As if the internet needed another topic of Premier League debate.
The English top-flight announced this week that a brand new ‘Hall of Fame’ will be launched in March, in order to recognise those players of “exceptional skill and talent” who have graced our shores since the inception of the Premier League in 1992.
Of course, there are a few players out there who seem certain to become a member of the exclusive club in the near future. The rule is that the player must be officially retired from football.
However, if the rules were slightly different and every club currently participating in the competition got one entrant, who would be inducted? We’ve chosen one ‘Hall of Famer’ from each current Premier League side, considering players past and present to accommodate for those whose first top-flight forays came too recently.
Prepare to disagree.
Arsenal: Thierry Henry
There’s a plethora of Arsenal players likely to feature in the ‘Hall of Fame’, but Henry is the standout candidate for the Gunners.
He’s Arsenal’s all-time top goalscorer with a whopping 176 Premier League goals, he won the Golden Boot a record four times and he was a pivotal part of the only team to ever go a full Premier League season without losing (for now, anyway). He also holds the record for most assists in a Premier League campaign (20) and still managed to score 24 goals on top of those assists, too. Ridiculous.
Yet, somehow, these stats still don’t do him justice. A simply phenomenal player, one of the best to ever play in England, whose legacy should remain untouched for the rest of our lives.
Aston Villa: Paul McGrath
Younger readers may not know just how good McGrath was, but the fact that he’s referred to as ‘God’ by Villa fans goes some way to show just how talented the centre-back was.
He was part of the Villa side that narrowly missed out on the title to Manchester United in the first-ever Premier League season and is one of just six defenders to have won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year; the only defenders to have won it since are John Terry and Virgil van Dijk. Not a bad back three, that.
McGrath made over 300 appearances for Villa (he nearly signed for Napoli instead) before moving to Derby. He is idolised by the Villa Park faithful, who continued to sing his name for years after he left.
Bournemouth: Callum Wilson
The Cherries are very much still in their top-flight infancy, but no one has had more of an effect for Eddie Howe’s side than striker Callum Wilson.
He scored Bournemouth’s first-ever Premier League hat-trick away at West Ham before an ACL injury put his future in doubt. However, he bounced back stronger than ever. He managed 14 goals last season – only Vardy scored more outside of the ‘Big Six’ – and only Josh King has scored more goals for the Cherries in the Premier League than Wilson.
His place is far from secure on this list, but he just edges it at the time of writing.
Brighton: Lewis Dunk
Brighton are in the same boat as Bournemouth (as are many other teams) in terms of a lack of Premier League history. Even so, their captain Lewis Dunk is the obvious choice.
Saturday’s clash with Crystal Palace will be his 100th appearance in the top flight for Brighton (no one has more). He’s played in every single Premier League victory the Seagulls have managed. In fact, they’re yet to record one of those without him. Dunk has even managed to squeeze into their top five Premier League goalscorers.
His imperious leadership from the back has been vital for Chris Hughton and Graham Potter and it even earned him an England call-up last season. A fantastic captain who would add something to most sides in the division.
Burnley: Ben Mee
A true veteran for Sean Dyche, Ben Mee has played a massive role in Burnley’s recent success. A lot of what we said about Dunk is also applicable to the Burnley skipper, who has marshalled one of the league’s most rigid defences magnificently for nearly 10 years now.
He didn’t miss a single minute last season and is on course to repeat that trick once again. He and James Tarkowski have struck up an excellent partnership over the past few years and are ever heavily relied upon by their manager.
Mee’s got more appearances (161) and more wins (47) than any other Burnley player in the Premier League and will undoubtedly go down as a Clarets’ legend when he eventually hangs up his boots.
Chelsea: John Terry
Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Gianfranco Zola deserve honourable mentions here, but John Terry is one of the first names you think of when someone says “Premier League legend”.
Where do we even begin? Terry was a beast at the heart of Chelsea’s defence for over 15 years. He is the highest-scoring defender in their history, as well as being the only man to captain a side to the Premier League title on five different occasions. He won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2005 and was in the FIFPro World XI for five years in a row.
He is arguably the greatest defender in the competition’s history and is likely to be one of the first names in the ‘Hall of Fame’.
Crystal Palace: Andy Johnson
Not Wilfried Zaha, I hear you ask?
Nope. Although Zaha has been unbelievable for the Eagles, Andy Johnson’s solitary season with them in the Premier League will go down in Palace, and Premier League, folklore.
Despite the fact Palace got relegated, Johnson was nominated for the PFA Players’ Player of the Year after scoring 21 goals in the 2004/05 season. Only Thierry Henry managed more. He didn’t win the award, but given that he was up against Henry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Petr Cech and John Terry, the fact he was nominated is impressive in itself.
He later played for Fulham and Everton in the top flight but never hit the heights that he managed at Selhurst Park.
Everton: Leighton Baines
Baines may not be the player he once was, but there was a time where he was widely regarded as one of the best full-backs around.
His performances for Everton in the early 2010s critical to their success, as his deliveries from the left as well as his magnificent set-piece ability got the Toffees to within touching distance of a Champions League spot.
He won Everton’s Player of the Year in both 2011 and 2012 and has accumulated 53 Premier League assists. That’s more than any other defender in the competition’s history.
Duncan Ferguson was close to nicking this spot, but Baines deserves recognition.
Leicester: Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy has nearly done it all in the Premier League for Leicester. He’s scored crucial goals that have helped them stay up, he’s scored goals that have helped them win the title and he’s also scored in 11 consecutive games, a Premier League record. Basically, he’s scored a lot of goals.
His role in Leicester’s remarkable 2015/16 season has already etched his name into English football history, and Vardy is just three goals off joining the ‘100 club’ now, which would truly cement his place as one of the greatest strikers to have played in the top flight.
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Liverpool: Steven Gerrard
A strong contender for one of the easiest decisions on this list. But If Liverpool manage to go the rest of this season unbeaten and can sustain the success over a prolonged period of time, maybe Gerrard will have a strong rival. However, Liverpool’s pre-eminent ‘Hall of Famer’ can be no one else right now.
Despite famously never winning the league, he did nearly everything else. He won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 2006 and was named in their Team of the Year a record eight times, too.
He scored 120 Premier League goals and created a further 92, meaning he is one of just four players to have managed more than 90 in both the goals and assists department.
His only shortcoming is the lack of a title, but it’s unlikely that this will impede his path to the ‘Hall of Fame’.
Manchester City: Sergio Aguero
Sergio Aguero is one of just a few players currently playing in the top flight who is already widely regarded a Premier League legend.
Since joining in 2011, he’s scored an astonishing 180 goals, placing him fourth in the all-time standings. He is likely to overtake Andrew Cole (187) in the near future, perhaps even before the end of the season.
His title-winning goal against QPR is arguably the most iconic moment in Premier League history and, to be honest, is probably be enough to get him into the ‘Hall of Fame’ by itself.
Some would argue Yaya Toure, David Silva or Vincent Kompany were greater servants or more exceptional talents for the reigning champions, but without that Aguero goal (and the other 179 of them), who knows what Manchester City would have achieved in the modern Premier League era?
Manchester United: Eric Cantona
This was by far the toughest one to decide. Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney all threw their hats into the ring but the enigmatic Frenchman Eric Cantona comes out on top.
United were not the powerhouse they are now when Cantona arrived. They hadn’t won the league since 1967, but he almost single-handedly dragged them to the title in his first season at Old Trafford and ended up with four league win in his five years at the club. The only campaign he missed out on came in 1995 when he was banned after kicking a Palace fan at Selhurst Park.
Sir Alex Ferguson credits much of his success in England to Cantona, whose performances helped ease the pressure that Sir Alex was under at the time.
He may not boast a long career in Manchester, but his influence is unrivalled.
Newcastle United: Alan Shearer
Few players in English footballing history are as adored as Alan Shearer is on Tyneside and rightly so. His legacy is the stuff of dreams.
After winning the league with Blackburn Rovers, Shearer joined his boyhood club Newcastle and scored 148 Premier League goals during his time at the club, propelling himself to the top of the all-time Premier League top-scorers rankings with 260 goals overall. It is doubtful whether anyone will ever break it.
He captained them to Champions League qualification and his goalscoring ability is, on paper, unrivalled in the competition’s history. One of the greatest romances between fans and a player to ever have existed.
Norwich City: Chris Sutton
First things first, look at that kit! What a beauty.
Sutton may have made waves at Blackburn and Celtic, but it was at Norwich he made his name. He featured heavily for them in the first Premier League season, a campaign in which they spent long periods at the summit before slipping to third. He scored eight goals that year but managed 25 the season after that; this total alone is more goals than any other player in Norwich’s Premier League history has managed.
He moved on the following year, but his exploits for the Canaries have not been forgotten.
Sheffield United: Brian Deane
Some among current crop of Chris Wilder’s men may be on their way to overtaking Deane in the Sheffield United legend rankings but, for now, the striker edges it.
He only played one season in the top flight for the Blades but scored 14 goals, more than anyone has managed in the competition for them ever since. He also has the accolade of scoring the first-ever goal in the Premier League: a fifth-minute strike against Manchester United on the 15 August 1992.
Write that down. We guarantee it’s in your next pub quiz.
Southampton: Matt Le Tissier
A player often neglected when it comes to Premier League greats, ‘Le Tiss’ was an absolute baller.
He was the first midfielder to score 100 goals in the competition (he ended on exactly a century) and managed 25 in the 1993/94 season, a tally most strikers would be proud of.
He won the Goal of the Season for his magnificent chip against Blackburn the following year, a goal that was typical of the outrageous nature of his play.
He also scored 47 out of 48 penalties for the Saints. Someone check if Pep Guardiola is looking for a new spot-kick coach.
Tottenham: Harry Kane
Many view Harry Kane as the only player who could break Shearer’s ridiculous scoring record and with good reason. He’s a sensation.
The England talisman has already managed 136 Premier League goals in his career despite injury problems and being just 26 years of age. He has two Golden Boots to his name and, in the calendar year of 2017, Kane was Europe’s top goalscorer. Given we live in an era of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, that is nothing short of sensational.
If Kane spends the rest of his career in the Premier League, don’t be surprised to see him dominate the individual statistics.
Watford: Troy Deeney
Deeney is like Watford’s own version of Alan Shearer. Kind of.
A target man who captains his side and has done for years, Deeney’s influence on the Hornets was underlined this season by how his return from injury coincided with a massive upturn in form.
He’s scored three times as many goals as anyone else has for Watford in the top flight and also has made more appearances than his team-mates too. It’s hard to see how Watford will ever replace him.
West Ham: Paolo di Canio
Di Canio had an ability to get West Ham fans off their seats that no one since has possessed. Only Dimitri Payet comes remotely close, and he was hardly going to earn the Irons’ nomination here.
Di Canio was always the centre of attention on the pitch (sometimes for the wrong reasons) but is regarded “perhaps the most beloved West Ham United player of the last 20 years.”
He won Hammer of the Year in 2000, the same year he scored that volley against Wimbledon, a goal widely regarded as one of the greatest in Premier League history.
Wolves: Raul Jimenez
The nostalgic few among us may disagree with this pick but it’s important to recognise that Wolves are currently going through their most successful period in the Premier League era, largely down to this man.
The Mexican joined upon their promotion in 2018 and has been a revelation ever since. He sits top of the goals and wins rankings among Wolves players in Premier League history and second in assists, behind only Joao Moutinho.
He is a fantastic striker, underrated by many. A well-rounded player who deserves to play at the highest level.