Saturday 24 August 2019

Which country has provided the most Premier League talent outside England? It's not us

Roy Keane was one of the most influential foreigners to play in the Premier League
Roy Keane was one of the most influential foreigners to play in the Premier League
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

The Premier League has become a home to some of the biggest names in world football since in inception in 1992 – but which nations have led the way in providing talent to the richest league in the world?

Here is your guide to the countries that have exported the most players to the Premier League, with Ireland rating highly on the list.

1. France

Total players: 191

Best of the crop: Thierry Henry

Thierry Henry, whose handball against Ireland was as popular among public servants as the public sector pension levy

Arsene Wenger’s arrival as Arsenal manager in 1996 transformed the Premier League landscape, with the influx of foreign players and managers spawned from the success he generated.

Wenger signed a host of French players at Arsenal, with Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira and Nicolas Anelka some of his early star captures and many clubs have followed his lead in recent years. Alan Pardew has invested heavily in French talent at Newcastle and now Crystal Palace, with France have 31 players who have made a Premier League appearance so far this season.

2. Scotland

Total players: 188

Best of the crop: Darren Fletcher

Mata (right) is chased by West Brom's Darren Fletcher during Saturday's match at Old Trafford

The Scottish contingent in the Premier League has been dwindling dramatically in recent years, with a bulk of the player making up the 188 total playing in the opening decade of the redesigned English league. Indeed, just 13 players available to Gordon Strachan’s current national team have played in the Premier League this season.

Fletcher lays claim to being the most successful Scot to have played in the Premier League, after claiming four Premier League titles and a Champions League win during his time at Manchester United.

3. Ireland

Total players: 156

Best of the crop: Roy Keane

Roy Keane had the chance to join Real Madrid

Our status as the third highest contributor of players to the Premier League may come as something of a surprise to the modern generation, who have got used to seeing English matches featuring hardly any Irish stars.

Yet the first PFA Player of the Year of the Premier League era was our own Paul McGrath, while the imperious Roy Keane is regarded as one of the greatest players to have graced the division after his years of brilliance at Manchester United. Here’s hoping more names can be added to this list, with 19 Irish player making a Premier League appearance so far this season.

4. Holland

Total players: 116

Best of the crop: Robin van Persie

Alex Ferguson sits with Robin van Persie after Manchester United's sealed the title in 2013

Dutch players were among the first of the foreign clan to make a big impression in English football, with Arnold Muhren and Frans Thijssen making a big impression at Ipswich in the 1970s, before Dennis Bergkamp was a trailblazer for the modern generation at Arsenal.

Ruud Gullit and Ruud van Nistelrooy are among the other notable Dutch players to have played in England, while Robin van Persie’s 144 goals for Arsenal and Manchester United puts him in 10th place in the all-time list of Premier League goal getters.

5. Spain

Total players: 105

Best of the crop: Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas, pictured, does not expect Jose Mourinho to be sacked by Chelsea

Spanish players have flocked into the Premier League during an era when their nation have been producing a rich flow of classy performers, with Cesc Fabregas arguably the best of the bunch during his spells with Arsenal and Chelsea.

Fernando Torres was a masterful goal getter for Liverpool following his arrival in England in 2007, with Spain offering up 29 players who have made appearances in this Premier League this season.

6. Wales

Total players: 102

Best of the crop: Ryan Giggs

File photo dated 21/05/2008 of Manchester United's Ryan Giggs celebrates with the trophy after winning the UEFA Champions League Final at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday May 19, 2014. Ryan Giggs has announced his retirement as a player following his appointment as assistant to new Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal, the club have announced on their official website. See PA story SOCCER Man Utd. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

British and Irish players have not been the trendy accessory for most Premier League clubs to promote, yet the modestly populated nation of Wales have served up two of the finest Premier League performers of them all.

Ryan Giggs is arguably the greatest champion in the history of the competition, with his 13 title triumphs putting him in a league of his own in the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, Gareth Bale was a class above all of his rivals as he turned on the style with Spurs before his £86m move to Real Madrid in 2013.

7. Northern Ireland

Total players: 64

Best of the crop: Steven Davis

Southampton's Steven Davis celebrates after scoring during the match between Southampton and Bournemouth

A glance at the Northern Ireland team that got us all cheering at the 1982 World Cup finals confirms that they had a host of players plying their trade at top clubs, yet those days have long since passed.

The lack of Premier League players available to Michael O’Neill’s side right now makes their achievement of reaching Euro 2016 all the more impressive, with just seven players who qualify for his team making an appearance in England’s top division this season.

8. Italy

Total players: 63

Best of the crop: Gianfranco Zola


Just five players with an Italian passport have played in the Premier League so far this season, with the decline of their talent stream reflected in that moderate figure.

Their numbers had been far more impressive in years gone by, with the likes of Gianluca Vialli, Mario Balotelli and Fabrizio Ravanelli making an impression for a differing reasons. Chelsea magician Zola may well have been the finest of their exports.

9. Argentina

Total players: 62

Best of the crop: Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero is hoping to return for Manchester City this weekend

The arrival of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa at Spurs in 1978 was the move that broke down the barriers for signing foreign players in English football and plenty of the masterful performers that have followed in their footsteps from Argentina.

Angel Di Maria is arguably the biggest Argentinian disappointment in the Premier League after his record breaking £59.7m move to Manchester United fell flat, yet Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero and his former team-mate Carlos Tevez are among their marquee champions.

10. Brazil

Total players: 62

Best of the crop: Philippe Coutinho

Liverpool's Philippe Coutinho celebrates scoring their first goal Action Images via Reuters / Lee Smith Livepic

Brazilian players have not always settled too quickly in English football, but there have been exceptions to that rule, with Chelsea boasting a host of stars from the South American football mad nation right now.

Willian, Oscar, Ramires and Kenedy are among those on the Stamford Bridge books, while Philippe Coutinho has been a big hit at Liverpool since his move to Anfield in January 2013.

Online Editors

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