Top five footballers to have never played in Premier League

Who else will Zlatan Ibrahimovic join in the list of great players never to have featured for an English club?

On Tuesday Zlatan Ibrahimovic categorically dismissed any suggestions that he would move to the Premier League.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker admitted that he had talked to English clubs before joining AC Milan from Barcelona, but insisted that the time to play in England has long gone.

In response, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said that “it’s a pity” that the 32-year-old Sweden international, with whom he worked at Inter Milan in 2008-09, will never “play in the best league in the world”.

Now, everyone knows how much Mourinho loves English football and Chelsea, but is it really a ‘pity’ that Ibrahimovic will never feature in the Premier League? Or it is a ‘pity’ that the Premier League will never be graced by Ibrahimovic?

Here, we look at five of the best footballers since the 1990s who did not play for an English club but are still regarded as true legends of the game.


Before the advent of the Messi's and the Neymar's, there was a certain South American who was taking Barcelona back to their former glories. Nowadays, a Champions League semi-final lineup without Barcelona is unthinkable, but at the turn of the century, the Catalan giants were undergoing some real turmoil.

Then came an all-smiling, all-consuming young Brazilian and swept everyone off their feet. In many ways, Ronaldinho revolutionised modern football, airlifting skills directly from training grounds to matches and proving that his sensational free kick for Brazil against David Seaman at the 2002 World Cup was no fluke.

He is still active at Atletico Mineiro, but now 34 years of age and playing in his native Brazil, he is forgotten by many with short-term memory.

Yet, between 2003 and 2006, he was arguably the world’s best footballer, winning La Liga twice and the Champions League once during a time when Real Madrid were in ‘Galacticos mode’.

Zinedine Zidane

And speaking of Galacticos, there is one former player who could argue about the statement of Ronaldinho being the best player when he was around.

Zinedine Zidane’s career ended with a headbutt on Marco Materazzi, but by then the Frenchman had already established himself as a true legend of the game. He won just about everything a footballer based in Europe could hope to win, and he did so in style.

His technical ability, vision and ability to glide with the ball effortlessly remain to this day unmatched. Then there is that goal in the 2002 Champions League final that has come to symbolise the entire competition.

Luis Figo

One of the few brave players to have crossed the Barcelona-Real Madrid divide, Luis Figo is the best player Portugal has ever produced after Eusebio.

Much heralded for his tricks down the wings, the 41-year-old won two La Liga titles with Barcelona and as many with Madrid, with whom he also clinched the Champions League in 2002. Figo’s career gradually fizzled out, but during his five years at Barca and his first four at Madrid, he was arguably the best in his position on the planet.

Paolo Maldini

A one-club man, Paolo Maldini was never really going to leave AC Milan, one of the greatest and biggest football clubs in the world. Regarded by many as the best modern defender, the 45-year-old could play at centre-back and at left-back with aplomb in equal measure.

He remained a figure of strength and assurance for Milan through the 1990s and the noughties and continued to excel even in his late 30s. Not only did he win the Champions League five times, but the first two times he did so the competition was known as the European Cup – that’s how long he remained at the top of his game.


There are many who suggest that if injuries had not affected him, then Ronaldo would have gone onto become the greatest player of all time.

Nothing to sneer at that statement, as this is a man who won his first World Cup title when he was just 17. True, he did not play a single minute in the USA in 1994, but getting called up to represent the greatest footballing nation when you are not even 18 is a huge accomplishment.

He would eventually win the World Cup again in 2002 and was also a star in France ‘98 until the final. What was remarkable in 2002 was how he recovered from his injuries he had suffered at Inter, going on to win the Golden Shoe as the tournament’s top scorer with eight goals.

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