The Premier League have opted to celebrate its 20th anniversary by producing a number of awards, with some open to public voting and others selected by a panel of experts.
It’s this aforementioned panel who will get the opportunity to vote on who is the best player in the English top flight over the past two decades, with a shortlist of ten already provided and selected.
Those players are: Dennis Bergkamp, Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs, Thierry Henry, Roy Keane, Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Alan Shearer, Patrick Vieira and Gianfranco Zola.
All of these are quality players in their own right, but it’s the omission of several big names which has raised eyebrows over where the decision for this original ten has come from.
With that in mind, GMF picks the five best players NOT on the list of all-time greats, despite their sizable achievements in the division.
Steven Gerrard – Liverpool
404 appearances; 89 goals
One of the biggest names to miss the cut is Liverpool’s captain fantastic, with Gerrard spending over a decade at the top after making his debut for the Merseysiders in 1998.
He took the armband at Anfield in 2003, and when fully-fit provided goals and assists alongside an all-action style that made him a firm favourite with fans not just of the Reds.
Without ever winning the league, Gerrard has finished second on two separate occasions, and also provided a handful of the league’s best memories over the past two decades.
Frank Lampard – West Ham United & Chelsea
519 appearances; 151 goals
The England international has been a prolific goalscorer throughout his time in the English top flight, reaching double figures in each of the last nine seasons with Chelsea.
After making his debut with West Ham United in 1996, the central midfielder spent five years at Upton Park before moving to west London, where he has since won three domestic titles.
With more goals than any other midfielder in the history of the league, Lampard’s omission from the list is a major surprise, as he continues to be a mainstay of one of the biggest sides in the country.
Wayne Rooney – Everton & Manchester United
314 appearances; 141 goals
Rooney burst onto the Premier League scene as a teenager at Everton, scoring a last-minute winner against Arsenal at the tender age of 16. He scored 15 goals in two seasons before Manchester United spent big to bring the player to Old Trafford.
Under Sir Alex Ferguson, the England international has flourished, hitting double figures in all eight of his seasons with the current champions – including this term. With 24 so far, he’s on course to beat his personal best of 26 in a single season, as Rooney shows signs of getting better and better.
Given his rapid rise to prominence, as well as his involvement in every title race since his arrival at United, the 26-year-old can feel hard done too as a legitimate top ten contender.
Sol Campbell – Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Newcastle United
494 appearances; 23 goals
With no defenders on the original shortlist, a handful of players in the position are up for consideration – including Tony Adams, Rio Ferdinand and John Terry.
However, the longevity of Campbell, coupled with his ability to produce a standard of excellence at a number of clubs, makes him a worthy candidate despite a disappointing career-end at Newcastle.
Whilst he’s cast as the villain at Spurs now, he had eight years of great success at White Hart Lane before leaving for Arsenal, where he won two Premier League titles and was part of the ‘invincibles’ side.
He also showed his value in later years with Portsmouth, helping the Fratton Park outfit avoid relegation for three consecutive seasons. It was no coincidence that the season after he left, the club went down.
Gary Speed – Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers
534 appearances; 82 goals
It would be easy to dismiss Speed’s inclusion as a sentimental touch, but the midfielder truly was one of the Premier League’s great players during 16 seasons in the English top flight.
After starting life with Leeds United, the former Wales manager moved to Everton in 1996, and after two seasons at Goodison Park made the switch to Newcastle United, where he shined under Sir Bobby Robson in particular.
Following six seasons at St. James’ Park, he went to Bolton Wanderers and became the experienced head in midfield as the Trotters defied the odds under Sam Allardyce.
His death in November 2011 was a shock to the football world, but remembering his achievements as a player would have been a timely – and more importantly fair – refection of his efforts on the pitch.
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