Ranking the greatest England players of the 21st century before their 1000th game

The England football team tline up befor

England will play their 1000th international fixture when they take on Montenegro on Thursday. 

Opta have it that the Three Lions have won 568 of their 999 games so far, featuring in 24 major tournaments. 

Anyone who has followed the national side will know there have been plenty of ups and downs along the way. 

Older fans will point to 1966 as the pinnacle, that glorious victory over West Germany at Wembley handing England their first - and to date, their only - World Cup trophy.

In the 53 years since, it's unfortunately been a story of false dawns, none more so than with the Golden Generation. 

In the 21st century, England have boasted some phenomenal players - even if that hasn't always translated to success.

GIVEMESPORT has taken a look at the very best. 

17. Peter Crouch

Perhaps not the most fashionable of strikers, but Crouch had a very impressive ratio with 22 goals in 42 games - and he gave us the robot. 

England's striker Peter Crouch celebrate

16. Joe Cole 

Cole made a huge impact at the 2006 World Cup during some of his peak years at Chelsea. The midfielder also scored one of the goals of the tournament with a screamer against Sweden. 

International Friendly: Holland v England

15. David Seaman 

The Arsenal goalkeeper broke a then-record by featuring for England in 15 consecutive calendar years. Of course, he was famously caught off his line by Ronaldinho in the 2002 World Cup quarter-final, but in the first part of the new millennium he was England's undisputed number one. Replacing him proved tough, with David James making a string of high-profile errors. 

English goalkeeper David Seaman reacts during the

14. Nicky Butt 

Butt was something of an unsung hero with both Manchester United and England, often overshadowed by the likes of David Beckham. The 2002 World Cup forced people to sit up and take notice of his abilities in midfield. Pele even described him as the player of the tournament - high praise indeed. 

Roque Santa Cruz Nicky Butt and Martin Keown

13. Rio Ferdinand 

Ferdinand might have featured higher on this list if it were purely a measure of what he *could* do. The Manchester United centre-back made some big blunders for club and country but was, on the whole, one of the best defenders of his generation. 

Japan v England - International Friendly

12. Sol Campbell 

Campbell came in and replaced Tony Adams for club and country. He was the only Englishman named in FIFA's World Cup All-Star Team in 2002 and he could well have been first choice for many more years, but for the emergence of John Terry.

Euro 2004: Portugal v England

11. Raheem Sterling 

The Manchester City forward hasn't covered himself in glory this week, fighting with Joe Gomez in training and getting himself dropped. However, it's impossible to overlook his eight goals in six European qualifiers already this season. 


10. Michael Owen

Injuries took an unfortunate toll on Owen's England career. A tally of 40 goals in 89 games means only Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker, Bobby Charlton and Wayne Rooney have more. 

Michael Owen of England

9. Gary Neville 

Neville has more international appearances than any other right-back in England history, while he also holds the record for the most games in an England shirt at European Championship matches. 

English defender Gary Neville waves to t

8. Paul Scholes 

This is where the debate hots up. Scholes was one of the finest midfielders of the Golden Generation, but he bowed out much earlier than the rest, opting to spend more time with his family. 

Paul Scholes and Ronaldo

7. Harry Kane

In 2018, Kane became the first Englishman since Gary Lineker in 1986 to win a World Cup Golden Boot. At 26-years-old and with 28 international goals already to his name, many expect him to become England's greatest goalscorer. 


6. John Terry 

While Terry's England career was certainly controversial - he was stripped of the captaincy over his racism charge and Fabio Capello subsequently resigned - he was the most consistent centre-back his country had for many years. 

England's defender John Terry reacts aft

5. Ashley Cole 

The criticism of the Golden Generation was that they rarely replicated their club form for England. Not true of Cole. He was one of the few to consistently perform at his best whenever a major tournament came around. 

Switzerland's forward Hakan Yakin (back)

4. David Beckham

Beckham was responsible for one of England's greatest moments of the 21st century, his last-minute free-kick against Greece ensuring his side qualified for the 2002 World Cup. Then, in the tournament proper, his penalty - won in admittedly dubious circumstances by Owen - earned a 1-0 victory over Argentina. The skipper gave England fans some iconic memories.  

David Beckham

3. Steven Gerrard 

If leadership skills were also taken into account, then Stevie G would have staked a claim to top spot. A superb captain and a talismanic midfielder, it's easy to see how Gerrard became England's fourth-most capped player. 

Germany v England: 2010 FIFA World Cup - Round of Sixteen

2. Frank Lampard 

If only they could have worked out how to play together... Choosing between Lampard and Gerrard was inevitably tough, but the former scored 29 in 106 games compared to the latter's 21 in 114. 

England v Wales

1. Wayne Rooney 

The leading goalscorer in England's history with 53 goals over a 16-year career. The only black mark against his name was that he struggled to deliver at World Cups, scoring just once. 


The debate about whether England have under-achieved with this crop of players could go long into the night. 

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