Written by Ryan Fisher
The Premier League has been graced with some incredible talents over the years. Gareth Bale, Luis Suarez, Thierry Henry and Cristiano Ronaldo all made their legendary names in England’s top flight, yet they all moved abroad to cement their legacies.
Suarez and Henry moved to Barcelona, and Bale and Ronaldo travelled to Real Madrid, and they all took to La Liga like a duck to water, and continued to perform to a world-class standard.
The Premier League needs to halt the alarming trend of its best players migrating to Spain to cement their legacy, and they are taking serious steps towards doing so. England’s top division is by far the wealthiest, with television deals pumping so much money into clubs, that Manchester United can spend £90 million on one player, and all teams in the league can splash up to £50 million in summer transfer windows.
Added to this, the influx of superstar managers to the Premier League has made a move to England a far more desirable one. Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp have all taken over a huge league side in the past 18 months.
This all bodes well for the Premier League, with superstar names like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Paul Pogba arriving in the Premier League, and players like Alexis Sanchez, Mesut Ozil, Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero and Phillippe Coutinho still playing in England, the future of the league is promising.
But who is the best player in the league? There are a number of candidates, so let’s start with some honourable mentions:
Mesut Ozil: The German playmaker has an assist record that very few players in the history of football can match. His silky passing ability and creativity behind the striker is unrivalled in the Premier League, but he has failed to deliver for Arsenal when it’s really mattered. In the crunch games against title and top four rivals, Ozil hasn’t been the standout player he is against lower teams, the game drifts him by and that’s why he doesn’t make the top ten.
Toby Alderweireld: While the standard of attacking football seems to be on the rise in the Premier League, defensive ability has been at an all-time low for a few years now. It’s the main reason English sides’ performances in European competitions has dropped off so dramatically from the days of having three out of the four Champions League semi-finalists before the turn of the decade. However, Mauricio Pochettino has established Tottenham as perhaps the most defensively solid team in the whole division, with Alderweireld at the centre of this. The Belgian is one of the best defenders in the league, combining a good passing ability and forward-thinking mind, with great strength and physicality as well as a sense of danger that means he reads the game superbly well.
Hugo Lloris: Behind that phenomenal back four is a phenomenal goalkeeper. Lloris has proven himself to be up there with the best in the world, drawing out some outrageous stops in the Champions League, as well as last summer’s European Championships.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan: The Armenian talisman only misses out on the list because of his non-start to the league season. Mkhitaryan was the highest-rated player in the Bundesliga last season, according to WhoScored and for good reason. Nobody assisted more goals than he did last year in Germany, which earned him a big money move to Manchester United. Since then, he endure a tough start under Jose Mourinho, unable to break into the side as the Portuguese claimed he was protecting Mkhitaryan. However, when he broke into the side, he made quite the impact. No other United player has won as many man of the match awards since his return to the starting eleven, which speaks volumes about his quality.
11: Philippe Coutinho: The Brazilian wonderkid only cost Liverpool £8 million when Brendan Rodgers brought him in from Inter Milan. He possesses a flair that very few other players have in their arsenal, which makes him a prime asset for Jurgen Klopp. He recently signed a contract extension, warding off interest from Barcelona, a crucial move as he can be the talisman to fire Liverpool to their first title in over a quarter of a century. His ability to strike from long range, as well as seamlessly dribble through teams and play in his teammates puts him right up there as one of the best in the division.
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10: Harry Kane: Under Pochettino, Kane has been a revelation. Last year’s top goalscorer in the Premier League, Kane has established himself as a prolific finisher and an indispensable aspect of the Tottenham side, as was seen when they struggled for goals wins when he was injured. Already an England regular, he was the main reason behind Spurs challenging for the title last year, but falling short to Arsenal and Leicester. His loyalty to Tottenham has led many pundits to say that Kane may be the only player to be able to break Alan Shearer’s record of Premier League goals, that has stood for over a decade.
9: Paul Pogba: The world’s most expensive player has all the potential to become the best player in the league and indeed the world, but he’s not there yet. His attributes are obvious, at six feet, four inches, the Frenchman is a physical specimen and an aerial threat, and not many other midfielders can live with him in these areas. His dribbling and acceleration make him deadly in transferring defence into attack, which he can do with such skill and flair, that is very rarely seen in a player of such size and physicality. Although sometimes sloppy, Pogba has an incredible passing range, one that can’t be rivalled by more than a few other players in world football. This, combined with a ball-striking talent that can remove the net from the goal posts, makes him a lethal weapon in any midfield today.
8: Kevin de Bruyne: The Belgian playmaker arrived looking to prove a point after it didn’t work out for him at Chelsea. He was under a lot of pressure too with a £60 million price tag weighing heavily on his shoulders. But he hasn’t disappointed, de Bruyne has proven himself to be perhaps the best playmaker in the league, if not the world. His eye for a pass is second to none, and has a great ability of finding the top corner, sending the whole stadium into jubilation. He has struggled for goals this term, but has still taken control of massive games, the Manchester derby in early September at Old Trafford the finest example of that.
7: David de Gea: Manchester United’s player of the year for three consecutive years has quickly become the Premier League’s best goalkeeper, and maybe even the world. De Gea was only outvoted by Manuel Neuer and Gianluigi Buffon for a place in the team of the year, a pointer to his incredible abilities. While he doesn’t make as many headlines this year as the United team he plays in is far better now than under David Moyes or Louis van Gaal, he has been their saviour. He’s salvaged so many points for the Red Devils in the past three years that it’s unthinkable to imagine where they’d be without him. A move to Real Madrid was only halted by a dodgy fax machine, which Ed Woodward and the Glazer family should put in a museum for the points, and subsequently the money it has saved them.
6: Sergio Aguero: The Argentinian’s Manchester City record speaks for itself. One of the most clinical strikers in Premier League history, Aguero transformed City from nearly men to title winners, with one of the most iconic moments in footballing history. Despite sustaining two or three injuries in most seasons, Aguero is almost a guarantee for 20 goals a season, an invaluable asset for any manager. The fact that he only cost £38 million to pry away from Atletico Madrid is mind-boggling; his goals have certainly made the sky blues far more money than that. If this list was written last year, Aguero would be at number one, but his drop-off under Pep Guardiola has been sudden and peculiar considering the quality of the player.
5: Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Despite being 35-years-old, Ibrahimovic is still a brutal striker with an incredible eye for goal. Many people doubted whether the iconic Swede could cut it in the Premier League at his age, but all of his doubters have been silenced. He’s netted 20 goals for ten seasons in a row now, making him one of the best players of his generation. The dribbling and flair on the ball that Ibrahimovic possesses is almost unnatural for a six foot, five inches man with his physical demeanour. Being the oldest player to reach 15 Premier League goals in a season, Ibrahimovic still has 14 league games to add to his total, which could easily total 30 if he gets on a good run of form.
4: Diego Costa: There are two sides to Diego Costa, a fiery goalscorer who won’t let any defender get in his way, and a stroppy moaner who doesn’t have the correct mindset for winning games. More often than not, the former trumps the latter, and the Brazilian born Costa has shown his unbelievable goalscoring abilities in abundance this season, matching Ibrahimovic with 15 goals. A ferocious physical player, Costa can muscle his way past any defender, and have the pace and quick feet to come out the other side and create a goalscoring opportunity for himself or his teammates. When he is fit and firing, he is lethal.
3: Alexis Sanchez: The Chilean magician has been Arsenal’s catalyst this term, driving them towards a top four finish. He has been more than effective on the wing for a number of years at Udinese, Barcelona and the Gunners, but has been revitalised by playing up front for Arsene Wenger this term. Pace and dogged determination are cornerstones of his game, combined with a finishing ability that many natural strikers couldn’t hold a handle to means he also ties Ibrahimovic with 15 goals this season. He has launched Chile to two Copa America titles, and has also picked up the FA Cup with Arsenal, but is visibly craving more silverware.
2: Eden Hazard: Hazard’s influence may have wavered last season, but it’s been unquestionable this term. His fast paced dribbling and direct running at defenders has returned, which makes him a menacing threat to any defender on the planet. Perhaps Mourinho’s comparison to Ronaldo were premature, but they weren’t unfounded. The skill that the Belgian possesses, as well as the fear he bestows on the opposition hark back to the days when the Portuguese superstar was lighting up the league for Manchester United. Without any defensive responsibility, Hazard looks happy again, comfortable again, and ready to win another Premier League title, and presumably, another PFA player of the year award.
1: N’Golo Kante: For so long the unsung hero, Kante is finally getting the praise he deserves. He arrived in the Premier League for a tiny £5 million and transformed Leicester from relegation battlers to title winners. He covers ground in the midfield at the speed of light and is always there for the vital tackle and interception. He’s made more tackles in the Premier League than any other player in the past three seasons, and he’s only been here for two. Leicester’s leaky defence was made to look ominous with Kante in front of it, which is evident as Wes Morgan, Robert Huth and co. are back to struggling with relegation and a losing battle against conceding goals without the Frenchman. It’s also clear that the Leicester attack is weak without him. With Kante in the team, the wingers were free to roam forward, and Danny Drinkwater free to play in Jamie Vardy which usually ended in three points for Claudio Ranieri’s men. Since his departure, Vardy, Mahrez and Drinkwater are shells of the players we all saw last year. Didier Deschamps was quick to notice his impact, as Kante strolled into the French national side for the Euros ahead of Blaise Matuidi, an established player for PSG and France, and guided them to the final. He arrived at Chelsea for a bargain at £30 million, and immediately improved the side. After the switch to the 3-4-3, a back three of David Luiz, Cesar Azpilicueta and Gary Cahill, which would have been terrifiying to a Chelsea fan last year, has been the most solid in the whole division. He is truly the best player in the Premier League today.
Do you agree with these selections? What changes would you make? Let us know in the comments below!