It’s given us Sir Alex Ferguson, Kevin Keegan and Arsene Wenger. It’s given us mayhem, magic and Mike Dean. It’s given us Centurions, Invincibles and Treble winners.
There’s no division in football quite like the Premier League, where the geniuses and madmen of the game flock to write their name in history. For 28 years, we’ve witnessed incredible sights – and some of the greatest players to ever live.
Here at FourFourTwo, we’ve decided to rank the top 100 footballers to appear in the Premier League – that’s England’s top tier since 1992 – based on their impact. That’s a combination of their ability, status and the moments they gave us over the years.
Every lunchtime this week, we’ll be bringing you our countdown – so far, we’ve done 100-61…
Do you agree with our list? Passionately disagree? Who should be at number 1? Make sure to let us know @FourFourTwo!
100. Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
If you had Ole Gunnar Solskjaer coming off the bench then you always had a chance. Manchester United’s baby-faced assassin was the ideal supersub for the Reds during his eleven-year playing spell at Old Trafford. After scoring six minutes after coming off the substitutes bench in his Premier League debut against Blackburn, the Norweigian forward went on to add another 16 Premier League goals during substitute appearances for the United – more than any other player. He finished his Premier League career in 2007 with 91 league goals in 235 Premier League appearances for United.
99. Emmanuel Petit
French midfielder Emmanuel Petit formed an iconic partnership with fellow countryman Patrick Vieira as Arsenal won the league and cup double in the 1997/98 season. While Vieira displayed power and presence in the heart of that Gunners’ side, Petit was the calm, reliable influence which counter-balanced his partner’s occasional feverish game. Petit also had a spell at Chelsea where he helped the Blues finish in the top six for three years straight.
98. Mark Schwarzer
While the Premier League has a long list of enduring goalkeepers – some of whom you’ll find further on – Schwarzer’s name is the first that springs to mind when you think of the evergreen Premier League keeper. His 514 Premier League appearances in goal are only bettered by David James. He enjoyed his finest years in the league at Middlesbrough then Fulham, losing a UEFA Cup final with both. Although he did not make a league appearance for either, his final two years were spent in consecutive title-winning squads for Chelsea and Leicester – a great footnote to an excellent career.
97. Philippe Coutinho
If there was ever a title for ‘Master of cutting inside from 35 yards out in the inside left channel and firing a shot into the opposite top corner during a big game’ – then it was Philippe Coutinho. The little Brazilian dazzled Premier League fans with a mixture of silky dribbling and wonderful curling efforts during his five years at Liverpool. Coutinho registered 41 goals and 35 assists in 152 league matches for the Reds, including a goal in five separate outings against Liverpool’s title rivals Manchester City. City were glad to see the back of the Brazilian when he completed a £105 million move to Barcelona in 2018.
96. David James
Fourth on the league’s all-time appearance list and the second-highest clean sheet record of any goalkeeper in Premier League history, David James is known for much more than his radical hairdos. James had a long career in the Premier League as a number one goalkeeper for Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham, Manchester City and Portsmouth and totalled a staggering 169 clean sheets whilst at these clubs. That record stood until Petr Cech bettered that total in 2015.
95. Leighton Baines
Having made over 400 appearances for Everton and Wigan Athletic in the top-flight, Leighton Baines can only be described as a dependable option at left-back. His defensive astuteness coupled with his influence in the final third makes him an all-round reliable great. The Toffees’ No.3 holds the record of the most Premier League assists of all-time made by a defender, having set up 53 goals from left-back. Baines’ ability to produce from set pieces, which includes a superb free-kick record, makes him one of the most technically gifted defenders in Premier League history.
94. Jordan Henderson
While Liverpool’s front three continue to dominate the headlines, Jordan Henderson’s development from young Sunderland prodigy to a Champions League-winning captain has been nothing short of remarkable. The England international has been ever-present during Liverpool’s rise under Jurgen Klopp, and Henderson’s 71% tackle success and his 85% passing accuracy demonstrate how he is the heartbeat of this Reds side.
93. Shay Given
Shay Given may not have picked up any Premier League honours during his career, but he was seen as a reliable option in goal for the likes of Newcastle, Manchester City, Aston Villa and Stoke City. The Irishman made 451 Premier League appearances during his career, registering 113 clean sheets in England’s top-flight. He also helped Newcastle and Manchester City reach the Champions League despite the dominance of of Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea in the early 2000s.
92. Trent Alexander-Arnold
The fact that Alexander-Arnold is included on this list, just two-and-a-half years after breaking into the Liverpool team, speaks volumes about his ability. The right-back is an unstoppable attacking force and broke the Premier League record for assists by a defender last season with 12. Scarily, he might get even better.
Middlesbrough fans couldn’t believe their eyes when they signed Brazilian attacking midfielder Juninho. They were equally astounded by his trickery and flair that dazzled Boro fans over three different spells at the Riverside Stadium. ‘The Little Fella’, as he was called in the north-east, contributed to 47 goals (18 goals and 29 assists) in 125 appearances for Boro.
90. Chris Sutton
One half of the fabled SAS – alongside Alan Shearer – who fired Blackburn Rovers to Premier League glory in 1995. Just like his later punditry style, Sutton was a no-nonsense sort of striker: big, strong in the air and deadly when it mattered most. Banged in 83 Premier League goals for five different clubs – with 80 of them coming for Norwich and Blackburn.
89. Jamie Carragher
Carragher is as synonymous with Liverpool as his long-time team-mate Steven Gerrard, after spending his entire 17-year career at Anfield. A strong, intelligent and reliable defender who played across the back four, the defender made 508 Premier League appearances for the Reds, the ninth-highest number of all time.
88. Steve McManaman
While the all-round midfielder was best known for his success away from the Premier League with Real Madrid, McManaman enjoyed a great deal of success for Liverpool during the inaugural years of the Premier League. Able to play across the entire midfield and useful in both penalty areas, the former Liverpool man contributed to 100 goals (51 assists, 49 goals) during his 275 Premier League appearances, which also included a two-year spell towards the end of his career at Manchester City between 2003 and 2005.
87. Gary Pallister
Defender Gary Pallister was a regular for Sir Alex Ferguson’s United side when they won four Premier League titles in five years between 1992 and 1997. Pallister was highly-rated by his fellow peers and was named in the PFA Team of the Year for three consecutive years between 1992 and 1995, and again in 1998. After 317 league appearances in a nine-year spell at Old Trafford, Pallister then moved to Middlesbrough where he spent three more years in the Premier League.
86. Brad Friedel
While Brad Friedel was not the most spectacular of Premier League goalkeepers, he was certainly one of the more well-respected men between the sticks. After starting his career as a second-choice option at Liverpool, the American was first-choice for the likes of Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Tottenham Hotspur in a long career on the English shores. Friedel was deemed a reliable option by those three clubs, and played in every single Premier League game between 2004 and 2012. Overall, Fridel made 450 top-flight appearances and registered 132 shutouts.
85. Peter Crouch
Crouch will always remain one of the Premier League’s most surreal players. At 6ft 7in tall and with an impressive goal return, while he appeared for the likes of Aston Villa and Southampton early on in his career, not even Liverpool or Tottenham could resist the temptation of Crouch’s abilities. It is still incredible how someone so tall could score the countless number of bicycle kicks the England international managed to pull off.
84. Alisson Becker
Behind every world-class team is a solid pair of hands, and Alisson has proved to be exactly that for Liverpool since his arrival at Anfield in 2018. The Brazilian has kept an astonishing 31 clean sheets in 56 Premier League appearances since arriving from Roma, which is even more impressive considering he’s only conceded 28 times. Allison also averages around 30 passes per match, which shows how much his team trusts his distribution from the back.
83. Gareth Barry
The Premier League’s all-time record appearance-maker, Barry played 653 top-tier games for Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton and West Brom – and could yet add to that record next term, despite being 39. A steady, dependable midfielder with an excellent left foot, the 53-time England international won the title with City in 2011/12.
82. Robbie Keane
The Republic of Ireland forward’s knack for goals was as memorable as his iconic cartwheel celebration. While he emerged into the Premier League with consistent goal-scoring displays for Coventry City and Leeds United, it was his time at Tottenham where Keane excelled the most. He managed to reach double-digit goal tallies in seven consecutive Premier League seasons between 2002 and 2008 at White Hart Lane, while the Irish striker also found the net regularly during short-term stints at Liverpool, West Ham and Aston Villa.
81. Riyad Mahrez
Left-backs beware. The worst thing you could do is let the Algerian winger cut inside on his left foot and bend a shot into the far corner of the net. Mahrez has shown incredible consistency and impact in the final third since making his Premier League debut in 2014. Mahrez played a vital role in Leicester City’s shock Premier League title win in 2015/16, scoring 17 goals for the Foxes that season and subsequently winning the PFA Player of the Year Award. After securing a long-waited move to Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City in 2018, the winger helped his new club win the title in his first season and scored a crucial goal on the final day of the season against Brighton to secure it.