English Premier League: Ranking 60 of the Best Overseas Players in EPL History
With the preseason in full swing and various names from every continent being linked with English clubs, you would be forgiven for not being too familiar with players in question. Many unknown players have come in the past and a great quantity of them have gone on to become inspirational figures in English football.
I decided to ignore players from the UK and Ireland and see just who some of the best imports are that have graced this league. The list was originally 50 but there were a few I couldn't leave out so it made its way to 60.
So who were the pioneers who paved the path for overseas players to make their names on these shores, who left their imprints on the history of this league and just who, in my opinion, was the best?
60. Faustino Asprilla
Newcastle signed Asprilla when they were top of the league in February 1996. An incredible talent on his day but unfortunately those days just weren’t consistent enough and he was even blamed in some quarters for Newcastle letting a 12-point lead slip in the title race with many believing he unbalanced the team with his arrival.
A very skilful player who could rip any defence apart, he eventually became quite a fan favourite especially after he scored a hat-trick against Barcelona in a thrilling game.
He eventually left to rejoin Parma in 1998 where he started to become known for his crazy antics off the pitch. Asprilla is one player who 13 years after his departure is still not forgotten.
59. Slaven Bilic
Bilic spent one year at West Ham United in 1996, then moved on to Everton for a fee around £4.5 million. A classy defender who still managed to pick up his fair share of bookings, Bilic became a cult hero at Upton Park but his move to Everton was more of a disappointment, struggling to become a regular starter due to injuries and suspensions.
58. Frank Leboeuf
Lebeouf played over 200 games for Chelsea after arriving in 1996 and won two FA Cups, one League Cup and a Cup Winners' Cup during his stay there. He left in 2001 to join his home club Marseille.
Lebeouf played in France’s successful '98 World Cup Final, where he put on a great display. He also won a medal at Euro 2000.
57. Carlos Tevez
I guess we will find out in the next month if Tevez is to continue his Premiership adventure with Manchester City or if he is indeed off for the warmer climates of another country.
Tevez started his English career with a shock move to West Ham United along with Argentine counterpart Javier Mascherano. He took a while to adapt to football over here but he found his goal-scoring boots just in time, scoring seven goals in the last nine games of the season which in turn kept West Ham up.
He then joined Manchester United where in two seasons he won the league both times and won the European Cup before becoming disjointed with life there due to being regularly dropped to the bench. Tevez broke United fans' hearts by joining rivals Manchester City. At City, he has truly found his best form scoring 52 goals in all competitions during his two seasons there and easily becoming City’s most important player.
It remains to be seen if Tevez will still be at City next year due to rumours about his unhappiness.
56. Benito Carbone
His flair and extraordinary goals more than lived up to his reputation and after three great years, he moved on to Aston Villa. He never settled there and after three more years in England he had played for Bradford City, Middlesbrough and Derby County, often showing his fantastic side and other times going missing during the games showing his frustrating side.
Carbone will always be remembered in England for his great goals.
55. Temuri Ketsbaia
The Georgian international joined Newcastle United in 1997 under the Bosman ruling and will be mostly remembered for his crazy goal celebration where he violently kicked the advertising hoarding after throwing his shirt into the crowd.
The Toon Army favourite was mainly used as a super-sub but he often popped up with important goals for the club.
54. Tomas Repka
A real hard case of a defender who endeared himself to the West Ham faithful with a battling display in every game. Spent five years at the club and on his final game, he was given a standing ovation by all the fans and the hard man left the field in tears.
It seems an age since Arsenal brought Kanu over from Inter Milan in 1999 but the £4.15 million they spent seems like a bargain now. A scorer of important goals for the club, he became a fan favourite winning two leagues and two FA Cups and he personally won the African Player of the Year in 1999. In 2008, Kanu was voted 13th in the "Gunners' Greatest 50 Players" poll.
With Kanu eventually struggling to find games due to Henry blocking his path, he decided to leave the club where he joined West Brom and later Portsmouth, where he won the FA Cup again.
52. Gianluca Vialli
Vialli joined Chelsea in the latter part of his career but he still had a knack for goals. He had won nearly all the honours he could have whilst playing for Italy and in his first season at Chelsea, the legendary striker won the FA Cup.
In 1998 he was installed as player manager where he had a quite successful role when he hung up his boots.
51. Mark Viduka
Arrived at Leeds United from Celtic having just won the Spanish Player of the Year award and he soon carried on his free-scoring ways. He managed to hit 72 goals in three years for Leeds but when they were relegated from the Premiership in 2000, the bulky hitman decided against moving to a bigger team and joined Middlesbrough, where he managed 42 goals in 101 appearances.
He finished his career at Newcastle United in 2009 where he had failed to insert himself as a permanent starter in the team, but in his prime he was one of the most feared strikers in the league.
50. Harry Kewell
Bursting on the scene at the age 19 for Leeds United, it seemed Kewell had the world at his feet. An exciting dribbler who could be used as an attacking midfielder or as a second striker, he was widely regarded as one of Australia’s best exports.
Winner of the 2000 PFA Young Player of the Year, Kewell was one of Leeds' key men during their rise to the top of the league, playing a fast attractive game of football. Many of Europe’s bigger clubs started to take notice, and Inter Milan were rumoured to be thinking of launching a £25 million bid for the youngster.
Eventually he made his way to Liverpool, rejecting the likes of Manchester United and Barcelona, when Leeds’ financial difficulties meant they had to sell most of their players. Unfortunately Kewell couldn’t hit the heights of his Leeds days and he spent too long out injured, never justifying his huge salary. He left England in 2008 to join Turkish club Galatasaray.
49. Patrick Berger
Picked up by Roy Evans after some great performances at Euro '96 for the Czech Republic, Berger spent seven years at Anfield for Liverpool and became a Kop favourite. His fantastic left foot and great eye for a goal from long range with his famous thunderbolts always brought the Liverpool fans to their feet.
48. Philippe Albert
Starred at the '94 World Cup and was snapped up by Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United soon after the tournament, where he immediately impressed. He achieved cult hero status at St. James Park due to his tendencies of being an attacking centre half who liked to get his name on the score sheet.
Check out his goal against Manchester United on the video to see just how skilful he was with a ball!
47. Tony Yeboah
During the Ghanaian's spell at Leeds United, he developed a reputation as a scorer of spectacular goals so it’s easy to see just why he became a firm fan favourite and still is to this day. Became Leeds’ first non-English player to win their Player of the Year but still only lasted 47 games due to a clash with management
46. Youri Djorkaeff
A World Cup winner in '98 with France, Djorkaeff surprised many when the former Inter Milan man joined Bolton Wanderers. Even though it was at the back end of his playing days he proved that he still had the skill, sublime touch and passing ability that had once made him a European great.
When he left Bolton aged 36, he joined Blackburn Rovers but left after only three games
45. Thomas Gravesen
Don’t let the looks fool you. Whilst he was a tough tackler with a bad temper, he was also quite skilful on the ball and had a good passing ability. It was all these traits that endeared Gravesen to the Everton faithful, making 141 appearances till he left to join Real Madrid.
He failed to settle at Madrid and eventually left to join Celtic, where again he struggled and he found his way back to Everton on loan, after which he retired.
44. Michael Essien
Easily one of the best midfielders in the world at the moment, never mind the Premiership, it’s just a shame that injuries have held him back over the last few years. But he seemed back to normal fitness last season.
For Essien at this age, I think the next few years will see him at his best, and once he finally retires he could be seen much higher up on lists like these.
43. Fernando Torres
Currently the most expensive British footballer of all time at £50 million. Yes, we all know what kind of form he has been in recently but during his first years at Liverpool he was a phenomenal striker who struck fear into the hearts of all the defenders he faced.
He's only 27 so there’s still time for him to take the mantle of being one of the best strikers this country has seen.
42. Eidur Gudjohnsen
A snip at £4 million, Gudjohnsen more than repaid that fee back for Chelsea. Bought in as backup to their current strikers, Eidur forced his way into the team and the hearts of the Chelsea fans. Gudjohnsen lasted six years and played over 263 games for the Blues which brought him 54 goals, before leaving for Spanish giants Barcelona.
The last two seasons have seen Gudjohnsen return to the Premiership, playing for Tottenham, Stoke and Fulham but he failed to find his old form.
41. Andrei Kanchelskis
One of the first foreigners who set the standard of playing in the Premiership, Kanchelskis was a key part of Manchester United’s rise back to the top of English football. Kanchelskis brought blistering pace, flair and skill on the right wing, which perfectly complemented a young Ryan Giggs on the left wing.
The fans' love for Kanchelskis was confirmed when the player scored a hat-trick against bitter enemies Manchester City and he cemented his name in United’s history.
He left Old Trafford for Everton in their biggest deal for a player in 1995 after a dispute with Ferguson. He lasted one season at Goodison Park before heading to Fiorentina in Italy. In future years he would appear in the Premiership again for brief stints at Manchester City and Southampton.
40. Jay-Jay Okocha
So good they named him twice. Okocha's brilliance lit up many a dull match in Lancashire, and along with Djorkaeff inspired Bolton to avoid relegation. His array of tricks and step-overs easily made him the most exciting player at Bolton and it seemed apparent on match days by the number of shirts you would see with his name across the back of them.
Spent four years at the Reebok Stadium, where he was even made captain, before moving on.
39. Mark Schwarzer
Schwarzer kicks off a small run of goalkeepers in this list, and in my opinion, he has been very underrated up till the last couple of years. Next year the Australian stopper will participate in his 15th season in the Premiership, and he has always been a consistently good goalkeeper for Middlesbrough and Fulham, but unfortunately, has never had the opportunity as the highest level since a move to Arsenal last year never materialised.
Mark is now 38 and it may be too late now for him to prove himself for one of the bigger clubs in the league.
38. Brad Friedel
Hard to separate from Mark Schwarzer but over the years, Friedel has always been one of the best in the league. Often when teams faced him, Friedel would be in inspired form, leaving teams scratching their heads at just how to beat him.
With stints at Liverpool, Blackburn Rovers and most recently Aston Villa, he is a well-travelled keeper around the league and in the last few weeks, the 40-year-old secured a move to Tottenham and it wouldn’t surprise anyone if even at that age he became the No. 1 choice.
37. Petr Cech
Soon after Cech joined Chelsea in 2004, he firmly established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, becoming a massive obstacle facing many attackers at home and in Europe. Chelsea’s title wins under Mourinho came from teams who were built from an impeccable defence which conceded little.
In the last few seasons, his form has dipped slightly and many attribute that to the serious head injury he suffered at the hands of Stephen Hunt. However. Cech is only 29, which is young for a goalkeeper, and if you look at the usual paths of goalkeepers' careers, the best years are in front of him.
36. Gilberto Silva
A World Cup winner in 2002 with Brazil playing the defensive midfield role in a team where it may go unnoticed due to its attacking prowess in abundance. Arrived at Arsenal for a small £4.5 million and looked every inch a bargain. Could play anywhere across the midfield but was generally used as a holding midfielder.
Spent six years at Arsenal, being part of the invincible team. Faced Barcelona in the European Cup Final and also won the Premiership and FA Cup twice.
35. Ricardo Carvalho
Carvalho joined Chelsea soon after Mourinho took the reins at the club and he quickly became one of the most important players at the club. He formed a fantastic partnership at the back four with John Terry and his contribution didn’t go unnoticed as he won the fans and players' Player of the Year at Chelsea whilst a host of European clubs wanted to spend big to get their man.
He left last summer to link up with Mourinho at Real Madrid and many Chelsea fans blame the departure of Carvalho for the failure to win any silverware in the season just gone.
34. Robin van Persie
At £2.75 million, it seems almost like Arsenal stole van Persie from Feyenoord but in the time he has been playing for Arsenal he has gone on to become one of the most skilful attackers in the game.
Struggles with injuries and fitness but when he is fit is there anyone in the Premiership better? That’s all that’s stopping Robin from being a great; he just needs to stay injury-free. At 27, he’s just hitting his peak so expect much more.
33. Georgi Kinkladze
One of the most skilful players I’ve seen, and one who it’s fair to say has been quite forgotten about. Joined Manchester City in 1995, where his dribbling ability and spectacular goals made him a cult hero, winning the club's Player of the Year award in two consecutive seasons. After his first year in England with City being relegated, Liverpool, Inter Milan and Barcelona were trying to land the playmaker but he showed his loyalty and opted to stay at City.
He was loved by every Manchester City fan and at the end of his second season there, the fans paid for adverts begging him to stay, which he duly did.
32. Claude Makelele
Signed by Chelsea in 2003 from Real Madrid for £16.8 million, where he was to become the engine of the team. He only spent five years at the club but his contribution to the team was huge. Whilst underrated by some, those who paid enough attention to his games could tell he was the most important person on the pitch for Chelsea, with Mourinho stating he was the player of the season at the end of the 2004-05 season when Chelsea won their first Premiership trophy.
He added another league title, two League Cups and an FA Cup to his resume and also played in the Champions League Final against Manchester United which was his last game for the club.
One of the best holding midfielders the Premiership has seen.
31. Fredrik Ljungberg
When Arsenal brought Ljungberg over from Sweden in 1998, Arsenal fans would be forgiven for asking each other, "Who?" Scoring on his debut against Manchester United, Ljungberg went on to become one of the greatest midfielders in the Premiership during his time there.
Part of the invincible team and also in the side that lost in the Champions League Final, Ljungberg still had his fair share of medals with two Premierships and three FA Cups. After nine years there, Ljungberg moved to their close rivals, West Ham United.
In 2008, Ljungberg placed 11th in Arsenal.com's "Gunners' Greatest 50 Players."
30. Nemanja Vidic
The best defender in the Premiership. Vidic has gone from strength to strength since his debut in 2006 and has been a rock for Manchester United in what has again been a successful period for them.
Will easily go down as a legend for United and for the Premiership, and the scary thought for attackers in the league? He still has a few good years left.
29. Marc Overmars
A serious knee injury sustained whilst playing for Ajax meant Wenger was taking a risk when bringing the winger to Arsenal but the gamble paid off. Terrorising fullbacks with his blistering pace, Overmars scored the goal at Old Trafford which practically secured their first Premiership title.
Arsenal sold him for a huge profit at £25 million to Barcelona and the fans always remembered just what he did for the club.
28. Robert Pires
Brought in as Overmars’ replacement and he certainly lived up to the expectations. His first season was a slow start due to him getting to grips with the English game but over the next five seasons, Pires firmly established himself as one of the best wingers in Europe.
A great goal scorer from his field position scoring 62 goals for the club. His Arsenal career did end on a sour note though, being substituted in the 12th minute of the European Cup Final due to Lehmann's red card.
He appeared back in the Premiership last season for Aston Villa, but was a shadow of his former self.
27. Edwin van der Sar
The recently retired goalkeeper will be a tough act to follow for sure, showing just how important he was to Manchester United’s cause. Van der Sar first came to the Premiership scene in 2001 when he surprised many by joining newly promoted Fulham.
His performances for Fulham led to Sir Alex Ferguson bringing him to Old Trafford, where the rest is history. A true legend of the game.
26. Fabrizio Ravanelli
Ravanelli moved to Middlesbrough two months after starring in the Champions League Final and with a £7 million price tag , expectations were high. Ravanelli relished the challenge, scoring a hat-trick on his debut against Liverpool and ending the season with 22 goals. His stay was brief, moving to Marseille a year after he joined.
Ravanelli did manage to find his way back to the Premiership, this time with Derby County in 2001, and though he failed to keep them up, he reminded the fans just how good he was in front of goal.
25. Cesc Fabregas
I think we all have the hunch that Fabregas won’t be in the Premier League much longer. I, for one, think it will be a shame for us to miss out Fabregas’ best years that lie ahead after seeing him grow into one of the classiest midfielders around at such a young age—and that is irreplaceable for Arsenal.
Rising to the challenge and replacing Vieira in the starting 11 at 18 years of age and becoming captain at just 21 is pretty special folks. An amazing talent which Wenger has harnessed into the player you see today, and this is still the beginning of his career. Arsenal fans best hope for a miracle with the ever-persistent Barcelona sniffing about.
24. Dietmar Hamann
Hamman started off in England at Newcastle United, which is largely forgotten due to his short stay there, but it was at Liverpool where he made his name in this league.
He was an influential player during his seven years at Anfield and was the catalyst for the team's comeback against AC Milan in the Champions League Final when he came on as a substitute in the second half.
Hamman said an emotional goodbye to Liverpool in 2006 and spent three years at Manchester City, where he finished his Premiership career.
23. Nicolas Anelka
Easily the overseas player who has played for the most Premiership clubs. Anelka has been a constant goal scorer at every club he has appeared for: Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers and currently Chelsea.
He may seem a mercenary to most people but there is no doubting his ability. With a bursting trophy cabinet at home and too many goals to remember, Anelka is truly one of the stars of the Premiership era.
22. Lucas Radebe
A legend at Leeds United where the fans can still be heard singing his name on match days. Though his fitness was suspect throughout his career, you could be sure that if you were up against him you were in for a battle.
Retired in 2005 after 11 years at the club. A true hero.
21. Dwight Yorke
The smiling assassin was a key player for Aston Villa during the '90s and his threat in front of goal didn’t go unnoticed when in 1999 Manchester United broke their record to bring him to Old Trafford.
That’s where he achieved his greatest achievement in football, where he won the Treble and at the same time was United’s top scorer. After three seasons of being the top hit man inside Old Trafford, he suffered a reported bust-up with Ferguson which resulted in Yorke moving to Blackburn Rovers.
Dwight also had spells with Birmingham City and Sunderland, where he excelled in a central role in the park.
20. Sami Hyypia
Liverpool have signed some, well, quite rubbish players during the Premiership years so when Hyypia arrived the fans, who had never heard of him, didn’t know what to expect with the player being recommended to the club by a TV camera man.
A great servant to Liverpool, Hyppia was one of the best defenders around and even Liverpool themselves stated that Hyppia was the best bit of business the club has ever done. Sami made 318 appearances in 10 years.
19. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Jimmy notched 129 goals in the Premiership. A prolific scorer, the powerful striker was sought out all around Europe but seemed to predominantly confine his career to England.
Scoring plenty of goals for Leeds, Chelsea, Middlesbrough and Charlton, it seemed a shame that he only had one trophy to show for it all—an FA Cup with Chelsea.
18. Emmanuel Petit
Another Wenger steal costing Arsenal just £2.5 million to bring him in from Arsenal. Forging a partnership with fellow Frenchman Vieira, they were the driving force behind the '98 double win. Petit spent three good years at Arsenal before finding himself venturing to the sunny climates of Barcelona.
It didn’t quite work out for him in Spain, struggling to find a regular position in the starting 11. He longed to go back to England where Chelsea signed him for £7.5 million, where he retired in 2004
17. Marcel Desailly
Widely acknowledged as one of the most accomplished defenders football has ever seen, two-time European Cup winner and also a World Cup winner, Chelsea had pulled off a real coup with the signing.
A strong, well-built defender who formed a great partnership with Lebeouf that was the envy of many teams, Marcel Spent six years at Stamford Bridge where he became captain and also part of the team that won the 2000 FA Cup.
16. Jaap Stam
Became the most expensive defender in the world when he signed for Manchester United in 1998. Stam only lasted three seasons at United but his impact is still felt today.
Won the league every year he was at the club and a key component of the infamous Treble-winning side, Stam left under a cloud in 2001 to the dismay of the Old Trafford faithful.
15. Ruud Gullit
A key innovator of the “foreign revolution” that saw a host of overseas stars come over to England, Gullit was a former World Player of the Year and European Cup winner that instantly improved the worldwide profile of English football.
Gullit excelled straightaway in British football, finishing second in the English league Player of the Year award. By the start of his second season, he was appointed as player manager at Chelsea, and became the first non-English manager to win a major trophy in the country.
14. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer
The baby-faced assassin was Manchester United’s super sub, and actually holds the record for the most goals scored off United’s bench with 28.
Made 366 appearances for United and there couldn’t have been a more popular figure with his constant knack of scoring important goals. There was none more important than his winning goal in the '99 Champions League Final.
A surprising signing for newly promoted Middlesbrough in 1995 after being tracked by a host of big names. Juninho was an attacking midfielder whose array of tricks bedazzled the best of defenders.
Juninho loved the club so much that he ended up having three spells with the club and in 2007 was voted Middlesbrough’s greatest player ever by their fans.
12. Jurgen Klinsmann
One of the stars of 1990 World Cup and up there with the very best strikers in the world, this was a stunning move at the time. It was even more shocking given how unpopular the German was with English supporters and for having a famous reputation for diving. But he instantly won himself a new fanbase by mocking his famous swan dive after scoring his first goal for Spurs.
He bagged 29 goals in one fantastic season at White Hart Lane and was named the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year. He returned to North London on loan in 1997-98 and helped the club avoid relegation to confirm his legendary status around North London.
11. Didier Drogba
Possibly the greatest striker in the Premiership for the last few years. A powerful yet skilful striker whose constant eye for a goal makes a mockery of his ageing years.
Drogba had a slow start to his Chelsea career but eventually, the ability he showed whilst playing in France came through and he became one of the most feared players on the continent.
It remains to be seen just where Drogba will be playing next season with speculation that he could be moving away from the Premiership, but either way, his impact will never be forgotten.
10. David Ginola
The flamboyant winger signed for Newcastle United in 1995 when Kevin Keegan was trying to add flair to his team and help progress to league contenders. Ginola was an integral part of the team that narrowly missed out on the title in '96 and '97 and rejected a move to Barcelona.
A move to Tottenham Hotspur in 1997 brought even more out of the player, winning a League Cup and personally won the Football Writers' Player of the Year and PFA Player of the Year in 1999. Ginola was inducted into Tottenham’s Hall of Fame in December 2008.
Later spells at Everton and Aston Villa followed but his best days were at White Hart Lane.
9. Ruud van Nistelrooy
It looked like the move was not destined to happen. When the move was scuppered in 2000 due to van Nistelrooy severely injuring his knee, many doubted that United would take a risk on him, but luckily for both parties, they did and signed him in the summer of 2001.
Van Nistelrooy went on to become one of the most prolific goal scorers in Manchester United history, with 150 goals in 220 games. Ruud was also United’s top marksman ever in Europe with 38 goals. His other personal accolades include 2002 Premiership Play of the Year, PFA Player of the Year for 2002, Golden Boot winner for 2002-03 and also the UEFA Club Forward of the Year for that year.
Left under a cloud in 2006 and has never returned to the Premiership.
8. Cristiano Ronaldo
Despised by many fans of the Premiership but absolutely adored by the Red Army. The way Ronaldo progressed in front of our eyes was a joy to see. Should be called the world’s greatest player if it wasn’t for one Lionel Messi.
Became United’s best player at the club after the 2006 World Cup, and was a constant threat with his speed, tricks, bullet headers and vicious shots. Was the catalyst for the run of three titles that United brought in from '07-09 and not forgetting the '08 Champions League before leaving for a world-record fee of £80 million to Real Madrid.
Ronaldo’s individual honours include PFA Youth Player of the Year award, twice PFA Players' Player of the Year, twice PFA Fans' Player of the Year, twice Football Writers' Player of the Year, European Player of the Year and the prestigious World Player of the Year, amongst many others.
7. Patrick Vieira
Picked up for just £3.5 million from AC Milan, Vieira has been a hard act to follow for the Gunners, with them failing to win a trophy since he left. An iconic figure at the club, nobody bled more for the Arsenal cause than him.
Spent nine years at Highbury, as it was then, playing 407 times for Arsenal before he moved to Juventus in 2005. One of the best players to grace their famous shirt and still a fan favourite, as they often still sing his name.
Vieira played the last two seasons back in England with Manchester City, showing everyone he still enjoyed a good battle on the field.
6. Peter Schmeichel
In many people’s opinion, one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever grace the planet, never mind the Premiership. The best bargain of all time? At £530,000, it’s hard to argue that case.
Schmeichel was part of the United team that won back the league after 26 years of hurt and the dominance of the '90s that followed. Played 398 games at Old Trafford and even managed to score a goal. Peter is a six-time Premiership winner, three-time FA Cup winner and also captained the team in his last game to a Champions League win in '99 before leaving for Sporting Lisbon.
Schmeichel returned to England for short spells with Aston Villa and Mancchester City at the end of his career.
5. Paulo Di Canio
Has there been a more controversial figure in the world of football? Whether you love him or hate him, Paolo Di Canio was one of the most exciting, magical and passionate footballers ever to grace the English Premier League.
Di Canio’s career never reached the heights his talents deserved, even though Manchester United made regular enquires, but don’t let that take away from what Di Canio brought to the Premiership. Di Canio's incredible skill and desire to impress will never be forgotten and he has been worshipped by the supporters of his many clubs.
But for all his skilful, amazing goals, who will ever forget his controversial side, where he once pushed over a referee for giving him a red card? But showing his other side, he was awarded with the FIFA Fair Play Award in 2001 for catching a cross with his hands and stopping a clear goal scoring effort, because the goalkeeper was injured on the floor. He was bloody brilliant.
He is still a cult hero at Upton Park and he even has a club tattoo himself. In July 2010, in honour of Di Canio, West Ham announced the opening of the "Paolo Di Canio Lounge," within the West Stand, at their Upton Park ground
4. Thierry Henry
What can be said about Henry that hasn’t already been said? An absolutely phenomenal player, it wasn’t just Arsenal’s loss when he left to join Barcelona—it was also a loss for the fans of the Premiership.
Arriving from Juventus as a flop, a failed winger who wasn’t living up to lofty expectations from his youth days meant it was remarkable how Wenger turned him into the world’s most feared attacker. Twice runner-up in the World Player of the Year Award and twice Arsenal had to reportedly turn down £50 million bids for the player.
He was the player I feared the most in the league when my team was up against them. What he could do on the pitch was unbelievable and whenever he got the ball you had the feeling a goal was just around the corner.
It was a sad day for all Arsenal fans when their captain left in 2007 and it’s no surprise, with 369 games and 226 goals, Henry picks up the mantle of the greatest ever Arsenal player.
3. Gianfranco Zola
Back before Chelsea became money bags, there was one player, one little player, who all Chelsea’s hopes rested on. His name was Gianfranco Zola.
The little wizard arrived in 1996 and captivated the Premiership with his dazzling bag of tricks, lighting up every game he played in. Wasn’t predominantly a goal scorer but he was usually at the heart of every goal, with one of his sublime passes creating a chance.
Managed to take Chelsea to two FA Cups, a League Cup and a Cup Winners' Cup during his seven-year stay. He personally won some very honourable awards including twice Player of the Year, Football Writers' Player of the Year, inducted into the Hall of Fame and was also given an OBE for his services to the game.
He was voted Chelsea’s greatest ever player in 2003 and when he left they retired his No. 25 shirt.
2. Dennis Bergkamp
A lot of people's favourite of all time but for me, there’s only No. one, so Bergkamp had to settle for second! A remarkable talent who was a scorer of extraordinary goals and yet his assists could just be as breathtaking, opening the tightest defence up.
Formed the partnership with Ian Wright that brought Arsenal their first Premiership then formed an even greater partnership with Henry, which established the club as one of the greatest in the league.
Spent 11 years at Arsenal and won the Premiership three times and four FA Cups. He collected a host of individual honours too, including the PFA and FWA Player of the Year awards.
Here is a quote made by Simon Kuper about Bergkamp:
"One night last year some legends of Dutch football gathered for dinner in an Amsterdam house. Around midnight conversation turned to an old question: Who was the best Dutch footballer ever? Dutchmen have been voted European Footballer of the Year seven times, more than any other nationality except Germans. Yet Jan Mulder, a great centre-forward turned writer, chose a player who had never even threatened to win the award nor, at the time, a Champions League: 'Bergkamp. He had the finest technique', said Mulder. Guus Hiddink, the great Dutch manager, nodded, and so the matter was settled."
1. Eric Cantona
I found it tough to place the top two. Actually, make it the top three. Nothing really separates them, but this is how I place them in my opinion!
Started in England at Leeds United, where he helped them to the First Division title, the year before it became the Premiership. Manchester United made a cheeky £1 million bid for Eric not even expecting a response, but amazingly Leeds accepted, and the rest is history.
Did anyone do anything more than "The King" to revive Manchester United as a football force? An inspirational force, quite possibly the biggest icon to ever play at Old Trafford, Cantona was even voted by United’s own magazine as United’s greatest ever player.
But for his skill, there was his bad disciplinary record where he often picked up suspensions for rash challenges. And who will ever forget his famous kung fu kick into the crowd? But that’s what made him who he was, and I’m sure no United fan would have him any other way.
Picked up a PFA and Football Writers' Player of the Year awards and was also an inaugural inductee into the Hall of Fame for British football.
Four Premierships and two FA Cups in only five years at United came to Cantona. He retired from the game at the age of 30 which was way too prematurely for me, but that summed the man up. The minute he thought he may start to show even the smallest amount of decline he packed it all in, wanting us all to remember him for the player he was. Many tears were shed when he left and every match day, even 14 years later, you can still hear his name mentioned.
Cantona returns in August leading the New York Cosmos for Paul Scholes' testimonial, and I for one can’t wait to join in with the other 76,000 in still showing our appreciation for one of United’s and the Premiership's greatest.
So that's that then! And just to recap the top 10:
5. Di Canio
9. Van Nistelrooy
These lists always raise a good debate, and everyone has their own opinion so I'm sure we could see some different variations of the order! I tried to avoid including too many players who are still playing in it today, and if you thought any of the current players were ranked too low that's simply because they've still got much more to offer!
Post in the comments the way you would list them, hope you enjoyed it!