The 18 Best Premier League Players Of All Time
The Premier League is the most expensive and popular league in the world. The best Premier League players of all time are some of the best to ever play the sport.
While only two players have ever won the Ballon d’Or while playing in the Premier League, there’s little doubt the league has the deepest talent pool in the world, with world class clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea attracting the world's best talent.
So we’ve put together a ranking of the 18 best Premier League players of all time.
Best Premier League Players
18. Andy Cole
Though he never had much of a career with the English national team, Andy Cole racked up 187 goals for six different clubs in the Premier League, ranking him third all time. He scored a record 34 goals for Newcastle United in 1993-94.
The English striker’s most successful stint was eight years with Manchester United, winning five league titles while scoring 93 goals in 195 matches.
17. Tim Howard/Brad Friedel
A double dip here for some American pride. Tim Howard and Brad Friedel both rank No. 7 on the all-time clean sheets list with 132. Both players had extensive success overseas, Howard with Manchester United and Everton, Friedel with Blackburn, Aston Villa and Tottenham.
Friedel and Howard are two of just five goalkeepers who have scored in a Premier League match. Outside of Clint Dempsey’s exploits with Fulham, these two are the two best Americans in the history of the Premier League.
16. Sol Campbell
Whether with Tottenham Hotspur or rival Arsenal, Sol Campbell was one of the best defenders of his generation. Campbell made more than 500 league appearances, 153 of which ended in clean sheets.
The English defender won two Premier League crowns with the Gunners but, perhaps more impressively, captained Portsmouth to an FA Cup title in 2008.
15. Michael Owen
Though Michael Owen played for Newcastle and Manchester United, he’ll always be remembered for his exploits with Liverpool. Owen ranks eighth in league history with 150 goals, having won the Golden Boot twice.
Owen earns a spot on this list for being one of two Premier League players to have won the Ballon d’Or, being named football’s top player in 2001.
14. Roy Keane
One of the fiercest midfielders in the history of the Premier League, Roy Keane was a major driving force to Manchester United’s ascendancy as the best English club of all time. Captain of the Red Devils from 1997 to 2005, Keane won seven league titles and a Champions League, which included a treble in 1999.
The combative midfielder was also sent off seven times, trailing only Patrick Vieira (and two others) for most all time.
13. Rio Ferdinand
With pace, confidence on the ball and supreme tackling ability, Rio Ferdinand changed the definition of what an English center back could be. Ferdinand won six Premier League titles in his 12 seasons with Manchester United and he ranks in the top 10 in all-time appearances.
Ferdinand’s career-defining moment came when he captained the Red Devils to a Champions League final win over Chelsea in 2008.
12. Dennis Bergkamp
In the history of the Premier League, few can match the serene elegance of Dennis Bergkamp on the ball. The Arsenal midfielder spent 11 seasons in England at the end of a career that included stops at Ajax and Inter Milan.
Whether he was a lone striker, a winger or a No. 10, Bergkamp was a creative maestro. He dished out 94 assists (including a record four in one match) during his Premier League career, ranking fifth all time. He added 87 goals in 315 appearances. With Bergkamp, Arsenal won three league crowns, but it was the beauty of his touch and sublime vision that puts him on our list.
11. Steven Gerrard
One of the greatest midfielders of his generation, Steven Gerrard was a Liverpool legend, playing 17 seasons at Anfield.
While some will lament Gerrard’s inability to win a Premier League title — who can forget his slip against Chelsea in 2014? — his career will always be defined by one night in Istanbul. With Liverpool trailing 3-0 at halftime, Gerrard scored the first goal in a remarkable comeback that saw the Reds beat AC Milan in penalty kicks for the Champions League trophy.
10. Paul Scholes
Perhaps the most underrated player in the history of the Premier League, Paul Scholes didn’t rack up huge numbers of assists or goals with Manchester United, but the midfielder was the heartbeat of the team for much of the two decades he was with the club.
Scholes won 11 Premier League and two Champions League titles with United, proving himself as a versatile midfielder. He finished his career with 107 goals and 55 assists in 499 league appearances, all with the Red Devils.
9. Patrick Vieira
Few could match the towering presence of Patrick Vieira in the heart of midfield. The 6-4 Frenchman is one of the few players on this list to have won a World Cup, but he’ll be more fondly remembered in England for what he did at Arsenal.
A commanding midfielder, Vieira was masterful at both breaking up play and distributing the ball forward. Premier League player of the season in 2001, he won three league titles with the Gunners and was vital to the 2004 Invincibles.
8. Frank Lampard
The definition of a box-to-box midfielder, Frank Lampard is the highest scoring midfielder in the history of the Premier League. He ranks fourth in both goals with 177 and assists with 102 while appearing in 609 matches, third all time.
Though he also appeared for West Ham and Manchester City, Lampard made his mark with Chelsea, winning three league crowns and the Champions League. In 2005 he was runner-up in the Ballon d’Or voting behind Ronaldinho, a feat no Englishman has eclipsed since.
7. Wayne Rooney
Before moving on to Major League Soccer, Wayne Rooney became one of the most prolific players in Premier League history. When he left England, he was second in goals with 208 and third in assists with 103.
From his debut with Everton at age 16 through his time at Manchester United, Rooney was a game-changer in every sense of the word. A five-time Premier League winner, Rooney often was at his best in the biggest of matches, a fact never more evident than his overhead bicycle kick against Manchester City in 2011.
6. John Terry
What John Terry meant to Chelsea can’t be summed up in a list of accomplishments or big numbers, but he was probably the best defender in the history of the Premier League.
Terry led Chelsea to five league titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, a Champions League and a Europa League title. He even scored 41 league goals for the Blues and was named PFA Player of the Year in 2005.
5. Petr Cech
Our top goalie on the list, Petr Cech by far holds the record for most clean sheets with more than 200. He won the Premier League four times with Chelsea to go along with four Golden Glove awards, one coming while at Arsenal.
The nine-time Czech player of the year won the Champions League with Chelsea. Through both longevity and peak performance, Cech is the best goalkeeper in the history of the Premier League.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
While Cristiano Ronaldo went on to make a huge career for himself at Real Madrid, he was also one of the best in Manchester United history before leaving for Spain. The most recent Premier League player to earn the Ballon d’Or, Ronaldo scored 84 goals in 196 league appearances, adding 34 assists.
Though Ronaldo’s stay in England was only six seasons near the start of his career, he won three Premier League titles, two Player of the Season awards and one Golden Boot, scoring 31 goals in 34 appearances in 2007-08, the same year he was named the world’s best player for the first time.
3. Thierry Henry
A four-time Golden Boot winner, most all time, Thierry Henry embodied perhaps the greatest team in Premier League history, the Arsenal Invincibles. With speed, grace, guile and, most importantly, impeccable finishing ability, Henry set the league on fire during his eight-year stay in North London.
Henry ranks fifth all time in Premier League goals with 175. He’s the only non-Englishman in the Top 10 and his 0.68 goals per game rank him far ahead of the other nine. A two-time Premier League winner and two-time Premier League player of the year recipient, Henry was perhaps the most fearsome player to ever play in England’s top league.
2. Alan Shearer
Alan Shearer was a goal-scoring machine and his record of 260 Premier League goals may never be broken, totaling 422 in all competitions throughout his career. The Blackburn Rovers and Newcastle United striker scored 96 league goals over a three-year span in the ‘90s, albeit when the Premier League played more than 38 matches per season. He owns the record for most career Premier League hat tricks with 11.
When healthy, the England striker was an unstoppable beast throughout his career. He won just one Premier League title with Blackburn in 1995, but his goal-scoring exploits speak for themselves.
1. Ryan Giggs
Perhaps the most decorated footballer in history, Ryan Giggs racked up 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League cups and two Champions League crowns with Manchester United. With a long, consistent and productive career, Giggsy was named to six PFA Teams of the Year, winning the top individual player honor in 2009.
While rarely recognized as one of the best in the world, Ryan Giggs stands above the rest for his unsurpassed longevity. He finished his career a record 162 assists to go with 109 goals in 632 Premier League appearances, second all time. Perhaps most telling, he won 407 of his matches — 64 percent — with Manchester United and never received a red card in his 24-year career with the Red Devils.