Remember Cantona’s chip, Bergkamp’s turn and Scholes’ volley? So you should do!
These were some of the greatest moments from some of the most iconic Premier League players; the audacity of Cantona’s chip against Sunderland was breath-taking, while Bergkamp’s turn and shot against Newcastle bamboozled poor old Nikos Dabizas and stunned the crowd, and Scholes’ searing volley straight from a corner against Villa was an amazing sight. We’ve all got our favourite players from the last 19 years, but who should make the all-time Premier League top ten?
There are so many factors to consider, goals, technique, passing, titles, durability, flair, leadership… I could go on. After taking all of the above into account, here, in no particular order, are my Premier League Top Ten.
Eric Cantona – The mono-browed ‘actor’ may have retired almost 14 years ago, but Le Roi’s influence on the Premier League is second to no other player. When he wasn’t too busy practicing his Kung Fu on fans or producing fairly clear metaphors that the prosaic Press pack couldn’t handle, Cantona strutted round Old Trafford, dismantling teams and inspiring his team-mates with a brand of football that was arrogant, rebellious and fantastic to watch.
They still sing his name in the Stretford End and after 4 titles and 2 doubles in 5 years, I’m not surprised.
Thierry Henry – Embarrassing adverts for French car firms aside, Henry’s real va-va-voom was reserved for the football pitch. The slick Frenchman arrived at Highbury after half an underwhelming season at Juventus. Who then would have thought he’d become on of the best England has ever seen?
Arsene Wenger set about transforming the winger into one of the most consistently deadly strikers in the world. Henry’s relaxed personality off the pitch and his goal-scoring on it won him fans across the country, as well as 2 titles and 3 FA Cups, 2 European Golden Boots and 3 Football Writers Awards – not a bad haul for a failed Juventus winger.
Peter Schmeichel – The Great Dane had a maniacal scream and a ruddy nose that’d scare any defender, luckily he was also a top class goalkeeper and a Man Utd stalwart. Arriving at Old Trafford for a paltry £530,000, Schmeichel would go on to win 5 league titles, 3 FA Cups & the Champions League in just 8 years with Man Utd, and prove to be one of the best-value signings of all-time.
Famed for his star-jump saving technique, which apparently came from his love of playing that global uber-sport, Handball when he was young, his ability to hang onto the ball in seemingly impossible situations and his dominance of his penalty area, Schmeichel was one of the very best.
Steven Gerrard – He might be a miserable Scouser with a permanent look of pained annoyance on his face, but Stevie G is a truly inspirational captain. Gerrard has won everything in the game, except the one he wants most – the Premier League.
Despite that, the Liverpudlian has developed from a slightly wild upstart to one of the greatest central midfielders to play in the top flight. A box-to-box fighter, with passing and shooting to match, Gerrard could and often would single-handedly bring Liverpool back from the brink of disaster to the glory of victory. Perhaps his best years are behind him now, but his contribution to the Premier League era should not be under-estimated.
Ryan Giggs – His star has faded a little as the years take their toll, but it’s a testament to his fitness and quality that the Welsh Wizard is still plying his trade in the top flight almost twenty years after his debut. At his peak, Giggs was a beguiling winger with the ability to tear teams apart with his pace, dribbling, crossing and finishing.
His dedication to his club and his profession is to be admired and his trophy haul has made him the most decorated player in English football history – and to think he might have ended up playing for City!
Gianfranco Zola – As well as being one of the best, Zola was also one of the most likeable players in the top flight. However, this is no sympathy vote, Zola fully warrants his position in this list, thanks to a creativity and a magical touch that earned him a place in Chelsea’s centenary eleven.
Standing at just 5 ‘ 5”, Zola adapted quickly to the physicality of the English game and his spell-binding close-control and free kicks were at times reminiscent of his idol and mentor, Diego Maradona. One of football’s good guys, Zola was a fantastic advertisement for the Premier League.
Dennis Bergkamp – Class. Dennis Bergkamp grew up idolising the skill of Glenn Hoddle, yet unfortunately for Spurs fans, the non-flying Dutchman joined Arsenal in 1995.
Never a prolific goal-scorer, Bergkamp was more a link-up man who made things easier for the players around him with his vision and technique. I was lucky enough to be at the 3-3 Leicester-Arsenal match in 1997 when Bergkamp scored that fantastic hat-trick, and it sickens me to say it, as a Spurs fan, but the Dutchman was genius.
Paul Scholes – OK, his tackling ‘skills’ are the source of much amusement in pubs up and down the country, but Paul Scholes is the under-stated genius of Man Utd’s midfield.
I cannot help but admire the way he approaches the game – no celebrity weddings, mates or girlfriends for Man Utd’s quiet man, he keeps his head down and does his job – and what a job he does. Blessed with a thunderbolt shot, fantastic passing and a knack for finding time and space, Paul Scholes has won it all, and he still can’t tackle. No matter, he comfortably makes my top ten.
Alan Shearer – He may not have had the best crack at managing and we might already be sick of him on MotD, but none of that counts on this poll – Alan Shearer was the greatest goal-scorer in Premier League history. The archetypal old-fashioned number 9, Shearer could score goals from anywhere, but he seemed to favour both using his excellent aerial threat and smashing them in from outside the box.
A fantastic record from the penalty spot, with 58 scored, and a simply stunning record at Blackburn, 112 in 138, helped him climb the ranks to score by far and away the most goals in the Premier League. When you add his influence as a captain and his former position as the most expensive player in the world, Alan Shearer blasts his way into my top ten.
Roy Keane – The angriest man ever to chastise consumers of seafood-based snacks, Roy Keane was a snarling pit-bull with a unmatched level of commitment to the cause. A captain who raised the games of those around him, the Irishman’s refusal to submit and insistence on constant striving forward made him the ideal leader for Alex Ferguson’s United side.
He could play a bit too, with a fantastic engine and a take-no-prisoners approach to tackling, Keane was a proper midfield enforcer. A loner, with few friends in the game, Keane didn’t care what people thought of him, which was a shame in a way because most people thought he was a great footballer.
So there we have it, not a bad bunch of players, are they? But who was missing? Ginola, Ronaldo, Lampard, Le Tissier… Boogers?! Now it’s your turn, let us know in the comments box below who would make your Premier League top ten.
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