The 100 Greatest Premier League Players -Part 3 (80-71)

  1.  Steve Bruce

PL appearances / goals (148 / 11) PL titles 3

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Arguably the greatest player to not have won a solitary England cap during his career, Bruce was the steel to Gary Pallister’s skill and pace. A dogged and determined centre back, Bruce was at the heart of Manchester United’s early Premier League success, winning three titles in the four campaigns that he captained the side. The tough defender was infamous for scoring more than his fair share of goals, which included two late headed efforts against Sheffield Wednesday in April 1993 as Manchester United went on to win their first crown in a generation. ‘Fergie time’ was born.

  1. Fernando Torres

PL appearances / goals (212 / 85)

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Having been subject to transfer bids from many clubs on numerous previous occasions, Torres arrived at Anfield in 2007 and had an instant impact. The Spaniard was ruthless in his debut season for Liverpool and became the first player to score twenty in one campaign since the legendary Robbie Fowler achieved the feat some years earlier. His consistency in front of goal over the coming years made him a Kop fan favourite until the January 2011 transfer window saga where he eventually moved to Chelsea in a £50m British transfer fee record.  Albeit that Torres was injured for long spells during his time at Stamford Bridge, he somewhat summed the club up during their period of inconsistency, a symbol of disappointment despite a lavish price tag.

  1. Marc Overmars

PL appearances / goals (100 / 25) PL titles 1

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One of the greats of Ajax’s Champions League winning ‘Class of 1995’, Overmars signed for Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in 1997 as they aimed to topple Manchester United. Nicknamed ‘Roadrunner’, the pacey Dutch left winger won a league and cup double during his first season in North London. His bottom corner effort past Peter Schmeichel in a 1-0 win over Manchester United in March 1998 proved to be a catalyst as the Gunners claimed their first Premier League title. Overmars was a standout player for a further two seasons at Highbury, however it was his contributions during the double-winning campaign that are most fondly remembered.

  1. Juan Mata

PL appearances / goals* (157 /38)

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Signed by Andre Villas-Boas in 2011 for Chelsea, Juan Mata quickly became a fan favourite at Stamford Bridge during a time of mixed successes for the club. Known for his typical Spanish flair and vision, Mata was twice voted Player of the Year by his own supporters before the arrival of Jose Mourinho in 2013. Under the Portuguese, Mata found his first team opportunities limited and was controversially sold to Manchester United in the next January transfer window. At Old Trafford, Mata has often been a beacon of light in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era where the club has not managed to regurgitate the previous successes enjoyed, chipping in with many vital goals and consistently proving a class act on the pitch.

  1. Danny Murphy

PL appearances / goals (417 / 51)

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A product of Dario Gradi’s infamous Crewe Alexandra youth academy, Murphy signed for his boyhood club, Liverpool in 1997. A central midfielder who was often utilised elsewhere, Murphy was known for his acute tactical awareness and range of passing. Liverpool fans will fondly remember Murphy as their goal scoring hero in 1-0 victories at Old Trafford against fiercest rivals Manchester United, a feat he uniquely achieved on three occasions. Spells at Charlton and Tottenham followed before a lengthy period as an anchor in Fulham’s midfield where he contributed a respectable level of goals and assists.

  1. Phil Neville

PL appearances / goals (505 / 9) PL titles 6

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A real utility man, Phil Neville was versatile enough to play in many positions during his long career. The youngest of ‘Fergie’s Fledglings’ often found appearances hard to come by in the earlier stages of his career until Denis Irwin’s retirement when he became a more regular starter. A move to Everton followed in 2005, where Neville’s leadership, commitment and attitude shone through, becoming a backbone of David Moyes’ succesful side. In the latter part of his career, Neville was more often than not deployed as a defensive midfielder with his work on the ball and experience of the game proving an invaluable asset.

  1. Jens Lehmann

PL appearances / clean sheets (148 / 54) PL titles 1

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Signed as the replacement for the departed David Seaman, the veteran German could not have dreamed for a better debut season in the Premier League. Arsenal went on to win the title undefeated as ‘the invincibles’ in 2004 with Lehmann between the sticks for every single game. Distinguishable by his erratic behaviour, fiery temper and fantastic reflexes, Lehmann could be prone to mistakes but overall he will be remembered by many as one of his generation’s greatest goalkeepers.

  1. Nicolas Anelka

PL appearances / goals (364 / 125) PL titles 2

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A stalwart of the Premier League, Anelka played and scored for no fewer than six top flight sides during his spells in England. Throughout his career, Anelka has been a consistent goalscorer known for his clinical finishing and devastating pace. The Frenchman was a bargain signing for Arsenal in 1997 who went on to be the club’s top goalscorer in their unsuccessful title defence campaign of 1998/99. Anelka enjoyed goalscoring successes at both Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers which paved the way for a big money move to Chelsea. Goalscoring success at Stamford Bridge culminated in him winning the Golden Boot in 2009, despite the fact he was played more often than not as an unconventional winger.

  1. Juninho

PL appearances / goals (126 / 27)

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A Teesside icon, Juninho was a surprise addition to Bryan Robson’s newly promoted Middlesbrough side in 1995 with many more prestigious European teams said to be tracking his progress. Along with the likes of Fabrizio Ravanelli and Emerson, Juninho brought Brazillian samba flair to the Riverside Stadium at a time when the number of foreign players in the Premier League was limited. It was his effectiveness as a number ten that almost won him the FWA Player of the Year award in 1997 as the club were relegated to the then Division 1. Two more spells ensued for Middlesbrough in the coming years as he went on to win the Carling Cup with the club in 2004.

  1. Gareth Barry

PL appearances / goals* (590 /50) PL titles 1

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A versatile veteran of the modern game, Barry started his Premier League career at Aston Villa where he was predominantly used as a left back or a centre half in his formative years. Over time Barry honed his skills to become a dependable and reliable deep lying central midfielder. His consistency for Aston Villa as well as his clinical finishing from dead ball situations made him a very desirable player to many clubs including Liverpool. However, it was the blue of Manchester that was to become Barry’s destination of choice amidst the club’s attempt to build a footballing dynasty with owner investment. Barry won the Premier League with Manchester City in 2012, playing an integral part in their engine room. He has since moved on to Everton and continues to stamp his presence on games as part of a hard-working midfield.

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