Henry. Lampard. Adams. Shearer. These are some of the many names which spring into mind when thinking of legends of the Premier League era of the top division of English football. These individuals oozed class and were revered by all football fans, regardless of rivalries or biases. Today, the term ‘legend’ or even ‘world-class’ is thrown about quite flippantly when addressing certain players (I’d know, as Arsenal fan). Nevertheless, there are many players in the league who still deserve their plaudits.
Kane has been, for many seasons, the key to Tottenham Hotspur’s success in their league efforts
The first of these being the ‘Egyptian King’, Mohamed Salah. The Egyptian’s first season in the Premier League as a Liverpool player was a record-breaking one to say the least, with the forward netting 32 goals in the league alone- two more than England and Spurs star Harry Kane. Salah not only bagged himself the Golden Boot, but also a place in the UEFA’s Team of the Year. To leave Salah out of the running for the Premier League’s best player would be foolish – even if he has failed to inflict such damage thus far this season. Even out of form, he is levels above many of the league’s starting forwards. His direct attacking style, break-neck speed and flair have made him one of the league’s biggest and most frightening talents.
A second player to be considered is World Cup Golden Boot winner, Harry Kane, who at times can be considered a one-man army – a prolific target man who can not only provide quality hold-up play, but also create and ultimately finish. Kane has been, for many seasons, the key to Tottenham Hotspur’s success in their league efforts, with back-to-back top 4 spots guaranteeing them Champions League football. Without Kane in the team, Spurs crumble in attack, and a top team’s dependency on one player can be no larger indication of how much quality Harry Kane possesses. With 113 goals in 161 games, equating to a goal being scored every 1.4 matches, there is a compelling argument to suggest he is the Premier League’s best.
Agüero has become a household name off of the back of countless goals in big games
Of course, Sergio Agüero must also deserve a mention. Without a doubt one of the league’s most successful players, Aguero has proven pivotal in Manchester City’s title wins. 148 Premier League goals (a City record) are not accumulated through simple luck; Agüero has become a household name off of the back of countless goals in big games, and also through consistency in front of goal.
The same arguments can be made about Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, a player that while not always consistent, has proven to be dynamite in front of goal thus far this season; with 7 goals in his first 8 appearances. It is with such players that you begin to question whether a league’s greatest player can be judged on consistency of good performances for a prolonged period of time, or a run of current scintillating form.
There cannot be one universal greatest player in the league
However, it is not just simply attackers that win you games. Take a look at many other players, such as two-time Premier league and 2018 World Cup winner Ngolo Kanté, Liverpool’s Van Dijk and Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne. Kanté, Van Dijk and ‘KDB’ have been classed as the best in their respective positions on the field, with all three commanding hefty price tags in the transfer market (with particular focus on Van Dijk’s £70 million switch to Merseyside from Southampton). While Van Dijk is indeed a top-class centre half, he is yet to win a title.
As such, in light of honourable mentions such as De Gea, Lacazette and Aubameyang, the conclusion to this question boils down to a success criteria.
Have the players in question won a title and been instrumental in their teams’ title charge? Have they secured individual honours? Have they been consistent?
Aguero, De Bruyne and Kante are the only three names that come to the fore. Ultimately, I believe that, while there cannot be one universal greatest player in the league, you will not find better players than these in their respective positions and roles. These are the Premier League’s elite.