The transformative years of England’s top division has seen our grounds graced by some of the finest world talent that football can offer, making selecting a best Premier League eleven a difficult prospect.
The 25th anniversary of the Premier League has seen the whole world and their dog compiling their best premier elevens. That 25 year span has seen England’s top tier morph from a mostly insular affair, into the multinational spectacle enjoyed by the global audience it enjoys today.
This list is just based on my (incredibly biased and subjective) opinion on the best players. No consideration has been given to how they might actually work together, the perceived historical importance (including players such as Cantona who kick-started Man Utd’s era of dominance), or how long they actually played in the Premier League. There’s a couple of inclusions and omissions that may make some wince, but here’s my eleven all the same.
In a 4-3-3 formation:
Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel
Truly the one position in this team that there was no doubt over. The Premier League has seen some great keepers, but Schmeichel was possibly the best ever.
Right Back – Gary Neville
Smug, opinionated, but a solid right back who won everything there is to win at club level. Not a world-beater by any means, but has the Premier League actually seen a truly great right back?
Centre Back – Jaap Stam
Loath as I am to kick this off with three United players, Jaap Stam stands out as one of the players I cursed the most for foiling any chances I had to see opposition teams score against Man Utd. A defensive colossus whose ability to read the game was sorely underrated, I breathed a sigh of relief when Fergie fell out with him and sold him on, meaning I could enjoy watching teams score against United again.
Centre Back – Sol Campbell
A man-mountain whose move from Spurs to Arsenal saw burning effigies adorn White Hart Lane. Can you imagine the same upset if Sissoko moved to the Emirates? There’s a reason for that.
Left Back – Ashley Cole
First on your premier left-back list, last on your Christmas card list. One of the few world-class full backs England has produced.
Defensive Midfield – N’Golo Kante
Read: also an attempt to make a somewhat nostalgic list more contemporary. Was he really the difference between a championship-winning Leicester and a relegation-threatened Leicester? Was he really the difference between a faltering Chelsea side and the team that ran away with the title last season? He often seems to put in the shifts of two players, so possibly. Time will tell, but if he retired tomorrow, few could doubt the impact he’s made in such a short time.
Midfield – Matt Le Tissier
I know, I know, he was more of a forward, but I’m trying to cram everyone in here. Criminally underrated, Le Tissier suffered from being a slightly out-of-shape guy at a time when managers were starting to recruit sport-scientists and monitor players’ diets. Possibly one of the most naturally-gifted players these shores have ever produced, Le Tissier’s highlight reel of goals is yet to be bettered.
Midfield – Gary McAllister
Okay, okay, settle down everybody! Full disclosure, I’m a Coventry City fan. You’re lucky you didn’t get Ogrizovic in goal. How do you get past the Gerrard/Lampard/Scholes conundrum? You omit them all, that’s how. ‘Super Gary Mac’ passed the ball better than Gerrard, was more well-rounded than Lampard, and could tackle a player without the police having to get involved, unlike Scholes. I’m a sucker for a brilliant passer of the ball, and perhaps with the exception of Xabi Alonso, McAllister was right up there at the top.
Forward – Cristiano Ronaldo
I really wanted to leave Ronaldo out and put Teddy Sheringham in instead, but I feel I’ve played all my wildcards in midfield now. I much prefered Sheringham’s intelligent play to Ronaldo’s head down, run toward the goal and belt it as hard as you can style, but there’s no denying how effective it’s been. If you’re looking at an opponent’s team-sheet and see Ronaldo’s name listed, you know you’re going to have your work cut out just to prevent him putting three past you. Evolved at Madrid to become one of the most feared forwards in the game.
Forward – Alan Shearer
Perhaps the best all-out striker ever. Headers, tap-ins, 30-yard screamers, if the ball was played to Shearer, there was potential for a goal. Spent his most lethal years as part of Blackburn’s ‘SAS’ partnership with Chris Sutton.
Forward – Thierry Henry
Gifted with a beautiful first touch and electrifying pace, the winger that flopped at Juventus became one of the world’s best strikers when Arsenal boss, Arsene Wenger noticed that Henry had an accuracy and coolness in front of goal to accompany his other attributes.