrie

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    Part of Brian Horton's exhilarating side of 1994, Peter Beagrie was one of the finest left-sided players to grace City's team. An out-and-out winger of the type you now rarely see, he was famous for taking players on numerous times, almost mocking full-backs with his confidence and trickery.

    He arrived from Everton in a £1.1 million deal with just nine games remaining of the 1993/94 season and went straight into Horton's side, helping to keep City in the division after they had been struggling badly.

    City then started the 1994/95 season on fire: With Beagrie on the left and Nicky Summerbee on the right, Paul Walsh, Niall Quinn and Uwe Rosler scored 47 goals between them. City were sixth in the table in early December, playing some superb football along the way.

    Some of Beagrie's performances that year were simply outstanding. He eventually left to join Bradford City in 1997.


19: Danny Tiatto

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    A surprise choice for some, I’m sure, but for those who witnessed Danny Tiatto week in, week out, you’ll understand why he’s made the list. Determination, fight and (sometimes) controlled aggression made Tiatto the kind of player you loved having on your side.

    He was quick and versatile, operating as a full-back, wing-back, winger and midfielder during his time with The Blues.

    He joined the club in 1998 when they were embarking on their season in the old Division 2, which ended in promotion via the play-offs. His ill-discipline caused problems early in his City career and he failed to establish himself in his debut season.

    It was the following year, another promotion-winning campaign, where Tiatto really came into his own, playing a key role in Joe Royle’s side. It remains one the best seasons in City’s recent history, with promotion unexpected, and the football expansive and exciting.

    The season after, which marked City’s return to the Premiership after a four-year exile, Tiatto won the coveted Player of the Year award with a series of impressive displays, marking the pinnacle of his career with the club.

    A firm fans’ favourite, the Australian, who cost City just £300,000, went on to make 139 appearances before leaving to join Leicester in 2004.

18: Paul Walsh

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    Walsh joined at the same time as Beagrie, and went on to score 16 goals in 53 appearances for the club.

    Dubbed "The Little Genius," Walsh was a skillful, selfless forward who put in some truly memorable performances during his time at City

    Brought in during the turbulent end to the 1993/94 season, Walsh scored six in the final 10 matches, helping steer City to safety. The following season he excelled, forming excellent partnerships with both Quinn and Rosler, as City played some quality attacking football.

    The 5-2 win over a Tottenham, known as one of the great matches at Maine Road, was the former Liverpool player's finest hour.

    In 1995, Alan Ball inexplicably sold Walsh to Portsmouth in a deal which saw Gerry Creaney sign for The Blues. It was one of the worst transfer deals in the club's recent history.

17: Sylvain Distin

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    At number 17 is Sylvain Distin, a lightening-quick centre-back signed from Paris St-Germain in 2002. After spending a season on loan with Newcastle United, it was City who nipped in and secured his services for £4 million. It proved to be a fine piece of transfer business.

    Distin was powerful and athletic and, together with Richard Dunne, formed the best centre-back pairing outside the Top 4. He made 178 Premier League appearances for the club before moving to Portsmouth in 2007.

    Many feel Distin is a player who could have maintained a place in the side in the post-takeover era had he stayed at the club for longer.

16: Gareth Barry

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    A true unsung hero. Gareth Barry divides opinion like few others in the game: City fans revere him—opposition fans fail to see the appeal.

    Signed for £12 million in the summer of 2009, he won the FA Cup in 2011 and the Premier League in 2012, making 175 appearances in all competitions and scoring eight goals.

    His neat and tidy passing and unerring ability to be in the right place at the right time made him impossible to drop, with his selfless playing style vital in allowing City's attacking stars to play with freedom.

    He did the dirty work that many don't want to do and City fans instantly recognised this and adopted him as a favourite, with the song "You're The One For Me, Barry" becoming a popular ode to City's Mr. Reliable.

    Few played such an important role in City's most successful period in recent history and his departure on a loan deal to Everton this summer was met with unanimous disappointment from City fans.

15: Paul Dickov

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    Paul Dickov scored one of the most important goals in City's history; a moment he will always be remembered for.

    It was May 1999 and City were playing Gillingham in the Second Division playoff final at Wembley. With City 2-1 down deep into injury time and looking certain to spend another unbearable season in the third tier of English football, the ball fell to Dickov on the edge of the area.

    He controlled it once before smashing it into the top corner and taking the match into extra-time. City went on to win on penalties and secure promotion at the first attempt.

    He was a player known for his tenacity and work-rate, a style which made him extremely popular on the terraces.

    Dickov scored 35 goals in 158 games before moving to Leicester in 2002. He returned to the club in 2006 for a largely unsuccessful second spell.


14: Ali Benarbia

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    Kevin Keegan may not be the most successful manager but he certainly knows how to play an exciting brand of football.

    In 2001/02, Keegan's City won promotion from the First Division, scoring 108 goals and securing 99 points. Rarely has such a glorious style of football been played at City.

    Central to that style was Ali Benarbia, a player signed on a free transfer from Paris St-Germain, who formed an almost telepathic understanding with Eyal Berkovic. Benarbia was a joy to watch—a player with superb vision and understanding of the game.

    He won the Player of the Season award in his first year and then led City in their return to the Premiership. He left the club in 2003.

13: Uwe Rosler

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    A true Manchester City legend, Rosler signed for the club in 1994, initially on loan, but after scoring five goals in the final 12 games of the season to help keep Horton's side in the top flight, he was signed for a fee believed to be around £400,000.

    The following season he scored 22 goals in all competitions and formed a devastating strike partnership with Walsh, finishing as City's top goalscorer and winning the Player of the Year award.

    He left the club in 1998 after relegation to Division 2 having scored 64 goals in 176 games. His name is still sung during matches today.

12: Carlos Tevez

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    Despite some questionable discipline during his time at the Etihad which soured his career at City somewhat, it's difficult not to include Carlos Tevez on a list of City's best recent players. This is an extremely talented player who was arguably the most important signing of the Sheikh Mansour era.

    He arrived after two seasons at Manchester United, signing a five-year contract with City in 2009. The club put up the now infamous "Welcome to Manchester" banners to mark his arrival, stoking tensions between United and City.

    Tevez's arrival was important. It helped convince other big names that City were serious about becoming a successful side, and his style of play raised the game of those around him. In City's FA Cup-winning year of 2011, Tevez was outstanding, regularly dragging his team through difficult moments with his skill and ingenuity. He scored 27 goals in all competitions that season.

    His transfer requests and self-imposed exile from the team mean he isn't as well liked as he could have been, but it would be foolish to deny the impact Tevez had on City before his departure to Juventus this summer.


11: Shaun Wright-Phillips

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    Another player who had two spells at the club, his first was markedly better than the second. He left for Chelsea for £21 million in 2005 after a stunning season in which his dribbling skills made him the most coveted player in the league.

    He came to City as a 17-year-old having been released by Nottingham Forest for being deemed too small. After flirting with the first team under Joe Royle, he came to prominence under Keegan who used him as a wing-back in City's Division 1 campaign of 2001/02.

    From then on, he got better and better, transforming himself from a raw wing-back learning his trade, to one of the finest right-wingers in the Premier League. His ability to go past players and score brilliant goals made him by far City's most important player during his last two seasons.

    He won City's Young Player of the Year award four times and in 2004 won the Player of the Year trophy.

    He returned in 2008 under Mark Hughes but failed to make an impact. Many feel his move to Chelsea ruined his career and made him a less exciting player but City fans will always remember just how good he was between 2002/05.

10: Pablo Zabaleta

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    Last season's Player of the Year, Pablo Zabaleta, has written himself into City folklore by virtue of his combative style and love of the club. Very few players have embraced City quite like Pablo.

    He joined in 2008 from Espanyol, the day before Sheikh Mansour's takeover, and initially struggled to adapt to the Premier League. He had a few disciplinary issues and the pace of the game appeared to cause him problems.

    However, he soon adapted and became a mainstay in the City side. During the club's title-winning season of 2011/12, he forced his way into the side with a series of excellent displays at right-back, and scored the first goal in City's 3-2 win over QPR which secured City's first title in 44 years. 

    He continued where he left off the following season when he was City's best performing player by some distance. He recently signed a new four-year contract which will keep him at the club until he is 32.

    Zabaleta's commitment on the field is striking. Rarely have City had a player so determined to give his all every time he steps out on to the pitch. It's this incredible desire to win which has seen him elevated to hero status by the club's fans.

9: Eyal Berkovic

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    Another in a long line of diminutive City playmakers on the list, Berkovic was a key part of Keegan's swashbuckling side of 2001/02.

    His injury early in the season meant Keegan signed Benarbia to plug the gap but he couldn't resist playing both when the Israeli returned to fitness. It was an incredible season as Berkovic produced brilliant moments time and again.

    He outshone Benarbia the following year in the top-flight, continuing the imperious form he'd shown during the promotion-winning campaign.

    A joy to watch, Berkovic remains one of the most talented players to play for City in recent times.

8: Micah Richards

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    Micah Richards joined City aged 14 after starting out at Oldham. He made his debut away at Arsenal aged 17 and quickly established himself as a regular in the side. He was hailed as a future star very early in his career after some eye-catching displays, with his athleticism and pace his most defining features.

    A huge dip in form under the guidance of Mark Hughes slowed his progress somewhat but the arrival of Roberto Mancini saw the defender make giant strides, combating some of the defensive frailties and concentration issues that had affected his form.

    In City's FA Cup and title-winning seasons, Richards was superb, outshining many of City's talented new players, before a bad injury ruled him out for almost all of last season.

7: Niall Quinn

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    Signed from Arsenal for £800,000, Quinn went on to make over 200 appearances for the club, scoring 78 goals.

    Having joined in March 1990, he only made nine appearances in his first season, but he scored four goals and helped to keep City safe. He scored 20 times in his first full season and even saved a Dean Saunders penalty after stepping into emergency action because of a red card dished out to Tony Coton.

    He continued to score despite some bad injuries during his time at the club.

    The song "Niall Quinn's Disco Pants," which refers to an unsavoury incident with Steve McMahon on a preseason tour of Italy, is still regularly chanted during away trips today.

6: Sergio Aguero

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    Will a more important goal ever be scored in the Premier League?

    As  Aguero smashed the ball into the bottom corner of the QPR goal on the final day of the 2011/12 season, he ended 44 years of waiting. Manchester City were Champions of England once again.

    It isn't just THAT goal that means Aguero makes this list—he's been consistently brilliant since his move from Atletico Madrid in 2011. He's incredibly fast and strong, with his low centre of gravity and balance making him difficult to knock off the ball.

    City fans knew they had a special player right from his debut against Swansea. He came on as a substitute, provided a brilliant assist and scored a 30 yard screamer. Welcome to City.

    He went on to score 30 goals that season, followed by 17 last season.

5: Shaun Goater

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    Shaun Goater initially struggled to win over the City fans; rarely has there been such a dramatic turnaround in support.

    He arrived with just seven games of the 1997/98 season left, with Royle hoping his goals could keep City up. He scored three before the season finished but City were relegated to Division Two. Goater was initially seen as a symbol of everything wrong with City's diminishing ambitions.

    The following season changed all that. City were promoted at the first time of asking, albeit via the play-offs, with Goater scoring 21 goals and finishing as City's top goalscorer.

    In 1999/00, City were expected to consolidate in Division One, but went on an incredible run of form and won automatic promotion back to the Premier League. Goater scored a remarkable 29 goals and was named Player of the Year by the supporters.

    It was an incredible two seasons which saw Goater play a lead role in back-to-back promotions.

    With City back in the Premier League, Goater again finished as City's top goalscorer. Despite injuries and new signings reducing his playing time, he scored a respectable 11 goals. However, City were relegated once again.

    Keegan's rampant City side won the First Division title in 2001/02, with Goater scoring 32 goals in all competitions, and finishing as the league's top scorer with 29.

    The following year again saw City spend on new strikers but Goater still had some memorable moments, scoring seven times in 14 games, including two in City's first win over United in the Premier League era, a memorable 3-1 victory at Maine Road.

    He scored 103 goals in 212 games.

4: Richard Dunne

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    No other City player has won four consecutive Player of the Year awards, but between 2005/2008 only Dunne took home the trophy. He has made more Premier League appearances than any other City player (253) and spent nine years as a first-team regular at the club. He's a legend in every sense of the word.

    Signed by Royle in 2000 for £3 million, Dunne was a strong, powerful central-defender who initially played as part of a three-man defence with Steve Howey and Andy Morrison. Despite his size, Dunne was also deceptively quick, with a great range of passing that often went unnoticed.

    He had a troubled period during Keegan's reign, and in 2003 was suspended due to disciplinary problems. However, that signalled a shift in his attitude, and from that moment on he was a model professional, captaining City for years afterwards.

    He was eventually sold to Aston Villa for £5 million after the takeover by Sheikh Mansour saw an influx of stars arrive. He will always be remembered as a player who continually shone during some bleak periods in City's history.

3: Vincent Kompany

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    Hughes' spell at City may ultimately have proved to be an unmitigated disaster but, credit where it's due, he pulled off an absolutely inspired deal when he signed Vincent Kompany from Hamburg for just £6 million.

    Kompany has become the leader of Manchester City—both on and off the field—a role he carries out with distinction and honour.

    For reasons unbeknown to any right thinking observer of football, Hughes played Kompany in central-midfield, despite it being clear to all and sundry he was a top-quality centre-half. Once Roberto Mancini arrived and played him at centre-back, Kompany didn't look back, becoming one of the most respected players in the Premier League.

    He's also a wonderful media operator. Whenever he speaks to the press, he's articulate and thoughtful—a student of the game and a brilliant representative of City and their history. He's a captain City fans can be proud of.

    He won the club's Player of the Year award in 2011 and captained City to their first league title in 44 years, scoring a vital winner against Manchester United with just two games of the season remaining, and is City's best defender of the last 20 years.

2: Georgi Kinkladze

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    It's one thing buying ready-made superstars already known in world football, it's quite another when you unearth one yourself, and in Georgi Kinkladze City discovered an absolute gem.

    During a successful spell at Dinamo Tbilisi, he caught the eye of former City chairman Francis Lee whilst playing for Georgia against Moldova and Wales. Lee made his interest clear to Dinamo and, despite work permit issues threatening to derail the deal, he eventually signed the midfielder for just £2 million. It was undoubtedly the best deal Lee ever struck as chairman.

    ‘Kinky’ became a City legend during his first season, winning the club’s Player of the Year award in 1995/96. City were relegated on the final day after a farcical match against Liverpool but Kinkladze had become a star after a series of glittering displays.

    Despite intense speculation he would leave after City’s relegation to the First Division, Kinkladze stayed, again winning the Player of the Year award as City finished the season well outside the playoffs. Five different managers had come and gone during the season as City descended into total chaos. It was a turbulent spell but Kinkladze was the player that kept fans believing.

    Resigned to another season of football outside the top flight, it seemed for all the world the Georgian would leave, but a fierce supporters campaign saw him sign a new three-year deal. It was clear, though, that City had to win promotion the following season if Kinkladze was to stay longer.

    However, the unthinkable happened. City were relegated again, and this time Kinkladze did depart, moving to Ajax for £5 million. It brought the curtain down on his beautiful career at City.

    He remains, to this day, a hero to City supporters.

    His finest goal came against Southampton in 1996, where he beat five players before chipping the ball beautifully over Dave Beasant who was left helpless in goal. It was a remarkable moment and one that will forever decorate the minds of those in attendance.  

    At half-time, City fans raced to the small television screens dotted around Maine Road to see the goal again, cheering every time a replay was shown. It was one of many brilliant pieces of individual skill from a player so clearly in the form of his life.

    Afterwards, manager Alan Ball said: "It was the closest thing I have seen to Maradona's goal against England. Not the one with his hand; the one where he did everyone and put it away."

    He may have been involved in one of the most difficult periods in the club’s history but Kinkladze had a lasting effect on all who saw him play.

1: David Silva

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    Mancini spent around £285 million on players during his time in charge of City, but none of it was spent quite as wisely as the £24 million he sanctioned to sign David Silva. The Spanish playmaker is the heartbeat of the current City side.

    Very few players can effortlessly float around a pitch and dictate play quite like Silva. It's clear that the other City players look to him to create, with his ability to find space and thread beautiful passes to his teammates City's most likely route to a goal.

    His best form came during their title winning-campaign in 2011/12. A series of excellent displays, which saw them hammer sides on a regular basis, will live long in the memory of City fans, and Silva was their star man throughout that spell.

    The 5-1 win at White Hart Lane, the 6-1 win at Old Trafford: these incredible performances were largely inspired by Silva's brilliance.

    His touch, vision, brain and ability mark him out as a true footballing genius. Silva sees things on the pitch that others simply can't. Like Kinkladze, Berkovic and Benarbia before him, he is an artist and a very special player, but one who also led his side to a league title and FA Cup win.

    His place in City's history books is already secure.

    David Silva: City's best player in the Premier League era.