The Premier League is widely regarded as the most competitive and exciting, if not the best, football league in the world. While it has been home to a series of world-class players, many dissenters argue that it does not have the highest ratio of all-time greats.
This argument is almost blasphemous to the many top-quality players who have plied their trade in the English top flight, such as David Beckham, Eric Cantona and Cristiano Ronaldo, but it does serve as a legitimate point. There are innumerable legends who have never played for a Premier League club in their career, which is why Kyro Sports already have the first edition of a player list compiled a week ago.
We will now take a look at the second edition of the list of football greats who have never played in the Premier League:
#1 Xavi Hernandez
Xavi Hernandez, who is considered one of the greatest playmakers in football history, was the chief orchestrator in Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona team and Spain’s title-winning squad.
A product of the famed La Masia academy, the Spaniard spent 17 years at the Nou Camp and never moved on to any other club in Europe, let alone in the Premier League. When he left the Blaugrana at the end of the 2014-15 season, the midfield maestro picked Al Sadd in the Qatar Stars League as his next destination.
He later revealed that he was offered the chance to join Louis van Gaal’s Manchester United in 2014 but ultimately rejected the Premier League side’s offer to extend his stay with the Catalan giants.
Xavi possessed superior vision, game intelligence and immaculate control on the ball and he often used these qualities to seamlessly control a match, thereby earning him the nickname “The Puppet Master”. Along with Andres Iniesta, he was the engineer of Barcelona’s trademark “tiki-taka” passing game and employed the envious philosophy to huge rewards.
The 40-year-old won eight La Liga titles, three Copa Del Rey, six Supercopa de Espana, two UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA Club World Cups and four UEFA Champions League titles during his stint with the Catalan giants. He was equally as influential within the Spain national team and inspired them to two UEFA European Championships and one FIFA World Cup.
#2 Andres Iniesta
Like Xavi, Andres Iniesta was one of the key proponents of the Johan Cruyff-influenced philosophy under Pep Guardiola’s guidance at Barcelona. He was also a product of the club’s fabled La Masia academy and is considered one of the greatest midfielders of his generation.
The effervescent Spaniard spent 16 years with the Catalan giants and like his former midfield partner, he never moved to another European club and instead joined Japanese club Vissel Kobe in the summer of 2018.
The 36-year-old was unrealistically linked with a move to David Moyes’ Manchester United back in 2013 and was even believed to have been offered a player-assistant manager deal by Premier League giants Manchester City in 2018.
Iniesta was renowned for his brilliant creative passing, exceptional dribbling and other-worldly intuition, all of which have helped him establish a telepathic connection with his teammates, particularly Lionel Messi. The diminutive playmaker is also universally loved for his attitude in the game and is one of the very few Barcelona players to have received a standing ovation at the Santiago Bernabeu, the home of their arch-rivals Real Madrid.
Iniesta won nine La Liga titles, six Copa Del Rey, six Supercopa de Espana, three FIFA Club World Cups, two UEFA Super Cups and four UEFA Champions League trophies during his stint with Barcelona. Internationally, he was a key player for the Spain squad that won the 2008 and 2012 editions of the UEFA Euro as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
#3 Paolo Maldini
Paolo Maldini is regarded as one of the best defenders of his era and belonged to a dying generation of one-club men in football. He spent all 25 years of his professional club career playing for AC Milan after developing his skills at the Lombardy club’s youth academy.
The Italian defender was believed to have rejected a number of offers from Premier League giants like Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea in the course of his career, proving his passionate loyalty to the Rossoneri.
The 51-year-old was known for his competitiveness, athleticism and technical ability as a player, with these qualities helping him balance one of the tightest defensive quartets of the 1980s which included Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Mauro Tassotti.
Maldini won seven Serie A titles, five European Cups, five Supercopa Italia, one Italian Cup, five Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and one Club World Cup. His international career was not as glamourous as his time with Milan as he missed out on the FIFA World Cup due to missed penalties in 1994.
#4 Pavel Nedved
Pavel Nedved was one of the best midfielders of his generation but his contributions were often overshadowed by his more famous counterparts. He spent his 18-year professional career playing for clubs in Italy and the Czech Republic and never really ventured to the Premier League.
Best known for his time with Lazio and Juventus, the 47-year-old later revealed that he had an offer to join Chelsea in 2006 but chose to stay with the Bianconeri as they were demoted to the Serie B, in an endearing act of loyalty. However, he admitted that the biggest regret of his career is not having the chance to play for Premier League outfit Manchester United.
The former Sparta Prague midfielder is best known for his lightning speed, impeccable technique and his goalscoring ability. He was a two-footed player who was relentlessly consistent in his performances and who never complained about having to accommodate any new signing.
Nedved won five Serie A titles, two Coppa Italia and one Cup Winners Cup, among several other trophies, and he was also presented with the prestigious Ballon d’Or ahead of Thierry Henry and Paolo Maldini in 2003. Internationally, he helped the Czech Republic to the runners-up position in the 1996 UEFA European Championship and a third-place finish in the 1997 FIFA Confederations Cup.
#5 Andrea Pirlo
Andrea Pirlo is known as one of the best deep-lying playmakers in modern football and was the embodiment of the position, known to Italians as the ‘regista’.
The 41-year-old mostly plied his trade in Italy- for the likes of AC Milan and Juventus- and is one of the many legends who have never played in the Premier League as he joined MLS side New York City FC after the end of his contract with the Old Lady. However, he later admitted that he almost followed Carlo Ancelotti to Chelsea back in 2009 but ultimately stayed in Milan.
The Italian was composed on the ball and possessed immense technical ability, allowing him to act as a link through which the team transitions from defence to attack. He had an excellent understanding of the game and can intercept opposition passes as easily as he could deliver pin-point long balls of his own.
During his ten-year stint with AC Milan, Pirlo lifted two Serie A titles, two UEFA Champions Leagues, two UEFA Super Cups, FIFA Club World Club, Supercoppa Italiana and the Coppa Italia. He was equally as successful at Juventus, where he won four Serie A titles, two Supercoppa Italiana and a Coppa Italia. Internationally, he was a part of the Italian squad that lifted the 2006 FIFA World Cup and was even named the Man of the Match after the final against France.
Also Read: 5 famous footballers who never graced the Premier League (Part I)