It is PlayUp Top Five time again. Last week we asked you to name your top foreign players of all time in the Premier League – and you gave us your thoughts. So here they are, as voted for by you:
5. Gianfranco Zola – Chelsea 1997-2003
312 games, 80 goals. Not the figures of a prolific striker, but then Gianfranco Zola was so much more than that. He played the game with a smile on his face and was liked and respected by opposition supporters almost as much as his own. After joining Chelsea from Parma, the Italian helped inspire numerous cup successes for his new team, including the FA Cup in his first season. He was named the Football Writer’s Player of the Year in the same campaign, becoming the first Chelsea player to win the award. Most fondly remembered for his audacious back flicked goal from a corner in the FA Cup against Norwich, Zola is a Chelsea and Premier League legend.
4. Dennis Bergkamp – Arsenal 1995-2006
Signed by Bruce Rioch in 1995, Bergkamp was the first import in the Premier League era of true world class ability and changed the perception of foreign stars. He took a little while to settle, but soon became the one of the stars of an Arsenal side who won a league and cup double in 1998, also being named as PFA Player of the Year. Scorer of one of the great hatricks of all time against Leicester and a brilliant individual effort against Newcastle, Bergkamp won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups. Scored a goal on his final appearance for the club in the FA Cup final against Southampton before retiring in 2006.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo – Manchester United 2003 – 2009
Hated by most, adored by United fans, there was no doubting the Portuguese players quality. Having arrived at Old Trafford as a right winger to replace David Beckham, Ronaldo became one of the most prolific forwards in the history of the Premier League. Won the FA Cup in his first season at the club, but was part of a rebuilding project by Sir Alex Ferguson. Came into his own in the 2006-2007 season before scoring 42 goals in 2007-08 to inspire United to a league and Champions League double, scoring in the final against Chelsea. Scorer of numerous great goals, including a 40 yard winner against Porto in the Champions League, he left when Real Madrid paid £80 million for his services in the summer of 2009, having been part of the United team that lost to Barcelona in the Champions League final.
2. Eric Cantona – Manchester United 1992-1997
Perhaps no one man has changed a clubs fortunes like King Eric. Having won the league with Leeds in 1992, Sir Alex Ferguson signed Cantona to be the final piece of his jigsaw at United. The Frenchman inspired his new club to win their first Premier League crown by 10 points, scoring some crucial goals in the process. In his second season United were again crowned champions, but also won the FA Cup, with Cantona scoring two penalties in the final against Chelsea. After his infamous kung-fu kick at Crystal Palace in 1995, Cantona was banned for eight months and United lost their Premier League crown. When he returned, he re-energised the team, scoring the equaliser against Liverpool in his first game back. United went on to win another double in 1996, Cantona scoring the only goal of the cup final against Liverpool, and a fourth league title in his time at the club followed in 1997. Scorer of some brilliant goals, he is perhaps best remembered for his chip and iconic celebration against Sunderland in 1996. Cantona retired without warning in the summer of 1997, leaving a huge hole to fill.
1. Thierry Henry – Arsenal 1999-2007
Henry was signed by Arsene Wenger from Juventus as a disgruntled winger in 1999, but left a club legend and record goal scorer in 2007. A World Cup and European Championship winner with France, Henry scored 174 in 254 games for the Gunners, forming potent partnerships with the likes of Dennis Bergkamp and Sylvain Wiltord among others. Helped his team capture the Premier League crown in 2002, winning at Old Trafford to secure the title. His defining season came in 2003-2004 when Henry and Arsenal went through an entire league season undefeated, capturing his second championship. Henry also won three FA Cup’s during his spell in North London and reached the final of the Champions League in 2006. His finest goal was perhaps his flick and volley against Manchester United in 2001, a strike which sealed victory for his side. Henry had skill, grace and electric pace and could change a game single handedly. Respected by all, Henry epitomised the Arsenal of the new millennium, playing football of unparalleled beauty in the Premier League.