The influx of foreign players in the 2000s made the Premier League the most competitive in the world. From the likes of Thierry Henry to Didier Drogba, see who else makes the cut for the best players in the Premiership in the 2000s.
Thierry Henry remains Arsenal’s all-time scorer with 228 goals in all competitions. Gaining the reputation as one of Europe’s most feared strikers, The King of Arsenal became the Premier League’s top goal-scorer in 4 different seasons, notching a prolific 32 goals and 23 assists in the 2002-03 season. With the ability to score anywhere on the pitch, he elevated his game in the 2003-04 season, scoring 39 goals in the Gunners unbeaten top-flight league season. Considered the greatest Gunner of all-time, Henry won two league titles, three FA Cups, four Golden Boots, and five Player of the Year awards throughout his career.
At 6ft 4in, the tough-tackling Frenchman played a critical role in Wenger’s squad as a box-to-box midfielder. His all-around excellence on both sides of the field earned him many plaudits, making him the Arsenal captain from 2002 – 2005. While not a prolific goalscorer, he nonetheless secured the Invincibles undefeated 2003–04 season with a crucial goal against Leicester City. His trophy haul for the Gunners includes three League titles, five FA Cups, and three English Super Cups.
Once a replacement for David Beckham in 2008, Ronaldo went on to become one of the greatest footballers of all-time. He won his first Ballon d’Or at the age of 23 after an astonishing 2007-08 season with the Red Devils which saw the club win a treble of trophies including the Champions League, the Premier League title, and the FA Cup. Ronaldo left for Real Madrid the following season for a record transfer of £80 million.
Paul Scholes played his entire career with Manchester United encompassing 700 games and scoring 155 goals, the latter making him the 10th leading club scorer of all time. His on-field intelligence and versatility made him the complete player. A decorated player, he won a total of 25 trophies for the club including 11 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, and 2 Champions League trophies. His 155 goals make him the 10th leading club scorer of all-time.
“Super Frankie Lampard,” as came to be known among the Chelsea faithful, is still the only midfielder to score 150 or more goals in the Premier League. The goal-scoring legend also had a knack for setting up his teammates, registering 102 assists in his 13 years at Chelsea. The 3-time Chelsea player of the season and Champions League winner once finished runner-up to Ronaldinho to Ballon d’Or in 2005.
The Liverpool stalwart Steven Gerrard made over 500 appearances for his boyhood club. He will forever be enshrined in The Reds folklore for sparking the amazing comeback to beat AC Milan 4-3 in the 2005 Champions League final. Earning the nickname Captain Fantastic, the only trophy to elude the versatile midfielder was a Premier League title.
Undoubtedly one of the greatest players in Blues’ history, Didier Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances for The Blues. He also helped Chelsea equalize in the 2012 Champions League final before scoring the winning penalty against Bayern Munich. The Ivorian scored consistently in the biggest competitions, 36 goals in European competition and a goal in four FA Cup finals. The twice Premier League Golden Boot also won three League Cups.
Gary Neville played his entire 20-year career at Manchester United, turning out more than 600 matches. He captained the club for five years while helping the Red Devils win 8 Premiership titles, 3 FA Cups, 2 League Cups, and 2 Champions League titles.
Considered one of the best ball-playing defenders, the dominant center-back played 12 years at Manchester United. He won the Premier League in his first year with the club in 2003, winning a total of 6 Premier League titles.
Criticized by Tottenham fans for his controversial move to crosstown rivals Arsenal in 2001, Sol Campbell developed into a cornerstone for the Gunner defense. The man Arsene Wenger often referred to as a ‘super rock,’ helped the club win the double in 2002 and played an important role on the side that went undefeated in the 2003-04 season.
Considered by some to be the best left-back in the world during his career at Chelsea, Ashley Cole won four FA Cups, a Premier League, a League Cup, a Europa League Cup, and Champions League with The Blues. His controversial move from the Gunners in 2006 to Chelsea earned him the nickname ‘Cashley Cole’ by Arsenal fans. With his continued success and swath of trophies in West London, Cole was able to put the transfer saga comfortably behind him.
The first recipient of the Premier League Golden Glove award, Petr Čech set a single-season record of 24 clean sheets for The Blues during the 2004-05 season. After returning from a horrific incident in a 2006 match that left him with a fractured skull, he sported a trademark helmet that saw him lift Champions League, four League titles, four FA Cups, plus one UEFA Champions League.