Premier League: Best ever foreign XI

Premier League: Who are the greatest overseas players to have graced the Premier League?

Jonathan Kelly
Published 04/06/2013 10:52 by Jonathan Kelly, read by 40,043 people.

Over the last 20 years, the Premier League has treated its fans to some of the best talent from overseas. Here's a look at potentially the greatest Premier League foreign XI since its inception in 1992.

Goalkeeper: Peter Schmeichel

The Great Dane joined Manchester United in 1991 and the following two years in a row he was voted the World's Best Goalkeeper. He is best remembered for his intimidating presence between the sticks, standing at six foot three and weighing over 16 stone he was a nightmare for strikers to play against.

United signed Schmeichel for little over £500,000 which manager Alex Ferguson described as the bargain of the century. The Danish stopper played the majority of his career at Old Trafford - eight years. In that time he won the Premier League five times, three FA Cups, one League Cup and of course, the UEFA Champions League. 

The crowning achievement of Schmeichel's club career came in the 1998/99 season, when United became the first English side to win the treble (Premier League, FA Cup and Champions League) in one season. Schmeichel left the club later that year on the highest note.

He joined Aston Villa in 2001 and became the first goalkeeper to score a Premier League goal - in a match against Everton. He left Villa the following year to join Manchester City.

Schmeichel is the most capped player for his country Denmark with 129 appearances to his name. He was an integral part of his country's unexpected European Championship triumph in 1992. Often rated as the Premier League's greatest ever goalkeeper, it took United six years to finally find a suitable replacement for Schmeichel, when the club signed Edwin Van Der Sar in 2005.

Right-back: Dan Petrescu

Petrescu joined the Premier League with Sheffield Wednesday in 1994 after a successful World Cup campaign with Romania. He spent just one season at Hillsborough before joining London club, Chelsea. He was part of the Blues side that won the FA Cup in 1997 and the League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup in 1998.

Petrescu fell out of favour with Chelsea and after five years at Stamford Bridge, he moved to then Premier League side Bradford City in 2000. He was later persuaded to join Southampton in 2001 by former Chelsea manager, Glenn Hoddle.

He initially started out well with The Saints, but was released later that year and returned to play in his home country of Romania. Petrescu was chosen as right-back for the Overseas Team of the Decade which was the Premier League's tenth anniversary team from 1992/02. The defender made more than 220 Premier League appearances as well as 95 caps for his country.

Centre-back: Sami Hyypia | Liverpool

In 1999, the Finland international joined Liverpool for a now bargain fee in the region of £2.5 million. At first the centre-back was regarded as an unknown who wouldn't cut in the Premier League, but this perception was changed almost instantly when Hyypia formed a successful defensive partnership with Stephane Henchoz.

Hyypia shared the captaincy with striker Robbie Fowler when he won his first silverware with the club. In fact, he helped the club to a cup treble in 2001 (FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup). He went on to claim three consecutive Finnish Footballer of the Year awards from 2001/03. In 2002, Hyypia was made first-choice Liverpool captain when Fowler left the club. Liverpool finished second in the Premier League in the 2001/02 season behind winners Arsenal and the Finnish centre-back was a key part of this.

In 2003, Hyypia was replaced as captain by Steven Gerrard, however the defender was still outstanding and remained an integral part of the Liverpool side for the remainder of that season. During the 2004/05 season, Hyypia was partnered alongside Jamie Carragher at the heart of The Reds defence. It would prove to be yet another successful pairing as Liverpool lifted the Champions League trophy in 2005 with a famous win over AC Milan.

Hyypia was also part of the Liverpool team that won the FA Cup in 2006. He joined Bayer Leverkusen in 2009, the club he now manages. The centre-back earned 105 caps for his country and was voted 19th in Sky Sports' Top 50 Premier League Foreign Players.

Centre-back: Nemanja Vidic | Manchester United

How to choose between Vidic and Jaap Stam? Both can lay claim to being one of United's greatest centre-backs of all time, so why is the Serbian centre-half the pick of the two?

Vidic joined United in 2006 from Spartak Moscow at the age of 24 for a fee of around £7 million. He made a handful of appearances for United in his first half-season with the club and won the League Cup in February 2006. The following season, Vidic established himself as a regular in the United team and formed a now prominent defensive partnership with Rio Ferdinand.

The Serbian made 25 Premier League appearances in the 2006/07 season culminating in Vidic winning the first Premier League medal of his career. He remained a key figure for United the following season as the club retained the Premier League and also won the Champions League, defeating domestic rivals Chelsea on penalties following a 1-1 draw in normal time.

During the 2008/09 season, Vidic was a pivotal part of United's defence with injuries to a number of defenders throughout the season. He started every match in the Premier League and was shortlisted for the PFA Player of the Year award, which was won by team-mate Ryan Giggs. The defender however was named Fans' Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year for his contributions that season.

Despite injuries interrupting his last two seasons, he is still vital to Manchester United's success at present and in the future. Since being chosen as club captain in 2010, Vidic has served his side nobly. The Serbian centre-half has been named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Year four times as well Barclays Player of the Year twice. He has scored almost 20 goals for United, which is an impressive stat from a defender as well as earning more than 50 caps for his country.

Left-Back: Patrice Evra | Manchester United

He's had his critics over the last two seasons but the Senegal-born French international is often described as the classic modern day full-back. Evra joined United around the same time as current team-mate Vidic from Monaco. Initially making a slow start to his career, Evra gained the number one spot at left-back ahead of Gabriel Heinze and compatriot Mikael Silvestre.

His first full season with the club ended with Evra claiming his first Premier League winners medal along with being selected for the PFA Premier League Team of the Year for his performances during the 2006/07 season. The Frenchman was also a vital part of the United team that won the Premier League and the Champions League the following season.

Evra is currently United's vice-captain and in the absence of Vidic for much of the last year-and-a-half, manager Sir Alex Ferguson has praised the full-back for his leadership qualities. Evra has made over 300 appearances in seven years with the Old Trafford club and has been named in both the FIFA Pro World XI and the UEFA Team of the Year in 2009.  He has also earned almost 50 caps for France and has captained his country on several occasions.

Centre-midfield: Patrick Vieira

Another French international of Senegalese descent, Vieira played more than 300 Premier League games during his career. He joined Arsenal from Italian giants AC Milan in 1996 for £3.5 million.  Vieira later stated he joined Arsenal as fellow Frenchman Arsene Wenger was going to replace Bruce Rioch as manager shortly after the midfielder's arrival. His early performances for the Gunners made the Frenchman a fans' favourite.

Vieira won his first two trophies with Arsenal in the 1997/98 season. The north London club won the Premier League for the first time and also won the FA Cup in a highly successful double-winning season. The following year, despite Arsenal missing out on the Premier League title, Vieira was named in the Premier League Team of the Season, the first of six consecutive inclusions for the French midfielder.

Vieira was made Arsenal club captain in 2002, following the conclusion of the league title-winning season and Tony Adams' retirement. He became the first captain to remain unbeaten for a whole league season, the first and thus far only Premier League side to do so.

Vieira returned to Italy in 2005, joining Juventus. In 2010, Vieira was once again back in the Premier League with Manchester City. He played a season-and-a-half with the club before retiring from football in 2011. Vieira played more than 650 games at club level in a fantastic career. He was also capped 107 times for France, including being a key figure during his country's 2006 World Cup campaign.

Right-wing: Cristiano Ronaldo

A bit of a no-brainer here, Ronaldo was the focal point of the Manchester United attack from 2006 to 2009.  Joined United as an 18-year-old from Sporting Lisbon for £12 million as a replacement for David Beckham in the summer of 2003. The Portuguese winger was immediately given the famous number seven jersey that had been worn by famous United players such as George Best, Bryan Robson, Eric Cantona and Beckham.

In his first season with United, Ronaldo scored against Millwall in the FA Cup final in a 3-0 win to earn his first medal in England. Two seasons later he won his second trophy with the club, scoring against Wigan in the League Cup final with United winning 4-0. The 2006/07 season was the first time the Portuguese winger broke the 20-goal barrier and picked up his first league title.

The following season, Ronaldo was the key part of United's success domestically and in Europe. He scored 42 goals in all competitions as United retained the league title and defeated Chelsea in the Champions League final. Towards the end of 2008, Ronaldo was awarded the Ballon d'Or, becoming the first United player since George Best in 1968 to receive the award. Despite constant speculation from Real Madrid, Ronaldo remained a United player for the 2008/09 season - he scored 18 league goals to aid the club winning the league title for the third season in a row.

In the summer of 2009, Ronaldo finally joined Real Madrid for a world record fee of £80 million. The winger has since gone on to rival Barcelona's Lionel Messi for the title of 'world's best player'.  Ronaldo scored 118 goals in all competitions for United as well as scoring 38 goals in 102 caps for his country, Portugal.

Left-wing: David Ginola

Another Frenchman in this line-up, Ginola joined Newcastle from Paris Saint-Germain in 1995. He was part of Newcastle's most successful league season in 1995/96, when the club finished second in the Premier League behind Manchester United. Ginola was an integral part of the team that season, however finishing second turned out to be a disappointment as Newcastle led the Red Devils by 10 points.

Ginola's performances in the league since his arrival caught the interest of European giants such as Barcelona. However, Newcastle rejected the offer leading the Frenchman to later state he regretted not joining one of Europe's elite clubs. Tottenham signed Ginola for £2.5 million from Newcastle in 1997 and in 1999 was named the PFA Players' Player of the Year and the FWA Footballer of the Year. He also helped Spurs win the League Cup the same year with a 1-0 over Leicester City in the final.

Ginola joined Aston Villa in the summer of 2000 before moving to Everton towards the end of his career. After only a handful of appearances for the Toffees, the Frenchman retired from football in 2002. In 2008, Ginola was inducted into the Tottenham Hall of Fame for his contributions and achievements with the club. The winger also won 17 caps for his country, scoring three goals.

Striker: Dennis Bergkamp

Arguably the finest player in Premier League history, Bergkamp joined Arsenal in 1995 from Italian giants Inter Milan. He joined the club for a fee of £7.5 million and after initially struggling to adapt to the English game, he ended his first season in the Premier League with 11 goals, which helped Arsenal qualify for the UEFA Cup.

The following season, Arsene Wenger was Arsenal manager and immediately recognised the talent the Dutchman possessed. Wenger decided to build his team around Bergkamp and due to this, the forward had much more of an impact than the previous season and created 13 assists as the Gunners finished third. The Dutchman became the focal point of the Arsenal attack, scoring 22 goals as the north London club won the Premier League title for the first time in 1998. Bergkamp won the PFA Players' Player of the Year award that same season.

Bergkamp and Arsenal regained the league in 2002, defeating main rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford and the club also won the FA Cup that same year. In the summer of 2003, Bergkamp signed a one-year contract extension and this paid dividends as Arsenal became the first Premier League team to remain undefeated in a whole season in 2003/04 and thus the Gunners regained the title.

The Dutchman scored 120 goals and created over 100 in more than 400 games for Arsenal. In 2013 it was announced that a statue of Bergkamp would be placed outside the Emirates Stadium to commemorate the accomplishments the club achieved with the striker in their team.

Striker: Eric Cantona

The charismatic Frenchman began life in the Premier League with Leeds United in 1992.  However it wasn't long before he was transferred to Manchester United for a fee of £1.2 million where he played a key role in the revival of the Old Trafford club.

Cantona settled in very quickly at United, not only scoring goals but creating chances.  The French forward scored nine times in his first half-season as the Manchester club won the inaugural Premier League by 10 points - the club's first major domestic triumph in 26 years. The following season saw Cantona score 18 goals as United retained the league title and the Frenchman became the PFA Players' Player of the Year in 1994, Cantona also came third in the Ballon D'or shortlist the previous year.

In early 1995, Cantona was banned from football for eight months for attacking a Crystal Palace fan at Selhurst Park. Without their talismanic forward, United were unable to win the Premier League title for a third season in a row, finishing second behind Blackburn Rovers. In late '95, Cantona made his first appearance since his suspension and scored against Liverpool upon his return. The Frenchman helped his side overturn a 10 point deficit to Newcastle and with that, United regained the league title in 1996, the club's third triumph in four seasons.

Cantona was made club captain for the 1996/97 season which subsequently became his last for United before retiring from football. United won the league once again but the season ended on a low as the French forward announced his retirement at the age of 30. Cantona scored a total of 80 goals in all competitions for United and will go down as one of the club's and the Premier League's greatest ever players.

Striker: Thierry Henry

Loved by Gunners fans and hated by the Irish, Henry joined the north London club for a fee of £11 million from Juventus in 1999. The French striker had his critics upon joining the club as the striker failed to score in his first eight games. After several difficult months in England, Henry justified his price-tag as he scored an impressive 26 goals in all competitions.

Henry was the Premier League's top goalscorer in 2002 and won his first Premier League medal with Arsenal and was named in the league's Team of the Year. In year two, Henry broke the 30-goal barrier in the league as his side remained unbeaten and regained the league.

The striker continued scoring goal after record-breaking goal for his club before joining Barcelona in 2007. He returned to Arsenal on a short-term loan in 2012 and scored yet another goal for the club in a 2-1 win over Sunderland. Henry's electric pace saw him score 175 league goals for the Gunners. The striker is also his country's top scorer with 51 goals - he won the World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000 with France as his list of honours is second to very few.

Is this the greatest Premier League foreign XI? Have your say below.


DISCLAIMER: This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeFootball Writing Academy and does not represent the views of or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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