The Premier League has recently announced a list of awards to commemorate its 20th anniversary and supporters can now vote on the outstanding moments from the last two decades of football. To have your say, visit www.premierleague.com to view the greatest matches, goals, celebrations, saves and players. At the Coin Toss, we’ve submitted our nominees for the greatest team of the last 20 years, and discussed it below. See what you think:
Goalkeeper – Peter Schmeichel
What can you say about the Great Dane? He features twice on the saves list for stupendous efforts against Liverpool and Newcastle United, and always came up with the goods in big games. Who can forget his penalty save off Dennis Bergkamp in the 1999 FA Semi-Final, or his cartwheels that night in Barcelona as United sealed the treble. Peter wasn’t adverse to popping up with the odd goal either, but no-one, least of all those who played in front of him, will fail to remember his red nose, screaming blue murder at defenders regardless of whether they had done anything wrong or not. 292 appearances for Manchester United, 29 for Aston Villa and 29 for ManchesterCity makes Peter the greatest between the sticks in Premier League history.
Runner Up: Brad Friedel
Right Back – Gary Neville
Neville is like marmite, you either love him or you hate him. Considering he spent most of his career winding up Liverpool fans, the red persuasion of Merseyside lean towards the latter, but there’s no denying Neville’s ability as a player. 400 appearances for his beloved Reds in a 19 year spell at the club sealed his status as a legend at Old Trafford, but he also patrolled the right flank for England 85 times as well. Most people (myself included), have warmed to Neville in his new role as a Sky Sports Pundit and now appreciate the passion and commitment he showed on the playing field. A true warrior.
Runner-Up: Lee Dixon
Left Back – Ashley Cole
If people are divided over whether they love or hate Gary Neville, there is no doubt about the public’s feelings for Ashley Cole. Highly unpopular for his off-field antics, not to mention his cash-grabbing mentality when he left Arsenal, Cole epitomises everything bad about modern footballers. On the pitch though, Cashley lets his performances do the talking and they are some performances. Three Premier League titles and six FA Cups during his spells at Arsenal and Chelsea is hardly surprising when you consider the consistency of Cole on the left hand side. He has also played 93 times for England, and always comes out of international duty with his reputation intact, not something than can be said for his teammates. Not a particularly nice person, but a damn terrific footballer. Club and country will miss Cole when he retires.
Runner Up: Patrice Evra
Centre Back – Rio Ferdinand
Given Rio has won five Premiership titles with United, it’s easy to forget that the Reds are his third Premiership club. He hit the big time with West Ham, emerging as a classy ball-playing centre half that caught Leeds United’s attention during the height of their spending frenzy. An £18 million move made Rio the world’s most expensive defender, as well as a British transfer record and he captained the Whites during their Champions League run. He bettered both his records in moving to Old Trafford for £29.1 million though, and soon became recognised as one of the world’s leading players. His partnership with Nemanja Vidic for United is one of the most solid around and you can always count on Rio to lead from the front.
Runner Up: John Terry
Centre Back – Sol Campbell
Big Sol proved to be one of England’s most reliable custodians during his 73 caps, while his Premier League record is nothing short of sensational. A PFA Team of the Year member three times in his career, Campbell also picked up two titles during his time with the Gunners. Despite crossing the great divide from Spurs, Sol proved to be a rock at the back for the ‘Invincibles’ side, and although Arsene Wenger thought he was past it, Campbell showed he most definitely wasn’t, helping Portsmouth to a famous FA Cup win in 2008. His ability to plug the gap for Arsenal again during an injury crisis in 2010 showed how much of a natural Campbell was and his no-nonsense, uncompromising style of defending wouldn’t go amiss for the Gunners today.
Runner Up: Nemanja Vidic
Right Midfield – Cristiano Ronaldo
Six years in the Premiership, most of it spent sulking, waving his arms around or doing countless numbers of stepovers that made you dizzy just watching. Whatever you make of Ronaldo’s attitude, there’s no questioning his ability, indeed on natural talent alone, he could be the greatest ever Premier League player. Ronaldo could do things with a ball that no else in England could even dream of and his record in Spain since that £80 million move to Real Madrid is criminally underrated thanks a certain Argentinean maestro. 84 goals in 196 games for United is a decent return for Ronaldo, though his 42 goals in all competitions in the 2007/08 season helped United to the Champions League and the Premiership title and opened everyone’s eyes to the talent Ronaldo possessed. A truly brilliant player and one that would be welcomed back to the Premier League with open arms.
Runner Up: David Beckham
Left Midfield – Ryan Giggs
636 Premier League appearances and counting. Enough said. The Welsh wizard not only walks into this team, but in terms of longevity and contributions to the game, would probably waltz away with the greatest ever player award. He has the most assists ever in the Premier League and has also scored 112 goals, scoring in every season since its inception. His list of honours, both individual and team, are too long to list, but the only figure you need to know is 12. 12 Premier League titles. Giggs, along with Sir Alex Ferguson, makes Manchester United what they are today and when, or indeed if, he finally retires, the Premier League will have lost its finest ever player. A true role model to all in football (on-field actions at least…)
Runner Up: Matt Le Tissier
Central Midfield – Paul Scholes
Almost everything that was said about Giggs can also be said about Scholes. Scholes is not only a model professional on the field, but also off the field as well. He possesses perhaps the best range of passing the division has ever seen, and perhaps also the worst tackling technique. He has shown his true quality returning from retirement in January to inspire United to what seems to be another Premier League title. Scholes has an eye for goal as well, notching 102 for the Reds during his playing career. The ginger master won’t want to finish now either, so expect to see another year of him silently destroying the opposition’s midfield. Irreplaceable.
Runner Up: Roy Keane
Central Midfield – Steven Gerrard
One of the main criticisms of Stevie G is that he never reproduced his club form on the international stage. This would be a tricky prospect, given how outstanding Gerrard’s form for Liverpool is. Since making his debut in 1998, Gerrard has made 401 appearances for the Reds and has dragged them through approximately 399 of them. Captain Fantastic doesn’t even describe his leadership abilities and it would be a tremendous shame if Gerrard were to bow out of football without a Premier League title to his name. It’s impossible to count the amount of important goals Gerrard has scored for the club and you only have look at Liverpool’s form when he is out of the side as an indicator to how good Stevie really is. Widely considered one of the best in the world for years on end, Gerrard is one of Liverpool, and indeed, England’s greatest ever footballers.
Runner Up: Patrick Vieira
Striker – Eric Cantona
Possibly the most contested position on this list, as the Premier League has seen some truly remarkable forwards over the years. For sheer natural ability though, one spot has to go the enigmatic Frenchman, Mr Eric Cantona. Karate kicks aside, Cantona was simply brilliant in everything he did and the celebration after his exquisite chip against Liverpool is one of the Premiership’s most iconic moments. He picked up four titles in the five years he was at Old Trafford, inspiring the side from the front before his shock retirement. No one knew what Eric was going to do next, but you could bet your bottom dollar it was something mercurial as Cantona was simply ‘the King.’
Runner Up: Thierry Henry
Striker – Alan Shearer
It wouldn’t be the Premier League without Shearer wheeling away with his one arm in the air, celebrating one of the 260 goals he bagged in England’s top flight. This is 73 more than nearest rival Andy Cole, showing just how consistently Big Al would find the net. Just the one title to his name, during his spell at Blackburn Rovers, it is Shearer’s greatest regret that he never delivered the biggest prize to his beloved Newcastle. His loyalty never wavered though, indeed Sir Alex Ferguson tried to sign him twice, once when he left Blackburn, but Shearer showed his dedication to his boyhood club. It’s a shame that Shearer retired early from England duty, but without a doubt, Alan Shearer, on goalscoring record alone, merits a place in this team.
Runner Up: Wayne Rooney