10) Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United 2006 – Present)
The Serbian defender has quite simply been the best foreign defender the Premier League has seen, as voted for in the recent four-four-two magazine. Following a £7 million move from Spartak Moscow in the January transfer window of 2006, Vidic has forged a watertight partnership with the former England captain Rio Ferdinand at the heart of United’s defence.
Four Premier League titles in his five full seasons in England (excludes the six month spell at the end of the 2006 season), represents a fantastic haul. Not only an amazing defender, Vidic also a huge goal threat, scoring an impressive 18 goals in his time at the club.
Vidic recently replaced the retiring Gary Neville as captain of Manchester United.
Mario Balotelli about Vidic: “The best defender I’ve faced who I hadn’t heard of before I arrived in England? I’d have to say Nemanja Vidic, definitely.”
9) Paolo Di Canio (Sheffield Wednesday 1997-99, West Ham United 1999-2003, Charlton 2003-04)
As controversial as he was brilliant, yet he most certainly belongs in this list. A good spell at Sheffield Wednesday, were he scored 15 Premier League goals, came to an abrupt conclusion as he so famously pushed over referee Paul Alcock, resulting in an 11 match ban.
The incident didn’t put off Harry Redknapp who signed the Italian for West Ham in 1999. He quickly endeared himself to the Upton Park faithful with his energetic performances. His most memorable moment came in the home meeting with Wimbledon in 2000, when Di Canio scored an incredible scissor kick goal. The strike was not only voted goal of the season, but goal of the decade in the recent Sky Sports News poll.
Di Canio is also remembered for his amazing piece of fair play at Goodison Park, when he refused to score a simple tap-in as the Everton keeper Paul Gerrard laid on the ground injured. This remarkable piece of sportsmanship won him the FIFA fair play award in 2001.
Di Canio also had a brief, if yet unsuccessful spell with Charlton Athletic.
Giovanni Trapattoni dismissing the possibility of choosing Paolo Di Canio for the 2002 World Cup: “There will have to be a bubonic plague for me to pick Di Canio”
8) Peter Schmeichel (Manchester United 1991-99, Aston Villa 2001-02, Manchester City 02-03)
‘The Great Dane’ just edges out Petr Cech for the number one foreign keeper. Most memorable for his eight years at Manchester United, having moved to the Red Devils in 1991 from Danish club Brondby.
Schmeichel had everything as a goalkeeper and despite his height and weight, his reflexes were impeccable, and no striker would fancy themselves one-on-one with the keeper.
Schmeichel won five Premier League titles in his spell at Old Trafford and his most notable season was the treble winning season of 1999, ironically Schmeichel’s last, before he moved to Sporting Lisbon in Portugal. His last game for the red of Manchester United was the 1999 Champions League final against the German giants Bayern Munich, were in the absence of the suspended Roy Keane, Schmeichel captained the side to one of its most glorious days.
Schmeichel also had spells in the Premier League with Aston Villa and Manchester United’s city rivals City; however no ‘one can argue his best days were with the 19 time champions.
Sir Alex Ferguson on his £530,000 purchase of Schmeichel in 2000: “The greatest bargain of the century.”
7) Ruud Van Nistelrooy (Manchester United 2001-06)
95 goals in 150 Premier League matches and 150 goals in just five seasons, is the reason why the Dutchman is in the list. The best all round striker he is not, however he comes alive in the box; scoring all bar one of his Manchester United goals inside the penalty box.
Van Nistelrooy was unfortunate in the sense he joined Manchester United during their most barren of Premier League runs; winning just the solitary Premier League title in his full five seasons at the club. This didn’t stop the Dutchman from consistently finding the back of the net, at one stage scoring for a record 10 Premier League games in a row.
Despite falling out of favour towards the end of his United career, his goal scoring ability was second to none in the Premiership during his time in England. He went on to join Real Madrid in 2006.