The No.7 is one of the most iconic shirt numbers in English football.
From George Best to Kenny Dalglish to Eric Cantona to David Beckham… some of the most iconic attacking players England has ever seen have worn the number seven on their backs. And now also Joao Cancelo, a full-back.
Raheem Sterling’s Chelsea transfer left Manchester City’s No.7 shirt vacant for the upcoming season. The situation seemed perfect for Riyad Mahrez or Phil Foden to take the shirt. Instead, Cancelo was given the honour. And while Cancelo is absolutely world-class, it still feels weird to have a full-back wear such an iconic attacking number.
But it made us wonder: is Joao Cancelo the best No.7 in the Premier League now? We’ve had a look and ranked all sixteen No.7s in England’s top flight (Brighton, Everton, Nottingham Forest and West Ham do not have anyone wearing the No.7 right now).
16. Ian Poveda
Leeds’ young winger spent last season on loan at Blackburn in the Championship, where he played just 372 minutes.
15. David Brooks
David Brooks was so, so special but he has had rotten luck with injuries and ill-health every year since 2018. He missed nearly all of last season as he recovered from Hodgkin Lymphoma.
Thankfully he announced in the Spring that he is now cancer free and will be looking to remind everyone just how talented he is. We wish you nothing but luck, David!
— David Brooks (@DRBrooks15) May 3, 2022
14. Pedro Neto
One of the best names in the game, Pedro Neto is a flying winger who looked like being Wolves’ next big sale until a knee injury wrecked him for much of 2021/22. Now he’s back and looking to re-establish himself.
13. Neeskens Kebano
The man with the legendary name, Neeskens Kebano is a truly dynamic box-to-box midfielder. Last season in the Championship he managed an impressive nine goals and six assists, but more impressively his total of 47 completed take-ons was the highest among all Fulham players.
12. Sergi Canos
Brentford were a wonderfully exciting side as they made their Premier League bow and Sergi Canos’ infectious energy and skill on the ball were a part of why. He wasn’t the most productive with just three goals and two assists, but it’s something he and Thomas Frank can build on.
11. Joe Aribo
Last season Joe Aribo played more than one position for Rangers as they finished second, won the Scottish Cup and made it all the way to the Europa League final where they lost. Aribo’s tactical intelligence and big-game nerve was so impressive Saints instantly brought him south, and will be hoping he can replicate the kind of excellence that the last big signing they made from the Old Firm (one Virgil van Dijk) did.
10. James Milner
James Milner the ageless needs no introduction nor explanation. The Beep Test God, the only shame about him and his magnificent career is that he never got to play for fellow fitness enthusiast Antonio Conte.
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9. John McGinn
Club: Aston Villa
There are moments when John McGinn looks like a Scottish Steven Gerrard, able to take games by the scruff of the neck and turn them his team’s way through sheer force of will. However there are also moments where John McGinn looks like a Scottish Steven Gerrard, failing to bring any control or stability to Villa’s play without the help of more tactically savvy defensive midfielders behind him.
I bet his manager, the actual Steven Gerrard, loves him.
8. Michael Olise
Club: Crystal Palace
Michael Olise is a sensational young talent whose every touch on the field oozes and elegancy and creativity that young wingers rarely show. Olise plays with the guile and charm of a much more experienced player. Olise’s potential is so high he could play for a Champions League side, but his style is so creative and insistent that the biggest issue he could face is his team-mates not playing up to his standard!
7. Harvey Barnes
The delightful Harvey Barnes struggled with injury last season but still managed to thrill Leicester fans when he was fit. The way he can drive and dribble in from the left flank, causing havoc among opposing defences, is a rare talent indeed. Brendan Rodgers will be hoping that he can stay fit for the upcoming season, because if he can, he can fly up this list.
Make no mistake about it, Joelinton was a massive flop as a striker. He would have been bottom on any list. However Eddie Howe moved him into midfield and the Brazilian was like a man reborn, a tyrannical presence in the midfield, putting in 72 tackles and 34 interceptions. Joelinton is now a man to be feared.
5. N’Golo Kanté
One-time Ballon d’Or contender, N’Golo Kanté is still a true folk hero in the Premier League. Bar a European Championship with France, he’s won it all. And he’s been so dominant in all those triumphs, too. But not last season. Last season he seemed to suffer from physical decline, and it it seriously impacted Chelsea’s ability to play the way they want to. He’s still great, but something is missing.
4. Bukayo Saka
Arsenal’s Starboy is a sublime footballer who, somehow, is still only 20 years old. Saka is a genuine delight to watch, able to drive at opponents and blitz them with skill, pace or skill and pace. And he’s becoming more and more decisive in front of goal, too. Last season he scored 11 goals and seven assists in the Premier League (both team highs) while also completing 43 take-ons (only Gabriel Martinelli has more for Arsenal).
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
Club: Manchester United
Sure, he can’t press.
Sure, he can’t run the counter-attack anymore.
Sure, his obsessive and overpowering personality completely shattered the dressing room harmony at Manchester United.
Sure, he’s now trying to run away from the club.
But you can’t deny that the man knows how to score goals. Even now, in his clearly diminished state, playing for a team that were rubbish on a good day, Cristiano Ronaldo scored 18 Premier League goals. Only two men managed more.
You could argue that 11 of those 18 goals came against three sides (Norwich, Arsenal and Spurs) and that would be true. It knocks the shine of the total, but you can also look at it and say that he scored 11 times in six games, including two hat-tricks, at 37 years old!
Cristiano Ronaldo definitely scores goals.
2. Joao Cancelo
Club: Manchester City
Joao Cancelo wearing the No.7 may be a crime, but there’s no denying he is an absolutely majestic footballer. Playing as an inverted full-back on the left, Cancelo spends much of his time in midfield for Manchester City essentially performing he role of a centre midfielder.
Cancelo advances the ball and keeps City’s possession machine ticking over with remarkable consistency. He doesn’t have the gaudy metrics of others on this list, and he really shouldn’t be wearing No.7, but he is wearing it and one expects he will wear it tremendously well.
1. Heung-min Son
No one in the Premier League scored more goals than Heung-min Son in 2021/22. The Korean international ended the season with 23 goals, level with Mohamed Salah, meaning that he became the first Asian footballer to win the golden boot.
What’s more impressive, however, is that Son’s 23 goals were all from open play. No penalties whatsoever. If you take penalties away from everyone, then Son would be clear at the top as Salah would move down to 18 goals, while Sadio Mané would now be third with 16.
For a player like Son to be so relentlessly consistent, even carrying Spurs through those early games in the season when Harry Kane was still sulking, to win the golden boot with no penalties… there can be no better No.7 in the Premier League than Heung-min Son.