Football is a glorious game. Since the game’s inception as its present form in the year 1863 in England; the 15-oz leather ball has seen lots of improvisations, rolling across in over 200 countries and mesmerizing millions witnessing the magic laid down by the masters controlling it. And being the land of its origin, England has seen utter legends of the game playing in the most rugged leagues that ever existed.
It’s always difficult for a player to adjust in foreign land and make their mark in the harsh weather conditions that prevails, especially in England. Many great players have played for different clubs in England’s top flight and set a benchmark for thousands to come. Here’s a brief look at some of the best foreign Premier League players of all time (post-1992):-
Here are the 10 best foreign Premier League players of all time –
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(20) Eden Hazard
Starting his youth career at Royal Stade Brainois, the little lethal Belgian devil has ripped apart the tightest of defences over the years.
He remains one of the most acclaimed players in the prevailing era of Messi and Ronaldo. Joining the Blues in 2012 for a reported fee of around £32 million, Hazard made 245 appearances for Chelsea and netted 85 times, before leaving for Real Madrid in 2019.
(19) Jimmy Hasselbaink
Dutch-international forward Hasselbaink was a star man for Chelsea during the years he spent at the Stamford Bridge, scoring a total of 70 goals in only the 136 games he starred in over a span of 4 years (2000-2004).
One of his career highlights remains receiving the Premier League Golden Boot in his debut season for the club, with 23 goals. Hasselbaink went on to play for Middlesbrough, Charlton Athletic and Cardiff City after leaving Chelsea in 2004. He also managed the teams QPR and Burton Albion after his retirement as a player.
(18) Petr Cech
Ex-Chelsea and Arsenal shot-stopper Cech needs no introduction as his glittering career at both the clubs speaks volume of his contribution to the Premier League.
Winner of four Premier League titles and one Champions League, the Czech international is a true veteran of the game having made over 440 official appearances for both Chelsea and Arsenal over the years.
Cech is the only goalkeeper to win the Golden Glove with two separate clubs, winning it for a total of four times (2004-05, 2009-10, 2013-14 and 2015-16). He is also the record holder of 202 clean sheets in the Premier League.
(17) Paolo Di Canio
West-Ham goal machine Di Canio was well-known for his dribbling, creativity and aggression on the pitch during his playing years with Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham United and Charlton Athletic.
The Italian spearhead has played in 190 Premier League matches and has found the net on 66 occasions, making him one of the most decorated player in the Hammer’s history. After retirement, he managed English sides Swindon Town (2011-2013) and Sunderland in 2013. He will always be remembered as one of the best foreign Premier League players of all time.
(16) Cesc Fabregas
The stylish Spanish playmaker has established himself as one of the best midfielders to ever play on British soil. Having passed through the prestigious La Masia, Cesc spent a majority of his career at Arsenal since his arrival in 2003. He quickly cemented his place in the main team and made 212 appearances for the Gunners.
Having joined Barcelona in 2011, he came back to join Chelsea in 2014. He won two Premier League titles with them, before leaving for Monaco in January 2019. He is the second highest assist provider (111) in the Premier League behind Giggs.
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(15) David Ginola
Ginola was widely considered as one of the most deadly wingers in the Premier League during his time at Newcastle United (1995-97), Tottenham Hotspurs (1997-2000), Aston Villa (2000-2002) and Everton (2002). The ex-PSG man was known to have ‘magical’ touch and his ability to find spaces in the toughest of places and score a goal is still remembered by the fans.
Ginola was also voted ‘Player of the Year’ in both his native country France (1993) and England (1998–1999), being the only French player to have been handed both these honours.
(14) Robin Van Persie
All-time top scorer for Netherlands, Van Persie played for both Arsenal and Manchester United during his 11-year long stay in England. Joining the Gunners from Feyenoord in 2004; the Flying Dutchman played 196 matches for Arsenal, scoring 96 times.
His move to United in 2012 was widely discussed but had no impact on his form as he went on to net 48 goals in the 86 matches he played for the Red Devils. He was also a part of Netherlands’ successful World Cup campaigns as they finished runners-up in 2010 and 3rd in 2014.
(13) Gianfranco Zola
Having won the Football Writers’ Player of the Year in his debut season at Chelsea, Italian international Zola was an instant hit in the Premier League. Playing alongside greats in the likes of Maradona and Careca during his time in Napoli, Zola was capped 35 times for the national team and was a part of the Italian team which finished second in the 1994 World Cup, and Euro 1996.
The prolific forward starred in 229 matches for Chelsea, scoring 59 times. The impact that he had on the team and the league makes him one of the best foreign Premier League players of all time
(12) Luis Suarez
Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez had a successful 3-year spell at Liverpool from 2011-14 before Barcelona came calling for the hit-man. The ex-Ajax striker played more than hundred matches for the Reds, netting 69 times and tormenting defences effortlessly both in England and Spain later on.
He was awarded the Premier League Player of the Season in 2014 and also remained as the top scorer for Liverpool in all three seasons. He is also the leading goal-scorer for the Uruguayan national football team with 58 goals
(11) Edwin van der Sar
Considered as one of the best goalkeepers of all time, Dutch-goalie Van der Sar played his initial years at Ajax from 1990 before a brief stint at Juventus (1999-2001). Van der Sar joined Fulham in 2001 and spent four years at the club, making 127 club appearances before joining Manchester United in 2005.
Four-time Premier League winners with United; Van der Sar played 186 times for the Red Devils and had also won the decorated Champions League in 2008 under Sir Alex Ferguson.
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(10) Yaya Toure
Ivorian veteran Yaya Toure started his youth level at ASEC Mimosas before breaking into the senior team at Beveren. Playing across different leagues and countries; and in teams of the likes of Olympiacos, Monaco and Barcelona; the box-to-box beast joined Manchester City in 2010 and made 230 appearances, scoring 62 times.
The 35-year old has three Premier League titles under his belt and had also starred in the Ivory Coast squad which won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2015. Undoubtedly, one of the best foreign Premier League players of all time.
(9) Peter Schmeichel
Danish goalkeeping sensation Peter Schmeichel was voted the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper award in 1992 and 1993. He joined Manchester United in the year 1991 from Brondby IF and had a glittering 8-year career at the Old Trafford thereafter.
He captained the 1999 United side to Champions Trophy victory to complete the treble that season. Having played 292 times for the Reds, the Gladsaxe-born goalie also scored 11 goals in his entire career, including one for Denmark. He also played for Aston Villa and Manchester City after leaving United.
(8) Didier Drogba
Scoring 10 goals in 10 finals winning 10 trophies, Ivorian beast Didier Drogba was termed as the ultimate ‘big game player’ during his successful 8-year stay at the Stamford Bridge as he held a pivotal role in Chelsea’s 4 Premier League triumphs and a Champions League win in 2012.
Starting his youth career at Pheonix Rising, he joined Chelsea in 2004 from Marseille for a reported sum of £24 million and made 254 appearances for the Blues, netting the ball 104 times in his two-spells at the club. He also captained the Ivory Coasts from 2006 until his retirement in 2014 and still remains the country’s leading goal-scorer.
(7) David Silva
The little Spanish magician and ex-Valencia player; whose dribbling and master passing is widely applauded, joined Manchester City in 2010 and proved to be one of the greatest ever to grace the Premier League. Helping City lift four League titles in his nine-year stay at Etihad. El Mago has played 250 times for the Blues and has scored 54 goals. He also has 83 assists to his name in the Premier League.
He has more than 100 caps for the Spanish national team and was an important member of the squads that won three consecutive international tournaments – UEFA Euro in 2008, the 2010 FIFA World Cup, and UEFA Euro in 2012.
(6) Eric Cantona
The enigmatic Frenchman was one of the most controversial players to have ever played in England, having his infamous ‘kung-fu’ kick on a Crystal Palace fan strip off his French captaincy and was banned from playing for eight months. He started his career at Auxerre in 1983 before many loan outings until Leeds United brought him to England in 1992.
United signed him the same year and eventually went on to retire at the club in 1997. He played 143 matches for the Reds having scored 64 goals. Post-retirement, Cantona has tried his hand in acting, having starred in over 20 movies till date.
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(5) Sergio Aguero
Argentine free-scorer Aguero has been one of the best forwards the league has ever witnessed, having scored 165 goals in only 240 apps for the blue side of Manchester and helping them win four Premier League titles after his arrival.
He had already scored plenty of goals in La Liga for Atletico Madrid before City successfully brought him to Etihad in 2011. He has the highest goals per minute ratio (106.0) in the League, miles ahead of the likes of Henry (121.8), Van Nistelrooy (128.2), and Robin van Persie (139.7).
Aguero is also an Olympic gold medalist (2008) and FIFA U-20 World Cup winner with Argentina. He has 82 caps for the national team till date and has netted 33 times.
(4) Patrick Vieira
After failing to break into the AC Milan main team in 1995-96, French international Vieira had a rather pleasant stay in the Premier League with Arsenal from 1996 till 2005, making a total of 279 appearances for the Gunners and later on a season with Manchester City (2010-11).
The Senegal-born tank started his youth level football at FC Trappes, moving on to FC Drouais and Tours before making his senior team debut for Cannes in 1994. With outstanding physical and technical attributes, Vieira made his mark as one of the best playmakers in the 90s. He has 107 caps for the French national team including brief club stints at Juventus and Inter Milan.
(3) Cristiano Ronaldo
One of the greatest ever, Cristiano Ronaldo needs no introduction to the mass. Winner of 5 Ballon d’Or till date, he has proven himself wherever he has played.
Starting his youth footballing phase at Sporting CP in Portugal, he broke into the limelight under Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. Having played 196 matches for the Reds across all competitions, he scored 84 goals from 2003-2009 which even earned him the Ballon d’Or in 2008 following United’s Champions League win.
Real Madrid came calling for the left winger next season which saw him leave for Santiago Bernabeu for a fee of around £80 million making him the costliest player at that time. The current-Juventus forward, Ronaldo is the top scorer for both his country Portugal and Real Madrid and has also captained Portugal to their Euro cup win in 2016.
(2) Dennis Bergkamp
Graduating through the youth ranks of the esteemed-Ajax academy, Dennis Bergkamp played 183 matches for the senior team scoring 103 goals from 1986-1993. He then spent 2 seasons at Internazionale before Arsenal got their man in 1995.
He went on to play 315 matches for the Gunners, scoring 87 goals until his retirement in 2006. Jan Mulder described Dennis as having “the finest technique” of any Dutch player ever and a “dream for a striker” by his club-teammate Thierry Henry.
His famous goal against Newcastle United was voted as the best Premier League goal of all-time in the league’s 25-year history in 2017. Having three Premier League titles under his belt during his stay at the Highbury, Dennis Bergkamp is definitely one of the best foreign Premier League players of all time.
(1) Thierry Henry
French international and charismatic forward Henry is undoubtedly the most influential player in Premier League history, after his glittering career at Arsenal. Starting at a very young age at CO Les Ulis in 1983, he developed through the youth ranks of Viry-Chatillon and Monaco before making his senior team debut for Monaco in 1994.
After spending five years at the French club, he had a brief stay at Juventus before moving to Arsenal in 1999. He went on to be a prolific goal-scorer at the club, netting 174 times in 254 games he featured in.
Winning two Premier League titles with the London side, he left for Barcelona in 2007 and was a regular starter till 2010 when he joined New York Red Bulls. He returned to Arsenal on loan again in 2014 and played only 4 matches but scored the match-winner against Leeds in a FA Cup third round tie.
NOTABLE MENTIONS: –
(1) Xabi Alonso (2004-09 Liverpool)
(2) Fernando Torres (2007-11 Liverpool; 2011-15 Chelsea)
(3) Ruud van Nistelrooy (2001-06 Manchester United)
(4) Carlos Tevez (2006-07 West Ham; 2007-09 Manchester United; 2009-13 Manchester City)
(5) Patrice Evra (2006-14 Manchester United)
(6) Pablo Zabaleta (2008-17 Manchester City; 2017- West Ham)
(7) Nemaja Vidic (2006-14 Manchester United)
(8) Dimitar Berbatov (2006-08 Tottenham; 2008-12 Manchester United; 2012-14 Fulham)
(9) Claude Makelele (2003-08 Chelsea)
(10) Vincent Kompany (2008- 2019 Manchester City)
Checkout : Greatest Premier League Players Ever