Top 10 Foreigners To Play In The Premier League
Since the Premier League began, there has been an influx of foreign imports as more and more teams look abroad to find better players and better value for their money. Here we look at 10 of the very best foreigners to grace the Premier League:
10) Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United 2006 – Present)
The Serbian defender has quite simply been the best foreign defender the Premier League has seen, as voted for in the recent four-four-two magazine. Following a £7 million move from Spartak Moscow in the January transfer window of 2006, Vidic has forged a watertight partnership with the former England captain Rio Ferdinand at the heart of United’s defence.
Four Premier League titles in his five full seasons in England (excludes the six month spell at the end of the 2006 season), represents a fantastic haul. Not only an amazing defender, Vidic also a huge goal threat, scoring an impressive 18 goals in his time at the club.
Vidic recently replaced the retiring Gary Neville as captain of Manchester United.
9) Paulo Di Canio (Sheffield Wednesday 1997-99, West Ham United 1999-2003, Charlton 2003-04)
As controversial as he was brilliant, yet he most certainly belongs in this list. A good spell at Sheffield Wednesday, were he scored 15 Premier League goals, came to an abrupt conclusion as he so famously pushed over referee Paul Alcock, resulting in an 11 match ban.
The incident didn’t put off Harry Redknapp who signed the Italian for West Ham in 1999. He quickly endeared himself to the Upton Park faithful with his energetic performances. His most memorable moment came in the home meeting with Wimbledon in 2000, when Di Canio scored an incredible scissor kick goal. The strike was not only voted goal of the season, but goal of the decade in the recent Sky Sports News poll.
Di Canio is also remembered for his amazing piece of fair play at Goodison Park, when he refused to score a simple tap-in as the Everton keeper Paul Gerrard laid on the ground injured. This remarkable piece of sportsmanship won him the FIFA fair play award in 2001.
Di Canio also had a brief, if yet unsuccessful spell with Charlton Athletic.
8) Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United 1991-99, Aston Villa 2001-02, Manchester City 02-03)
‘The Great Dane’ just edges out Petr Cech for the number one foreign keeper. Most memorable for his eight years at Manchester United, having moved to the Red Devils in 1991 from Danish club Brondby.
Schmeichel had everything as a goalkeeper and despite his height and weight, his reflexes were impeccable, and no striker would fancy themselves one-on-one with the keeper.
Schmeichel won five Premier League titles in his spell at Old Trafford and his most notable season was the treble winning season of 1999, ironically Schmeichel’s last, before he moved to Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. His last game for the red of Manchester United was the 1999 Champions League final against the German giants Bayern Munich, were in the absence of the suspended Roy Keane, Schmeichel captained the side to one of its most glorious days.
Schmeichel also had spells in the Premier League with Aston Villa and Manchester United’s city rivals City; however no ‘one can argue his best days were with the 19 time champions.
7) Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Manchester United 2001-06)
95 goals in 150 Premier League matches and 150 goals in just five seasons, is the reason why the Dutchman is in the list. The best all round striker he is not, however he comes alive in the box; scoring all bar one of his Manchester United goals inside the penalty box.
Van Nistelrooy was unfortunate in the sense he joined Manchester United during their most barren of Premier League runs; winning just the solitary Premier League title in his full five seasons at the club. This didn’t stop the Dutchman from consistently finding the back of the net, at one stage scoring for a record 10 Premier League games in a row.
Despite falling out of favour towards the end of his United career, his goal scoring ability was second to none in the Premiership during his time in England. He went on to join Real Madrid in 2006.
6) Patrick Vieira (Arsenal 1996-2005, Manchester City 2010-11)
The Senegalese born Frenchman joined Arsenal in 1996 for just £3.5million, representing a bargain in anyone’s books. Vieira won three Premier League titles and four F.A Cup successes in just nine years at the club.
Vieira and his Arsenal side incredibly went 49 Premier League games unbeaten, which included a whole League campaign in 2003-04. Having forged a fantastic partnership with Emmanuel Petit in his early years at the club, Vieira was vital for Arsenal at both ends of the pitch.
Even nine red cards at Arsenal doesn’t diminish was a fantastic player Vieira was for Arsenal. The fact the Gunners have yet to win a trophy since his exit speaks volumes of his importance at Arsenal. He had a brief spell at Manchester City towards the end of his career, collecting another FA Cup winner’s medal.
5) Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea 1996-2003)
Was recently voted Chelsea’s greatest player of all time, by the fans of the club, and you can’t doubt he deserves that tag. A bargain £4.5million transfer from Parma in 1996, one of many Ruud Guillit foreign moves during his spell in charge of Chelsea.
Zola won numerous cup competitions; 2 F.A Cups; 1 League Cup; 1 Super Cup and a Cup winners Cup. Premier League success eluded Zola during his time with Chelsea; however his class was never in doubt.
Zola so famously scored what the then Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri manager dubbed a ‘magic goal’ versus Norwich City in the F.A Cup in 2002. Zola bowed out from Chelsea by guiding Chelsea into fourth place and the Champions League.
4) Thierry Henry (Arsenal 1999-2007)
Thierry Henry joined Arsenal in 1999 as a winger, and left as a the clubs top scorer of all time. Following an 11million move from Juventus in 1999, it took Henry a while to adjust to life in England however once he found his feet at times he was unplayable. During his time at Arsenal he won 2 Premier League Titles and 3 FA Cup’s.
He was part of the unbeatable side of the 2003-04 side that saw the Gunners go the whole league campaign unbeaten. And following Patrick Vieira’s departure he became captain of Arsenal in 2005. He scored the last ever goal at Highbury, celebrating by famously kissing the ground.
Famously he spurned a couple of good chances in the clubs only ever European Cup final appearance as Arsenal lost 2-1 to Barcelona in 2006. A year later he joined the Catalan giants, leaving behind an incredible legacy at the club.
3) Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United 2003-2009)
Signed from Sporting Lisbon to replace David Beckham, after a slow start, Cristiano Ronaldo became one of Manchester United’s greatest ever players.
After the 2006 World Cup Cristiano Ronaldo really became a Manchester United legend, in those three seasons he scored an incredible 67 Premier League goals in just 99 matches and in them three seasons in all competitions an incredible 91 goals in just 155 games.
The boy has everything: dribbling ability; shooting with either foot; crossing ability; set piece technique; he can even head the ball. And if Lionel Messi wasn’t around, nobody in world football would be able to compare with his match winning ability.
Three Premier League titles to go with a League Cup, F.A Cup and Champions League success definitely ensure Ronaldo is in the top three.
2) Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal 1995-2007)
Having arrived from a poor spell in Italy with Inter Milan, Bergkamp became a legend not only at Arsenal but in England for an incredible 12 years with the Gunners.
Technically amazing, he could score goals no ‘one could dream of. Famously he once was finished in third, second and first place in the BBC’s goal of the month competition after his two of his incredible hat-trick against Leicester, as well as a strike vs. Southampton were all voted into the top three goals.
During his time at the club Bergkamp won Three Premier League titles, which included two domestic doubles and the invincible season. Bergkamp’s fear of flying often prevented him from playing in Europe for Arsenal; however he did play in the UEFA Cup 2000 final vs. Galatasary, a game the Gunners lost on penalties.
1) Eric Cantona (Leeds United 1992, Manchester United 92-97)
Eric Cantona started his English life of at Leeds when he won the 1992 First Division title. However he is most certainly more remembered for his time at Manchester United where the Frenchman won four Premier League crowns at the Manchester club as well as two F.A Cups, one of which he so famously scored the winner against Liverpool in a dull final.
A controversial figure Cantona once ‘kung-fu’ kicked a Crystal Palace fan after being sent off at Selhurst Park in 1995. Suspended until the end of the season because of this action, Manchester United lost the League title to big-spenders Blackburn, the only time Cantona didn’t win the title in his five seasons at the club.
His comeback season saw United trail Newcastle by 10 points going into Christmas, however in typical United fashion the club hauled down Kevin Keegan’s Newcastle, as Cantona inspired Manchester United to another double. In his final season at Old Trafford, before he retired at the young age of 30, Cantona again won the Premier League title.
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