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Monday 16 April 2012

Premier League 20 Seasons Awards: Best Player

Take a look at the nominees for the Best Player in Premier League history

The Premier League has been graced by many of the world's greatest footballers.

A panel of leading football figures, journalists and commentators will vote for the Best Player in the history of the Premier League.

These are the 10 that made it on to the shortlist:

Dennis Bergkamp

Club: Arsenal
Premier League Seasons: 11
Appearances: 315
Goals: 87
Titles: 3
PFA Player of the Year: 1
PFA Team of the Year: 1
PFA Young Player of the Year: 0
FWA Footballer of the Year: 1

The prodigiously talented Dutchman moved to Arsenal in June 1995 and soon wrote his way into Gunners’ folklore. Blessed with delicate touch, great vision and a deadly finish, Bergkamp gave nightmares to many a Premier League defender. And his skill was allied with a feel for the unpredictable which yielded an array of unforgettable goals.

Eric Cantona

Clubs: Leeds United, Manchester United
Premier League Seasons: 5
Appearances: 156
Goals: 70
Titles: 4
PFA Player of the Year: 1
PFA Team of the Year: 1
PFA Young Player of the Year: 0
FWA Footballer of the Year: 1

With his collars upturned as he strutted around the Premier League stage, Eric Cantona cut an unmistakable, charismatic figure on the football field. He may have the fewest Premier League appearances of anyone in this list but he made a huge impact in his five seasons in England. His mesmerising personality and Gallic flair meant that - regardless of who you supported - if Eric Cantona was playing you wanted to watch.

Ryan Giggs

Club: Manchester United
Premier League Seasons: 20
Appearances: 593 (as of 04/04/2012)
Goals: 107
Titles: 12
PFA Player of the Year: 1
PFA Team of the Year: 6
PFA Young Player of the Year: 1
FWA Footballer of the Year: 0

In any era Ryan Giggs would stand out as an extraordinary talent – but to perform at the top level for so long in the modern-day game is truly stunning. The only footballer to play in all 20 seasons of the Premier League (he has scored in each), the Welshman is the most decorated player in the English game and still plays a vital role for Manchester United, more than 21 years since his professional debut.

Thierry Henry

Club: Arsenal
Premier League Seasons: 9
Appearances: 258
Goals: 176
Titles: 2
PFA Player of the Year: 2
PFA Team of the Year: 6
PFA Young Player of the Year: 0
FWA Footballer of the Year: 3

Few have ever matched the natural grace and skill of Arsenal legend Thierry Henry. After moving to Highbury in August 1999, the Frenchman soon became known as one of the classiest and deadliest strikers in world football. Henry’s deft touch, devastating turn of pace and ability to score from anywhere saw him become the Gunners’ all-time leading goalscorer and won him deserved adulation from fans, fellow players - and UK football writers who named him Player of the Year three times, more than anyone else on this shorlist.

Roy Keane

Clubs: Nottingham Forest, Manchester United
Premier League Seasons: 14
Appearances: 366
Goals: 39
Titles: 7
PFA Player of the Year: 1
PFA Team of the Year: 5
PFA Young Player of the Year: 0
FWA Footballer of the Year: 1

Roy Keane was a managers’ dream. Tough, totally committed and focused on winning, the Irishman was the driving force behind Manchester United’s success during his 12 years at the club. The words of the most decorated manager in Premier League history Sir Alex Ferguson paint a picture of Keane which all fans will recognise: "As if he would rather die of exhaustion than lose, he inspired all around him. I felt it was an honour to be associated with such a player."

Cristiano Ronaldo

Clubs: Manchester United
Premier League Seasons: 6
Appearances: 196
Goals: 84
Titles: 3
PFA Player of the Year: 2
PFA Team of the Year: 4
PFA Young Player of the Year: 1
FWA Footballer of the Year: 2

The Portuguese forward is one of the most devastating attacking talents in the game. No defender would relish facing Cristiano Ronaldo in full flight – he had an array of tricks which would shame most magicians, and if the skills did not beat you, the electric pace meant Ronaldo was able to ghost past players in an instant. A more than useful eye for goal and an ability to create chances from nothing made Ronaldo a star and a key man behind recent Manchester United success.

Paul Scholes

Clubs: Manchester United
Premier League Seasons: 18
Appearances: 476 (as of 04/04/2012)
Goals: 104
Titles: 10
PFA Player of the Year: 0
PFA Team of the Year: 2
PFA Young Player of the Year: 0
FWA Footballer of the Year: 0

"Paul Scholes – he scores goals!" goes the familiar chant from fans. But his talents go way beyond simply finding the net. Scholes is the professionals' professional and their words tell his story. Thierry Henry said Scholes was the "best player in the Premier League". Former Italy manager Marcello Lippi said Scholes possessed "quality and character in abundance". Barcelona midfielder Xavi labelled Scholes "the best central midfielder [of] the past 15, 20 years". And Zinedine Zidane said one of his regrets was that "the opportunity to play alongside him never presented itself during my career".

Alan Shearer

Clubs: Blackburn Rovers, Newcastle United
Premier League Seasons: 14
Appearances: 441
Goals: 260
Titles: 1
PFA Player of the Year: 2
PFA Team of the Year: 6
PFA Young Player of the Year: 0
FWA Footballer of the Year: 1

Simply the greatest scorer in Premier League history by a distance, Alan Shearer averaged more than a goal every other match during his hugely impressive career. His 34 goals in 1994-95 were a key factor as Blackburn Rovers won the title while his subsequent move to Newcastle United saw him quickly establish himself as an icon on Tyneside. Deadly with either foot and with his head, Shearer was a classic centre-forward – and pretty much unstoppable.

Patrick Vieira

Clubs: Arsenal, Manchester City
Premier League Seasons: 11
Appearances: 307
Goals: 32
Titles: 3
PFA Player of the Year: 0
PFA Team of the Year: 6
PFA Young Player of the Year: 0
FWA Footballer of the Year: 0

Patrick Vieira was at the heart of the extraordinary Arsenal ‘Invincibles’ – the title winners of 2003/04 who did not lose a single Premier League match all season. Tough, uncompromising and indefatigable, Vieira was the captain of that remarkable team which went on to set a record of 49 League matches unbeaten. That fabulous achievement is unlikely to have happened without the Frenchman’s spirit and drive as he pushed the Gunners on to new heights.

Gianfranco Zola

Club: Chelsea
Premier League Seasons: 7
Appearances: 229
Goals: 59
Titles: 0
PFA Player of the Year: 0
PFA Team of the Year: 0
PFA Young Player of the Year: 0
FWA Footballer of the Year: 1

Then-Chelsea boss Claudio Ranieri labelled Gianfranco Zola the "wizard" and it is an apt description for the Italian midfielder who mesmerised defences and delighted fans with his array of tricks. Zola could always be relied upon to conjure up the unexpected – often doing so with a smile on his face. Such were his talents that in 1997, Zola became the only player to be named the Footballer of the Year without playing a full season in the Premier League, and also the first Chelsea player to win it.

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Key Points

  • Premier League is celebrating 20 Seasons
  • Awards for the greatest stars and best moments in Premier League history
  • An expert panel will decide on the Best Player award