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The best Premier League players of the 90s

The best Premier League players of the 90s

In 1992, football changed forever: the Premier League kicked off, propelling the English – and world – game into a bold new era.

By the end of the 90s, this fledgling competition was well on its way to becoming the best league in the world – with the help of an all-star cast of talent from England and beyond.

Here, FourFourTwo counts down the best Premier League players of the 90s…

32. Graeme Le Saux

Graeme Le Saux

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England’s go-to left-back in the latter half of the 90s, Jersey-born Graeme Le Saux won the 1994/95 Premier League title with Blackburn Rovers.

Named in two PFA Teams of the Year during the decade, Le Saux became the most expensive defender in English football history when he left Blackburn to re-join Chelsea for £5m in 1997.

31. Chris Sutton

Chris Sutton

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Another key member of Blacburn’s title-winning team, Chris Sutton formed the deadly ‘SAS’ strike partnership with Alan Shearer, scoring 15 Premier League goals in 1994/95 – having banged in 25 for Norwich City the previous season.

In 1997/98, Sutton shared the Golden Boot in a three-way tie with Dion Dublin and a young Michael Owen.

30. Gary Speed

Gary Speed

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Having helped Leeds to be crowned champions of England in the final season of the old First Division, the legendary Gary Speed stayed with them through the first four years of the Premier League era.

Highly dependable in the middle of the park, the Welshman – who finished the 90s with spells at Everton and Newcastle – made the inaugural PFA Premier League Team of the Year in 1992/93.

29. Gary Neville

Gary Neville

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The first of many members of Manchester United’s iconic ‘Class of ‘92’ who you’re going to see on this list, Gary Neville had made the Red Devils’ right-back spot his own by 1995.

Between then and the end of the decade, Neville helped himself to three Premier League winner’s medals – most notably one as part of United’s famous 1998/99 treble – and was included in three PFA Teams of the Year.

28. Ruud Gullit

Ruud Gullit poses after signing for Chelsea, June 1995

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Ruud Gullit was past his peak as one of the best midfielders in the world when he arrived at Chelsea in 1995, but the supremely versatile Dutchman still brought immense class to the Premier League.

Named in the 1995/96 PFA Team of the Year, Gullit only made 48 league appearances for the Blues – but he more than made his mark, taking over as player-manager just 12 months after joining.

27. Marc Overmars

Marc Overmars

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Another Dutch great to grace England’s top flight in the 90s, Marc Overmars swapped Ajax for Arsenal in the summer of 1997. “With my speed and quality, I think it will be good for me here,” he modestly said.

And, to be fair, he was right: the enormously gifted winger played an integral role in the Gunners’ 1997/98 Premier League title triumph, scoring 12 goals and providing five assists.

26. Steve McManaman

Steve McManaman

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Among English football’s greatest ever exports, Steve McManaman left Liverpool for Real Madrid in 1999 – but before that, he had established himself as one of the most electric wingers in the Premier League.

A local lad, McManaman featured 240 times for the Reds in the competition, notching 41 goals and helping his boyhood club to two third-placed finishes.

25. Dwight Yorke

Dwight Yorke

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Surely the greatest Caribbean footballer of all time, Dwight Yorke was well-established with Aston Villa by the dawn of the Premier League.

A haul of 46 league goals between 1995 and 1998 earned the Trinidad and Tobago icon a massive move to Manchester United – where he continued to bang them in, winning the Golden Boot and Premier League Player of the Season in his first campaign (and doing the treble, of course).

24. Paul Ince

Paul Ince

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One of Manchester United’s standout players of the early 90s, Paul Ince played a key role in the Red Devils’ back-to-back title victories at the start of the Premier League era – as well as making it into the first three PFA Premier League Teams of the Year.

Tirelessly hard-working in his defensive midfield capacity, ‘The Guvnor’ left the English top flight for Inter Milan in 1995 but returned two years later to join Liverpool.

23. Peter Beardsley

Peter Beardsley

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The Newcastle legend with a penchant for dribbling, Peter Beardsley was one of the main men in Kevin Keegan’s ‘Entertainers’ side who lit up the Premier League in the mid-90s, pushing Man United all the way in 1995/96.

Included in the 1993/94 PFA Team of the Year after a 21-goal campaign, Beardsley netted 47 times in the competition for Newcastle – before finishing his Premier League career with Bolton Wanderers in 1997/98.

22. Denis Irwin

Denis Irwin

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So underrated that he didn’t even select himself in his best Manchester United 11, Denis Irwin was the epitome of reliability at left-back (or, when called upon, right-back).

A rare truly two-footed player, the Republic of Ireland great joined United from Oldham Athletic in 1990 and spent the remainder of the decade at Old Trafford, winning five Premier League titles and scoring his fair share of penalties.

21. Steve Bruce

Steve Bruce and Bryan Robson

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With Bryan Robson hampered by injury, Steve Bruce (above left) captained Man United for most of the inaugural Premier League season, jointly lifting the trophy with Robson as Sir Alex Ferguson’s men were crowned champions.

One of the best players never to be capped by England, Bruce formed a formidable centre-back partnership with Gary Pallister.

20. Gary Pallister

Gary Pallister

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Steve Bruce’s imperious central defensive colleague, Gary Pallister made the PFA Team of the Year in the Premier League’s first four seasons – and again in 1997/98, his ninth and final campaign with Manchester United.

Capped 22 times by England, Pallister won four titles before finishing his career back at Middlesbrough, the club where it all began for him.

19. Teddy Sheringham

Teddy Sheringham

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The very first Premier League Golden Boot winner – with 22 goals (one for Nottingham Forest, 21 for Tottenham) in 1992/93 – Teddy Sheringham certainly knew where the net was.

By the end of the 90s, he had moved on to Manchester United – starring in their 1998/99 treble triumph – and was closing in on 100 Premier League goals.

18. Les Ferdinand

Les Ferdinand

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Holder of the record for the most Premier League goals without ever scoring a penalty (111), Les Ferdinand found the net for fun during spells with QPR and Newcastle, reaching the 20-goal mark in a single campaign on three occasions.

‘Sir Les’ never got his hands on the Golden Boot (blame Alan Shearer), but his brilliance was recognised with the 1995/96 PFA Players’ Player of the Year award.

17. Patrick Vieira

Patrick Vieira

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Easily one of the finest midfielders in Premier League history, Patrick Vieira joined Arsenal shortly before his French compatriot Arsene Wenger’s appointment in the summer of 1996.

Credited with making “dream passes” by teammate Ian Wright, Vieira quickly proved his world-class midfield credentials, proving absolutely crucial to the Gunners’ 1997/98 title win.

16. Michael Owen

Michael Owen

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Prodigious. That’s the first word that comes to mind when we think of 90s Michael Owen – who well and truly exploded onto the scene with Liverpool as a 17-year-old.

In his first full professional season, 1997/98 Owen bagged 18 Premier League goals to share the Golden Boot with Dion Dublin and Chris Sutton. He also scooped that year’s PFA Young Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season awards – not a bad start!

15. David Seaman

David Seaman

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David Seaman was at the peak of his powers during the 90s, providing a safe pair of hands between the sticks for Arsenal through thick and thin.

The moustachioed (and later ponytailed) England number one kept 23 clean sheets in 53 Premier League appearances across the 1996/97 and 1997/98 campaigns, making the PFA Team of the Year in the former.

14. Paul McGrath

Paul McGrath

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One of the best defenders in world football during the late 80s and early 90s, Paul McGrath excelled in the Premier League for Aston Villa, winning 1993 PFA Players’ Player of the Year.

An ever-present in 1992/93 despite chronic knee pain, the Irishman was simply immense at the back, helping Villa finish in that inaugural Premier League campaign – and making 242 appearances for them in the competition overall.

13. Tony Adams

Tony Adams

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Arsenal’s first Premier League-winning captain, Tony Adams was undoubtedly one of the Gunners’ most invaluable contributors throughout the first decade of England’s revamped top flight.

Included in the PFA’s 1993/94, 1995/96 and 1996/97 Teams of the Year, and their Team of the Century, the towering centre-half is rightly regarded as an all-time great in (one half of) North London.

12. David Ginola

David Ginola

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Manchester United may have dominated the 1998/99 season – but it belonged to David Ginola on a personal level, as he took the Premier League by the scruff of the neck during a dazzling campaign for Tottenham, doing the PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA (Footballer Writers’ Association) Footballer of the Year double.

That was the French wing wizard’s high point in England – but he was more than useful either side of it, starring for Newcastle and Spurs.

11. Ian Wright

Ian Wright

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Not only an Arsenal legend but one of the most popular figures in the English game, Ian Wright banged in 104 goals in the first six seasons of the Premier League, ending his Gunners career on a real high by helping them lift the title.

A naturally clinical finisher, Wright was on target 23 times in each of the 1993/94 and 1996/97 Premier League campaigns.

10. Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes

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By the late 90s, Paul Scholes was establishing himself as of the best all-round midfielders in the game – and had already got his hands on three Premier League winner’s medals with Manchester United.

Handed his top-flight debut in September 1994, shortly before his 20th birthday, the 66-cap England international partnered Roy Keane in an elite midfield duo.

9. Matt Le Tissier

Matt Le Tissier

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Up there with the most gifted footballers of his generation, Matt Le Tissier should have won more England caps than the eight he did – but the Guernsey-born attacking midfield genius more than proved his brilliance in a Southampton shirt.

The Premier League’s leading provider with 15 assists in 1994/95, he also scores some of its greatest goals – none more notable than this sublime brace against Newcastle in 1993.

8. Roy Keane

Roy Keane

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The ultimate Premier League hardman, Roy Keane joined Manchester United off the back of an impressive debut campaign in the competition for Nottingham Forest; by the end of the 90s, the iconic Irish midfielder was a four-time Premier League champion.

Notoriously uncompromising, Keane’s no-nonsense approach didn’t win him too many friends among his opponents – but do we really think he cares? His silverware record speaks for itself.

7. David Beckham

David Beckham

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You know where we’re going to begin with our assessment of David Beckham in the 90s: yep, that arrival-announcing goal against Wimbledon on the opening day of the 1996/97 season.

In that moment, the Premier League knew it had a special talent on its hands, and Becks remained a dazzling presence on the Manchester United right throughout the decade, winning 1996/97 PFA Young Player of the Year and three Premier League titles.

6. Ryan Giggs

Ryan Giggs

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A member of all 13 of Sir Alex Ferguson’s title-winning teams at Man United, Ryan Giggs was already a five-time Premier League champion come 1999 – when he starred alongside Scholes, Keane et all in the Red Devils’ historic treble triumph.

The Welsh wing wizard burst onto the scene at the start of the decade, picking up 1992/93 PFA Young Player of the Year – and he only went from strength to strength, scoring in every league campaign of the 90s.

5. Andy Cole

Andy Cole

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One of the deadliest finishers of his generation, Andy Cole racked up more than 100 Premier League goals during the 90s – having only been promoted to the top flight with Newcastle in 1993.

Few players have marked their maiden Premier League campaign in such style as Cole, whose Golden Boot-winning haul of 34 goals in 1993/94 remained a competition record for almost 30 years.

Cole the Goal’s prolific form convinced Man United to cough up a British-record £7m in January 1995 – and he kept banging them in.

4. Dennis Bergkamp

Dennis Bergkamp

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Among the most technically gifted players ever to grace a Premier League pitch, all-time Arsenal great Dennis Bergkamp produced jaw-dropping moment of brilliance after jaw-dropping moment of brilliance.

The inimitable Dutchman was voted the Gunners’ 1996/97 Player of the Season, before playing a pivotal role in their maiden Premier League title win the following season.

Named 1997/98 PFA Players’ Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year, perhaps his finest performance came in August 1997, when he scored probably the greatest Premier League hat-trick against Leicester.

3. Peter Schmeichel

Peter Schmeichel

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Called the “bargain of the century” by Sir Alex Ferguson – who brought him to Manchester United from Brondby for £505,000 in 1991 – the gigantic Dane led the Premier League for clean sheets in 1994/95, 1995/96 and 1997/98, winning five titles.

Quite possibly the best goalkeeper in all of Premier League history, Peter Schmeichel was easily the division’s standout custodian of the 90s – and one of the finest in world football, for that matter.

2. Alan Shearer

Alan Shearer

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The ultimate Premier League goalscorer, only one player even comes within 50 goals of Alan Shearer’s record of 260.

England’s Euro ’96 top-scoring striker got the vast majority of that 260 for Newcastle – where he enjoys godlike status – having previously fired Blackburn to the 1994/95 title as one half of the ‘SAS’ partnership with Chris Sutton.

PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 1994/95 and 1996/97, Shearer won three straight Golden Boots between those two seasons.

1. Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona

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Few players have ever influenced the Premier League so profoundly as Eric Cantona, the competition’s first foreign superstar and Manchester United’s greatest overseas import of all time.

Having arrived in the English top flight with Leeds, the famously enigmatic Frenchman joined their arch-rivals, United, in 1992 – and proceeded to play a talismanic role in four Premier League title wins, including as captain in 1996/97.

Voted 1993/94 PFA Players’ Player of the Year and 1995/96 FWA Footballer of the Year, Cantona scored 64 goals – among them that chip against Sunderland – and provided 56 assists in 143 Prem games.

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