Who is the best Premier League midfielder ever?
Four of the best, but there can only be one winner!
We’re opting for central players here, which rules out Ryan Giggs and Robert Pires, despite successful, distinguished careers in the top-flight.
The likes of Yaya Toure, N’Golo Kante and Kevin De Bruyne all came close to making the cut, with only their longevity in question – the players we’ve picked all spent the majority of their careers in the Premier League, though the latter two may well be in contention by the time their careers have ended.
Both Paul Scholes and Patrick Viera also came very close to making the list and we have no doubt Arsenal and Man Utd fans will be questioning their omission, but at the end of the day – tough choices had to be made!
Nottingham Forest, Manchester United
7 Premier League titles
A force of nature on the pitch and in the dressing room, Roy Keane will be the first to admit he was perhaps not the most talented player in terms of technical ability. But what he lacked in finesse, he more than made up for in desire and determination.
His role in a hugely successful Man Utd team was to enact Sir Alex Ferguson’s will on the players around him – to show no fear in the tackle, to demand the ball and to demand that his team-mates gave everything, every single game.
A leader who led by example, Keane’s hugely competitive nature led to several controversial incidents on the pitch, including a pre-meditated assault on Alf-Inge Håland that saw him banned for eight games and effectively ended the Norwegian’s career. Keane’s long-standing full-blooded rivalry with Arsenal’s Patrick Viera was also the stuff of legend.
Unsurprisingly Keane still holds the record for the most red cards in English football, with 13 dismissals to his name.
West Ham, Chelsea, Manchester City
3 Premier League titles
The quintessential goal-scoring midfielder – while Lampard was a box-to-box midfielder it’s his attacking contribution that lands him a place on this list. Frankly (no pun intended), the stats speak for themselves.
In the history of the Premier League, only nine players have scored 150 or more goals and only one of the players on that list is a midfielder. With 177 goals, Lampard sits two goals above Thierry Henry, comfortably beating the likes of Jermain Defoe and Michael Owen. Lampard has also scored the most goals from outside the box of any Premier League player, with 41 (David Beckham with 34 is second).
Want some more stats to support Lampard’s inclusion? How about 102 assists, putting him fourth all-time? How about a second-placed Ballon D’or finish in 2005 (Ronaldinho took the prize), how about three inclusions in the Premier League Team of the Year?
We could list a whole lot more achievements, honours and awards here, but we may just run out of space.
4 Premier League titles
While statistics may be the way to go when it comes to highlighting Frank Lampard’s contribution, David Silva is player who needs to be watched to be fully understood.
It’s about his sublime first-touch, his reading of the game, his ability to dictate the tempo, the incisive through-balls and a borderline psychic understanding of his team-mates.
If you’re a football hipster you might refer to them as intangibles, but if you’re looking for proof of Silva’s contribution, you can simply look at the trajectory of Manchester City’s fortunes before and after Silva signed from Valencia back in 2010.
Before Silva, City’s highest ever Premier League finish was fifth. Since signing, they have never finished below fourth, winning four titles and finishing second on two occasions.
While there are other players who can claim credit for that record (particularly Vincent Kompany), it’s ‘El Mago’ the magician who has been the ever-present creative lynchpin during City’s rise from noisy neighbours to perennial contenders.
0 Premier League titles
If you’re not a Liverpool fan you might be wondering how a player who has never won the Premier League can possibly be one of the best midfielders to ever grace the division. Especially one who arguably cost his side the title with the infamous ‘slip’ against Chelsea in 2014.
Statistically, ‘Stevie’ can’t even match his contemporary Frank Lampard, but put in the proper context his inclusion makes sense. None of the other elite Premier League teams during Gerrard/Lampard era were quite so reliant on one player, for goals, inspiration, determination and grit.
Look at the players Lampard played alongside at Chelsea – John Terry, Ashley Cole, Didier Drogba, Claude Makelele, Michael Essien – the list goes on. Liverpool’s top scorer in 2010/11 was Dirk Kuyt. A man better known for his willingness to battle for a corner than his ability in front of goal.
In any given game, Gerrard was capable of lifting the level of his Liverpool side, often grabbing games by the scruff of the neck. Whether a full-blooded tackle, a Hollywood through-ball or a one-man wonder goal, Gerrard could do it all – and frequently had to for Liverpool to be able to stand-toe-to-toe with the best sides in the league.
He may not have won the Premier League, but ‘Stevie G’ won’t soon be forgotten at Anfield.
So, there it is. We’ve made the case for all four, but what do you think? Who stands alone as the best midfielder in Premier League history?
All odds and markets correct as of date of publication