Henrikh Mkhitaryan

Premier League: 14 Nations That Have Only Had Only One Top Flight Footballer

Last season, Cardiff City’s goalkeeper Neil Etheridge became the first player from the Philippines compete in the Premier League.

In doing so, the Philippines became the 113th nation to be represented in the Premier League over the years.

With Etheridge being his country’s sole player in the competitions history, here's a look at which other nations across the globe have had just the one man to play in English football’s top flight.

From tiny islands, to one of the most populated countries in the world, these obscure nations have given us some hidden gems, cult heroes and disastrous flops.

Here are the 14 players who are the only person from their nation to compete in the Premier League.

1. Albania: Lorik Cana (Sunderland)

Defender-cum-midfielder Cana joined the Black Cats for £5m at the start of the 2009 campaign and was made club captain that season. 

Starring in a team that featured the likes of Darren Bent, Kenwyne Jones and Steed Malbranque, Cana lead the side to 13th in the league. Heady days considering Sunderland's current standing.

The Albanian, who began his professional career in France at PSG, played just the one season before being sold on to Galatasaray the following summer. 

Cana is also the most capped player in Albania’s history, playing in 92 international fixtures. He captained the side to their first ever appearance at a major tournament as they qualified for the 2016 Euros.

2. Angola: Manucho (Manchester United, Hull City)

One of a few left-field signings in Manchester United’s Premier League history (remember Bebe?), Manucho was bought by Sir Alex Ferguson before the 2008/09 season from Petro Atletico, a club in Manucho’s homeland of Angola, after a successful trial period.

The rest of the striker's Premier League career would not be as successful, however.

After making just one appearance as a substitute for United, Manucho then went on loan spells to Panathinaikos and fellow Premier League team Hull City. 

The forward did manage to bag two goals in his thirteen appearances for Hull, but on returning to Manchester was swiftly sold to Spanish side Valladolid.

Sir Alex made some incredible signings during his reign, but Manucho was certainly one to forget.

3. Armenia: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Manchester United, Arsenal)

Without question the most talented footballer on this list, Armenian Mkhitaryan came to the Premier League prior to the 2016/17 season after signing for Manchester United from Borussia Dortmund.

Despite being a talented attacking midfielder and scoring a memorable scorpion kick against Sunderland in the league, he had an up and down couple of seasons with United and divided opinion.

Mkhitaryan was then signed by Premier League rivals Arsenal in a swap deal for Alexis Sanchez, which also split opinion amongst both sets of fans. The debate as to who got the better end of the deal still rages. 

4. Burkina Faso: Bertrand Traore (Chelsea)

This pacey winger is one of the hoards of young players to come through Chelsea’s youth system in recent years.

After the mandatory loan spell at Chelsea’s sister club, Vitesse, Traore returned to London for the 2015/16 season where he managed to play 10 times and scored twice. 

Despite encouraging signs, he was then loaned out again to Ajax, before being sold to Lyon prior to the 2017/18 season for £8.8m where he has improved massively, netting 20 times in 64 appearances.

Despite only being 23, Traore also has an impressive international record already for Burkina Faso and made his debut for his home nation at the tender age of 15. 

He has since been linked with a move back to the Premier League, with Spurs and Liverpool among those mentioned as possible destinations.

5. Faroe Islands: Gunnar Nielsen (Manchester City)

It wouldn’t be surprising if you’ve never heard of Gunnar Nielsen.

Despite being a Manchester City player for over two years, the Faroese keeper only played around 15 minutes of football for the Citizens in his one appearance for the club.

After leaving City, Nielsen had a short spell in Denmark before joining Motherwell in 2013.

Now 32, he has made a name for himself over in Iceland. However, it’s not a name many will remember here in England.

A small set of islands roughly halfway between the northernmost point of Scotland and Iceland, the Faroe Islands are technically part of Denmark, but are recognised by FIFA as their own nation.

6. Gambia: Modou Barrow (Swansea City)

After beginning his footballing career in Sweden, winger Modou Barrow was picked up by Swansea City for a fee of around £1.5m. 

The promising winger only managed to score once in over 50 appearances for the Welsh club, amongst loan spells to Leeds, Blackburn and Nottingham Forest.

Despite being eligible to play for Sweden, Barrow pledged allegiance to his home nation of Gambia, the smallest country in mainland Africa. 

He now plays in the Championship with Reading where he has been since the start of the 2017/18 season, racking up over 75 appearances. 

7. Gibraltar: Danny Higginbotham (Manchester United, Derby, Southampton, Sunderland, Stoke)

Although technically not its own independent country, the tiny, British-controlled peninsula of Gibraltar, located in southern Spain, was accepted by UEFA as an individual footballing nation back in 2013 and gained FIFA membership in 2016.

Higginbotham, who had made appearances for five Premier League teams in a long-running career, is a British citizen but qualified to represent Gibraltar through his grandmother. He made three international appearances and debuted at the ripe old age of 34.

A hard-tackling full-back, Higginbotham was a Premier League regular for the likes of Southampton, Stoke and Sunderland, before he retired from football in 2014.

He will be remembered most for his part in Stoke’s 2006/07 campaign, which saw him net seven goals and be made club captain by Tony Pulis.

8. Guinea-Bissau: Mesca (Fulham)

Next up is, arguably, the least known player on this list. So unknown, in fact, is Mesca that there are next to no photographs of him actually on a pitch. The picture above is in fact his brother, who will be mentioned shortly.

Sandwiched between Guinea and Senegal is the tiny African nation of Guinea-Bissau, responsible for one of the more exotic members of the Premier League's 'One Appearance Club'.

Midfielder Mesca appeared to have a promising career ahead of him, representing Portugal at various youth levels after spending time at Sporting and Chelsea’s youth teams.

He then signed a professional contract at Fulham before the 2011/12 season, where he made just a single appearance in four years. 

Still only 26 years of age, Mesca is currently without a club after spells in Cyprus and Bulgaria. 

Mesca’s brother, however, has gone on to have a far more successful career. 

Bruma (pictured), who has played for the likes of Sporting, Galatasaray and Red Bull Leipzig, has just signed a 10 million euro deal with PSV Eindhoven and has seven international caps for Portugal. Turns out not everything runs in the family. 

9. Kenya: Victor Wanyama (Southampton, Tottenham)

Defensive midfielder Wanyama is now a well-established Premier League player.

Currently a member of Mauricio Pochhetino’s talented Tottenham squad, the Kenyan became the first and only man from his country to play in the Premier League when he originally signed for Southampton in 2013.

Six years on, Wanyama not only puts in big defensive shifts but can also deliver the occasional long-range goal - most memorably his powerful effort for Tottenham against Liverpool.

Wanyama currently faces tough competition for a place in the starting XI at Spurs, with the likes of Harry Winks, Eric Dier and Moussa Sissoko all improving last season. 

If the rumoured signing of Tanguy Ndombele from Lyon goes through, we could potentially see Wanyama look for more minutes elsewhere. His legacy as the Premier League’s first ever Kenyan, however, will still live on.

10. Malta: Dylan Kerr (Leeds United)

The definition of a journeyman, defender Dylan Kerr had a varied career to say the least, both as a player and as a manager.

Including stints on loan, Kerr has played for a total of 18 clubs, but his short spell in the Premier League came with Leeds United. 

He only managed 13 appearances between 1989 and 1993, with his last season at the club being the inaugural Premier League campaign.

Kerr then went on to play for numerous clubs in the lower leagues of English football, as well as for a few teams in Scotland.

In 2014, Kerr began his managerial career and has since taken the helm of teams in some exotic locations around the world, such as Vietnam, Kenya, Tanzania and, most recently, South Africa. However, he is currently without a managerial role.

11. Oman: Ali Al-Habsi (Bolton Wanderers, Wigan Athletic)

Ali Al-Habsi is probably the main reason why the majority of people in Britain know the Middle Eastern country of Oman actually exists.

The goalkeeper, who came to the Premier League with Bolton but made a name for himself at Wigan, was well-known not just for coming from an unusual country but also for his penalty saving ability. Only seven goalkeepers in Premier League history have kept out more penalties than Al-Habsi, who stopped six spot kicks. 

Al-Habsi was a part of Roberto Martinez’s Wigan team that, in 2013, became the first team to both lift the FA Cup and be relegated. He was, however, a substitute for the dramatic final that saw Ben Watson’s injury time header stun Manchester City.

Now 37, the keeper currently plays in Saudi Arabia.

12. Pakistan: Zesh Rehman (Fulham)

It seems incredible that, despite being the sixth largest country on the planet in terms of population, there has only ever been one player of Pakistani heritage in the Premier League.

That player is Birmingham born defender Zesh Rehman. Scouted at a young age by Fulham, he was promoted to the senior team in the 2003/04 season. In the next few seasons, Rehman would make 30 appearances and net one goal for the London club, as well as go on loan to Brighton and Norwich.

He has gone on to have a varied career, playing for a number of other English clubs such as QPR and Bradford, whilst also playing in Malaysia, Thailand and currently, at the age of 35, Hong Kong.

During his career, Rehman has also worked as an activist, trying to increase the number of British-Asians taking up football.

13. Philippines: Neil Etheridge (Cardiff City)

When Etheridge made his Premier League debut for Neil Warnock’s Cardiff side at the beginning of last season, he became not just the first Filipino player in the top flight but the first from all of Southeast Asia.

The goalkeeper’s solid displays last season saw him voted the club’s Player of the Season but they weren’t enough to prevent plucky Cardiff from being relegated to the Championship.

Etheridge became the first goalkeeper in five years to save a penalty on his Premier League debut when he denied Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson from the spot. He went on to save three penalties in total last season, which was the joint highest that campaign, alongside Jordan Pickford.

The 29-year-old, who is eligible to represent the Philippines due to his mother, also has 62 appearances for the national team. 

14. Seychelles: Kevin Betsy (Fulham)

The final player in this list is Kevin Betsy. 

Being of Seychelloise decent, he became the first player to represent the Seychelles in the Premier League, which is a tiny cluster of islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean but technically part of Africa.

A member of the Fulham team that saw them promoted to the Premier League in 2001, Betsy went on to only make one appearance in the top flight against Manchester United.

The midfielder, who now works as a coach at Fulham’s academy, featured in a team that included the likes of Edwin van der Sar, Louis Saha and Luis Boa Morte.

After a transfer to Barnsley, Betsy went on to sign for the likes of Oldham, Wycombe and Bristol City, before ending his career at non-league Woking where he retired in 2015.