Anyone’s list of the 10 greatest Premier League players of all time is going to be hotly contested. After all, there are so many incredible players throughout the sport’s history; how is anybody supposed to choose just 10? Still, that’s what we’re setting out to do here, no matter how many people might vehemently disagree with our choices. From vicious strikers all the way through to immovable defenders and stalwart keepers, here, in no particular order, is our list of the 10 greatest Premier League players of all time.
No list of the greatest Premier League players would be complete without acknowledging the league’s number one goalscorer. Alan Shearer is still the player who has racked up the most goals in the League’s history, and although he may well be challenged by England skipper Harry Kane at the end of the younger man’s career, Shearer’s prowess as a striker for his native Newcastle was well-known in his prime. He’s now working as a pundit and doing very well for himself!
Great defenders are pretty rare in football, which makes Glen Johnson an even more exciting prospect. He played as a right back, and his most famous team was Liverpool, which could be why he doesn’t get the dues he deserves; Liverpool is famous as a legend factory, after all. Still, Johnson makes our list just for the sheer power he brings to a defence. He’s also got some very wise, astute opinions regarding the future of the Premier League, if his chat with fellow legend Richard Dunne for Betway is anything to go by.
Ronaldo’s tenure with Manchester United was legendary prior to his shift to the Spanish club Real Madrid, and that’s why we’re including him here. Put simply, there are few strikers with the prowess, stage presence, and confidence of Ronaldo. His transfer to Real Madrid was, at the time, the most expensive football transfer of all time, and it’s easy to see why; he was so in demand that clubs would likely have paid an unlimited sum of money for him.
Petr Cech is one of two goalkeepers (alongside Manchester United mainstay Peter Schmeichel) to often be called the greatest in history. He’s still the keeper who holds the record for the most clean sheets in Premier League history, so it must have been pretty terrifying for teams to go up against him. Cech made his name playing for Chelsea between 2004 and 2015 before settling into a four-year stint at Arsenal, ending his professional career with panache.
It’s unfortunate that strikers often draw the most attention, but since football is all about goalscoring, perhaps it stands to reason that the people scoring the goals are the ones the fans want to hear about. Thierry Henry will be the first name on most people’s lips when you ask them who the greatest striker in history is, and his record of scoring 24 goals or more across five seasons in a row supports that claim. You just don’t see players of Henry’s calibre come along very often.
One notable exception to the rule of strikers being more prominent than their teammates is Rio Ferdinand. Like many greats, Ferdinand made his name playing for Manchester United, managing to stay with the club for 12 years and reinforcing the centre of the team’s defence against rivals like Manchester City. Ferdinand was also an incredible player for his national side, and while England was something of a laughing-stock in the international community, Ferdinand certainly was not.
Great goalkeepers are rare, because goalkeeping isn’t a particularly glamorous job. You aren’t going to get the plaudits from fans and pundits that you might get if you score a particularly spectacular goal…unless you’re Peter Schmeichel, that is. Some of this man’s most impressive saves made our jaws drop back in the day; watching him leap across the box to stop the ball as it sailed towards the corner of the net was always a thrill when Schmeichel was in front of the net.
Midfielders in football are sort of “everymen”, all-rounders who can contribute to a surging attack and also protect the box as the ball finds its way into their half of the pitch. If you want to find a player who exemplifies great midfield play, look no further than Steven Gerrard, who took his native Liverpool to glory across his career. He was an excellent team player, he knew when to carry the ball forward for a solo run, and he was humble to boot. A legend.
Rooney’s name was bandied about so much in his prime that it would be easy to call him overrated, but it wouldn’t be fair. Rooney’s run as a striker for teams like Manchester United and Everton saw him surge up to second place in the all-time striker league table, with only Alan Shearer ahead of him (albeit by a considerable distance). In fact, earlier this year, football fans voted Rooney the greatest English football player of all time. We’re not sure about that, but he’s definitely one of them.
Part of Arsenal’s superstar squad between 1996 and 2005, Patrick Vieira was one of several football titans taking the field during that time. In many ways, that era was akin to wrestling’s Attitude period; it saw many charismatic players take the field with incredible athletic ability, and Vieira was foremost among them. His midfield play was disruptive and aggressive, and he had no qualms about setting up his teammates or even going for goal glory himself, either.