The Top 10 Best Ever Foreign Imports in Premier League History

This weekend saw the Etihad Stadium play host to the most one-sided scoreline in this season’s Premier League so far as Manchester City plundered seven goals past a lacklustre Norwich City.

However, the absence of a familiar face from the City line-up meant that the match was doubly significant as Joe Hart’s relegation to the bench meant that there was no British players in the home side’s starting eleven.

Such an occurrence is no longer a shock due to the changing face of the Premier League and Saturday's 7-0 domination reaffirmed that if a club can afford to buy talent from abroad it may be the best policy.

The likes of David Silva and Sergio Aguero have sparkled once again for City at the start of the season while new foreign imports Mesut Ozil and Christian Eriksen have left fans and pundits dazzled by their technique following the summer moves to North London.

Former Premier League stars Gareth Bale and Cristiano Ronaldo have gone on to earn mega money moves to arguably the biggest club in world football in Real Madrid and the latter smashed numerous records in the process.

But is he the greatest ever foreign import to grace the English game?

10. Thierry Henry (Arsenal)

When a gangly young French winger arrived in North London in the summer of 1999, few imagined that he would be moulded into the best striker in Premier League history.

A fee of £10.5 million seemed to be a steep price to pay for an unproven raw talent who had scored three goals in 16 appearances for Italian giants Juventus who hardly fought to keep his signature.

His pace was obvious for all to see but his end product was often lacking; an issue which Arsene Wenger had to rectify in order to justify the money he had spent.

Rectify it he did, to devastating effect, resulting in a player who was named the PFA Players' Player of the Year twice, and the FWA Footballer of the Year three times.

Henry eventually moved from his wide berth into a central role and he thrived on the change. A record breaking 228 goals for The Gunners showed exactly why Wenger had taken the gamble and in doing so he had created the best player to ever play for Arsenal and arguably in the Premier League.

9. Cristiano Ronaldo (Manchester United)

Ronaldo arrived at Manchester United for £12 million in 2003 as an 18-year-old full of potential.

His raw nature meant it was a gamble but who better to nurture his talent than the great mentor Sir Alex Ferguson?

His debut as a substitute against Bolton Wanderers demonstrated his flair and ability but also just how much work was needed in order to turn him into a top player.

Would his petulant attitude hold him back? Maybe under another manager, but Ferguson ensured he kept his head down.

Ronaldo began to score goals and once he started he couldn’t stop. All types of goals, one-on-ones, trademark free-kicks, bullet headers and long range strikes, most notably the memorable 40 yard blockbuster in a Champions league game at Porto.

An impressive 117 goals in six years, including a 42 goal in haul in 2007/08 (including a Champions League final goal), eventually earned him a dream, record-breaking £80 million move to Real Madrid.

8. Didier Drogba (Chelsea)

The Ivorian’s antics rarely endeared him to opposing Premier League fans but his ability was undeniable and he is arguably one of the best strikers to ever grace the league.

Drogba hit 157 goals in blue, a century of those coming in the Premier League. His strength, turn of pace and eye for a spectacular long range strike meant he had all the traits necessary to shine in the English game and his £24 million move is surely the best use of Abramovich’s billions so far.

Sadly, Drogba was also well known for his non-footballing abilities as he often took a tumble and feigned injury inside and outside of the area.

However, his late equaliser and winning penalty in Chelsea’s solitary Champions League win will mean he will always hold a special place in the club’s folklore.

7. Patrick Vieira (Arsenal)

Any young and promising French midfielder appears to be labelled “The new Vieira” and that is a testament to the great man’s ability.

Arsene Wenger is well known for having an eye for young talent and Vieira was arguably best find as he plucked him from AC Milan for £3.5 million after making just two senior appearances.

He went on to make 397 appearances for the Gunners and was the steel which allowed the likes of Henry, Ljungberg and Pires to sparkle in the attacking third but possessed a delicate, creative touch for a man of 6 foot 2 inches.

Arsene Wenger saw his leadership qualities and quickly captained Vieira following the departure of Tony Adams and his duels with Manchester United skipper Roy Keane became legendary in the Premier League.

6. Eric Cantona (Leeds United and Manchester United)

Cantona really was the king of cool, an uncontrollable maverick with all the talent in the world.

The Frenchman swapped Leeds for Manchester in £1.2 million in 1992 after scoring 9 goals in only 18 appearances.

The king’s stay in England was marred by the infamous karate kick but that’s not how he is remembered by United fans who still sing the name of the pop-collared genius on the terraces today.

His lazy, god-given talent was encapsulated by that famous chip against Sunderland and that was just one of 65 memorable Premier League strikes.

5. Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal)

The word genius is handed out far too often in football these days but in the case of Bergkamp the tag is fully deserved.

The “Non-Flying Dutchman” started life as a wide midfielder was signed from Inter Milan for £7.5 million notched 88 times in the Premier League for Arsenal but his game contained much more than goals with his creativity often demonstrated in his telepathic partnership with Henry.

A number of Bergkamp’s goals are still replayed and remembered today, most notably his classy strikes against Leicester City and Newcastle United.

Following his retirement, the Dutch genius became the first player of his nationality to be inducted into the English hall of fame.

4. Sami Hyypia (Liverpool)


That may have been the response of many Liverpool fans when the signing of an unknown Finnish defender from Dutch side Willem II was announced.

In actual fact, in 1999 the Reds paid just £3 million for a 25-year-old who would go on to become a club legend, going on to make 455 appearances for the Merseysiders.

The Fin was an imposing presence, standing at 6 foot 3 inches and his leadership qualities were soon noticed by Gerard Houllier who wasted little time in making him club captain.

Hyypia never possessed great pace but his reading of the game meant that mattered little as he was more often than not a yard ahead of the opposing striker.

During the 2000-01, Hyypia formed a formidable centre back partnership with Stephane Henchoz and the pairing were the solid foundation as Liverpool went on to win three trophies that year.

His height always made him a goal threat from set pieces and he found himself on the scoresheet 35 times at Liverpool, most notably the strike against Juventus in the 2005 Champions League semi-final.

Unsurprisingly, Hyypia has gone into management and is currently enjoying a spell in charge of German side Bayer Leverkusen.

3. Gianfranco Zola (Chelsea)

Standing at only 5 foot 6 inches tall, few thought that the pint-sized £4.5 million Italian striker was cut out to succeed in the physical Premier League.

How wrong could they be?

His pace, touch and trickery made up for every inch he gave away in height as proven by the 59 goals in 185 appearances in the English top flight.

Zola’s ability and attitude endeared him to English football followers as much as he did to Chelsea fans as a smile was never far from his face.

The highlight of his stay at Chelsea was undoubtedly a back heeled flick on the volley in an FA cup tie against Norwich which encapsulated his undeniable genius in one movement.

2. Edwin Van Der Sar ( Fulham and Manchester United)

It’s rare for that a goalkeeper gains the recognition they deserve but the record breaking Edwin Van Der Sar was often the key to Manchester United’s success.

While Ronaldo and Rooney quite rightly accepted the plaudits for the job they were doing at the other end, the Dutch stopper quietly got on with his business and often pulled off world class saves which were the difference between one point and three.

It was Fulham who pulled off a major coup in bringing Van Der Sar to the Premier League, signing him from Juventus for just £5 million.

But after making 126 appearances for the Cottagers, United came calling in 2005 and the bright lights of Old Trafford were too much for the 35-year-old to resist.

Sir Alex Ferguson had finally found his long-awaited replacement for Peter Schmeichel and will have been delighted to see the Dutchman go on to break the record for the amount of consecutive clean sheets, keeping 11 blanks in a row during the title winning season of 2009.

1. Fernando Torres (Liverpool and Chelsea)

Fans who have enjoyed most of their Premier League viewing in the last couple of years will see the inclusion of Torres as a suprise.

But those fortunate enough to witness El Nino upon his arrival in England will remember the way he shredded Premier League defences with his blistering acceleration and clinical finishing.

The Spaniard signed for Rafa Benitez’s Liverpool for a fee of £24.5 million in 2008 and wasted no time in making his mark, plundering 36 goals for club and country.

He was, at times, unstoppable and despite being a world class centre half, Manchester United’s Nemanja Vidic in particular found himself on the wrong end of a few Torres masterclasses.

His form earned him a whopping £50 million move to Chelsea in 2011but things haven’t gone to plan for him since. Injuries have seen him lose a yard of pace and that clinical touch has deserted him on frequent occasions.

But after his initial impact in England, Torres has to be considered as one of the best foreign signings to introduce themselves to the Premier League.