Premier League All Time: English XI vs Foreign XI


There is nothing football supporters enjoy more than a talking point, something to stir debate, boil the blood and argue about. In honour of this noble pursuit I decided to compile two teams made up from the best English players ever to grace the Premier League and pit them against the best foreign XI.

The Premier League era may seem rather arbitrary but, with some notable exceptions, this has been the era of the foreign player in the English league so it should pass scrutiny.

I am positive people will disagree with some of my selections but erroneous decisions aside who do you think would win this battle? My money is on Johnny Foreigner.


GOALKEEPER: David Seaman

DEFENCE: LB Nigel WInterburn, CB Tony Adams, CB Rio Ferdinand, RB Gary Neville

MIDFIELD: LM Steve McManaman, CM Steven Gerrard, CM Paul Scholes, RM David Beckham

ATTACK: Alan Shearer, Michael Owen

SUBSTITUTES: Teddy Sheringham, Robbie Fowler, Bryan Robson, David James, Sol Campbell.

As Mike Bassett in the film of the same name infamously said: “England will play Four-Four-F**king-Two.” There really didn’t seem a more appropriate alternative for this team. A team which is absolutely rammed with leaders. That backline is looking solid with two parts of the most efficient and durable backline of the Premier League era in Tony Adams and Nigel Winterburn. Rio Ferdinand and Gary Neville would not let this team down either, completing a defensive unit I am confident has the right balance.

In the midfield David Beckham’s awesome delivery and dead ball skill is complimented by the silky running of Liverpool legend Steve McManaman on the left flank. In the middle are two winners, players of true class and I think Steve Gerrard’s renowned engine and work rate would work brilliantly with Paul Scholes’s eye for a pass.

There is not much to offer about the strikeforce, two proven goalscorers and a combination that would pose problems for any defence with Owen’s pace and Shearer’s strength. There is also options on the bench, Teddy Sheringham had to find a spot on the bench for his intelligence and pedigree. Elsewhere Bryan Robson could offer energy coming off the bench and Robbie Fowler’s predatory instinct won him a spot in the squad.



GOALKEEPER: Peter Schmeichel.

DEFENCE: LB Patrice Evra, CB Paul McGrath, CB Marcel Desailly, RB Dan Petrescu.

MIDFIELD: LM Robert Pires, CM Roy Keane, CM Patrick Vieira. 

ATTACK: LF Thierry Henry, CF Eric Cantona, RF Cristiano Ronaldo.

SUBSTITUTE: Dennis Bergkamp, Gianfranco Zola, Petr Cech, Denis Irwin, Andrei Kanchelskis.

Given the cosmopolitan nature of this side I decided to use a formation to reflect this and plumped for the revered Barcelona 4-3-3. The Great Dane Peter Schmeichel seemed a natural choice in goal, with Chelsea’s Petr Cech in reserve.

The defence combines warriors like Paul McGrath, one of a select few defenders to win the PFA Player of the Year Award, and Marcel Desailly who bossed the defence at Chelsea at the turn of the century. Flying full backs Dan Petrescu and Patrice Evra are selected as this side is made to attack, Petrescu is adored by Chelsea fans and Evra gets the nod due to his contribution in putting United back at the top after Chelsea’s rise to prominence.

The midfield trio combines all the elements needed in a modern footballer, the steel of Roy Keane, the phenomenal energy Patrick Vieira displayed at Arsenal and the silky talents of Robert Pires. All these players enjoyed phenomenal success and are iconic figures at the clubs they played at to this day.

The three strikers I selected have goals in abundance and the movement of Ronaldo and Henry would compliment Cantona’s touch and vision. The forward line has pace and between the three players they won a raft of team and individual prizes. 

The bench also has incredible strength and I felt wrong not selecting Zola and Bergkamp for the team but in management you need to make tough decisions. The rock steady Denis Irwin could cover either side of the defence and Andrei Kanchelskis finds the bench thanks to his pace and flair.

Just to clarify in the selection of this team I deemed Irish players as foreign but drew the line at including Welsh or Scottish players. So before any irate Manchester United fans jump down my throat for not including Ryan Giggs I thought I should make that clear. 

Let the debate commence!

30 thoughts on “Premier League All Time: English XI vs Foreign XI”

  1. Better than Henry, I think not! Arsenal’s record goalscorer of all time, Golden shoe winner, multiple league winner, double PFA Player of the Year etc. etc.
    I was and still am a huge Bergkamp fan but there is no way he was better than henry.

  2. Kautzie I want to abide by my own rules for this kind of debate, so I would like to add that I respectfully disagree with you opinion.

  3. great article! bergkamp, better than eric? are ya mad. did you not see that ad when he kicked a football throw your mans stomach. also, he has a chest big enough for baywatch! bergkamp was a player of true class no doubt, but to say he’s better than ronaldo is the real insanity regarding said article. PRESENTLY world and european player ut year and a somewhat ridiculously impressive goal scoring tally. bergkamp is an arsenal great which is shown by his selection int squad but there was no room for him in this front 3 so i have to disagree with one’s opinion.

  4. Which team do the Welsh qualify for? You really should have made it a british XI and have put Ryan Giggs (the best player of this era in the PL) at LW and there is no doubt over the British Goalie, the Legandary Neville Southall, or don’t you big players from outside London who don’t play for Liverpool or Ushited?

    1. Even if it was a British XI I would still have Seaman ahead of Big Neville. Seaman didn’t do himself any favours by carrying on past his best but remember his contributions to winning leagues at Arsenal and his penalty shoot out heroics in Arsenal’s succesful Cup Winners Cup campaign.

      1. Big Neville won more trophies and single handedly won the FA Cup again Man Utd’s greatest ever team in 1995. He also kept a terrible Everton team safely in mid table and away from relgation until he retired after 18 years of service. He’s simply the greatest keeper of all time.

  5. Here’s an all Time Greatest England XI:

    GK Gordon Banks

    RB Phil Neal CB Bobby Moore CB Brian Labone LB Ray Wilson

    RW Sir Tom Finney CM Alan Ball CM Duncan Edwards LW Sir Stanley Matthew

    CF William “Dixie” Dean CF Jimmy Greaves

  6. It does seem kind of pointless to completely exclude Wales and Scotland, especially when arguably the best player of the Premier League era (Giggs) is left out. Hell, that also eliminates the greatest manager of the PL era (I wonder who?).

    And commenter Steve — an all-time England XI without Bobby Charlton?

  7. Bobby Charlton is definate for consideration but he’s behind Duncan Edwards and Alan Ball in midfield and did not score anywhere near enough as Dean or Greaves to get a look in upfront.

  8. to everyone picking players from their grandfathers generation, the list is called the permier league starting XI…

  9. All I know is your English XI wouldn’t stand a chance.

    I think you’d have to start Sherringham over Owen… so solid over so many years vs solid for a few.

    Also… I don’t care how you do it but Bergkamp has to start even over Henry and certainly over CR. I also wouldn’t mind having Marc Overmars in that XI.

  10. This is incredibly biased towards Liverpool and manchester players. Where is Lampard or Tissier? John Terry, despite his greed is arguably the greatest defender in the world yet he doesnt get any mention.
    Lampard who has consistently scored over 20 goals each season for the last 5 seasons is removed by Gerrard the scouse with his total of 71 EPL goals apparently a greater number than lampards 108.
    Disgusting from a usually unbiased website.

  11. lol im a chelsea fan and yes there seems to be an a bias towards liverpool and manU. I understand manU since they’ve won the EPL so many times but liverpool have yet to win it.
    Gerrard probably deserves a spot but as an attacking player. He never was the best midfielder. Lampard has been playing longer then gerrard and thats why he has scored more goals. That said lampard has more assists as well.
    Terry is the england captain and im pretty sure over the last 5 years you will find that chelsea have the least number of goals let in of any side. Rio in there is a joke, he is good but not that good. Sol Campbell is better then rio.
    This is overly biased towards the big 4. How about the like of le tissier or gazza?
    The foreign xi is interesting, pesonally i think cantona is a legend but bergkamp would bring more to the strike force than cantona would. Evra probably doesnt deserve a spot but not many great foreign LB’s i can think of either.

  12. When i saw beckham’s name in the list, i already knew this list is a joke. Beckham the best 11 in EPL? What a joke. He is a average skilled one dimenisonal overrated by the media footballer.

    And bergkamp should be in the first 11. Yes he was a better player than those 3. Don’t know why people count the goals when comparing ronaldo & henry with bergkamp. Bergkamp was better than cantona. He created a role that was named “bergkamp role”. They did not call it cantona role did they? Cantona may have won more trophies but as a player Bergkamp is definately more skillfull than cantona

    1. Name an English player that played on the right hand side of midfield in the Premiership era that had a greater impact than David Beckham.

    1. Giggsy is really should be in the English side. Wales aren’t really a seperate country anyway, not like Scotland or Northern Ireland are, so much so that when Giggsy was a lad (as with Ian Rush, Neville Southall and Kevin Ratcliffe) he HAD to play for england schoolboys. There is now a welsh schoolboys side.

      1. The Welsh mens national team are currently #67 in FIFA’s world rankings.

        Also, how did Scotland and Northern Ireland get to be independent footballing nations in your view, whereas poor old Wales didn’t? Did you have a bad experience in Wales as a child?

  13. Erm, not ONE comment left here actually provides an opinion as to which is team is better – the English XI or the Foreign XI, which is the purpose of this article! I think that the Foreign XI (regardless of what English team you select) wins hands down. Cantona, Ronaldo, Bergkamp and Henry – you just can’t compete with this.

  14. No mention of Dave Watson at CB whom I’m sure most of you have never heard of. Old Waggy Watson had 12 england caps and shackled most of the strikers on that list when past his prime, including his greatwest triumph lifting the FA Cup as winning captain in 1995. It is a testament to his ability that he played on at the highest level until he was just short of 40 at the turn of the century. He was a greater organiser and captain than any other defender in the premier league era, bar perhaps his great mate and former teammate Steve Bruce.

  15. I have to admit,Im impressed that an englishman finally admitted in the sporting world that Irish are not just a sub-genus of the Colonial Power

  16. well the majority of irish people seem to draw the line when it comes to english football clubs. as i say ‘irish when it suits them’

    theres nothing really that great about it, irish are foreign to english football. i hope the eu introduce the 6+5 foreign rule so that irish barstoolers can see we are foreign to english football

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