Who are the best players in the Premier League right now? This isn’t a question that’s easy to answer — and it’s certainly a controversial topic.
After all, who can say if a striker is better than a defender, or if a goalkeeper’s ability is more important to a team than a midfielder’s. Should keepers even make it onto a list of the best footballers in the Premier League, considering the talent elsewhere on the field?
Well, the Premier League has certainly proved the perfect stage for showcasing the best players on the planet. But how can you choose between the elite stars?
We’ve set out our criteria for the list, which focuses on both talent and achievements over the past few seasons. We won’t be factoring in bursts of form or bad streaks — this is about overall performance and success.
Because of this, players such as Raheem Sterling, Sergio Aguero and Paul Pogba did not make the list.
Pogba may be the most expensive Premier League signing in history but his form over the past four seasons at Manchester United has never been consistent. The Frenchman has certainly improved since the arrival of Bruno Fernandes but he has yet to prove it over a long period of time.
And Sterling himself may admit he has blown hot and cold at times, although he will surely make the list soon if he starts to have a greater impact on upcoming Premier League fixtures.
And we had to cut Aguero because his influence at Manchester City has waned over the past 18 months – and that long sought-after Champions League trophy still hasn’t arrived.
Here’s our list. Do you agree with it?
Follow us on our brand new Twitter page: @RadioTimesSport
10. Harry Kane (Tottenham)
England captain and Tottenham’s front man, Harry Kane makes it onto this list ahead of Sergio Aguero through sheer grit and hard work. Kane is proving he has the longevity required to haul Tottenham into trophy-challenging positions – and his forward relationship with Son Heung-min is second to none. This year could also see the Three Lions star lift a trophy for his country.
9. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
When Arsenal endure a blip in the Premier League – which is often a seasonal occurrence, it must be said – the team look to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to lead the way. For the past three seasons, the captain has got the Gunners out of scrapes and he is immensely valuable to this side. His goals earned Arsenal FA Cup glory in the summer of 2020 and kept them competitive in the Premier League.
To see how important Aubameyang is to the north London side is to watch how they cope when he is off the boil. Arsenal have a tendency to wilt when the going gets tough, and would certainly be a trophy down and not be competing in Europe had Aubameyang not been there. We can put lack of goals in 2020/21 so far down to a blip from the entire squad, rather than the 31-year-old.
8. Jamie Vardy (Leicester)
If anyone thought Jamie Vardy was a busted flush in the two years following Leicester’s Premier League title triumph then they were simply wrong. Vardy has proved to be one of the deadliest strikers in English football for seven years now – and his experience is bringing through a new breed of talent at Leicester in the form of James Maddison and Youri Tielemans. At 34, Vardy still has plenty in the tank.
7. Kasper Schmeichel (Leicester)
Another player who perhaps fell away from the limelight once the shock of Leicester’s title success subsided, Kasper Schmeichel has proved to be the most consistent goalkeeper in the Premier League over the past six or seven years. Rarely does the Denmark international have a bad game – and his ability to command is area is something of a rare talent in the Premier League. What’s more, Schmeichel does the job at international level too and could be one to watch at Euro 2020.
6. Bruno Fernandes (Man Utd)
Last year Bruno Fernandes would not have made the cut but the midfielder has not only shone at Manchester United, he has transformed the team. In 12 months Fernandes has revolutionised United’s attacking threat and made them arguable title challengers once more. Make no mistake, Fernandes was brilliant before he arrived at Old Trafford – and that is one of the reasons he makes the list now. His efforts with Sporting Lisbon earned him two cup victories before heading to United, where his level has kicked on. There is possibly not a more valuable single player to any side in the Premier League than Fernandes’ worth at United.
5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
Three years ago, Mohamed Salah was the kingpin this Liverpool’s side – the man who would lead them to the Champions League final only to suffer a shoulder injury in the defeat to Real Madrid. In the two seasons since, Liverpool have become less reliant on Salah’s goals. Yet they still need their superstar talent on the field.
Salah has added assists to his goalscoring form in recent campaigns to become the true heart of this Liverpool attack. One may argue that Kane and Aguero are better finishers than Salah, but there is no-one quite like the Egypt international when it comes to marshalling a blistering attack. What Liverpool have earned in place of those reduced goals is a harder-working forward whose assists, distribution and defensive contributions have all increased.
4. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Over the past five seasons, youth product Trent Alexander-Arnold has shown how development under the same system at one club can transform a teenager’s career. The Liverpudlian was one of the first young gems to come through under manager Klopp and he’s never looked back.
Alexander-Arnold is now arguably the most reliable full-back in the Premier League – alongside opposite number Andrew Robertson – and played all 38 of Liverpool’s games in the 2019/20 season. That was a step up from the previous term but he did it with ease. Now a fully-fledged England international, Alexander-Arnold won the Premier League Young Player of the Year award in 2019/20. He has already won the Premier League title, Champions League and the Club World Cup with Liverpool.
What’s more, Alexander-Arnold is only set to get better. He made the most touches of any player in the 2019/20 season (3,664) and delivered 13 assists. England have not had a better full-back prospect since Ashley Cole.
3. Son Heung-min (Tottenham)
Son made a somewhat under-the-radar move to Tottenham from Bayer Leverkusen in 2015 and by his own admission would likely say he started off slowly in north London. But the Korea international’s worth truly came to the fore when he struck up a partnership with Kane under ex-Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino. Now under the command of Jose Mourinho, Tottenham’s entire system works to cater for Son and Kane – and this has resulted in the former netting 16 goals in the first half of the 2020/21 season. Even more is expected from the exciting 28-year-old.
2. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Consistency is the key to any Premier League title-winning side and Virgil van Dijk offered just that when he joined Liverpool from Southampton in 2015. The 6ft 4in centre-back finally gave the Reds some defensive foundation after years of disaster at the back. Van Dijk is arguably the best Dutchman to play in the Premier League (hello, Arsenal and Manchester United fans!) and offers the same solidity at the back for Liverpool that Vincent Kompany and John Terry provided for Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.
What’s more, Van Dijk has justified his world-record £75m price tag for a defender. When he joined the Klopp revolution in 2015 the centre-back had impressed at Celtic and Southampton, but was far from the complete player. Klopp instilled in Van Dijk a discipline and courage that has served the Netherlands international well.
He came second in the 2019 Ballon d’Or (behind serial winner Lionel Messi) and led Liverpool’s charge to back-to-back Champions League finals.
Crucially, Van Dijk is also a very disciplined player. He has earned just one yellow card in each of the past three domestic seasons. For a Premier League centre-back guaranteed to start and up against some of the fastest forwards in the world, this is a remarkable stat. What’s more, his knee injury suffered at the start of the 2020/21 season and subsequent absence has exposed just how much Liverpool relied on the Dutchman.
1. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Few players can turn a game with a flick of the outside foot or a penetrating pass quite like Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgium international took his Premier League displays to a whole new level in 2019/20, scoring a career-best 13 goals in the campaign and providing a staggering 20 assists.
By the summer of 2020 De Bruyne had been directly involved in 111 of City’s 454 goals scored in the Premier League since 2015/16. That’s a remarkable 24.45 per cent. He has the crossing ability of David Beckham, the vision of Andres Iniesta and the confidence of Thierry Henry. Everything goes through him at City and it’s no wonder he is a mainstay in Pep Guardiola’s XI.
What makes De Bruyne’s rise at City so noteworthy is that he was dumped by Chelsea after just three Premier League appearances. He headed to Wolfsburg and shone in the Bundesliga, proved his doubters wrong and came back to the Premier League hungry for titles. Many doubted De Bruyne’s talents when he rocked up at the Etihad, having cost City £55m — a club record fee.
But he’s been a core member of their title-winning sides ever since. His former manager Manuel Pellegrini said of De Bruyne: “He is a very creative player, he has goals in him, because this team always tries to play attractive and offensive football and for that you need good players. In all senses, he was the perfect player to arrive to our team.”