The English premier league was founded in 1992 when all of the top flight teams decamped from the football league. Ever since the first ball was kicked on 15th august that year the league has produced great players who have propelled it to one of the best leagues in the world. But there are certain players who have proved to be a class above the rest and have achieved cult hero status with their teams and forever inked their names on the league’s legends’ board. The legends discussed below may not have been the most talented (though some of them were), but they had guts, desire, drive and above all leadership of their sides. The following is the list of top 10 all-time legends of the premier league.
Tony Adams was the ultimate “one club man” dedicating his entire 22 years professional playing career to North London club Arsenal. Not only that, he also captained the gunners for 14 years, taking the reins at only 21 years. Adams was a commanding presence of the revered arsenal back four of the late 1980s and 1990s that also comprised Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, and Steve Bould. He won four top-flight titles with the gunners before hanging his boots in 2002. He notched up a total of 255 premier league appearances over ten years, during which he scored 12 goals. He received 36 yellow cards and only 4 red cards which are a testimony to his standing as a clean player.
Tony Adams had to overcome an alcoholism problem and also served time in jail (four months) during his illustrious and eventful career.
Roy Keane was a box-to-box central midfielder more remembered for his competitive and aggressive attitude towards the game. The Irishman spent 12 trophy-ridden years at old Trafford. Even though not a man-mountain, Keane was not one to shy away from a confrontation and hardly ever came out second best in any combat. He notched up an impressive 43 goals in 366 premier league appearances. But, on the other hand, he also received 73 yellow cards and 10 red cards, a disturbing legacy of his combative nature. In an era when Alex Ferguson was facing a three-pronged challenge from Liverpool’s history, Arsenal’s beautiful football and Chelsea’s financial muscle he needed a close-knit team to face the challenge. This he achieved by building his side around the Irish warrior who relished a battle.
Roy Keane was actually headed to sign for Blackburn Rovers when Sir Alex Ferguson called him and told him to sign for United instead. In hindsight, it appears to have been a wise decision as he went on to captain Man United in one of the most successful eras for this great club.
The Italian import remains one of the best foreigners to have graced the English Premier League. He joined West London club Chelsea in late 1996 from Italian club Parma. The “little genius” was blessed with outrageous skills, wonderful goals, and an open demeanor that lite up the premier league for a good seven years. He was instrumental in Chelsea’s resurgence in the late 1990s though he never got to lift the coveted trophy. He notched up 229 appearances during which he bagged 59 goals. He was only booked five times and was never sent off in the premier league.
Zola was voted Chelsea’s greatest player and the club appears to have unofficially retired his number 25 jersey as nobody has worn it since the Italian left in 2003.
The Peter Schmeichel was a towering and intimidating last line of defense for the all-conquering Manchester United side of the 1990s. The big Dane joined United in 1992 during the inaugural premier league season and went on to enjoy seven glorious years with the red devils. He won the premier league’s save of the decade for his reflex save against Southampton. He later played for Aston Villa and Manchester City after a brief spell in Portugal with Sporting Lisbon. All in all, Schmeichel played in 310 games for the three premier league clubs.
Apart from being a shot-stopper, Schmeichel was not daft at the sharp end as he bagged an impressive 12 career goals including one in the premier league for Aston Villa.
Patrick Vieira is one of the best expatriates to have played in the premier league. The Frenchman was actually born in Dakar, Senegal in 1976 before moving to France and becoming a citizen. He featured for two teams; Arsenal and Manchester City, but he will forever be revered for his nine years spell for Arsenal. During this time he lifted the title three times, the most memorable of which was the 2003/2004 triumph where he captained the “invincibles” that went the whole season unbeaten.
The likes of Henry, Bergkamp, and Pires may have hogged the headlines but Vieira’s commanding stewardship in midfield tilted games in Arsenal’s favor on their way to that historical achievement. He was the perfect midfield general as he could be executing a tackle one moment while launching an attack with an incisive pass the next minute. He left his adoring Arsenal fans in 2005 to join Juventus (and later Inter Milan), but he returned to England in 2009 to join Manchester City for a brief spell.