The Hall of Fame is a concept more common in American sports. Taking a leaf from our friends on the ESPN podcast, we decided to ask a number of football fans to nominate three players into a Premier League Hall of Fame and explain their reasoning. The only requirement: Playing in the Premier League (In the past and present tense).
Check out their thoughts;
Can it be disputed that he is the greatest player to never win the Premier League? That said, the absence of a Premier League medal in his trophy cabinet should not overshadow his achievements. He holds the record for appearances in the PFA Team of the Year, making it into the selection seven times. Add to that his recognition from peers, coaches and the press with him having taken home the Footballer of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Fans’ Player of the Year awards through his career. Let’s leave accolades aside though and focus on his game – this is a midfielder who can pass like Scholes, score like Lampard, tackle like Makelele and deliver set-pieces like Beckham all rolled into one. He has set his standards so high that on the rare occasions he does have an off-day, you are frustrated because he hasn’t produced a trademark “Captain Fantastic” performance that Liverpool fans and football-lovers in general have become so accustomed to. Gerrard is a model professional who has always done his talking on the pitch. Now approaching the twilight years of his career, we should savour the little time we have left to enjoy watching one of the most exceptional footballers of his generation.
When one thinks of Manchester United’s dominance in in the Premier League era, there are not many players who stand bigger (figuratively and literally) than Peter Schmeichel – a man with five PL medals to his name and the record for the greatest clean sheets-to-games ratio in the league. The Danish goalkeeper was a formidable shot-stopper and commander of his area. A vocal and exuberant leader on the pitch, it was often obvious that even the most assured finishers were daunted when facing the “Great Dane”. Aside from his goalkeeping ability, he will always be remembered for his trademark last minute adventures into the opposing side’s box in search of a last minute equaliser or winner, and he even bagged a goal during his later Aston Villa days. A charismatic personality who had clashes with fellow players and famously Sir Alex, Schmeichel was a goalkeeper that provided great memories and excitement that many have since failed to reproduce.
Henry had it all – the goals, the medals, accolades, and all else that comes with the status of being a Premier League legend…he had the va va voom! The transformation of Henry from a winger to a striker might be the defining stroke of genius of Arsène Wenger’s career. In doing so he enabled Henry to provide the world with a showreel of incredible goals…that hat-trick against Liverpool that Jamie Carragher will never forget, that run and goal from his half against Spurs in the North London derby (the celebration of which today graces the Emirates stadium in the form of a statue), that awesome flick and volley that flew in over Fabien Barthez’s head. Henry was a man for the big games and more, seemingly scoring beautiful and important goals at will. He was the foreign import that was the envy of every Premier League manager and the scourge of every Premier League defence. A class act on and off the pitch with that certain je ne sais quoi.
Afiola Etomi, @afi_lion_zion
The modern full back has arguably one of the toughest jobs in any team sport (except for the Cox in Rowing, lol). Mainly because they are now crucial to both major strategic elements of football: defence and attack. Thus, they are expected to trawl up and down the pitch to make as many assists as they do tackles.
Few players have pioneered and executed this new full back role as doggedly and consistently as Ashley Cole over the last fourteen years, earning an impressive array of medals along the way for both his London clubs. Most impressively, he did this at the very highest level.
As the highest scoring Chelsea player from midfield, this hard Englishman has re-enforced an interesting lesson of football: That one could essentially be a world-class player with little or no flair: just hard work and very good ‘textbook’ football. A clear arbiter of the ‘great players’ is that genuine capacity to turn up on the big nights, at those lonely and aggressively noisy grounds like the Nou Camp.
Lampard did so on countless occasions, (and purely anecdotally), he’s probably one of the few players that has completed as many tackles as he has scored screamers.
Craziest bit? Gerrard is nearly as sharp and consistent as he was ten years ago. Why he still starts…
Oluwamayowa Idowu, @MayowaIdowu
The finest foreigner to grace the League. The Prince of Highbury. The best striker to play on this side of the world. Half the time, he would be stationed on the left flank and would make runs from deep to score goals: the false 9 before we even knew what it was. That knack he had for going missing, and then coming up with the goodies at the right time. The the epitome of French arrogance and grace. A style icon in his own way; think of how many kids you went to school with would roll their socks over their knees just because Henry had done it. Had a penchant for embarrassing defenders. Just ask Danny Mills and Jamie Carragher. And he took a no-nonsense approach to Tottenham and Liverpool… Which always makes the world a better place.
A key player in some of my favorite football memories: that fantastic hat trick to save the Invincible run against Liverpool, the Wigan hat trick in the last game at Highbury. The slalom at the Bernabeu. Then, there was his second return where he scored the winners in the Leeds and Sunderland games. Alongside, the original Ronaldo, the greatest striker of my generation.
Yes, he uses more hair gel than Marouane Chamakh and he can be a bit of a prima donna but he puts the numbers on the board and that’s essentially why we are here. Flashback to when he first moved to Manchester United. We knew he was skilful but he went down a bit too easily and there was not enough end product. There were doubts as to whether he could thrive under the physicality of the Premier League. Having the number 7 on his back didn’t help too. He worked hard, cut down on the theatrics and was able to add some brawn to his previously fragile frame. The goals and assists followed and he beasted the league. He’s the joint record goals scorer in a season in the 38 season format and earned himself a world record transfer to Real Madrid. When I observe his Iberian takeover, I smile to myself and think “He used to be one of us”. He never came across as a natural in the mould of say, Zizou but his greatness is testament to how hard he worked. If you ever needed someone to reinforce the power of hard work and determination, he’s the man.
In my opinion, the two greatest English teams of the last 10 years are Arsene Wenger’s Invincibles and Carlo Ancelotti’s double winning Chelsea side (who I think are one of the most underrated teams in Premier League history). The bond that holds both teams: Mr. Cole. One of the very few English players of his time who could actually claim to being the top 1 or 2 in his position in the world for an extended period of time. That engine that saw him bomb up and down that left flank tackling and assisting might be slowing down but his consistency is unparalleled and he’s a winner in every sense of the word. Honors include 3 Premier League winner medals and 4 PFA Team of the Year appearances. (Also the FA Cup record winner- 8 times)Without a doubt, the greatest left back of the Premier League era.
Michael Famoroti, @MichaelFamoroti
This may strike many as a strange choice. After all, Beckham rarely features in the various Top 10 compilations of the greatest Manchester United players. But football as we know it today is vastly different from what it was like pre-1992. A significant chunk of this is down to David Beckham. Pele, Diego Maradona and even Kevin Keegan could lay claims to superstar status at the peak of their careers but David Beckham was the first bona-fide global football icon. His activities on and off the field helped elevate the premier league to an entirely different plane. His superstar status and success with Manchester United contributed to the establishment of the Barclays Premier League as the No.1 sport product in the world. It has been a rollercoaster of a journey from the humble beginnings of the old English First Division to the current premier league in all it’s splendor: it’s inclination for entertainment, promise of glamour and ability to inspire. He may have neither the longevity of his friend Ryan Giggs nor the genius of Eric Cantona but no single footballer had a greater impact on football during the premier league era. If football has become the new religion with the premier league it’s most cherished ritual then David Beckham was its first great prophet.
On May 11 2013, ‘Super’ Frank scored his 203th goal in Chelsea colours to become the highest goal scorer in the club’s history.
Before him, the mercurial Paul Scholes had perfected the art of ghosting in front deep to plunder goals from midfield. But then Scholes was a converted striker. ‘Fat’ Frank on the other hand had an undistinguished goal scoring record from his time at West Ham. 39 goals in 187 appearances gave little indication of what was to come. Expectations were low as well: Eyebrows were raised among the Chelsea fans over the £11m fee. How silly does that sound now? And what a steal eh? Still, enough about the goals. Lampard was a fantastic player in his own right. He predates the Abramovich era at Chelsea and the fact that he has not only survived the many culls of that period but largely remains a central figure is testament to his ability, professionalism and consistency. It is often forgotten that he still holds the record for consecutive appearances in the league as an outfield player – 164! That is over 4 seasons without missing a single game! An improbable achievement in this era of squad rotation and physical conditioning. Lampard is also 2nd in the Premier League’s all-time assists table (behind Giggs) and in 2009, was voted the Premier League’s player of the decade (2000-2009) by official statistics. Blessed with neither extreme athleticism nor guile, he has developed the mental and tactical aspects of his game to a level that seals his place as the complete Premier League midfielder and this is why he edges out the likes of Ryan Giggs and Steven Gerrard on this list. John Terry and Didier Drogba have often taken the plaudits and media focus (for good and bad reasons) yet Lampard has been the most important player in a Chelsea team that since the turn of the century, have emerged as one of the juggernaut forces in English football.
49 football matches. 536 days. 36 victories. The Invincibles. Without a doubt the best and most attractive team to grace a premier league pitch. Before their controversial dethronement by Manchester United at Old Trafford, Arsene Wenger’s masterpiece swaggered around England lead by Henry in his pomp (he started 48 of those games!) . In a way, Henry’s game was simple. But oh my, it was effective. The sight of Henry drifting in and out from the left tortured defenders for years. His lightning pace, creativity and technique (Henry was one of the first to popularize the finesse shot) endeared him to a global audience. He may be the 3rd top Premier League scorer of all time but unlike Alan Shearer (no disrespect) for example, his game went way beyond goals. He laid on countless others for his teammates and his general presence and influence elevated Arsenal to the upper echelons of the Premier League, a position they have yet to return to since his departure. It says a lot about Henry that for all the suggestions of his selfish streak, his individual accolades pale in comparison to his collective triumphs. Consecutive 2nd place finishes in the 2003 and 2004 FIFA World Player of the Year awards and my nomination as Arsenal’s finest player are nothing to a footballer who before the recent Spanish/Barcelona hegemony, was one of a select few to have won League titles in multiple countries, the World Cup, European Championship and Champions League. Indeed that Champions League triumph is indicative: Henry submitted himself fully (something Samuel Eto’o gets a lot of credit for in Inter’s 2010 Champions League victory) to become a part of a team that was then utterly focused on the collective. On August 3 1999 Thierry Henry arrived at Arsenal a raw left winger with an eye for goal. As Arsene Wenger unveiled him, who would have known we were welcoming the defining striker of the modern era.
Feyi Oyefesobi, @Feymouss
His record speaks for itself. He Frenchman scored 174 goals in 254 games for the Arsenal. Thierry Henry helped his club win the double in the 1997-1998, and was also part of the Arsenal team who went a whole season unbeaten. Arsenal have not won the league, or reached the Champions league final since his departure which serves to show influential he was. His honours roll includes: being nominated twice for the FIFA World Player of the year, he won PFA Player of the year twice, and FWA Footballer of the Year three times.
I love the story of how he caught Alex Ferguson’s eye when he played against Manchester United in a pre season friendly. As the story goes, the United players asked their Manager to sign him. He was purchased for around £12.24 from Sporting CP, and he just got better and better from there. He won the Ballon d’Or whilst playing for Man Utd in 2008. He’s won the Golden Shoe award twice, FIFPro Player of the year and the FIFA Puskas Award. He’s a Premier league great and a world great, his record speaks for itself. He was the first European Player to score over 40 goals a season in two consecutive years, and when he left became the fastest Madrid player to reach one hundred goals.
My all time favourite. The only one of all my choices who is still playing in the Premier League. He’s an incredible midfielder and leader, he was part of the Champions league winning Liverpool side and played a significant role in every piece of success the club has earned in the last decade.
In 2009, Zinedine Zidane said that he considered him the best player in the world. He deserves credit for his loyalty to Liverpool and is one of the uncontestable modern day legends. He won a bronze Ballon d’Or award in 2005, that same year he was awarded the UEFA Club Footballer of the year. Additionally, he has been named in the PFA team of the year seven times, the UEFA Team of the Year and FIFA World XI three times.
Kenny Oke, @KopTwin
Widely considered as the greatest import of the Premier League era, ‘Va va voom’ arrived in at Arsenal in 1999 as a world cup winner who still had something to prove after a largely disappointing season playing on the wing at the then reigning Serie A champions Juventus. Transferred for an estimated £11million, he reunited with Arsene Wenger, his manager in his early days at Monaco, who in turn helped transform Henry from a winger to one of the finest strikers in history.
After initially struggling to adapt, failing to score in his first 8 games, Henry went on to become a world class-performer and leading scorer for his team in most of the 8 seasons he played as a Gunner. He scored 176 goals in 258 Premier League goals in two spells at the club (the latter, 2 in 4 appearances on loan from New York Red Bulls). This made him the highest goalscoring import of all time to go along with becoming Arsenals greatest ever goalscorer with 228 goals in all competitions.
Henry had it all; from a sweet first touch, lightning-fast pace and dribbling ability to rocket shots from outside the box, finesse shots from inside and a knack for scoring from direct free-kicks. His ability to change a game led Arsene Wenger to say of his fellow Frenchman: ‘Thierry Henry could take ball in the middle of park and score a goal that no one else in the world could score,’ a la Santiago Bernabeu versus Real Madrid en route to the 2006 Champions League final.
In his time with Arsenal, Thierry Henry won 2 league titles(one of them being a key member of the Invincibles who won the league unbeaten), 2 PFA Player of the Year awards and 3 FWA Player of the Year awards . He was also nominated for the FIFA World Player of the Year award twice. Arsenal have forever embedded him into their folklore and history by erecting a statue in his honor outside the Emirates.
One of England’s greatest strikers, Alan Shearer holds the goalscoring record for the Premier League and his beloved hometown club, Newcastle United. Shearer started his career at Southampton but at the start of the Premier League era, he transferred to Blackburn Rovers despite interest from Manchester United for what was then a British transfer record of £3.3 million.
Within two of his four years at Ewood Park, he had delivered a Premier League title, making Blackburn the only team to have won a Premier League title other than Manchester United. Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City would come later. Shearer had scored 112 Premier League goals for Blackburn by the time he left for Newcastle in 1996.
Shearer moved to Newcastle for then a world transfer record for £15 million after Euro 96 preferring his hometown club once again to Manchester United, after a last minute talk from his hero Kevin Keegan. Shearer went on to become the record goal scorer in Newcastle and Premier League history. He scored 148 goals in 303 Premier League appearances and 206 in 404 for Newcastle United overall.
Alan Shearer was the archetypal English centre-forward, combining his strength, physical stature, heading and strong shooting abilities to devastating effect. He was also a penalty specialist with 45 of his Newcastle goals coming from the spot.
Shearer’s place as one of the Premier League’s greats is in no doubt, as he retired being the Premier League’s most prolific goal scorer (He still is). He also won 2 PFA Player’s Player of the Year awards, 1 FWA Player of the year award and came 3rd in both the Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year in 1996.In tribute to Shearer’s contribution to Newcastle United over more than ten years, the club erected a large banner to honour him on the outside of the cantilever superstructure of the Gallowgate End of St. James Park (now the Sports Direct Arena), placed above the club bar which was named “Shearer’s bar”, opened in 2005.
A name synonymous to the Premier League since its inception, Ryan Giggs is the most decorated player in English football history with 13 Premier League winner’s medals in 22 years. Other than being the only player ever to score in every single Premier League season, he was the first player to win consecutive PFA Young Player of the Year awards.
Giggs holds the Premier League record for the most assists with 271. He was also named Manchester United’s greatest player of all time in a worldwide poll conducted by the club’s official magazine and website.
Originally a left winger, Giggs terrorized Premier League defenders from his United debut aged 17. Off the pitch, newspapers claimed Giggs had “single-handedly revolutionised football’s image” when he appeared as teenager “with pace to burn, a bramble patch of black hair bouncing around his puppy popstar face, and a dazzling, gluey relationship between his impossibly fleet left foot and a football.”
He was also a part of the Premier League’s effort to market itself globally, once described as the Premier League’s “poster boy” and the “boy wonder”. He went on to be a scorer of great and important goals, having a few of his strikes nominated for goal of the season. Later on in his still active career, he’s been used more as a deep lying playmaker due to his advancing years and loss of electric pace but also his ability to read the game and pick out exquisite passes.
Although he is not yet retired, Giggs has 13 Premier League titles to his name(Doubt he’ll be adding another one), along with 2 PFA Young Player of the Season awards, one PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.
As a Liverpool fan it was hard to leave out the likes of Steven Gerrard and Robbie Fowler, but the achievements of these three stands out especially in the Premier League are almost unrivaled.
Honourable mention to: Paul Scholes and Frank Lampard
Thierry Henry: 5
Steven Gerrard: 3
Frank Lampard: 2
Ashley Cole: 2
Cristiano Ronaldo: 2
Peter Schmeichel: 1
David Beckham: 1
Alan Shearer: 1
Ryan Giggs: 1