Since the Premier League started in 1992/93, it has been home to some of the world’s best footballers.
From the early days, dominated by Manchester United to more recent years and the success of Manchester City and Chelsea, the Premier League has always had players who are considered among the best on the planet in their position.
Whether it’s the best league in the world or not is a debate for another time, but there’s no questioning the sheer talent that Premier League fans have witnessed over the last near-three decades.
This article is the result of an unenviable task of picking the greatest ever Premier League XI. There are some special footballers who had to be left out.
It’s a very attacking 4-2-2-2/4-3-3 in case you’re wondering how this would play out on this pitch…
Peter Schmeichel actually arrived in England a year before the Premier League began, signing with Manchester United for £505,000 in 1991.
He went on to play eight Premier League campaigns with the Red Devils, collecting five winners’ medals, three FA Cups and that famous Champions League as United won the treble in 1999.
He was crowned Player of the Season in 1995/96, and remains the only goalkeeper to win the award.
An imposing, even intimidating figure, Schmeichel is as iconic as goalkeepers come. His spells at Aston Villa and Manchester City further supported his case for this position, as he proved not just a great peak, but longevity, too.
This one was a no-brainer.
A member of the Class of ’92, and now one of the best football pundits around, Gary Neville has this position in the Greatest XI locked down.
Never flashy, not the quickest, strongest or tallest, Neville was an intelligent footballer, who excelled at reading the game and was a tireless worker down the right flank, making him a constant threat on the overlap – as David Beckham regularly benefited from.
If that wasn’t enough, Neville made over 600 appearances for Manchester United, won nine Premier League titles and was named in the PFA Team of the Season on five occasions.
The centre-backs are one of the most competitive areas on the pitch, but Chelsea legend John Terry gets the nod.
Terry broke through in the 2000/01 campaign, and along with Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba, formed the Chelsea spine through the mid-2000s and early 2010s.
Terry at his best was arguably the best central defender in the world, earning him four selections to the UEFA Team of the Year.
Chelsea’s defence in Jose Mourinho’s first spell was impenetrable – Terry was a huge part of that, not just as a footballer, but a leader, marshalling his troops at the back.
An underrated passer too, the former England captain was more than comfortable playing out from the back when required.
Joining Terry at the heart of defence is former West Ham, Leeds and Manchester United man Rio Ferdinand.
Ferdinand’s central defensive partner Nemanja Vidic could have been put here, as could Vincent Kompany or Tony Adams.
His longevity and peak gives him the edge of that trio, however, and it’s hard to argue with a player who was selected to the PFA Team of the Season six times over an 11-year span.
A gifted passer of the ball and with pace to play high up the pitch, Ferdinand was a complete centre-back. His partnership with Vidic might just be the best in Premier League history.
Completing an all-English defence, Ashley Cole’s spot is without even a reasonable challenger. Cole, a perennial trophy winner at Arsenal and Chelsea, was the best left-back in the world for a prolonged period.
Cole played a major part in 14 Premier League seasons across the two London clubs. He won a 2001/02 double with Arsenal, started 32 matches in the Gunners’ invincible campaign and was crucial in Chelsea’s 2009/10 double.
His seven FA Cup winners’ medals are a record, and he was heroic for Chelsea as they won the Champions League in 2012. Counting the medals doesn’t say it all about Cole though.
He was, ultimately, a superb defender, who made countless goal-line clearances throughout his long Premier League career. The 107-cap former England international developed into a solid attacking force down the left, too.
Another member of Arsenal’s Invincibles, Patrick Vieira was competing directly with Roy Keane for this position (think we’ve seen that duel once or twice before).
The 6’4” Frenchman spent seven seasons with the Gunners, guiding them to two Doubles and that Invincibles season. An end-of-career campaign with Manchester City allowed Premier League fans to witness another season of Vieira, though he was far from his best.
Replacing Vieira has proved to be an impossible task for Arsenal as they’ve slipped away from contention, leaving them at 6/4 in 888sport’s Premier League odds to finish in the top four next season.
This slot, in the second of our midfield two, was a re-run of the Lampard-Scholes-Gerrard debate, with a bit of Yaya Toure thrown in for good measure.
Lampard was not a naturally talented as Scholes or Gerrard. His work ethic is well-documented, and he got the results he put all those hours in on the training pitch for.
A more well-rounded player than he often got credit for, Lampard at his best could impact the game in all areas of the pitch and was an underrated passer. His goals were his headline-makers, though, and no midfielder comes close to his scoring in Premier League history.
The most recent player in this side, Manchester City’s magical Spaniard David Silva will be playing in a free role just off of Vieira and Lampard.
Since arriving at Manchester City in 2010, Silva has become an integral part of the club along with Kompany and Sergio Aguero.
A star in four Premier League titles, Silva has been unfortunate to only make it into the PFA Team of the Season twice.
Arguably the best creator in Premier League history, Manchester City wouldn’t have become the dominant force they are today without Silva.
Considering Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best footballers in the history of the game, this was a surprisingly hard pick.
Unlike the others in this side, Ronaldo’s Premier League peak was short. He won three titles on the bounce before leaving for Madrid, along with a Champions League and his first Ballon d’Or.
That peak period from 2006/07 up to his departure was so high, though, that it warrants a place in this team.
His 2007/08 year, when he scored 42 in 49 appearances and United did the league-Champions League double, might be the greatest individual campaign in the Premier League’s 20-odd seasons.
A third player from Arsenal’s Invincibles, Thierry Henry is the fifth-highest goal scorer in Premier League history and claimed four Golden Boot awards to go with six PFA Team of the Year selections and his two Premier League winners’ medals.
Electrically quick with eye-widening dribbling and ruthless finishing, Henry was unplayable at times. Capable of embarrassing you with sheer pace or a moment of skill, the Frenchman was extremely unlucky never to win the ballon d’Or.
In this team, he’ll have freedom to drift away from the middle of the pitch, pick up the ball from deep and run at the defence while his strike partner occupies the middle…
Who else? Alan Shearer’s 260 Premier League goals will take some beating.
Shearer lived the dream. He won the title with Blackburn Rovers, as part of a formidable partnership with now outspoken TV pundit Chris Sutton. Then he became most-expensive footballer in the world, joining his boyhood club Newcastle United.
He passed 20 Premier League goals seven separate seasons and scored more than 30 three times – in three consecutive campaigns for Blackburn, in fact.
Shearer might not have always been on teams competing for titles, but his goal-scoring record speaks for itself.
Finding the net 260 times across just 441 appearances, Shearer might not have the medals like some others do, but it’s hard to argue against his place in any Greatest XI.