Every Premier League Team's MVP of the Last DecadeMay 4, 2020
With no top-level football to look forward to, we find ourselves casting our minds back.
Taking inspiration from Bleacher Report's NBA staff, we've identified each Premier League club's MVP (most valuable player) over the past decade.
You can interpret that value in many different ways—longevity, availability, moments delivered, silverware—and it should make for an intriguing mix of opinions. Selections were made based on all football over the last 10 years, in any division or competition, not just England's top tier.
For some clubs, where there was more than one very influential player, we have listed an honourable mention. For some, though, the choice is clear and easy.
Arsenal: Aaron Ramsey
We begin with what was an incredibly tough selection. No one will deny it's been an underwhelming decade for Arsenal, and they've had a nasty habit of ending relationships with key men on bad terms, making it all the more difficult to pick one.
Laurent Koscielny held a defensive line together almost on his own for a long time; Santi Cazorla was the heartbeat of the side for as long as he was fit; and Alexis Sanchez's brilliance and output was undoubtedly crucial to big wins and trophies.
But Ramsey is the choice—despite some injury issues suffered—as his contributions when fit can't be overlooked: Three big performances in three FA Cup finals, all won, and a goal scored in two of them.
He began the decade with question marks over his role in the side, at times being pushed to the right flank, but by 2015 he'd secured a central berth and was making penetrative runs into goalscoring areas, wreaking havoc on defences.
That his next destination was Juventus is a marker of his quality, and Arsenal will do well to find another player like him.
Aston Villa: Jack Grealish
Villa were cresting a wave back in 2010; a high-powered squad consisting of the likes of Gareth Barry, James Milner, Ashley Young and Stewart Downing propelled them to within touching distance of the Champions League.
But by 2012 they had been gutted for parts, leading to an incredibly lean stretch, a relegation and three years in the Championship before being promoted this term.
It means they're the first of several clubs on this list whose playing staff has been rather transient, and therefore MVPs are picked based on shorter spells or time outside the Premier League.
Current club captain Grealish came of age in the Championship and cemented his place in the side in 2016-17. He carried the team in 2017-18, spearheaded an excellent unit to promotion in 2019-20 and now represents the shining hope in the battle to avoid relegation.
Not only is he literally their most valuable player (£-wise), but he's the heartbeat of a side who are not the same without him—as his goals (six) and assists (seven) this term, plus the 10-game winning streak he sparked last season, prove.
Bournemouth: Steve Cook
There's a strong case for Callum Wilson here, as he joined Bournemouth in the Championship and fired them into the Premier League at the first time of asking and has helped keep them there ever since.
But Cook's association with the Cherries goes deeper. He became a permanent fixture in the XI back in 2012-13, when the club were in League One (England's third tier), and has steered them up the footballing pyramid, retaining his place in defence to this day.
A mix of a physicality and technical ability, he's adapted to each new challenge as it's come along and has donned the captain's armband at points. To have such a reliable, familiar figure at the heart of the back line all this time has been a great comfort to manager Eddie Howe, no doubt.
Honourable mention: Callum Wilson
Brighton & Hove Albion: Lewis Dunk
This exercise is timed perfectly to capture the impact Dunk has made for Brighton.
He tip-toed his way into the team in 2010, providing a small helping hand in promotion from League One, before planting himself into the XI fully in the Championship years.
He anchored the defensive line as Brighton were promoted into the Premier League, has impressed so much in the top tier he's been capped by England and was named captain of the club at the beginning of the 2019-20 season.
Dunk's a local hero in a part of the country (East Sussex) that places a particular importance on celebrating their own, has helped them rise up the divisions and has adapted to every style of play the club's managers have introduced quickly.
Burnley: Ben Mee
The Burnley side Sean Dyche inherited back in 2012 looks very different to the one we see now, but there is one constant: Ben Mee helped begin the resilient revolution eight years ago, and now he's a key figure in the resulting product.
He's been a part of two promotions, one relegation and even a European campaign. Standing tall in Dyche's well-drilled defensive line, he's clocked more than 300 total appearances for the Clarets as they've consistently punched above their weight.
There are others in the current XI who have been around for a while—in particular, Ashley Barnes has been working away up front for the Clarets since 2014—but no one matches Mee's longevity, and given the onus placed on structured, defence-first football at the club, Mee's presence in the centre of defence has been the most valuable.
Honourable mention: Ashley Barnes
Chelsea: John Terry
Chelsea's last decade has brought so much success and silverware. Three Premier League titles, two FA Cups, Champions League glory and a tidy Europa League triumph too; things may have been a bit volatile at times, but the highs were very high.
The club's best player through most of this period was probably Eden Hazard, who dazzled for eight years at Stamford Bridge. But the man at the centre of the majority of these achievements—including the Champions League title—was Terry.
He outlasts excellent competition in Hazard and Frank Lampard for this title, boasting the European title that Hazard doesn't and some longevity that Lampard lacks (he left three seasons before Terry).
That 2010 double-winning side was ferocious, the 2015 league-winning side stingy. Terry led all different variations of Chelsea out on to the pitch for more than 10 years; almost all of them were a roaring success.
Honourable mention: Eden Hazard
Crystal Palace: Wilfried Zaha
Zaha has spent approximately 80 per cent of the last decade at Crystal Palace—a spell at Manchester United, plus some loans out from there, intercedes two separate tenures at Selhurst Park—and he's been the clear most valuable player for them over that period.
They've been fighting the threat of relegation pretty much the entirety of the decade, and Zaha's been on the front lines, often producing a moment of magic, a mind-bending dribble or a crucial goal as Palace put up the points required.
They've had some important defensive presences during this time, but since Roy Hodgson took charge in 2017 at least, the system has been the saviour at the back, not one particular player. In attack, though, it's often come down to Zaha—and he's delivered in every season to date.
Honourable mention: Mile Jedinak
Everton: Leighton Baines
Everton have seen so many players come and go over the past decade, with constant recruitment affecting every position. There have been two pillars of consistency through it all, though: full-back tandem Seamus Coleman and Baines.
While both have been godsends for whichever manager has been at the helm, it's Baines that has truly carved himself out as a club icon. His marauding runs up the left flank, underlapping link play with a series of wingers and vicious set-piece deliveries have produced some unforgettable moments in Toffee blue.
He's made two PFA Teams of the Year, won Everton's Player of the Year twice and captained the club, peaking at the start of the decade but maintaining a consistently high level for what seems like an age.
Leicester City: Jamie Vardy
The most effective single season Leicester City have witnessed over the past decade was N'Golo Kante's in the incredible 2015-16 Premier League title win.
Riyad Mahrez was sensational over that stretch, too, and stayed longer—a further two seasons after the title win, plus he was there for the promotion campaign—experiencing Champions League football with the Foxes before eventually moving to Manchester City.
But the MVP of the decade has to be Jamie Vardy. He was top scorer in the season Kante shone, continued to shine in tandem with Mahrez, is still excelling for the club now and played a huge part in setting the foundations for that miracle 2015-16 campaign.
His goals lifted Leicester out of the Championship in 2014; his spike in form in 2015 helped rescue the club from what seemed like certain relegation; his 11-game goalscoring streak set a Premier League record; and he's refused to take his foot off the gas at any point since.
Liverpool: Virgil van Dijk
From 2010 to 2018, the several iterations of Liverpool we saw could be categorised similarly: Offensively explosive, but defensively somewhat calamitous.
Brendan Rodgers' 2013-14 title challengers had to paper over the cracks at the back by scoring again and again, and so did Jurgen Klopp's first version of the red machine we appreciate today.
That approach was exhilarating but too flawed to challenge for the trophies they wanted.
That's why the Van Dijk signing is so pivotal. His arrival changed the feel of the team and took it to another level; it immediately became a unit to fear not just in attack, but in defence too. He's not been at Anfield long, but the impact he's made is quite incredible.
He's played a starring role in two genuinely incredible seasons, one of which brought a Champions League crown, the other set to bring a Premier League title.
Honourable mention: Steven Gerrard
Manchester City: David Silva
David Silva has just completed one decade at Man City—and what a decade it was.
The club may have reached new levels since Pep Guardiola took the reins, but they were a silky, crafty, technical team before that, and that's thanks to the smooth playmaking of Silva.
Constant availability is an underrated offering in football, and it's allowed the Spaniard to become a true reference point in City's midfield. His partners have changed over the years, but he's kept things classy in the centre.
Assists, goals, moments of genius and big, happy grins. City fans love every part of Silva; not only would they consider him their MVP of the last decade, they might just consider him the club's greatest ever player.
Honourable mention: Sergio Aguero
Manchester United: David De Gea
De Gea's importance to Man Utd over the last decade has been regularly acknowledged by the fans; they've voted him Player of the Season four times since 2014.
The truth is that had it not been for him, their period in the (relative) doldrums would have been far worse. He kept them afloat in several seasons, performing heroics between the sticks on a weekly basis.
His form has taken a bit of a dip since 2018, with the World Cup finals in Russia signalling a curious downturn, but after five years of playing at an elite level you can perhaps forgive him that. Even when not at his best, he's still in the top 10 in the world at his position.
Honourable mention: Wayne Rooney
Newcastle United: Jonas Gutierrez
The story of Jonas on Tyneside is both heartwarming and crushing; he became so important to the club and the fans, scored one of the most important goals in its recent history but was treated poorly by the hierarchy at the end.
In an interview with Chronicle Live in 2018, he spoke about the key junctures in his Newcastle career: Initial relegation, staying with the club and getting them promoted, being diagnosed with testicular cancer and then returning to score the goal that kept the Magpies up on the final day of the 2014-15 season.
It was his last game for the club and a year later won a disability-discrimination case in court against his former employers. It was a callous way to treat anyone, let alone a hero and an MVP, and the events have only cemented Jonas further into Newcastle folklore.
Norwich City: Wes Hoolahan
The term underrated is thrown around a lot in football, and those that are typically branded it aren't actually underrated at all.
But Hoolahan definitely classifies as underrated—outside of East Anglia and Ireland, anyway. His craft and vision on the ball was unlike anything his club or country could get from anywhere else, leading to a nickname of "Wessi" that was only partially a joke.
He played out most of the last decade with the Canaries and was often a crucial attacking piece for them, particularly during Alex Neil's tenure when the football played in the Championship was Rolls Royce-like.
Honourable mentions: John Ruddy and Grant Holt
Sheffield United: Billy Sharp
The Blades' rise to England's top tier has been swift; they were in League One (England's third tier) as recently as 2017, achieving two promotions in three years to reach the promised land.
Impressively, four members of that 2016-17 League One squad still contribute regularly to the side we see now: Chris Basham, Jack O'Connell, John Fleck and, chief among them, local boy Sharp.
He scored 30 goals as they were promoted to the Championship, 24 when they were promoted to the Premier League and—crucially for this exercise—he even scored 21 in 2015-16 when the team was a shadow of what it is now.
If MVP stood for most valuable person, the pick here would undoubtedly be manager Chris Wilder, who has overseen the club's remarkable recent trajectory. But for player, Wilder's commander and captain Sharp is the pick.
Southampton: Rickie Lambert
Plenty of the Sharp/Sheffield United argument also applies to Southampton's undoubted MVP of the decade, Rickie Lambert.
He too signed for the club in League One and spearheaded their charge up the leagues, pillaging defences left and right. Bought for £1 million in 2009 at age 27, he was a Premier League footballer by 2012 and made his England bow aged 31, scoring with his first touch.
Southampton fans claimed he had Premier League class even down in the third tier, and while those claims weren't taken too seriously at the time, they were proved true. It explains all those goals (117 of them) and why he was such a bully at a lower level, and how they were able to make huge strides so quickly, then cement themselves in the top tier at a canter.
Tottenham Hotspur: Harry Kane
Tim Sherwood's ill-fated reign as Spurs boss didn't produce much good—it was more famous for its clothing episodes than playing, perhaps—but he did give Kane his first run in the senior side...and that decision has proved to be among the most pivotal in the club's history.
His brilliance was hardly forecasted clearly; underwhelming loan spells at Millwall, Norwich and Leicester meant expectations were low, so he came back into the Spurs setup with something of a "well, let's give it a go" feel to him.
One hundred and eighty one goals (and counting) later, he's not only the most important piece of Tottenham's jigsaw but one of the best No. 9s in the game, anywhere.
Spurs' consistent top-four finishes, 2019 Champions League final appearance and big wins over each of the other top six over the years are a product of them being an excellent all-round side, but you don't reach that level and stay there without an elite striker like Kane.
Watford: Troy Deeney
Deeney's been a constant in Watford's team for nine straight years, and despite the addition of countless other strikers over the years, he has never been budged out of the lineup.
A handful up front, he's used his bulk and aggression to lead the line at both Championship and Premier League level. Handy in a strike pairing but also comfortable on his own, it's that versatility to his game that has allowed him to play a major role for 11—yes, eleven—different permanent managers since joining.
Now the captain of the club, they miss his grit and personality when he's not playing, and although his goalscoring his dipped over the last three years, some players carry an emotional importance that make them valuable regardless. Deeney is a good example of that.
West Ham: Mark Noble
Who else but "Mr. West Ham" for this selection?
Noble's spent the entirety of the past 10 years playing for and leading the Hammers from his central-midfield berth. During a tumultuous time that includes fan protests, relegation and a difficult stadium move, he's connected the club to the terraces throughout.
He's also been solid in the middle, getting stuck in to tackles and passing crisply, in addition to chipping in with the odd important goal.
Wolverhampton Wanderers: Ruben Neves
Had this MVP conversation revolved solely around Wolves' Premier League tenure over the past decade, the answer would probably be Joao Moutinho or Raul Jimenez. They've been the two best performers at Molineux for 18 months.
But stretching it back into the Championship as well presents two different candidates: Conor Coady and Ruben Neves. Both were at the club in the second tier, playing key roles in a blistering promotion campaign and then two excellent Premier League campaigns so far.
Coady has been at Wolves longer and is the captain, but there's a case Neves' importance trumps the skipper's based on the fact he was something of a gateway player: Once someone of his calibre and class joined, others of a similar ilk were probably more willing to follow suit.
In the Championship, he was pretty much a cheat code, and at Premier League level he's looked among the best in his position. He's also symbolic of Wolves' modern rise and approach.
Honourable mention: Conor Coady
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All statistics via WhoScored.com.