The Greatest Premier League Players of the 1990s

    Shearer and Ferdinand are two of the Premier League’s greatest ever goalscorers | Getty Images/Getty Images

    Ahhh, the 1990s – the greatest decade in the history of mankind.

    Savage Garden ruled the airways, Meg Ryan ruled the box office and, most importantly, when football PEAKED.

    That’s right, the 90s is when football PEAKED because it’s when, quite simply, more of the greatest footballers of all time played in the 1990s than in any other single decade.

    And to prove just that, here’s some of the very best writers 90min has to offer on the top 20 footballers to play in the Premier League in the 90s.

    By Jamie Spencer

    Gary Pallister isn’t the most celebrated English defender of the 1990s, but he should be.

    To compare his ability to a more modern player, he was Rio Ferdinand before Rio Ferdinand was. And by the time Pallister left Manchester United in 1998, he was actually the most decorated player in the club’s storied history after winning nine major trophies in nine seasons.

    Sir Alex Ferguson once said of his star man at the back, “He is a defensive Goliath, has electric pace and can pass the ball. What more can you ask from a centre-half?”

    Read Jamie Spencer’s full article on Gary Pallister here.

    By Grey Whitebloom

    Seaman may be more readily associated with a moustache and (brief) ponytail but after more than a decade dutifully and reliably spent between the sticks, the man often simply known as ‘the Goalie’ is perhaps the greatest to have ever donned a pair of gloves for Arsenal.

    Read Grey Whitebloom’s full article on David Seaman here.

    By Robbie Copeland

    Steve McManaman epitomised the way Liverpool wanted to play. His arrogance often crossed the line, yet he was as gifted with the ball at his feet as any player in his generation, and could gracefully drift past an opposing full-back without even shaking off his hangover.

    After exploding onto the scene in the early 90s under Souness, he was the Merseyside counterpart to Man Utd’s Ryan Giggs. Their eventual trophy hauls may fail to suggest it, but the two were equal in both ability and influence throughout English football’s transitional decade.

    Read Robbie Copeland’s full article on Steve McManaman here.

    By Jamie Spencer

    It is easy to get lost in the notion that David Beckham was a celebrity first and a footballer second. Where other players had been household names in their own country or were internationally in the football community, Beckham was arguably the first global celebrity footballer.

    But the reality is that his fame wouldn’t have spanned every corner of the globe had he not been incredibly talented on the pitch in the first place.

    Read Jamie Spencer’s full article on David Beckham here.

    By Charlie Stewart

    Everyone loves a good underdog story. There’s just something special about when someone overcomes impossible odds to achieve something great.

    And in football, we’ve seen plenty of them. Greece in 2004, Leicester in 2016, and plenty of zero-to-hero type tales.

    Not every footballer begins their career at the top, though. In fact, the overwhelming majority are way down at the bottom of the pyramid. However, they can take inspiration from those who shot up the ladder – the likes of Jamie Vardy, Ian Wright, and, of course, Les Ferdinand.

    Renowned for his speed, strength, aerial ability, and lethal finishing, Les Ferdinand is the Premier League’s tenth highest goalscorer of all time with 149.

    Read Charlie Stewart’s full article on Les Ferdinand here.

    By Ross Kennerley

    Good players have come and gone at the club since Vieira’s time, but none managed to balance skill with strength and intelligence as the midfielder could.

    To be irreplaceable is to be held in high regard. If you ever needed evidence of how highly regarded Vieira is at Arsenal, the fact the club still haven’t found his successor 15 years on tells its own story.

    Read Ross Kennerley’s full article on Patrick Vieira here.

    By Max Cooper

    At his best, he was one of – if notthe– best in England. His maverick nature and laidback approach to the game may have come back to bite him on occasions, with France manager Gerard Houllier singling him out as the sole reason behind les Bleus’ failure to qualify for World Cup 1994. And he was the least popular person on the pitch in the eyes of his own left-back, who was forced to do the defensive duties of two players.

    That’s the sort of leeway a genius deserves, though.

    Newcastle and Spurs fans may not have any league titles to reminisce on during the wonderful 1990’s, but they can sleep soundly at night, safe in the knowledge that they watched football as it should be played, depicted by one of the most gifted players to have ever graced our pitches.

    Read Max Cooper’s full article on David Ginola here.

    By Jamie Spencer

    Well over a decade since he played his final Premier League game, Andy Cole is still third in the list of all-time leading goalscorers. In that time, only one player – Wayne Rooney – has actually managed to overtake his tally of 187 and go ahead in the standings. Few others ever will.

    Read Jamie Spencer’s full article on Andy Cole here.

    By Charlie Stewart

    Ryan Giggs, Ian Rush, Gareth Bale – the English top flight has enjoyed its fair share of Welsh superstars. One that often goes under the radar, however, is former Leeds United star Gary Speed.

    A manager’s dream, Speed was lauded for his leadership, professionalism, and versatility, as well as his ability to register goals and assists. Powerful in the air and good on both feet, the Welshman was a constant threat over an 18-year stay in the top flight.

    Read Charlie Stewart’s full article on Gary Speed here.

    By Charlie Stewart

    One-club men tend to be very rare in football – especially in the modern game. Even the likes of Steven Gerrard, John Terry, and Matt Le Tissier spent a year or so elsewhere.

    When it comes to true one-club men, there are seldom many better than Arsenal’s Tony Adams.

    Adams ended his 19-year career as Arsenal’s most successful captain, having won 13 trophies while making 672 appearances. To honour his contribution, a statue of the defender was placed outside the Emirates in 2011.

    Read Charlie Stewart’s full article on Tony Adams here.

    By Robbie Copeland

    Matt Le Tissier was good at football.

    He was so good at football he scored more than 200 goals for a Southampton team who constantly battled against relegation.

    He was so good he was nicknamed ‘Le God’.

    Southampton supporters can be forgiven for dying a little inside every time he tweets, but they will also tell you that his legacy remains untainted. He was one of the most naturally gifted players English football has ever seen, and doesn’t need a burgeoning trophy cabinet to prove it.

    Read Robbie Copeland’s full article on Matt Le Tissier here.

    By Ross Kennerley

    It’s impossible not to love Ian Wright. His story is memorable for many reasons, and his legacy far reaching even beyond London’s city walls.

    For someone who only turned professional three months shy of his 22nd birthday, to go on and achieve what he did in his career, score the number of goals he did and surpass all expectations is rather remarkable.

    Read Ross Kennerley’s full article on Ian Wright here.

    By Ross Kennerley

    One FA Cup and two League Cup titles was all the domestic silverware Robbie Fowler had to show for some astounding scoring rates in the mid-90s.

    He would lift European titles at the turn of the century – a UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup in 2001 – but for the sheer volume of goals he scored he didn’t earn the accolades his performances warranted.

    Doesn’t make him any less loved in Liverpool, though. Nor does it make the stunning hat-trick he netted against Arsenal in 1994 any less astounding. He is, after all, referred to as ‘God’ by many on Merseyside.

    Read Ross Kennerley’s full article on Robbie Fowler here.

    By James Cormack

    Just as Cantona defined the transformation of Manchester United from underachievers to imperious champions, Zola did the same for Chelsea.

    But while Cantona did so with an air of self-serving arrogance, laced with moments of controversy and madness, Zola went about his magical craft with an air of childlike charm and, of course, that wide grin.

    The Italian was the poster boy for Chelsea’s transition, a Premier League tactical revolutionary and undoubtedly one of the finest foreign exports to arrive on British shores.

    Very few could make Sir Alex Ferguson envious but Gianfranco Zola did, and that’s a testament to the Italian’s nagging genius.

    Read Jame Cormack’s full article on Gianfranco Zola here.

    By Ross Jackson

    It’s nigh-on impossible to draw up a Premier League all-time XI without mentioning the name Ryan Giggs.

    The Cardiff-born winger spent an incredible 24 years at Manchester United, making 963 appearances for the club and scoring 168 goals. In that time he would cover his mantelpiece with just about every winner’s medal available to him, along with the occasional personal accolade along the way.

    Read Ross Jackson’s full article on Ryan Giggs here.

    By Declan Houten

    In a sport where a ‘genius’ can more often than not serve as a problem, a self-interested cloud gazer who destroys the equilibrium of a team with their solipsism, Bergkamp was that rarest of once-in-a-lifetime talents – one for whom the equilibrium of the team was at the centre of everything.

    What was it that made Bergkamp’s particular artistry so enduring, and so integral to one of the most glorious periods in Arsenal’s modern history? The answer is that his career was a perfect constellation of unique footballing ability, a resolute mentality, and the good fortune which all great minds seem to benefit from.

    From when he arrived at Highbury to when he played his last game, everything seemed so right in Bergkamp’s Arsenal career, but to attribute this to chance alone ignores the values which unwaveringly informed the Dutchman’s choices throughout a glittering career.

    Read Declan Houten’s full article on Dennis Bergkamp here.

    By Max Cooper

    For those of you out there who were too young to witness the Manchester United captain making grown men hide and cower with fear on the pitch, first of all: unlucky. Secondly, his career as a pundit tells you enough about just what type of player he was.

    Aggressive, combative, tunnel visioned, consistent, and no-nonsense (there’s that word again). His drive, will to win and limitless expectations of his teammates made him the ultimate professional. The colleague who terrifies and inspires in equal measures, and a natural born winner. No one has ever wanted to win a game of football as much as Roy Keane, of that I’m 99% sure.

    Read Max Cooper’s full article on Roy Keane here.

    By Jamie Spencer

    Schmeichel was an era-defining talent, who helped re-invent modern goalkeeping and so much more than just a shot-stopper. He excelled at just about everything, even goalscoring – he netted 10 times during the course of his career, and brought a unique style to the role.

    Schmeichel was noted for his presence, filling the goal and intimidating any forward that would get through one-on-one with him. His ability to stay upright and delay until forcing the opponent to make the first move was incredible and Ferguson once referred to ‘this big blond Viking flying out at you’ while discussing the player’s phenomenal ‘aura’.

    Read Jamie Spencer’s full article on Peter Schmeichel here.

    By Ross Jackson

    “When I was a young boy I wanted to play for Newcastle United, I wanted to wear the number nine shirt and I wanted to score goals at St. James’ Park. I’ve lived my dream and I realise how lucky I’ve been to have done that.”

    Say what you like about the footballing career of Alan Shearer – he’s achieved absolutely everything he wanted to.

    Read Ross Jackson’s full article on Alan Shearer here.

    By Charlie Stewart

    Eric Cantona – what a life he’s lived, eh?

    Booting a fan in the face, becoming a rather mediocre actor, posting strange videos on Instagram (don’t go looking for them – trust me, you’re better off not knowing). And, in and among all that nonsense, there was a pretty sensational footballer.

    In his prime, there were few who could match the class of Eric Cantona. A genius, a maverick, and an entertainer – he’s earned his place as 90min‘s best footballer of the 90s.

    Read Charlie Stewart’s full article on Eric Cantona here.

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