Newcastle United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Middlesbrough and Tottenham Hotspur players all feature in the best XI to have never won the Premier League
I read an interview with Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard the other week in which he said he's accepted the fact that he's unlikely to win the league as a player, and it got me thinking of who the greatest players to never win a league title are, so I went off and searched for them. I decided to stick to the Premier League era, and only included players who played in England for at least five years. Here's my eleven, feel free to leave yours in the comments, or suggest some other alternatives:
When Kenny Dalglish signed the Irishman back from Blackburn back in 1997, few would have predicted that he would go on to become a mainstay in the Premier League so for so long, and become Ireland’s most capped player ever. His form may have tailed off at Villa, but during his time at Newcastle Given proved himself to be one of the most dependable and consistent ‘keepers in the league, and is on course to make over 600 appearances during his time in England.
The first of four Liverpool players in the side, which may seem biased, but when I researched potential candidates for this eleven the four of them were names that regularly cropped up. Sami Hyypia is my favourite player of all-time, and the finest defender I’ve ever had the privilege of watching; he was dominant in the air, but his reading of the game and ability on the ball were truly incredible. The ultimate pro, and undoubtedly one of the greatest defenders to ever play in this league.
He may have won the Scudetto twice with Milan during what was an illustrious career, but Marcel Desailly never won the Premier League during his time at Stamford Bridge. Arguably the most talented defenders of his generation, he was, perhaps, one of the last genuine sweepers to play in England before that role died out in the early noughties and was replaced by the holding midfielder. A cultured, physically imposing defender, there has not been another like Desailly to play in England since his retirement.
The evergreen Carragher is second in Liverpool’s all-time appearance records, which puts him in company with some of the most talented players to ever play in England, but unlike most of them he doesn’t have that league winner’s medal to add to his collection. His defending may not have been pretty, but his all-action, last gasp tackles became a trademark of his career, and for him to come back from a broken leg to develop in to a top-class centre half is testament to his tremendous attitude and work-rate.
OK, Gary Speed may not be the first person people think of, but you don’t make 535 appearances in the Premier League (third highest in the all-time records) without being a quality player. Plus, when I pick these teams I like to try and make them balanced so that if they ever played they’d be successful, so Speed would be the water carrier and his defensive ability would allow Juninho et al to do their thing further forward. I really wanted to pick Didi Hamann, but to have nearly half the team made up of ex-Liverpool players would've been ridiculous.
When I think of retro Premiership players, the wee Brazilian is the first player that pops in to my head. It’s hard to imagine such a diminutive, technical player thriving in the North East in the mid-nineties, particularly one arriving straight from Brazil, but Juninho did just that, and it became one of the most bizarre yet entertaining footballing marriages. An absolute joy to watch, he was instrumental in paving the way for other players to move from South America to England.
Steven Gerrard is patently the most obvious candidate when you think of great players who have won the Premier League. The most complete midfielder England have produced in years, that league title has eluded Gerrard despite him coming close on a few occasions. He’d likely have one on his collection if he would’ve joined Chelsea under Mourinho, but he stayed loyal to his boyhood club, which is an admirable trait and a rarity in this modern day football full of prima donnas.
Fabregas left Arsenal and returned to Barcelona last summer to win big trophies, but that didn’t quite go as planned, did it? Whilst he will likely rectify that over the next few seasons, it is a shame that such a bonafide world class star is yet to taste any real success at club level. His development from lightweight teen to world renowned superstar is the perfect example of Wenger’s management at its very, very best.
Why is David Ginola on this list, I hear none of you ask? Because he’s worth it, of course! Thank you, thank you, I’m here all week. Men wanted to be him, women wanted to be with him, Ginola was the complete package, and, as far as I know, is the only player to do pose for photos at his unveiling topless. An incredibly talented player, who perhaps didn’t score as many as a player of his ability should, it’s surprising that he never moved to a top club after his success on Tyneside.
The heir to Maradona’s throne at Napoli, everything that Gianfranco Zola did just oozed class. An incredibly clever and gifted player with the knack for doing the unthinkable, he is responsible for some of the most iconic goals ever scored in the Premier League. One of the most universally likable players, he may not have been as prolific as other forwards, but his impact on the English game was phenomenal. When Alex Ferguson publicly praises an opposition player, you know he must be good.
The man Liverpool fans still refer to as God was one of the most naturally talented forwards to play in England - and some of the goals he scored just didn’t seem humanly possible. Holder of the fastest hat-trick ever scored in Premier League history at 4 minutes and 33 seconds, he was as equally capable of slaloming through the defence and dinking it over the ‘keeper as he was scoring a tap in from two-yards out. It’s a shame injuries plagued his career as had he stayed fit he’d have made a strong case for being the greatest striker to have played in the league.
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