200th Post: Who is the greatest Premier League footballer ever?

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Exactly 18 months since I wrote my first piece on here, I have reached 200 It’s Football Not Soccer posts. I didn’t think that I would ever reach 100, let alone this milestone. The support has been incredible, and the views go up each day, so it’s great to know that I’m producing content that people in enjoy reading.

Back in September for my 100th post, I answered the question: Who is the greatest player ever? which you can read here – I won’t spoil the result for you. So for this post, I am going to stick to a similar theme, and decide who is the greatest player to have featured in the Premier League.

To be eligible for this, you have to have featured in the top division since it re-branded in 1992, meaning players such that starred in the previous first division don’t count. I am also only taking into consideration the Premier League achievements of player, meaning international careers are irrelevant, as our parts in players’ careers where they may have played in a different country.

Just as I did for my 100th post, I have managed to narrow it down to a top five with great difficulty and here they are in alphabetical order by surname.


Dennis Bergkamp

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  • Full name: Dennis Nicolaas Maria Bergkamp
  • Date of Birth: 10 May 1969 (age 45)
  • Country: Netherlands
  • Position: Second striker
  • Years in Premier League: 1995-2006
  • Clubs played for: Arsenal 1995-2006 (315 league games/87 goals)

Best Moment

Against Leicester City in 1997, Bergkamp scored one of the greatest hat-tricks in Premier League history. The first goal was an effortless strike from the edge of the area right in to the top corner. For his second, he received a pass from Patrick Vieira and lifted the ball neatly over the goalkeeper. The third was the best of the lot. He showed sumptuous control to bring down a long pass, skip inside his man, and place the ball beyond the goalkeeper. Combined with a strike against Southampton, two of these strikes ensured that Bergkamp held the top three positions in the BBC’s Goal of the Month for August 1997. The third goal for the hat-trick won him the Goal of the Season award that campaign, an award he would win again four years later with a superb solo effort against Newcastle. To date, the Dutchman is the only player to have won the Premier League goal of the season award twice.

 

Premier League Honours

  • League Titles (3): 1997–98, 2001–02, 2003–04
  • Premier League Player of the Month (4): August 1997, September 1997, March 2002, February 2004
  • PFA Team of the Year: 1997–98
  • FWA Footballer of the Year: 1997–98
  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year: 1997–98
  • Premier League Goal of the Season (2): 1997–98, 2001–02

What They Said

“He had efficiency but he added that kind of elegance that makes people admire you. He had something more that is very difficult to have when you’re a football player.”

Arsene Wenger


Ryan Giggs

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  • Full name: Ryan Joseph Giggs
  • Date of Birth: 29 November 1973 (age 41)
  • Country: Wales
  • Position: Midfielder
  • Years in Premier League: 1992-2014
  • Clubs played for in Premier League era: Manchester United 1992-2014 (632 league games/109 goals)

Best Moment

Sometimes the world works in mysterious ways. The day is 11 May 2008. It’s the final day of the Premier League season and Manchester United are level on points with Chelsea at the top of the table with a superior goal difference. The Red Devils lead 1-0 at Wigan, whilst The Blues are beating Bolton by the same scoreline (in other news, it’s Middlesbrough 8-1 Manchester City). Sir Alex Ferguson wants another goal to secure United’s tenth Premier League and brings on Giggs for Park Ji-Sung. In doing so, the Welshman equalled Sir Bobby Charlton’s record of 758 appearances for United. Just twelve minutes after coming on Giggs received Wayne Rooney’s pass and finished coolly past the goalkeeper to make it 2-0 and secure the title and send the fans into hysteria. Charlton was equally elated and made his way to the tunnel to embrace Giggs after the final whistle who then lifted the trophy jubilantly.

 

Premier League Honours

  • League Titles (13): 1992–93, 1993–94, 1995–96, 1996–97, 1998–99, 1999–2000, 2000–01, 2002–03, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09, 2010–11, 2012–13
  • PFA Young Player of the Year: 1992–93
  • PFA Team of the Year (6): 1992–93, 1997–98, 2000–01, 2001–02, 2006–07, 2008–09
  • PFA Team of the Century: 1997–2007
  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year: 2008–09
  • FWA Tribute Award: 2007
  • Premier League 10 Seasons Awards (1992–93 to 2001–02): Overall Team of the Decade
  • Premier League 20 Seasons Awards (1992–93 to 2011–12): Most Player Appearances (596)
  • Premier League Player of the Month (3): September 1993, August 2006, February 2007
  • Goal of the Season: 1998–99

What They Said

“He’s an outstanding player and it’s a privilege to be working with him on my staff. I’ve seen something different since I’ve come here – just how good he is, close up – and it’s incredible”

David Moyes


Thierry Henry

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  • Full name: Thierry Daniel Henry
  • Date of Birth: 17 August 1977 (age 37)
  • Country: France
  • Position: Striker
  • Years in Premier League: 1999-2007, 2012
  • Clubs played for: Arsenal 1999-2007 and 2012 (258 league games/174 goals)

Best Moment

In what is arguably Arsenal’s best ever league campaign, 2003-04 was also Thierry Henry’s best season in club football. As well as helping the Gunners win the league title and become the first team in more than a century to go through the entire domestic league season unbeaten, there was plenty of individual praise for the Frenchman and deservedly so. With 30 goals, he hit the back of the net eight more times than anybody else, whilst he also got himself nine assists. He was named the Premier League player of the month for January and April, which eventually led to him being named for the second year running as the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year.

 

Premier League Honours

  • League Titles (2): 2001–02, 2003–04
  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year (2): 2002–03, 2003–04
  • PFA Team of the Year (6): 2000–01, 2001–02, 2002–03, 2003–04, 2004–05, 2005–06
  • FWA Footballer of the Year (3): 2002–03, 2003–04, 2005–06
  • Premier League Golden Boot (4): 2001–02, 2003–04, 2004–05, 2005–06.
  • Golden Boot Landmark Award 10: 2004–05
  • Golden Boot Landmark Award 20: 2004–05
  • Premier League Player of the Month (4): April 2000, September 2002, January 2004, April 2004
  • Goal of the Season: 2002–03

What They Said

“Ronaldinho is a special player, but Thierry Henry is probably technically the most gifted footballer ever to play the beautiful game.”

Zinedine Zidane


Cristiano Ronaldo

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  • Full name: Cristiano Ronaldo dos Santos Aveiro
  • Date of Birth: 5 February 1985 (age 30)
  • Country: Portugal
  • Position: Forward
  • Years in Premier League: 2003-2009
  • Clubs played for: Manchester United 2003-2009 (196 league games/84 goals)

Best Moment

Having started the 2006-07 campaign as Public Enemy No. 1 for many in England, Ronaldo ended it as a hero to United fans and undoubtedly the best player of the season. As well as the league title (United’s first since 2003), he became only the second player to win the PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year award in the same season, while he also won the PFA Fans’ Player of the Year and the Football Writers’ Footballer of the Year, becoming the first man to win all four prizes in the same season. The Portuguese winger netted 17 times, whilst he became only the third player to win back to back Player of the Month awards in November and December. Furthermore, even though winning the title was pretty much secured for the Red Devils, it was Ronaldo’s penalty at Manchester City in the penultimate game of the season that made it mathematically impossible for anyone to catch them.

 

Premier League Honours

  • League Titles (3): 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09
  • PFA Premier League Team of the Year (4): 2005–06, 2006–07, 2007–08, 2008–09
  • PFA Young Player of the Year: 2006–07
  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year (2): 2006–07, 2007–08
  • FWA Footballer of the Year (2): 2006–07, 2007–08
  • Barclays Player of the Year (2): 2006–07, 2007–08
  • Premier League Player of the Month (4): November 2006, December 2006, January 2008, March 2008
  • Premier League Golden Boot: 2007–08

What They Said

“He has magic in his boots. The first thing you notice about him is that he is incredibly quick and very, very powerful for such a young man. He has great, close control and his technique is excellent. He believes he can do anything with the ball, and that confidence makes him very special indeed.”

Eusebio


Alan Shearer

Alan Shearer Blackburn

  • Full name: Alan Shearer
  • Date of Birth: 13 August 1970 (age 44)
  • Country: England
  • Position: Striker
  • Years in Premier League: 1992-2006
  • Clubs played for: Blackburn Rovers 1992-96 (138 league games/112 goals), Newcastle United 1996-2006 (303 league games/148 goals)

Best Moment

Shearer may have been born in Newcastle and played for the Toon Army for 10 years (seven as their captain), but the striker’s best moment came in a Blackburn Rovers shirt, as the Lancashire side won the Premier League in 1994-95, becoming only the second side to do so since the division re-branded in 1992. The club was on top from November onwards and, despite an attack of nerves late in the season, the trophy was secured. Shearer scored 34 goals – without him, Blackburn would never have secured first place. That tally was, and is, his highest ever league tally for one campaign, and earned him the Premier League golden boot, PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season. It was Shearer’s winning goal against Newcastle in the penultimate game of the season that ended up proving to be the one that ended up winning Blackburn the title.

Premier League Honours

  • League Title: 1994-95
  • Highest-ever Premier League goalscorer: 260 goals
  • Premier League Golden Boot: 1994–95, 1995–96, 1996–97
  • Record for most Premier League goals in a 42-game season (1992–93 to 1994–95): 34
  • Record for most Premier League goals in a 38-game season (1995 onwards): 31
  • Most overall goals scored for Newcastle United: 206
  • Most European goals for Newcastle United: 30
  • PFA Players’ Player of the Year: 1995, 1997
  • Football Writers’ Association Player of the Year: 1994
  • Premier League Player of the Month (5): November 1994, September 1998, August 2000, December 2002, October 2003
  • Premier League Player of the Season: 1994–95
  • FWA Tribute Award: 2001
  • Premier League 10 Seasons Awards (1992–93 to 2001–02)
    • Domestic and Overall Player of the Decade
    • Domestic and Overall Team of the Decade
    • Outstanding Contribution to the FA Premier League
    • Top Goalscorer (204)
  • Premier League 20 Seasons Awards (1992–93 to 2011–12)
    • Top Goalscorer (260)

What They Said

“He leads the attack with courage and quality. He’s a superb team player and an inspirational captain. As a player he is up there with the very best, with the Lofthouses, Lawtons, Linekers and any other great striker you care to mention.”

Sir Bobby Robson


So, Who is the Greatest Premier League Player Ever?

For me, this decision was a lot harder than choosing who was the greatest player ever. Each of these five players could be top for different reasons. Bergkamp for his technique and elegance, Giggs for his huge success, Henry for his mesmerising play, Ronaldo for his ability to change a game in a spilt second, and Shearer for his goalscoring records.

A survey conducted by Usurv earlier this year placed Dennis Bergkamp seventh over all (Gerrard and Cantona were above him), and I have to agree that the Dutchman didn’t have as a great a Premier League career as the other players in this list, so he finishes a very respectable fifth.

As for the top four, its incredibly close to call, as they were the top four in the aforementioned survey as well. They placed Shearer fourth and I am too, purely on the fact that he didn’t win as many titles as the other three, but his goal record is an incredible one, and is unlikely to be beaten any time soon, or perhaps ever.

Then comes Cristiano Ronaldo, who actually topped the Usurv poll, but I feel as though he has turned into a real world superstar in his time at Real Madrid. For the majority of his time with Manchester United in the Premier League, there were a few players on the same level as him.

So I’ve decided the best Premier League player ever is…….

RYAN GIGGS!

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At a very close second is Thierry Henry, and he is only second to fact that some of his career achievements were outside the Premier League. But there is no questioning the fact that Henry’s best days were at Arsenal, as he was one of the stand-out players in the invincibles squad, and it was fitting that he scored a hat-trick in the Gunners’ last ever game at Highbury.

So we come to Giggsy, with his record number of Premier League titles and appearances. Until his retirement last summer, the Welshman was the only player to score in every single season since the league formed in 1992. In the Premier League’s 20 seasons awards he was named the best player, and you can’t argue with that. From when he was impressing as youngster as part of the class of ’92, right the way through to when he was a veteran captaining the United side, you have admire Giggs and how vital a role he played in every single one of the Red Devils’ 13 Premier League crowns.

My Top Five Premier League Players Ever

5. Dennis Bergkamp

4. Alan Shearer

3. Cristiano Ronaldo

2. Thierry Henry

1. Ryan Giggs

Thank you for reading and here’s to the next 100 posts! Let me know your top five in the comments 🙂

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2 thoughts on “200th Post: Who is the greatest Premier League footballer ever?

  1. Kudos on choosing a player that not even his most avid supporter would. He was certainly not the best player, simply the longest serving.

    It’s always been between Henry and Ronaldo.

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