Over the last 28 years, numerous football superstar have become Premier League legends. However, some players have never really got the credit that they probably deserved, with others often grabbing the spotlight. In order to give these stars the credit they deserve, we’ve taken a look at 50 of the most underrated players in Premier League history.
Possibly the most underrated footballer in the history of the Premier League era, James Milner could probably do a job in goal he’s that versatile! After breaking through at Leeds United, the likes of Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Manchester City and current club Liverpool have all had the pleasure of having the midfielder on their books and he’s made himself known as one of the most reliable performers during his 18-year career. At the age of 34, he still looks like he has plenty of gas left in the tank!
Michael Carrick should go down as one of Sir Alex Ferguson’s best Manchester United signings. The midfielder cost £18.6m but proved to be worth every penny during his 12-year Old Trafford stay. Carrick’s role on the pitch was never an attractive one, but he could do it all in the heart of the midfield and won five Premier League titles.
Kolo Toure was another gem signed by Arsene Wenger at Arsenal; the Ivorian cost just £150,000. He’d spend the next 14 years of his career in the top-flight with the Gunners, Manchester City and Liverpool, with his best performances coming in north London. He was a regular in the ‘Invincible’ side of 2003/04, something that is often forgotten by even the most die-hard football fan.
Bolton Wanderers, Newcastle United and West Ham all benefitted from Kevin Nolan’s services in the Premier League, and the midfielder helped all three to promotion to the top-flight. He finished with 431 Premier League appearances to his name and played a key role in several sides who exceeded expectations.
Nobody has made more appearances in the Premier League than Gareth Barry (653). The holding midfielder quietly went about his business with four different Premier League sides and was often a guaranteed 7/10 performer during his prime. You don’t get too many like that nowadays!
Sir Alex Ferguson would always have Park Ji-sung in his Manchester United line up for a crucial game, and the South Korean rarely let him down! He won four Premier League titles in seven seasons at Old Trafford and was another who quietly went about his business at an extremely high standard.
John Terry was Chelsea’s standout defender at Stamford Bridge during the 2000s, but he had the impressive Ricardo Carvalho alongside him for six seasons. The Blues hardly conceded during that time and were a very difficult outfit to beat, especially at home. Carvalho played a key role during that time and helped the club win three Premier League titles. His successful stint in England sometimes gets overlooked – but he was just as good as Terry at the time!
Everton paid Millwall just £1.5m for Tim Cahill in 2004, and it proved to be one of the best bargains in Premier League history! The Aussie, who could play as an out and out striker or an attacking midfielder, was a consistent top-flight performer during his eight-year stay at Goodison Park. He’s rightly considered an Everton legend, but fans of other sides sometimes forget just how good he was.
Even some Liverpool fans weren’t sure on Jordan Henderson up until the start of this season, but he’s now finally starting to get the appreciation he deserves at Anfield. He’s been with the Reds for nine years now and his leadership skills and quality in various midfield roles are now beginning to catch the eye.
So good there is now a position named after him, but we think Claude Makelele didn’t receive the recognition he truly deserved during his time in the Premier League with Chelsea. English football had never seen a holding midfielder like the Frenchman during his time at Stamford Bridge, but most of the praise went to the Blues’ solid backline and breath-taking attack. However, if it wasn’t for Makelele, they probably wouldn’t have been as dominant as they were between 2004-2006.
Liverpool’s call to spend £10m on an unknown Dutch forward in 2006 was a brilliant one. Dirk Kuyt always performed on the big occasion and never let the Reds down during his six-year Anfield stay. Steven Gerrard and Fernando Torres usually grabbed the headlines on Merseyside, so Kuyt’s displays tended to go under the radar.
Clint Dempsey could play as an attacking midfielder or an out and out forward and made over 200 Premier League appearances during his seven-year stay in England. Not much was really expected from the American, but he starred for Fulham, scoring 50 goals and winning the club’s Player of the Year award twice.
Scouted by Manchester United at the age of 11, Darren Fletcher went on to spend 12 years at Old Trafford, winning five Premier League titles under Sir Alex Ferguson. The Scottish midfielder’s energetic displays in the middle of midfield were vital for the Red Devils, especially in the big games, but they sometimes went unnoticed.
Craig Bellamy hit the headlines on several occasions for his actions off the pitch, but he never really got the credit he deserved for his displays on it. The Welshman made a name for himself at Newcastle United, had two stints at Liverpool and also played for Manchester City and was always one of the main threats in those sides.
Manchester City fans fell in love with Pablo Zabaleta as soon as the Argentine moved to the Etihad and now rightly regard the right-back as a club legend. However, as a neutral, Zabaleta probably didn’t get the praise he deserved. He hardly put a foot wrong at the back in his prime and was also able to adapt to Pep Guardiola’s attractive style in 2016.
It’s crazy to think that one of the best left-backs in the history of the Premier League cost just £625,000! Denis Irwin moved to Manchester United from Oldham Athletic in 1990 and was a regular in United’s early dominance in the top-flight. The Irishman could always be relied on, and although he wasn’t the most attractive footballer, he did his job with ease, helping the club to seven Premier League titles.
Jermain Defoe scored a total of 162 Premier League goals in 496 games for five different sides. You would’ve expected that the natural goalscorer received the credit he deserved, but we feel his accomplishments in the top-flight went under the radar. He could score all kinds of goals and could probably still do it now in the Premier League at the age of 37!
Shay Given wasn’t the tallest of ‘keepers, but he definitely was one of the most athletic. He became a Newcastle United legend during his lengthy St James’ Park stay and his solid displays up north sometimes didn’t get the praise they really deserved.
West Ham fans have adored Mark Noble during his 16-year stint with the club. The midfielder has made 375 Premier League appearances for the Hammers and has stuck with them through thick and thin. He should also go down as one of the most reliable penalty takers during the Premier League era.
Leeds United fans still chant about the great Lucas Radebe to this day, however, it seems as if the South African defender has been forgotten by the rest of the Premier League world for some reason. He should be regarded as one of the best during the early days of the division during his impressive stint at Elland Road.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Now Manchester United boss, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer was known as a super-sub at Old Trafford and was never really the main man under Sir Alex Ferguson. However, the majority of his 91 Premier League goals actually came as a starter! The Norwegian’s £1.6m move to England in 1996 should be considered as one of the best bargains of the Premier League era, especially when you think of all the big goals he scored.
Danny Murphy was a great Premier League midfielder, but he’s never really been labelled as one! He seemed to make every side he played in a better one, turning out over 400 times in the top-flight for four different sides.
Arsenal had some of the best midfielders in the world during the 2000’s, so we can see why Gilberto went under the radar in north London. The Brazilian was a regular in six top-flight seasons under Arsene Wenger, and his defensive qualities, passing ability and leadership skills were crucial for the Gunners in a hugely successful period.
Mousa Dembele is now playing in the Chinese Super League, and although he never won any silverware with either Fulham or Tottenham during his nine-year Premier League career, we feel he should be held in higher regard. The Belgian could play as a defensive or attacking midfielder, and his unstoppable power was hard to handle.
Laurent Robert probably possesses the most underrated left foot in Premier League history! The Frenchman was one of Newcastle United’s star men during the early 2000’s and his free-kicks at St James’ Park were a thing of beauty. He ended with 55 goal involvements in 150 league appearances.
Many have probably forgotten just how good Yakubu was during his time in English football! The Nigerian striker played for Portsmouth, Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn Rovers and scored with ease for all four sides. He netted 12 or more goals in seven separate seasons and ended his Premier League career five short of three figures.
When the Premier League began in 1992, Peter Beardsley was in his 30’s and seemed to have his best years behind him. However, he re-joined Newcastle United and struck up an incredible partnership in front of goal with Andy Cole. Beardsley scored plenty of goals, but his creativity and intelligence in linking the play sometimes went unnoticed.
Unfortunately, Jamie Carragher never got his hands on a Premier League title with Liverpool, but his performances during his 17-year career at Anfield definitely deserved one! We now know him as one of the best pundits, but he should be considered as one of the best defenders since the Premier League began.
Not only is Brad Friedel one of the most underrated Premier League footballers, but he’s also one of the most-loved! The American turned out for four different sides during his 18-year career in England and should go down as one of the most reliable shot-stoppers since the league began in 1992.
On his day, Ledley King was one of the best defenders the Premier League has ever seen. Unfortunately, various knee issues had a serious effect on how much he could train, but he was still able to perform at a high level come Saturday afternoon. If his career started 10 years later, he’d probably be worth over £50m he was that good!
Emile Heskey has made more appearances than any other striker in Premier League history (516). He was one of the best forwards around at one point, and even though he didn’t have the best games per goal ratio, he was unstoppable at times.
Stephen Carr was a guaranteed 7/10 performer each weekend during his time as a Premier League player with Tottenham, Newcastle United and Birmingham City. The Irishman made over 350 appearances in the top-flight and was named in the Team of the Year twice during his lengthy career. However, he’s rarely named amongst the great Premier League right-backs, why not?
Graeme Le Saux
Some great full-backs have tended to go under the radar a little over the years, and one of the first to transform the role was Graeme Le Saux. He made playing on the defensive flank attractive, which all of the best full-backs today have since followed.
Australian Mark Viduka played for Leeds United, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United during his career in England, but it was his time at Elland Road that should be remembered the most. He became a Whites legend during his four-year stay, with his four-goal haul against Liverpool in 2000 one of the most memorable Premier League moments of all time. We feel that the forward is still underrated though, as he was unplayable on his day!
Jens Lehmann probably didn’t get the recognition he deserved during his time with Arsenal, especially considering the fact he played every game of the Gunners’ ‘Invincible’ campaign in what was his first season in England! The German proved to be a brilliant replacement for David Seaman, spending five years in north London.
Damien Duff enjoyed a glittering Premier League career, making over 300 Premier League appearances for four different sides. The Irish winger played a key role in Chelsea’s back-to-back title wins amongst some world-class stars and also impressed for Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United and Fulham.
Newcastle United, Aston Villa and West Ham all benefitted from Nolberto Solano’s services in the Premier League, but it was at St James’ Park where the midfielder really made his name. He was involved in over 100 goals in 302 appearances – a stat which will probably surprise many!
Kieran Richardson played for five different Premier League sides, winning one league title with Manchester United. He also starred for West Brom in that great escape in 2005, and really, although he never made it at Old Trafford, the left-sided winger enjoyed a relatively solid top-flight career.
Sami Hyppia should be regarded as one of the best central defenders in Premier League history, however, for one reason or another, the former Liverpool is never put in the same bracket as some of the best over the last 28 years. He never won a Premier League title but put in over 300 solid performances in the top-flight for the Reds.
Leighton Baines has netted 32 Premier League goals during his career, with many knowing the left-back purely for his set-piece qualities. However, what has been overlooked is his defensive ability. Baines, who appears to be edging towards the end of his playing days, has enjoyed 15 seasons in the top-flight and should be up there as one of the best left-backs of the Premier League era.
There have been so many world-class strikers during the Premier League era, and some never really got the recognition they deserved. We think Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink is one of those, with the forward winning two Golden Boot awards for Leeds United and Chelsea. The Dutchman’s playing days have hardly been referred back to since his retirement, but he could do it all in his prime.
Marc Albrighton scored the 20,000th Premier League goal back in 2011 for Aston Villa, and since then, he’s gone from strength to strength in the top-flight. He played a key role in Leicester City’s remarkable triumph in the 2015/16 season and is still an important member of the Foxes squad now. Hard-working, good on the ball and a pinpoint final delivery, Albrighton doesn’t get the recognition he deserves.
Olivier Giroud has spent the last eight years of his career in London with Arsenal and Chelsea but has never really been considered as one of the Premier League’s best during that time. The Frenchman has always produced when called upon though, and really, the striker should be labelled as one of the best over the past 10 years.
Darren Anderton made over 300 Premier League appearances, most of which came for Tottenham, and even though he wasn’t blessed with pace, the midfielder should be considered as one of the best wingers. His deadly deliveries out wide and brilliant decision making are hard to find in north London now!
Shola Ameobi may not have scored the goals on a regular basis for Newcastle United, but if it wasn’t for him, Alan Shearer would probably have less than 260 top-flight strikes. The two combined brilliantly at St James’ Park, and Ameobi was a real nuisance for defenders during his 14 years in the Premier League.
The younger generation won’t remember Gareth Southgate as a player. The former defender played for Crystal Palace, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough in the top-flight and became one of the best defenders around not to play for a one of the ‘Big Six’. He definitely had the quality too, and looking back, he probably should’ve!
One ‘keeper who never represented any of the ‘Big Six’ but possibly should’ve is Thomas Sorensen. The former Denmark international played for Sunderland, Aston Villa and Stoke City during his career in England and kept 107 clean sheets so should probably be considered as one of the best foreign shot-stoppers to grace the Premier League.
Fulham, Tottenham and Sunderland all had the pleasure of having Steed Malbranque on their books in the Premier League. The Frenchman spent 10 years in England, and although he never really set the top-flight alight, you were guaranteed to get a solid performance from the midfielder come Saturday afternoon.
James Beattie represented five different Premier League sides during a 17-year career but ended his playing days in the lower leagues with Accrington Stanley. Many forget just how good he was in front of goal in his prime, with the majority of his 91 top-flight strikes coming for Southampton.
Matt Doherty is probably one of the most underrated stars in the Premier League right now. Wolves’ wing-back has starred in defence and attack over the last 18 months, showing he has the quality to play for any side in the top-flight.