Ranking PST’s favorite 150 players in England’s top flight history

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The English Football Association recently celebrated what’s been a landmark year for soccer’s oldest governing body when the national team face old foes Germany in a friendly at the home of soccer.

Other events, such as the first-ever soccer game at Buckingham Palace, gala dinners and many other high-profile appearances from legendary players and managers, have stretched throughout the special year as the game the English invented has become the most popular sport in the world.

In 1863 the FA was formed and over the last 150 years so many sensational players have graced the English First Division, and now the Premier League, as fans across the globe have marveled at the talent on display.

To celebrate the English FA’s 150 anniversary, myself and my colleague Mike Prindiville thought it would be great to look back and rank our favorite players that helped shape England’s top flight as it is today. It wasn’t easy, as this list could be extended to 250 and plenty of worth players would’ve been omitted.

Anyway, here it goes, our 150 favorite players in English top flight history is about to be revealed. Do you agree?

Top 20

1. George Best

The loveable playboy who dazzled and delighted us all with his mesmerizing skills sits at the top of our mammoth list, he was an entertainer who always delivered. Best was the darling of Manchester United and Northern Ireland and was the most famous man on the planet in his prime. Two league titles and a European Cup plus 181 goals in 474 games for United say it all. Legend. JPW

2. Sir Bobby Charlton

A United 1-2 at the top and they both played in that remarkable Red Devils team that won the 1968 European Cup at Wembley. Charlton was the symbol of United’s rise from the dark days of the Munich air disaster to champions of Europe. He was a terrific midfielder who possessed a hammer of a shot from distance. Charlton still holds the goalscoring record for United and England. JPW

3. Sir Stanley Matthews

When his name is uttered, old black and white footage of a man dribbling and gliding down the wing spring to mind. Matthews was known as the “Magician” and played until he was 50 years of age. Described as one of the finest crossers of the ball the game has ever seen, his status as the first true great of English soccer remains intact today. Blackpool and Stoke City were the only two teams he played for, as well as representing England. JPW

4. Sir Bobby Moore

Still the only man to captain England to World Cup glory, Moore is revered as the best central defender the Three Lions have ever had. His reading of the game was superb and the effortlessness in which he constantly thwarted opposition forwards was a joy to behold. Famous battles with Brazilian legend Pele live on long in the memory during England’s golden generation. The nation was in mourning following his death at an early age, England’s heroic captain now guards Wembley as his statue sits out front of the home of soccer. West Ham legend, Moore will always be remembered as the man who led England to glory on home soil in 1966. JPW

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Ryan Giggs is a legend at United

5. Ryan Giggs

With a little more than a week to go before his 40th birthday, there’s no questioning that Giggs is a Premier League legend. The only player to have ever played and scored in every Premier League season, Giggs has won 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cup’s and two Champions Leagues. Individually, he’s been named to the Premier League Team of the Year six times, the PFA Team of the Century and the UEFA Champions League 10 Seasons Dream Team. MP

6. Alan Shearer

Newcastle’s all-time leading goalscorer and the highest scoring player in the history of the Premier League, Shearer is a god to the Toon Army. He broke Jackie Milburn’s famous goalscoring record and scored 206 times for his hometown club, while also winning a league title with little Blackburn Rovers in 1995. Captained England at both World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000, Shearer was the finest striker of his generation. JPW

7. Thierry Henry

Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer, Henry’s va-va-voom made him a cult hero in North London and across the globe. He led Arsene Wenger’s revolution with the Gunner from the very start and the young Frenchman turned into one of the greatest strikers the planet has ever seen. Winning a World Cup and European Championship with France and several league championships (including their invincipled season and other domestic honors with Arsenal, Titi will forever by the king of North London. JPW

8. Gary Lineker

England’s second highest goalscorer in history, Lineker’s career was full of poached goals and supreme professionalism as he scored for whatever club he suited up for. Leicester City, Everton, Tottenham Hotspur and FC Barcelona all loved his predatory instincts as he scored 281 times in over 500 games during his glittering career. JPW

9. Kenny Dalglish

A fierce competitor and goalscorer for Liverpool, Dalglish netted 199 times in the League and formed a tremendous partnership with Ian Rush. King Kenny was arguably the most successful player-manager the English game has ever known, leading Liverpool to a League and FA Cup double in 1986. Dalglish also endeared himself to Liverpudlians as an inspirational figure following the Hillsborough Disaster. MP

10. Peter Shilton

With 125 appearances, Shilton is England’s most capped player ever. Known for his remarkable agility, Shilton’s career spanned an incredible two decades (he retired at the age of 47) where he won back-to-back European Cups at Nottingham Forest and played in a World Cup semi-final. He will forever be best known, however, as the victim of Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God.” MP

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England and Liverpool skipper Gerrard is the finest midfielder of his generation

11. Steven Gerrard

Stevie G is Liverpool. The one-club man is one of the best midfielders of all time and remains the only player to have scored in an FA Cup Final, a League Cup Final, a UEFA Cup Final and a Champions League Final. Named to the Premier League Team of the Year seven times and the FIFA World XI three times, Gerrard captains the England side for which he has made over 100 appearances. MP

12. Nat Lofthouse

He scored 30 goals in 33 games for England… a sublime goals to game ratio that nobody has ever beaten. Lofthouse was one of the finest forwards England has ever seen as he played for his hometown side Bolton from 1946-60. Was dubbed the “Lion of Vienna” after England beat Austria 3-2 and he scored the winner despite being battered around the pitch. His bravery to stick his head in where it hurt grabbed him many goals, a poacher of epic proportions. JPW

13. David Beckham

A global superstar who has won titles in England, Spain, France and the USA, Becks has done it all. He holds the record for most caps picked up by an outfield player for England (115), his performances on the pitch were always of the highest quality. His crossing ability was phenomenal and his spectacular goals saw him elevate his legendary status further. Manchester United, Real Madrid, LA Galaxy, AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain were lucky to have him on their side. A true England great. JPW

14. Eric Cantona

Part footballer, part philosopher, part artist, perhaps no man had greater influence on the Premier League than Cantona. Credited by Sir Alex Ferguson as the signing that changed everything for Manchester United, Cantona won four Premier League titles, two FA Cups, was part of the Premier League Team of the Year in 1993-94, and was voted the club’s Greatest Ever Player by the magazine Inside United. He’ll forever be known for his kung fu kick of a Crystal Palace supporter but with the bad came so much good, including one of the best goal celebrations of all time – the popped collar stare down. MP

15. Wayne Rooney

When you think of English football it’s impossible not to think of Rooney. The Everton product announced himself to the world with his blistering strike against Arsenal in his first Premier League appearance and he hasn’t looked back since, transferring to Manchester United where he has won four Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy. Individually, Rooney has been named in the Premier League Team of the Year three times, the Fifa World XI (2011) and was awarded the greatest ever Premier League goal for his bicycle kick against Manchester City in 2011. MP

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Wayne Rooney is poised to become England and Manchester United’s leading goalscorer

16. Tony Adams

He’s nicknamed “Mr. Arsenal” for good reason – with 504 total appearances, 255 of which were in the Premier League, no one encompasses the Gunners more than Adams. A fierce defender who had a knack for getting forward and scoring big goals, Adams was named in the Premier League Team of the Year three times and also earned a place in the Team of the Decade (1992/3 – 2001/2) at the Premier League 10 Seasons Awards. MP

17. Kevin Keegan

One of the finest midfielders in English history, Keegan rose from the depths of Scunthorpe United to starring for Liverpool, Southampton, Hamburg and his hometown side Liverpool and won the European player of the year award. For England he was the first name on the team-sheet throughout the 1970’s and Keegan’s delightful perm inspired a generations hairstyles! Magnificent athlete and leader who squeezed out every inch of his talent. JPW

18. Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo’s time in England may have been cut short but it will long live in the memory of fans across the Premier League. Ronaldo remains the most expensive player of all time and made 196 appearances for Manchester United, winning three Premier League titles and one Champions League trophy. On an individual level he was named to the Premier League Team of the Year four times and also won the Ballon d’Or in 2008 while at Old Trafford. Arguably the best player in the world, Ronaldo’s time at United will go down as the major turning point in his career. MP

19. John Charles

A world-class center-forward and a world-class center-half, Big John Charles was one of Leeds best ever players. Despite playing half his games in defense, Charles scored 93 goals in 155 League matches before becoming one of the first-ever British players to move abroad, to Juventus in 1957 for a world-record £65,000. The Welshman was adored in Turin where he was affectionately known as King John and would often start up front, score a goal and then move back into defense. MP

20. Paul Gascoigne

Perhaps the best raw talent of any British player on this list, Paul Gascoigne’s career has sadly been overshadowed by his ongoing battles with alcohol. As a player though, few were more unpredictable or inspiring than Gazza, whose performance at the 1990 World Cup was unbelievable and whose goal for England at Euro 96 easily goes down as one of the best ever. MP

The best of the rest…

21. Paul Scholes

22. Dennis Bergkamp

23. Dixie Dean

24. Roy Keane

25. Dennis Law

26. Alan Ball

27. Frank Lampard

28. Bert Trauttman

29. Billy Wright

30. Ian Rush

31. Michael Owen

32. Didier Drogba

33. Gordon Banks

34. Graeme Souness

35. Peter Schmeichel

36. Liam Brady

37. John Terry

38. Bryan Robson

39. Patrick Vieira

40. Ashley Cole

41. Stan Mortensen

42. Robin van Persie

43. Pat Jennings

44. Geoff Hurst

45. Duncan Edwards

46. Johnny Haynes

47. Mark Hughes

48. Cliff Bastin

49. John Barnes

50. Gareth Bale

51. Andy Cole

52. Matthew Le Tissier

53. Luis Suarez

54. Neville Southall

55. Jurgen Klinsmann

56. Trevor Francis

57. Tom Finney

58. Jackie Milburn

59. Ruud van Nistelrooy

60. Marcel Desailly

61. Jimmy Greaves

62. Steve Heighway

63. Patrice Evra

64. Ian Wright

65. Robbie Keane

66. Wilf Mannion

67. Peter Osgood

68. Danny Blanchflower

69. Jim Baxter

70. Petr Cech

71. Gary Speed

72. Steve McManaman

73. Gareth Barry

74. Dave Mackay

75. Gianfranco Zola

76. Ossie Ardiles

77. Joe Mercer

78. Bobby Tambling

79. John Greig

80. Sol Campbell

81. Jimmy Armfield

82. Terry Butcher

83. Pat Rice

84. Teddy Sheringham

85. Paul McGrath

86. Robbie Fowler

87. Malcolm Macdonald

88. Jamie Carragher

89. Johnny Giles

90. Cesc Fabregas

91. Peter Beardsley

92. Dwight Yorke

93. Mark Hateley

94. Dean Saunders

95. Andy Gray

96. Rio Ferdinand

97. Gary Neville

98. Shay Given

99. Carlos Tevez

100. Paul Mariner

101. Juninho

102. Roger Hunt

103. Emmanuel Petit

104. Georgi Kinkladze

105. Les Ferdinand

106. Juninho

107. Harry Gregg

108. Mark Viduka

109. John Aldridge

110. Dennis Mortimer

111. Sergio Aguero

112. Steve Bloomer

113. Billy McNeil

114. Michael Carrick

115. Tommy Taylor

116. Martin Keown

117. Michael Thomas

118. Robert Pires

119. Glenn Hoddle

120. Terry Paine

121. Yaya Toure

122. Alan Gilzean

123. Arjen Robben

124. David James

125. Joe Harvey

126. Ray Wilson

127. Ian Callaghan

128. Kerry Dixon

129. Nemanja Vidic

130. John Robertson

131. David Ginola

132. Ole Gunnar Solkskjaer

133. David Platt

134. Chris Sutton

135. Colin Bell

136. Peter Reid

137. Martin Chivers

138. Vincent Kompany

139. John Toshack

140. Paolo Di Canio

141. Diego Forlan

141. Jermain Defoe

142. Kevin Phillips

143. Jaap Stam

144. Freddie Ljungberg

145. Harry Kewell

146. Stan Collymore

147. Darren Anderton

148. Billy Bonds

149. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

150. Paul Ince

Hyndman, Hamid seal permanent MLS deals

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Two players who have featured for the U.S. Men’s National Team in the past signed permanent MLS deals on Monday, after spending the all or parts of the 2019 MLS season on loan in the league.

The question is, should we be disappointed? It’s two USMNT-eligible players in their prime who are leaving Europe for regular playing time? Will that playing time get them back in the USMNT picture? Or were their old club teams simply the problem before?

[ MORE: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

It was a return for Bill Hamid, who was a D.C. United homegrown player and arguably the first player on the team sheet between 2009-2017. Hamid actually returned from Europe in 2018 and spent all of the last year and a half on loan from FC Midtjylland in Denmark.

Hyndman on the other hand signed a permanent deal with Atlanta United, after the former MLS Cup champions signed the 23-year-old midfielder on a loan deal from Bournemouth in the Premier League. It was Hyndman’s fourth club in four years – including three loan moves – and perhaps Atlanta is a place he can put down roots and stay for the long term.

Per both D.C. United and Atlanta United, both players signed multi-year deals. D.C. United reportedly even paid a transfer fee for Hamid.

Both players are solid to good players in MLS, and as Americans, they add quality and don’t cost a team an international spot. But for the U.S. Men’s National Team, it’s unclear how this could affect the pair.

On one hand, USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter has shown a preference to certain players he had in the 2019 January camp, including guys like Nick Lima, Paul Arriola and Christian Roldan, even if performances don’t necessarily merit them playing each match. On the other hand, as someone who has played in Germany, and England, Berhalter surely understands the benefits of challenging yourself every few years to play and train at a higher level. It doesn’t have to be Jurgen Klinsmann levels, where every single year they have to step it up, but finding a new way to freshen things up in a tough environment can have positive benefits for everyone, assuming there is playing time.

For Hyndman, who moved to Fulham’s academy in 2011 at the age of 15, it marks the end of seven years in Europe trying to break in. He had decent half-season spells with Hibernian and Rangers in the Scottish Premier Division, but one can argue that Atlanta United is itself on a higher level of play. That being said, Hyndman has clearly decided that regular gametime is best for his development as a player than relocating to the Netherlands, Italy or Germany to play. He wasn’t likely to get any at Bournemouth, even with their current Premier League struggles.

In Hamid’s case, he took a chance on Europe with FC Midtjylland. However, pretty quickly he realized that it wasn’t the right situation for him and within six months, he was back on D.C. United on loan for the next year and a half.

In both cases, there may have been options to continue their European adventures. Whether it was in the Championship or another “mid-major” European league, in the past, two players entering their primes might have tried to stay in Europe a little longer. But the lure of MLS, with a decent salary, less competition for places and the opportunity to play at home in front of family is a strong one, and the national team will have to adjust with it.

 

Would Saul make sense at Man United?

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As Manchester United prepares its roster construction for the future, one player that’s reportedly on the shortlist is Atletico Madrid central midfielder Saul Niguez.

Although originally from Elche, in southeast Spain, Saul has been on the books of Atletico Madrid since 2008 (other than a season on loan with Rayo Vallecano), making his first team debut in 2012 and growing from a scrawny midfielder into an international-calibre box-to-box star for both club and country. Per Diario AS, Man United has been interested in signing Saul before, and now it’s been revived. The report states, “The interest from Manchester is very real, and strong.”

[READ: Arsenal comes back to beat West Ham]

So, what kind of a player is Saul?

As mentioned before, he’s a sturdy, powerful box-to-box midfielder who can win headers defensively and knows how to play well in a Diego “Cholo” Simeone system. At the same time, he’s certainly not afraid to make a late run into the box. Last season he tied a career high with four goals in La Liga and also scored in the UEFA Champions League.

At 25-years old, he’s a hardened veteran player. But is he what Man United needs?

If you look at the current squad at Ole Gunnar Solskjaer‘s disposal, he’s got quite a few No. 8’s, right? There’s Paul Pogba, Andreas Pereira, and Fred. You can argue Scott McTominay has at times played like an 8, as has Jesse Lingard on occasion. One might argue that what Man United really needs is a better No. 6, someone who can be a destroyer and cover a lot of ground, freeing up that side of the game so Pogba could feel more comfortable attacking.

If Man United were to sign Saul in January – or next summer – we could potentially see him line up in a midfield three, though he’d be center right with Pogba to his left. Behind the pair would be McTominay to clean up the messes.

On paper, it’s a decent midfield for sure, but it’s just one step on Man United’s path towards becoming a team that can challenge for the Premier League and Champions League.

Of course, this is all theoretical. Saul carries a $166 million transfer release clause, and for the player he is, considering he doesn’t score many goals and affects the game in little ways, it’s a lot to spend for a guy who isn’t a guarantee to improve his team enough to make it back to the Champions League.

But if Man United was able to negotiate a better transfer fee for Niguez, they could do worse than a talented midfielder from Atletico Madrid. The question then will be – is Saul a system player (only successful under Simeone), or can he find success in the Premier League too?

USWNT’s Rapinoe named SI Sportswoman of the Year

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In 2019, Megan Rapinoe won a World Cup title, Golden Ball, Golden Boot, FIFA World Cup MVP, and the Ballon d’Or. Now, she can add her name to another distinguished list.

Sports Illustrated on Monday revealed that Rapinoe had been named SI’s 2019 Sportsperson of the Year. She’s the first individual soccer player from any gender to win the award, and she follows the 1999 U.S. Women’s National Team as the second USWNT-related athlete to garner the award.

[READ: Rapinoe wins 2019 Ballon d’Or]

Other notable winners of this award are Serena Williams, LeBron James, the Golden State Warriors, Michael Jordan, and Muhammad Ali.

“Even in a year with many great candidates, choosing Megan as the Sportsperson of the Year was an easy decision,” Steve Cannella, co-editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated said in a statement released by the magazine. “She is a force of nature on and off the field, a trailblazing soccer player who also proves every day how large and loud a voice a socially conscious athlete can have in 2019.”

Rapinoe has had about as good of a year as a player can have, and she did it under enormous pressure. She withstood verbal and online taunts from the U.S. president for her noted opposition against his political decisions, as well as dealt with injuries during the tournament. Even if she wasn’t always at her best on the field, she found a way to score key goals at important moments.

Every Women’s World Cup seems to raise the profile of the USWNT and soccer in this country, but beyond her work on the field, Rapinoe’s hair, media savvy and ultimately, her performance won over any critic she could have. What she’s done for soccer in this country is immeasurable, and hopefully there are people that have a desire to keep watching the beautiful game after the World Cup, thanks in some part to Rapinoe.

Rapinoe will grace the cover of Sports Illustrated for the Dec. 16 issue.

Ljungberg on Pepe: He ‘showed his quality’

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Arsene Wenger used to say that players needed around six months once they came to the Premier League to get adjusted to both living in England and getting acclimated to the pace and physicality of the league.

For Nicolas Pepe, it was advice well heeded.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Offensively, Pepe was outstanding as he scored a goal and an assist in Arsenal’s 3-1 win over West Ham. At the same time, Pepe worked hard on the defensive end, making life difficult for West Ham left back Aaron Cresswell and anyone down West Ham’s right flank.

On Monday, Pepe showed that he was worth his $87 million transfer fee, and he only needs a yard of space to create something magical.

“People always ask me about Nico and I try to explain,” Ljungberg after the game. “He comes from the French league, he comes to the Premier League – in my opinion the best league in the world – and it’s a lot faster and a lot harder. He needs to adapt. People put pressure on him but that’s not so easy, and I thought what he did today was he worked really hard offensively and defensively and showed his quality.

“I’m so pleased for him because at the same time he was a big, big buy for the club and then comes pressure with that as well. He will fall asleep with a smile tonight.”

In the 66th minute, Pepe found himself isolated on the wing with just Cresswell to beat. After cutting inside, Pepe curled home a beauty which ended up being the game-winning-goal. It was just his second Premier League goal of the season and his first from open play. Perhaps now after five months of bedding in at Arsenal, Pepe is ready to shine.

There’s no doubt that with Arsenal’s defensive issues, they need their attacking stars to score in bunches from here on out. If Pepe can finish the season with ten goals and ten assists, it will be a wild success, and set him up well for the next season.