The best Premier League players of all time - ranked: 30-21

  • 90min rank the top 50 greatest Premier League players of all time
  • Legends such as Didier Drogba, Rio Ferdinand and N'Golo Kante feature
  • Third list reveals the players ranked 30th to 21st

Image by Briony Painter
Image by Briony Painter /

Since its inception in 1992, the Premier League has been the home of some of the greatest footballers of all time.

From early Premier League years heroes like Eric Cantona, to Ballon d'Or winners like Cristiano Ronaldo, and modern day greats like Mohamed Salah, English football fans have been treated to watching true footballing icons week in, week out over the last three decades.

But who is the greatest Premier League player of all time?

Well, that's what we're here to decide.

Over the next week, 90min will be ranking the top 50 Premier League players of all time. After ranking 50-41 on Monday, and 40-31 on Tuesday, we're back rank 30-21 today...

30. Gianfranco Zola

Zola was exceptional
Zola was exceptional / Ben Radford / Staff
  • Premier League club: Chelsea
  • Position: Attacking midfielder

Before the Roman Abramovich money brought a huge swathe of international icons to Stamford Bridge, Gianfranco Zola was Chelsea's one and only superstar player.

The number ten dazzled Blues fans throughout the 1990s and into the early 2000s, scoring stunning free kicks, long-range rockets and even a bloody back-heel volley (check this video out if you don't believe me).

29. Tony Adams

Arsenal legend
Arsenal legend / Getty Images / Staff
  • Premier League club: Arsenal
  • Position: Defender

Arsenal's greatest ever defender and captain, Tony Adams' career in north London is rightfully the stuff of legend at this point.

After helping the Gunners dominate the domestic game during the First Division era under George Graham, Adams continued to be one of the best centre-backs in England throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s while Arsene Wenger was manager.

His two Premier League titles and three PFA Team of the Year nods were more than deserved.

28. Ruud van Nistelrooy

Fantastic goalscorer
Fantastic goalscorer / Laurence Griffiths / Staff
  • Premier League club: Manchester United
  • Position: Forward

The ultimate penalty box striker, Ruud van Nistelrooy scored one of his 150 Manchester United goals from outside of the area.

Van Nistelrooy, thanks to his movement and finishing ability, was utterly deadly in the 18-yard box for Manchester United. The striker scored at least 20 goals in each of his four full seasons at Old Trafford - he missed the majority of the 2004/05 campaign due to injury - to guide them to one Premier League title during his time at the club.

His goalscoring antics also earned him a PFA Player of the Year award and a Golden Boot too. Nice one.

27. Didier Drogba

Drogba scored important goals
Drogba scored important goals / Julian Finney / Staff
  • Premier League club: Chelsea
  • Position: Forward

If you look up 'clutch' in the dictionary you'll probably read something like "a clutch is a mechanical device that allows the output shaft to be disconnected from the rotating input shaft" or "to grasp something tightly", but you should actually just read the name "Didier Drogba".

Drogba was the Super Sunday big-game player throughout his time at Stamford Bridge, rising to the big occasion to fire Chelsea to Premier League title, after Premier League title, after Premier League title.

His 104 league goals won Chelsea four titles in total, and etched his name in the club's history as one of the Blues' greatest ever players.

26. Vincent Kompany

A top defender in his day
A top defender in his day / Laurence Griffiths / Staff
  • Premier League club: Manchester City
  • Position: Defender

Signed as central midfielder from Hamburger SV for just £6m, Manchester City fans probably weren't expecting Vincent Kompany to the centre-back they built their golden era around; and yet that's exactly what he became.

Four Premier League titles and a statue later, Kompany is widely regarded as one of the greatest centre-backs in Premier League history.

25. N'Golo Kante

Two-time PL winner
Two-time PL winner / Matthew Ashton - AMA / Contributor
  • Premier League clubs: Leicester City, Chelsea
  • Position: Midfielder

A player with such a cultural impact that RedBubble are still selling "70% of the earth is covered by water, the rest by N'Golo Kante" t-shirts (for just £13.52 if you're into low quality t-shirts which will turn to dust after one 30-degree wash), it's fair to say the the holding midfielder left his mark on the Premier League.

Between 2015 and 2017 in particular, Kante was basically a cheat code in midfield. At both Leicester City and Chelsea in those two years, the France international single-handedly won countless midfield battles to inspire both to league title triumphs.

24. Nemanja Vidic

World class
World class / Shaun Botterill / Staff
  • Premier League club: Manchester United
  • Position: Defender

The best January signing of all time?

Judging by the fact that Nemanja Vidic was signed for £7m and went on to win five Premier League titles, be named in four PFA Team of the Years and two FIFA FIFPro World XIs, we'd say he definitely is.

Vidic was utterly exceptional at Old Trafford.

23. Ashley Cole

The best full-back in PL history?
The best full-back in PL history? / PATRIK STOLLARZ / Staff
  • Premier League clubs: Arsenal, Chelsea
  • Position: Full-back

Before there were flying full-backs who were essentially wingers and inverted full-backs who are essentially midfielders, there were two-way full-backs who could defend as well as they could attack (weird concept, right?), and there was no better two-way full-back than Ashley Cole.

The ex-England international was utterly exceptional during his time at both Arsenal and Chelsea, making four PFA Team of the Years while helping the London clubs to three Premier League titles.

22. Peter Schmeichel

The best
The best / Getty Images / Staff
  • Premier League clubs: Manchester United, Aston Villa, Manchester City
  • Position: Goalkeeper

Peter Schmeichel is the best goalkeeper in Premier League history and, judging by the fact that he is 14 places higher than his closest competitor on this list (Petr Cech) it's not even really up for debate either.

21. Rio Ferdinand

A Premier League legend
A Premier League legend / Shaun Botterill / Staff
  • Premier League clubs: West Ham United, Leeds United, Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers
  • Position: Defender

The centre-back role has changed a lot of the years. Way back in the day the role consisted of heading medicine balls clear of the penalty box, and now it mostly entails having the ball at your feet (a normal one, not a medicine ball) and retaining possession for your team.

Rio Ferdinand is one of the few centre-backs who would've thrived in either era. The former England international was as good on the ball as he was off it during his 15-year career in the Premier League - winning six Premier League titles and being named in six PFA Team of the Years as a result.