Paul Scholes’ impressive form so far this season comes as little surprise. His consistency, dedication, professionalism but most importantly his talent have cemented the ginger maestro’s position as one of the best players to ever play in the Premier League. But who else apart from Paul Scholes can be considered one of the greatest Premier League players? Here is my personal list, in no particular order, of my top 10 best Premier League players of all time.
1. Thierry Henry- Arsenal (1999-2007)
Thierry Henry arrived at Arsenal as somewhat of an unknown entity but left as a Gunners and Premier League legend. Henry struck fear into opposing defenders through his frightening combination of pace, flair and accuracy in front of goal. Arsene Wenger converted the Frenchman from winger to striker, a move that would ultimately pay huge dividends as Henry managed to become Arsenal’s all time leading goalscorer. During his time as a Gunner, Henry scored an incredible 226 goals in all competitions, scoring 30 or more goals in 5 consecutive seasons from 2002-2006.
Henry’s skill, grace and charm have made him popular with Arsenal fans and opposition fans alike and his time in England will be fondly remembered.
2. Ryan Giggs- Manchester United (1992-)
Giggs has featured in every single Premier League season so far and his longevity has coincided with him being the most decorated player ever in Premier League history with 11 league titles to his name. The evergreen winger has proved his ability time and time again at the highest level and has the silverware to prove it.
Giggs has made a record 840 appearance for Manchester United since his debut back in 1990 and by the time the Premier League came into being in 1992-1993, Giggs had already established himself as United’s first choice winger, a position he was to hold for a number of years.
Recent seasons have seen Giggs being used more sparingly by Sir Alex Ferguson but his impact remains as devastating as ever. He came on as a second half substitute in Manchester United’s opening day victory against Newcastle and netted the third goal of the game, keeping up his impressive record of scoring in every Premier League season since its inception. Like his teammate Paul Scholes, Giggs is showing no signs of letting up despite his advancing years and will look to continue his excellent run of form as United mount another title challenge.
3. Alan Shearer- Blackburn Rovers (1992-1996), Newcastle United (1996-2006)
There isn’t a more familiar sight in Premier League football than Alan Shearer’s trademark one hand in the air goal celebration. The former Blackburn and Newcastle United striker made scoring goals look easy. Shearer was your classic English centre forward: big, strong and powerful with a deadly eye for goal. Shearer’s penchant for the spectacular (see his 30 yard volley against Everton) and his honest, hard-working style of play have endeared Shearer to many people who have watched the league over the years.
4. Gianfranco Zola- Chelsea (1996-2003)
As a Chelsea fan, Zola was always going to make this list. The diminutive Italian was one of first Premier League imports and arguably one of the best. Zola mesmerised the Stamford Bridge faithful with his sublime skills, technique and invention. One of greatest Zola moments for me has to be his amazing goal against Norwich in 2002 where he managed to flick a backheel from a corner into the back of the net.
Zola not only put a spell on opposition defenders but on the fans as well. Zola was voted Chelsea’s greatest ever player and I would have to agree.
5. Eric Cantona- Leeds (1992), Manchester United (1992-1997)
Eric Cantona’s career has been overshadowed by controversy but that shouldn’t take away from his undeniable brilliance. The mercurial Frenchman impressed at Leeds but it is at Manchester United where Cantona was to be immortalised as legend. From his upturned collar to his trademark swagger on the pitch, Cantona exuded confidence whenever he played. His arrogance came because of a belief that he was the best player on the park. He was almost always right.
6. Dennis Bergkamp- Arsenal (1995-2006)
Dennis Bergkamp’s addition to the Arsenal side could be cited as the birth of the Gunner’s brand of free-flowing attacking football. The Dutchman was signed by Wenger’s predecessor, Bruce Rioch but Wenger used Bergkamp’s talents to create Arsenal’s distinct attacking style. Bergkamp’s creativity and technique were central to Arsenal’s double success in 1997-1998. Not content with creating great goals, Bergkamp set about scoring them himself and has scored some truly memorable ones in his time at Arsenal.
Who can forget Bergkamp’s goal against Newcastle where he flicked the ball round Nikos Dabizas, spun to collect the ball and finished coolly past Shay Given.
What made Bergkamp special was that despite all his talents, he was a hugely selfless player, willing to create for others rather than hog the limelight like so many primadonnas of today. This is something that the next player on my list would benefit immensely from.
7. Cristiano Ronaldo- Manchester United (2003-2009)
As much as it pains me to admit it, Cristiano Ronaldo is one hell of a player. For all of his diving, cheating and winking, Ronaldo has matured into one of the most complete footballers around. Ronaldo terrorised defences on his way to 84 league goals in six seasons in Manchester, including 31 in the 2007-2008 campaign. Ronaldo thrilled the Old Trafford faithful with his blistering pace, trickery and ability to thump a dead ball as seen in his fantastic goal against Portsmouth. His departure to Real Madrid in 2009 has allowed many Premier League defenders to sleep a little easier at night.
8. Frank Lampard- West Ham (1995-2001), Chelsea (2001-)
Since joining from West Ham in 2001, Frank Lampard has been a beacon of consistency and excellence in Chelsea’s squad. The midfielder has become renowned for his goalscoring prowess, long shots and excellent range of passing. Lampard scored more than 10 goals in the league on seven consecutive occasions. He also has the record for consecutive appearances in the Premier League for an outfield player with 164 appearances. Lampard’s perennial inclusion in the Chelsea line up in addition to his league goals have been an integral factor in Chelsea’s recent successes.
9. Steven Gerrard- Liverpool (1998-)
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard is a talismanic figure at Anfield and it’s easy to see why. He is the heartbeat of Liverpool Football Club, a player who has gone from standing on the Kop as a boy to playing in front of it as a man. In his role with Liverpool, Gerrard has emerged as a complete midfielder, comfortable on the ball and in the tackle. He never fails to give anything less than 100% and it is this commitment that has made him such a popular figure.
10. Peter Schmeichel- Manchester United (1992-1999)
Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel is the only defensive player to make the list but with good reason. Schmeichel was the bedrock of Manchester United’s huge success both at home and on the continent with United winning 5 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups, 1 League Cup and the UEFA Champions League during his time at the club. Schmeichel’s legacy at United is not to be underestimated. Since he left Old Trafford in 1999, Sir Alex Ferguson has gone through numerous goalkeepers looking for a suitable replacement for the Dane and has Edwin van der Sar to thank for finally being able to call off the search.
Is there anyone else you think should have made the list?