Greatest Premier League XI Of All Time: From 1992 to 2012

Since its inception in 1992/93, the English Premier League has gone from strength to strength, establishing it as one of the best leagues in the world. Many top players from all around the world have graced the league over the years even gaining the status of club legends. Therefore, it is very hard to compile a list of all time best eleven Premier League players where parameters of comparison do not always borders on objectivity.

Keeping the old school formation of 4-4-2, I am here to select best eleven players of the league who fits in to the formation nicely. It is not a question of whether those players can play side by side or how the team would be tactically benefitted, but it is all about players who are very best among the whole lot of great stars.


Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United, Denmark)

He was elected as “The World’s Best Goalkeeper” in 1992 and 1993. And Sir Alex Ferguson described his deal in 2000 as the “bargain of the century”. He spent the bulk of his career at Manchester United where he won 5 league titles, 3 FA Cups and 1 Champions League (including the historic treble). He is the most capped player for Denmark and has scored 12 goals in his career, a very unusual feat for a goalkeeper.

His expertise in keeping clean sheets is remarkable. Incredibly 42% of his game ended without conceding a goal. But most importantly, he will always be remembered for his heroics in big games. Who can forget the saved penalty of Dennis Bergkamp in 1999 FA Cup semi-final against Arsenal?

Schmeichel was something extra. His contribution to Manchester United and Denmark is unparalleled. His acrobatic saves over the years are a joy to behold. Probably that’s why he was voted as the best goalkeeper by fans all over world ahead of Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks.

Honorable mention: Shay Given, David Seaman, Brad Friedel and Edwin van der Sar.

Left back:

Ashley Cole (Arsenal & Chelsea, England)

He has to be the best left back produced on English soil post 1990. He was his own competitor and thereby excelled to newer heights with every passing season. He won two Premier League titles with Arsenal and one with Chelsea and until now has two runners-up medals in the Champions League. He became the first player to win six FA Cup winners medals.

A world class left back with an outstanding capability of reading the game he could probably make an entry into any of the top sides in the world. His adventurous style of football made him attractive to watch while defensively he was equally solid. He became England’s Player of the Year in 2010 and was included twice in UEFA Team of the Year.

Honorable mention: Nigel Winterburn.

Right Back:

Gary Neville (Manchester United, England)

English players generally are associated with a ‘bull-dog spirit’. Gary Neville epitomizes that spirit to the fullest with an added quality.

A dyed-in-the-wool Manchester United fan, he was head and shoulders above his contemporaries in terms of commitment, performance, long career and technical abilities. The most admirable aspect of his career was consistency. He was the most capped right back for England. His trophy cabinet is enough to be a criterion for selection. Plus he was selected in Premier League’s ‘Team of the Decade’ (1992/03-2001/02).

Honorable mention: Lee Dixon.

Central Defenders:

John Terry: (Chelsea, England)

The modern decade saw the rise of the Chelsea, breaking the stranglehold of Arsenal and Manchester United. John Terry, an out and out Chelsea defender, broke through the club’s academy and established himself not only as one of the super stars of Premier League but made his name across the globe. A maverick, he led Chelsea to three league titles and captained England too.

It is a pride for the nation that a defender from their league has been given highest accolade in Europe and the world for more than one season. Terry won UEFA’s club Defender of the Year in 2005, 2008 and 2009 and was included in FIFPro’s World XI for four consecutive seasons from 2005 to 2008. Four times he was selected in UEFA’s team of the year. Those who are wondering what the big deal with FIFPro is, John Terry was accompanied by few so called World Class defenders in that prestigious award like Maldini, Nesta, Cafu, Thuram, Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Puyol, Ramos and Vidic. Not bad, would you say?

Honorable mention: Nemanja Vidic, Jamie Carragher, Sol Campbell and Sami Hyypia.

Rio Ferdinand: (Manchester United, England)

Sometimes, objectivity is not enough to judge the caliber of a player. Rio Ferdinand twice broke Premier League’s transfer record, so he has to be there in the list of all time best.

He was one of those rare breed from England who developed great technical abilities like the European footballers. Positional play, accurate tackling, distribution, reading the game and other important tactical aspects were mastered by this Englishman. Subjective? Yes, but there can be no denial that Manchester United’s huge success post 2006 is bestowed on the defensive partnership of Ferdinand and Vidic, of which the senior man played a major contribution.

He has been a member of three FIFA World Cup squads, winner of five Premier League medals, one Champions League and two League Cups.

Success is not an essential barometer here, performance is. Those who have watched Ferdinand’s game minutely over the years will have to agree that he has been a ‘Rock of Gibraltar’ for his club and country.

Honorable mention: Ledley King, Tony Adams and Jaap Stam.

Left Wing:

Ryan Giggs (Manchester United, Wales)

This longest service player for Manchester United has to be the greatest ever winger to have graced the Premier League. An age-less genius, he holds the club record for most competitive appearance.

Don’t ever ask the Welshman about his trophy cabinet. He has bagged 12 league titles, 4 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, 2 UCL and many more medals in his illustrious career. Under the tutelage of Sir Alex, Giggs achieved almost everything a footballer can wish to, except the sad story of not playing at the World Cup.

He was selected in the PFA Team of the Century, won the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2009 and was included in UEFA Champions League’s 10 seasons Dream Team (1992-2002).

He is the most decorated player in the Premier League and the league itself is fortunate to have witnessed a maverick blazing the green blades of Old Trafford for two decades.

Honorable mention: John Barnes, Gareth Bale, David Ginola, Marc Overmars and Arjen Robben.

Right Wing:

Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United, Portugal)

First, why not David Beckham? Beckham is a world class footballer like Ronaldo and a legendary figure for Manchester United. Known for his great free kicks and passing – he has given Premier League a different taste of brand.

But Ronaldo is Ronaldo. This is a team of individuals, and Ronaldo is a type who could win you matches by himself. His case is a bit subjective. It is not easy to fill the boots of a club legend, especially coming from a different land while expectations are sky high.

Hence, Manchester United was not Ronaldo’s comfort zone. It was during those times that Chelsea emerged as new champions and it seemed like United’s dominance in English football had ended. He was one of the main figures who brought Man United back on track in terms of silverware. The club went on to win three consecutive league titles, also becoming the kings of Europe in 2007-08.

He helped United off the pitch which fans might have a different view of, but nevertheless he was very significant. His transfer to Real Madrid fetched £80million to Manchester United, at a time when the club was suffocating under the burden of gargantuan debts while the entire country was hit by recession.

The winner of 2008 Ballon d’Or and Fifa World Player of the Year, he has been a joy to watch every time he took the field. The Premier League has produced many gems over the years, but this boy from Madeira has to be one of those very special of the lot.

Honorable mention: David Beckham, Darren Anderton and Anders Limpar.

Central Midfielders:

Paul Scholes (Manchester United, England)

The choice was easy. Admired by his contemporaries around the World, Scholes was not a typical English midfielder. He is a complete midfielder, whose main strength was ball distribution and accurate passing. He had great technical abilities which are rarely found amongst English players.

Both Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola and Xavi consider him as the best central midfielder of this generation.

Honorable mention: Steven Gerrard, Cesc Fabregas, Xabi Alonso, Roy Keane and Paul Gascoigne.

Patrick Vieira (Arsenal, France)

The selection of Vieira was tough. There are so many competitors who are as good as him, if not better. Roy Keane and Steven Gerrard easily come to mind.

Vieira was as inspirational as Keane and a typical box to box midfielder who excelled in top European leagues after leaving Arsenal. His contribution to the French national team is equally enviable.

Vieira was calm, composed on ball. His passing ability, defensive aspects of the game and intelligent movements off the ball brought a touch of European class to ‘that’ invincible Arsenal side.

Honorable mention: Frank Lampard, Gianfranco Zola, Matthew Le Tissier and Claude Makelele.


Thierry Henry (Arsenal, France)

Thierry Henry flourished at a time when Man United had a prolific goal scorer named Ruud van Nistelrooy scoring goals at his mercy. The comparison was always there. Henry is a complete striker, more than just a goal machine. His overall contribution to the game (contrary to van Nistelrooy’s one dimensional game) helped Arsenal win two league titles and three FA Cups. He was the heartbeat of the Arsenal side that remained unbeaten throughout the season.

Arsenal never had a problem of getting silverware with Henry. His skills and techniques were sublime. Who can forget that mesmerizing goal against Liverpool jinking past 5 to 6 Liverpool players, like a snake moving on green grass?

His individual achievements thereby speak for himself: Four times winner of Premier League Golden Boot, twice winner of European Golden Boot, five times included in UEFA team of the year and many other milestones. Henry was included in the English Football Hall of fame in 2008 and his aura will be cherished for many more years to come.

Honorable mention: Ian Rush, Jurgen Klinsmann, Wayne Rooney, Denis Bergkamp, Michael Owen, Robin van Persie and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

Alan Shearer (Newcastle, England)

The English Premier League without Alan Shearer is like detective genres without Sherlock Holmes. He has to be there. A classic English centre forward having strong physical presence and powerful shots, he has scored 283 career goals, including a record 260 in the Premier League with goals to game ratio of 0.667, which equates to just over two goals every three games he has played throughout his career at every level and competition.

Sadly, apart from winning one league title with Blackburn, he had no major silverwares to flaunt, but his amazing performances for his club and country stand him apart from the competition.

Winning the domestic and overall Player of the Decade awards rightly sums up his contribution towards the Premier League. He was the best English striker then and probably still holds that status.

Honorable mention: Didier Drogba, Andy Cole, Robbie Fowler, Eric Cantona, Paulo Di Canio, Ian Wright and Teddy Sheringham.

Follow Saikat Mandal on twitter @Saikat_SAnchor

54 thoughts on “Greatest Premier League XI Of All Time: From 1992 to 2012”

    1. Zola got a mention in the midfield section. It was tricky trying to figure out where to put an attacking midfielder in a 4-4-2 — striker or midfielder.

      The Gaffer

  1. Additionally, Denis Irwin was a superior left back to Ashley Cole. Could play both sides, take free kicks and penalties, and won more trophies. Way more trophies, and better ones too.

  2. Yeah John Terry and Rio Ferdinand are better than Tony Adams… Wait… NO THEY ARE NOT! Not only is Terry overrated he is top class wanker!

  3. What exactly did Ian rush and Jurgen Klinsman do in the EPL? If you’re going to include them you can make a case for Bryan Robson who played a couple of seasons in the premier league towards the end of his career.

      1. Not at all gaffer but i find it strange that Gareth Bale gets a honorable mention in the Epl greatest XL when 18 months ago he couldn’t even get in the spurs team. And for me Dennis Begkamp would be one of the first names on the team sheet.

  4. how come keano isn’t playing alongside viera? jajaja just kidding..but serious..keane should get an honorable mention.

  5. Wow … it’s amazing how truly underrated John Terry’s starting to become.

    Should be interesting to see if he remains so next month when this article is posted again.

    Also, I think each managerial candidate for a Premier League club should be asked, “who would you take: Vieira or Keane?” If you say Keane, you get the job. If you say Vieira, you get to write for EPL Talk.*

    * – not to say I don’t love the site.

  6. No DB 10? Arguably the greatest Premier League Import? List is empty without the dutch master, just my opinion. I just think there is absolutely no player that comes close to this guy.

    1. RVPFan that’s spot on, and how does Robert Pires and Martin Keown not get a mention while all hype Gareth Bale and permacrock Ledley King do.

      1. Kautzie, RVPFan, perhaps this is for another article, but can you explain to me why Gareth Bale is considered anything more than a Welsh Theo Walcott? Both speedy, both flashy, both have massive holes in their game that everyone (well, pundits) forgets the second they do something interesting (which adds up to about once a month.)

    2. Kautzie, Bergkamp was given an honorable mention, but if you put in Bergkamp, who do you take out? Henry or Shearer? Both Henry and Shearer have statues outside their respective stadiums. Bergkamp was world-class, but not in the league of Henry and Shearer in my opinion.

      The Gaffer

      1. In due time Bergkamp will have his own statue too. I think you definitely have a strong argument Gaffer, both Shearer and Henry are definitely legends and if your going by sheer goal scoring prowess no one can touch those two, but Bergkamp was more than a goalscorer he was a creator and arguably the most technically gifted player the EPL has ever seen and definitely in Henry and Shearer’s class.

        And once again why doesn’t Pires get a mention?

          1. Gaffer, Henry himself says Bergkamp is the greatest player he’s ever played with or against. “FULL STOP” is the word he used. Mind you, he’s played with players like Messi and Zidane. Ian Wright says Bergkamp is the greatest player Arsenal football club has ever signed and will ever sign. Now when two great Arsenal strikers makes statements like that without hesitating one bit, tell me honestly, does having a statue really should be the barometer to judge a player?

            No offense to both Henry and Shearer (Both were great players) but the dutch master was the league of his own. He lit up the Premier League. People now seem to forget as time passes by the impact he had at the time back in the late 90s and early 20s. His goals were sheer breathtaking and incredible, his passing vision was second to none. Just because he doesn’t have a statue in front of the Emirates doesn’t make him any less of a player than Henry. And BTW, I don’t know if Henry would have been the same player if not for DB10’s vision.
            Deep down we Arsenal fans, who have been a Gunner for 20 years know who is the best.

  7. I like Bale and all that, but after just 5 years in the Prem he gets a mention on the list of greatest ever left wingers?

    I admit to not knowing my history as well as I should, but that seems a real stretch.

    1. He’s must be a Spurs fan I mean Leadly King and Darren Anderton?

      GK Schmeichel
      LB Stuart Pearce
      CB Martin Keown
      CB John Terry
      RB Gary Neville
      LW Ryan Giggs
      CAM Paul Gascoigne
      CM Patrick Vieira
      RM Cristiano Ronaldo
      CF Alan Shearer
      CF Thierry Henry

      Subs. Chris Woods, Ashley Cole, Gary Palister, David Platt, Chris Wadle, Didder Drogba, Matthew Le Tissier.

      Utd and Arsenal players dominate for obvious reasons Chelsea not so much. I tried to pick great players from other clubs as well as the top few, Carrick may have won trophies but it doesn’t mean he’s even near a great player. So I added some players that may have been over looked and if they played for one of the big teams would have won a lot more as would the Club they would have signed for. As a attacking midfielder Gascoigne for instance not many have come near him for my money. Chris waddle was one of the most exciting players I have ever seen on the wing for Wednesday, Le Tissier’s loyalty (none existent today) kept him from becoming one of the best ever in England which he was but without the trophies so isn’t as well thought of.

  8. Everyone, thanks for the comments. The fact I mentioned above, I am not making a great team, I am making a best 11 of the Premier League.

    Yes, Cantona’s role in PL is undeniable, rather his role to Man-Utd is undeniable. He was a towering figure who within 4 seasons became the king of Stretford End. But, keep aside any biased thoughts for a moment. I guess @SanFransican has seen Cantona all those four years. Do you really feel that as a player/striker Cantona was better than Henry & Shearer?

    Outstanding contribution to Man Utd and being the best player are two different things. Please try to understand the purpose of this article.

    Re: John Terry I have already said there is no objective parameter of judgement. About him this sums up everything “It is a pride for the nation that a defender from their league has been given highest accolade in Europe and the world for more than one season.”

    Over-rated? Then Maldini over-rated?? Zambrotta over-rated? Thuram? Cafu? Nesta? All over-rated?? Then are those guys fool who have selected him for 4 consecutive seasons?? On what basis they have selected?? Hype??

    No, he deserved this with performances… Like Vidic did, Thuram did, Cafu did. Please read the lines written in between. Having said that I end with the age-old cliché – to each his own…

  9. bale got a honorable mention?? for what, diving?? We are talking about pl greatest 11 you a$$… Either you know very little about pl or just dumb..

  10. wat a lot of crap. no gerrard? What can the author kno about football and not include captain fantastic? Joker man

  11. You cannot pick Schmeichel and forget that he helped Denmark to Euro ’92, which is what earned him the World’s Best GK award, which you mention.

  12. Nice premiss for an article, it will be polarizing and everyone will disagree! here’s an example.

    I cant believe you put Paul Scoles ahead of Eric Cantona thats insane!

    Putting Vierra over Gerrard is crazy.

    Next time try it in 10 year brackets 92 – 02 & 02 – 12

    Heard of Andy Cole? you also left out Gazza, whats that all about?

    Tony Adam in his time was no slouch and better than Terry in his prime all day long.

    Actually….As you I write this i have an idea what with march madness and all, how about this?

    Maybe gaffer can install a brackets plugin to the sites WordPress setup. This way you could take the article to the next level and offer all us readers a way of sharing our thoughts and opinions on such a great football topic to determine EPL talk “Best Prem 11”. (I would add 3 subs tho and a make a goalkeeper mandatory)

    Gaffer here (

    Pick 8 players from each position over the 20 year period and vote on head to heads eg; tonay adams vs john terry. Until we have winners for each potion. (you could actually still do it by decade have decade teams and then go into an über starting 11 pitching decade v decade.

    This is classic pub football talk..suddenly I’m craving a Pint and bag a KP Peanuts!

    Just a thought

  13. People need to remember that you can only have 11 players in the team and it’s no good saying ‘what about zola, Gazza, Bergkamp, Keane. I don’t think it’s a bad team actually, I would have a couple of changes but it’s all just opinion.

    My Opinion:

    GK – Schmeichel
    RB – Neville
    LB – Cole
    CD – Vidic
    CD – Adams

    RW – Ronaldo
    LW – Giggs
    CM – Scholes
    CM – Keane

    CF – Bergkamp
    CF – Henry


    Gazza didn’t actually play in the Prem (apart from Everton at the end of his career) He left Tottenham for Lazio before 1992 and then went to Rangers in the SPL.

    Zola was good but I wouldn’t put him before Cantona or Bergkamp who were similar players

    Viera and Keane were similar players and I wouldn’t mind which one was in

    Shearer was good especially 1992-1996 but I would have to say Henry at his peak was better

    Beckham would be fighting with Ronaldo for a role on the right wing and would lose every time, even at his peak

  14. first off: if you have Ashley listed as Ars+Chels, you should have Rio and Shearer listed accordingly as well.

    secondly: frank lampard has to be in there. He has set the consecutive 10 goals a season streak for a midfield player and has a few winners medals to boot. move scholes out to the right and punish Cronaldo for not staying around for long enough.

  15. You’ve gotta do a 4-3-3:

    GK – Petr Cech

    LB – Ashley Cole
    RB – Gary Neville
    CB – John Terry
    CB – Nemanja Vidic

    RW – David Beckham
    CM – Frank Lampard
    LW – Cristiano Ronaldo

    ST – Alan Shearer
    ST – Didier Drogba
    ST – Thierry Henry

    Subs: Edwin van der Sar, Rio Ferdinand, Lee Dixon, Steven Gerrard, Arjan Robben, Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres

  16. Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler should be standard. David Ginola? How some of these players can’t even get a mention is a joke!

  17. Why isn’t Ledley King there. No attacker got the better of him, when fit one of the best in the world. Agree with the rest though.

  18. IMO a tough thing to do to pick out best among the best 😛 ….but still a pretty good job..
    Here is mine 11

    GK Schmeichel
    RB Gary Neville
    CB John erry
    CB Neminja Vidic
    LB Ashley Cole
    CM Paul Scholes
    CM Roy Keane
    CM Frank Lampard
    RW Cristiano Ronaldo
    ST Alan Shearer
    LW Ryan Giggs

  19. I can tell people dont like chelsea but they have had some of the best players and captains of all time

    My opinion:

    GK Schmeichel
    RB Gary Neville
    CB Terry
    CB Vidic
    LB Ashley Cole
    CDM Makelele
    RM Ronaldo
    LM Giggs
    CAM Lampard
    ST Henry
    ST Zola

    Subs: van der sar, frank leboeuf, tony adam, paul scholes, dennis wise, roy keane, drogba, alan shearer, bergkamp and finaly hasselbaink

  20. My All-Time Premier League XI

    GK: Schmeicel
    RB: Winterburn
    CB: Terry
    CB: Campbell
    LB: A.Cole
    CDM: Vieira
    RW: C.Ronaldo
    LW: Tony Adam
    CAM: Bergkhamp
    ST: Shearer
    ST: Kîng Henry

    SUB: Van Der Sar, Seaman, Gary Neivelle, Lee Dixon, Rio Fernand, Roy Keane, Scholes, Giggs, Zola,

    1. Just quickly Winterburn would have struggled at right back. But it is a hard position to fill, especially as Neville is probably the best option. Tony Adams as a left winger?

  21. Absurd. Roy Keane is the first name on anyone’s team sheet – his pass completion % is the best in world history; his interceptions, timing and reading of the game was second to none.

    Neville Southall is a strong candidate. Denis Irwin too. No mentions.

    John Terry ahead of Tony Adams?! He was the poor man’s Adams FCS, a league below.

    And no Cantona!?!? Thee Premiership all-time master…….

    CM-Gascoigne (early Boro)
    ST-Torres (Liverpool)

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