For every Zola, Bergkamp, Henry, Cantona or Drogba that has come to the Premiership and improved it for the better, there are other world-class players that have neglected to display their talents in England. Since the Premiership’s inception in 1992, there have been a host of European teams that have conquered the continent: from Barcelona’s “Dream Team” under the tutelage of manager Johan Cruyff, the first “galactico” era at Real Madrid, to AC Milan’s golden era in the early 1990’s. Here are the greatest XI players to never play in the Premiership. To qualify, these players must have been in their prime between 1992 and the present day (that’s why greats like Diego Maradona do not feature). Obviously there are more than eleven great players in the last 18 years, so the next XI will be displayed as well, for players who are world-class but there was no room for in this team.
One of the best goalkeepers of all time, Buffon has been a great success for both Parma and Juventus in his career, and has won two Serie A titles, a UEFA cup, a World Cup with Italy and has been named Serie A goalkeeper of the Year 8 times in his career.
Arguably the greatest left back ever, Maldini won every major trophy in his career, including seven Serie A titles and 5 Champions League medals, shattered every appearance record going for Milan and was still playing at the top level aged 40. Edges out Roberto Carlos on this list because he can actually defend.
The Brazilian won two Serie A titles (one each with Roma and Milan), a Champions League and two World Cups amongst others in a glittering career. The epitome of what an attacking full-back should be, Cafu is also the most-capped Brazilian of all time, playing 143 games and 4 World Cup’s for his country.
Part of Milan defence that has been described as the best in the history of football, along with Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Mauro Tassotti. Baresi spent his whole career at AC Milan and is acknowledge as one of the greatest defenders to ever play the game. Romario summed it up when he described playing against Baresi as, “The most ruthless monitoring of my entire career”.
Probably the most celebrated German footballer ever, Matthaus played in five World Cups (more than any other player), is the most capped German player ever, and won one Serie A title, a World Cup and seven Bundesliga titles in an illustrious career with the likes of Bayern Munich and Inter Milan. Renowned for his excellent passing, well timed tackling and exceptional positional sense, the German was regarded by Diego Maradona as, “the best rival I’ve ever had.”
Widely considered one of the finest playmakers in the modern era, Rivaldo is in this team for his exploits at Barcelona, where he won two La Liga titles. Known for his goalscoring ability as well as his playmaking, Rivaldo won a World Cup with Brazil in 2002 and a Champions League title with Milan in 2003. His career faltered when he left the Nou Camp, but Rivaldo will still go down as one of the greatest Brazilians ever.
The first of Fiorentino Perez’s “galacticos” for Real Madrid, Figo joined from arch-rivals Barcelona for a then world-record fee in 2000. The Portuguese winger won the European Footballer of the Year award in 2000, and followed it up with a World Player of the Year Award a year later. Figo won a host of trophies in his career, including four Serie A titles with Inter, four La Liga titles and a Champions League trophy.
Probably the greatest player on this list, Zidane is one of the all-time greats and one of two players to be crowned FIFA World Player of the Year three times (along with Ronaldo). Led France to win the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, and won two Serie A titles with Juventus and a La Liga title and a Champions League whilst at Real Madrid, amongst others.
Between 2004 and 2007, Ronaldinho was the best player in the world, scooping two successive World Player of the Year awards in 2004 and 2005. Constant partying and a disinterested attitude have hampered Ronaldinho’s legacy, and his career so far at AC Milan has been indifferent, to put it best. He is recently returning to form, but it is unlikely he will challenge former Barcelona team mate Lionel Messi and Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s title of best player in the world again.
Serious injuries and weight issues have damaged his career, but you cannot argue that Ronaldo was the best striker in the world for the best part of a decade, between 1996 and 2006. A three-time World Player of the Year and the all-time leading scorer at the World Cup, Ronaldo has excelled in stints at PSV, Inter Milan and Real Madrid in his career.
Alongside Ronaldo in this list, there was a lot of competition for the final striking spot, with the likes of Romario, Stoichkov, Baggio, Totti and Del Piero all having legitimate reasons to be chosen here. I went for Batistuta because the Argentine striker was a goalscoring machine for the best part of 12 years in Italy with Fiorentina and Roma. Major honours eluded “Batigol” for the most part of his career, having only won a sole Serie A title with Roma. The highest all-time scorer for Argentina, Batistuta scored 56 goals in 78 games for his country, as well as 168 goals in 269 games for Fiorentina.
The Next XI: Oliver Kahn, Roberto Carlos, Lilian Thuram, Alessandro Nesta, Fabio Cannavaro, Lionel Messi, Pavel Nedved, Kaka, Romario, Roberto Baggio, Hristo Stoichkov.
What do you think? Is there any players do/do not deserve a place on this list?
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