There has been an abundance of talent throughout the Premier League’s existence, but who is the best player in history?
These are debates that most football fans have had amongst themselves over the years. In truth, there isn’t a right or wrong answer, opinions are subjective.
Still, we all love to put our points across, and there have certainly been some outstanding players that have graced the Premier League since its inception almost three decades ago.
Here, we’ve given it our best shot at rating the top 50 players to have featured in the Premier League. But do you agree? Find out below…
50. Denis Irwin
We start off with Mr. Dependable.
There will be more glamourous names on this list but few were as consistent as Irwin was throughout the 1990s for Sir Alex Ferguson’s all-conquering Manchester United team.
Despite being right-footed, Irwin spent most of his career at Old Trafford at left-back, and did a fine job linking up with Ryan Giggs down that flank. The 56-cap international was also a reliable penalty-taker.
49. Gareth Barry
Simply for longevity, Barry deserves his place on this list. No player has made more Premier League appearances than Barry (653), which is a record that he should be proud of.
He had to wait patiently for a big move but it came in 2009 when he was signed by Manchester City, and he went on to win the title and the FA Cup under Roberto Mancini.
48. Jamie Carragher
Carragher was never able to win the title at Liverpool, but he was a mainstay of the back four for 15 years, and that warrants recognition.
Racking up 508 appearances in the top-flight, he consistently delivered the goods for the Reds, and helped them win pretty much every other major trophy on offer, including the Champions League in 2005.
47. Dwight Yorke
Around the turn of the century, there were few better strikers in world football than Yorke. He netted 29 goals in all competitions in United’s treble-winning campaign, and then followed that up by scoring a further 24 the year after.
Yorke was deadly in front of goal, and cannot be overlooked given how important he was during a very successful period in United’s history.
46. Cesar Azpilicueta
In his nine-year stay at Chelsea, Azpilicueta has won the Premier League twice, and he lifted the Champions League trophy for the first time in 2021.
Capable of playing on either flank or as part of a back three, he is the ultimate modern-day defender.
45. Claude Makelele
Makelele brought something different to the Premier League. His ability to protect the back four with his outstanding positional awareness had not been seen before.
That role is now named after him, so he had to make this list.
44. Robbie Fowler
Fowler burst onto the scene in the mid-90s, scoring 25 league goals in 1994/95, and then 28 in 1995/96.
After an electric start to his career, he was never quite able to replicate these numbers again; hence why he is not further up this list.
43. David Seaman
Seaman was able to continue playing into his forties at the highest level.
The 6 foot 4 shot-stopper was a reliable presence in goal for Arsenal for over a decade, winning the Premier League twice and the FA Cup on four occasions with the club.
42. Gary Neville
United’s right-back for over 15 years, and a very good one at that.
The older Neville brother has now become known for his punditry but he was also very successful as a player, forming an excellent partnership with David Beckham down the right-hand side for Ferguson’s side.
41. Robert Pires
A key member of ‘The Invincibles.’
Pires was a graceful player but he could also chip in with vital contributions in the final third. In three consecutive seasons between 2002 and 2005, he scored 43 top-flight goals for the Gunners – those are numbers that can’t be sniffed at.
40. Jamie Vardy
Vardy only played his first Premier League game at the age of 27 but he has more than made up for lost time.
By netting 24 league goals in 2015/16, he helped Leicester pull off a miracle as they won the title, and he has been a consistent goalscorer ever since for the Foxes.
He’s now scored well over 100 top-flight goals and is showing no signs of slowing down just yet.
39. Teddy Sheringham
With 146 Premier League goals to his name, Sheringham could not be left off this list.
The attacker spent most his career at Tottenham and Manchester United, and was a brilliant team player, as shown by the fact that he registered 52 assists in the Premier League as well. An exceptional forward who could score goals and bring others into play.
38. Robin van Persie
The Dutchman had his injury problems during his early days in the Premier League but he came through that tough period to play a major role for both Arsenal and United.
In his final season at the Emirates he netted 30 league goals, and he then scored 26 goals in his maiden season at United, finishing as their top scorer as they won the title in 2012/13.
37. Luis Suarez
The only thing that counts against Suarez is that he only played in the Premier League for three-and-a-half years. But what an impact he made.
In his final two seasons at Anfield, he found the target 54 times, and he was Liverpool’s star player as he almost dragged them to the title in 2013/14.
36. Yaya Toure
One of the main players who turned City into a major club in England.
After joining the club in 2010, he became a mainstay in the midfield, peaking in 2013/14 when he scored a remarkable 20 league goals to guide City to their second Premier League title triumph.
35. Ruud van Nistelrooy
Van Nistelrooy was a goalscoring machine at the start of the 21st century, scoring 20 or more league goals in three successive seasons between 2001 and 2004.
This was a quieter period for United as they won just one championship with van Nistelrooy in the team but whenever they needed him to pop up with a goal, he usually delivered.
34. Virgil van Dijk
Van Dijk has time on his side to move further up this list in the coming years, but for now he has to settle for 34th spot.
The towering centre-back has made a huge difference to Liverpool’s back line, helping the club win the Champions League and Premier League in his first two full seasons at the club. There are few better defenders around in the world right now.
33. Michael Owen
Owen’s career rather petered out so it is easy to forget just how good he was in his first spell at Liverpool.
Coming into the side as a teenager, he scored more than 15 league goals in six of his seven full seasons at the club before leaving for Real Madrid in 2004. That is eye-catching consistency for a young forward.
32. N’Golo Kante
Kante arrived in the Premier League in 2015 with many not having a clue who he was. We all know now.
In his first season, he won the league with Leicester, and he has since followed that up by doing the same at Chelsea, while also winning the Champions League with the Blues. A couple of quieter seasons under Maurizio Sarri and Frank Lampard mean that he doesn’t quote break the top 30, but he may well do that in the years to come.
31. Tony Adams
With this list only looking at the Premier League era, Adams is not quite as high as some may expect, as his best days were arguably in the early 90s.
Still, he did make a huge impact at Highbury during his time at Arsenal, winning the Premier League twice. Who can forget his goal against Everton to rubber stamp the Gunners’ title win in 1998? An iconic moment.
30. Mohamed Salah
95 goals in his last four Premier League campaigns at Liverpool. You simply cannot argue with those numbers, especially for someone who often operates from the right wing.
Salah’s performances have taken the Reds to another level in recent years, as he delivered goal after goal to end the side’s 30-year wait for a championship in 2020.
29. David Beckham
Possibly the best crosser of a ball the Premier League has ever seen. Beckham could have been even higher on this list if he hadn’t left in the middle of his prime to join Real Madrid.
Famed for his free-kick taking abilities, Beckham scored 62 goals and provided 70 assists in his Premier League career. A true superstar of the game.
28. Sol Campbell
Another member of ‘The Invincibles.’
Campbell made the controversial move of switching Tottenham for Arsenal in 2001, but it worked out for him. He would go on to win the Premier League twice and the FA Cup four times in his career, as he made over 500 appearances in England’s top division.
27. Andy Cole
In his maiden Premier League campaign, Andy Cole scored 34 goals for Newcastle. It was clear that he was a special talent.
He was quickly picked up by United, and would go on to lead the line for the club for much of the next decade, winning the title five times. Only Alan Shearer and Wayne Rooney have scored more than his tally of 187 Premier League goals.
26. Eden Hazard
What a delight Hazard was to watch during his seven-year stay in England.
With his dazzling feet, he could create opportunities out of nothing, and he saved his best for last as he recorded 16 goals and 15 assists in his final season at Chelsea before moving to La Liga.
25. Petr Cech
Cech’s swansong at Arsenal could have gone better but his time at Chelsea was an unprecedented success.
Upon moving to the Blues in 2004, he conceded just 15 league goals in his first season. No goalkeeper has conceded fewer goals in a single campaign in the history of the Premier League, and it is hard to see that record being broken any time soon.
24. Nemanja Vidic
Vidic’s form tailed off slightly towards the end of his spell at United, but for the best part of a decade he formed the best partnership in the Premier League with Rio Ferdinand.
The pair complemented each other perfectly, with Vidic’s combative style allowing United to win five championships during his eight years at the club.
23. David Silva
A gem of a player.
Some may have wondered whether Silva might find the Premier League too physical for his liking when he arrived in 2010 but he would go on to flourish in England for the next decade.
The Spanish playmaker delivered 107 assists in 309 league appearances before returning to his homeland in 2020.
22. Cesc Fabregas
Another Spanish midfielder comes in next in the shape of Fabregas.
He was able to thrive at both Arsenal and Chelsea, establishing himself as one of the most creative players the league has ever seen. Fabregas set up 20 league goals in 2007/08 for Arsene Wenger’s men, driving the side forwards in the post-Invincibles era.
21. Vincent Kompany
Kompany would have been inside the top 20 if it wasn’t for injuries.
Fitness setbacks meant that Kompany could not be relied upon to play every week but when he was available he was a colossus at the back for City.
In his 11 years at the club he took the team from mid-table mediocrity to the dominant force in English football, with his leadership qualities shining through.
20. Peter Schmeichel
A truly great goalkeeper.
One of the most intimidating No. 1s in Premier League history, Schmeichel was a vital cog in United’s winning machine in the 1990s, with the team winning five championships.
He signed off in the best possible way by winning the treble in 1999.
19. Dennis Bergkamp
There may be players lower down this list with better statistics than Bergkamp, but numbers simply don’t do the forward justice.
He made Arsenal tick, linking up play with Henry and Pires, making the side a joy to watch whenever he was on the pitch.
18. Didier Drogba
Drogba actually only hit the 20-goal mark twice in the Premier League during his two spells at Chelsea, but he simply has to be high up on this list due to his performances in big games.
The Ivorian regularly stepped up in the key moments for his side, none more so than in the Champions League final in 2012 when he scored the equaliser and then slotted home the winning penalty in the subsequent shootout.
17. Kevin De Bruyne
There can’t have been many better passers of the ball that De Bruyne since the Premier League started in 1992.
In four of his last five seasons, he has hit double figures in terms of assists in the league, proving himself to be one of the best midfielders on the planet right now.
16. Harry Kane
When the curtain falls on Kane’s career, he will surely be towards the top of this list. For now, though, he is down in 16th place.
The England captain scores goals for fun, and is likely to surpass Alan Shearer’s all-time Premier League record if he remains in England for the next five years.
15. Ashley Cole
Full-backs often get overlooked but Cole’s greatness simply can’t be.
Finding the right balance between attack and defence can be difficult for the modern-day left-back. Cole got it spot on, though, establishing himself as the best player in his position in the country by some distance during his time at Arsenal and Chelsea.
14. Sergio Aguero
A tremendous goalscorer.
Aguero bagged a brace on his Premier League debut against Swansea. It was a sign of things to come. He went on to score 184 top-flight goals in England before moving to Barcelona when his contract expired in 2021.
13. Rio Ferdinand
Nowadays, centre-backs are more comfortable on the ball. In Ferdinand’s time, he was in a league of his own.
He was elegant with the ball at his feet but could also defend properly when needed. His all-round game helped United win six championships during his 12-year stay.
12. Roy Keane
That word sums up Keane, who captained the side throughout the most successful period in the club’s history. Some may view him as simply an enforcer in the middle of the park, but Keane could certainly play, doing the basics very well and even popping up with an important goal from time to time.
11. Patrick Vieira
There was very little to separate Keane and Vieira during their playing days, and the pair can barely be split here either.
Vieira just gets the nod, as his ability to break up play while also being able to burst into the final third made him the complete package. What we can all agree on is that we were very fortunate to see two titans of the game going head-to-head in their primes.
10. Eric Cantona
Cantona came in and changed the way that United were perceived.
Before him, they were nearly men, without a title in over a quarter of a century. When he arrived, they won four championships in five seasons, as he registered 20 or more goal contributions in all but one of his league campaigns at the club.
9. John Terry
Terry has divided opinion over the years but not for his ability on the pitch.
He was a dominant force at the back for Chelsea for over 15 years, winning the Premier League title on five occasions. He also scored 41 goals in the top-flight, highlighting that he was a threat in both penalty areas.
8. Cristiano Ronaldo
Some fans may be appalled to see Ronaldo down in eighth spot, but it must be remembered that this list only takes into account the performances of players in the Premier League.
The Portuguese icon took his time settling into life in England, before taking the division by storm in his final three years.
He netted 66 goals in his last three league campaigns, establishing himself as one of the best players in the world prior to his record-breaking move to Real Madrid.
7. Ryan Giggs
Another player that some may have expected to be higher on this list. Giggs represented United for almost a quarter of a century, winning an astonishing 13 league titles in his time.
However, he did need to be managed carefully towards the end of his career, and it could be argued that he was never actually the best player in his own team, such was the wealth of talent that United had over the years. With this in mind, he narrowly misses out on the top five.
6. Frank Lampard
Lampard seemed to have a habit of always being in the right place at the right time.
His strikes from the edge of the area became legendary, and he finished his career as the highest-scoring midfielder in the Premier League era with 177 goals.
5. Paul Scholes
Scholes possessed a rare talent of being able to dictate the pace of a game from the outset.
His passing range was phenomenal, and he was the ideal partner for Roy Keane in midfield, as the duo understood each other’s games perfectly.
4. Wayne Rooney
When Rooney scored a stunning winner against Arsenal for Everton in 2002, it was clear that English football had a superstar on their hands.
For the next 15 years, Rooney would break all sorts of records at club level and for his country, proving himself to be one of the finest footballers that England have ever produced. He finished his career with 208 Premier League goals – putting him only behind Alan Shearer on the all-time list.
3. Alan Shearer
That’s all that really needs to be written about Shearer. No one has come close to taking his record since he retired 15 years ago. A simply lethal finisher.
2. Steven Gerrard
Gerrard could do everything. Passing, shooting, tackling, dribbling – you name it.
On the pitch, he led by example, and consistently stepped up to drag Liverpool through some tough moments in games. He never won the Premier League but his individual ability cannot be questioned. The most complete midfielder since the Premier League began.
1. Thierry Henry
It had to be. Taking top spot, it’s Thierry Henry.
The Frenchman scored 24 or more league goals in five successive seasons in the 2000s. That is ridiculous.
His pace, skill and eye for goal lit up the Premier League, and we have not seen someone of his class since.
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