Ever since its inception in 1992, the premier league has witnessed many world class midfielders, some of whom went on to be among the very best to ever grace the league. The midfield position is arguably the most technical in football and the premier league has been blessed with an outrageous assortment of incredibly talented superstars over the years.
Here, we take a look at some of the the best midfielders the Premier League has ever seen. The fifteen players listed here have not only won matches, trophies, plaudits and hearts but also inspired future generations to play the game in a new light.
Almost all players in this list have won the highly coveted Premier League title which has also been elusive to some. Below are the 15 greatest EPL midfielders of all time.
15. James Milner
- EPL Titles: 3
- Appearances: 566
- Goals: 55
- Assists: 85
Perhaps Milner is best known for his versatility. Aged 16 years and 356 days, he became the youngest goalscorer of the Premier League era, breaking Wayne Rooney’s short-lived record. He also won the PFA Young Player of the Year Award after which he was signed by Manchester City where he won 2 PL titles.
He later joined Liverpool where he’s added a third league title. Overally, he has made 566 PL appearances having scored 55 goals and provided 85 assists. With Milner still going strong with the club, he is definitely going to add numbers into his already impressive profile.
14. Michael Essien
- EPL Titles: 2
- Appearances: 168
- Goals: 17
- Assists: 10
The Ghanaian was a huge part of the beginning Chelsea’s dominance in the Premier League and easily one of the best of his generation. The beauty of Essien’s game was his seeming ability to do it all: he could pick a pass, bomb forward as a box-to-box midfielder or provide a shield for the defence with relative ease.
He scored many great goals for Chelsea and was known to play in all positions save for a keeper. He won 2 PL titles across 168 appearances.
13. Ngolo Kante
- EPL Titles: 2
- Appearances: 197
- Goals: 11
- Assists: 12
Kante, who recently led Chelsea to a Champions League title, is the only player in EPL history to win 2 consecutive Premier League titles with 2 different teams.
He won his first league title with Leicester City which is one of the biggest surprises in sports history. He won his second title after moving to Chelsea the following season.
The World Cup winner is already considered one of the greatest defensive midfielders of all time and still continues to rock the Premier League.
12. Michael Carrick
- EPL Titles: 5
- Appearances: 481
- Goals: 24
- Assists: 32
The unsung hero of Man United! Carrick was always the under-appreciated deep-lying midfielder. He was unlike his compatriots; his skill-set was subtler, less match-winning, and more match-defining.
His achievement with United was remarkable as he won 5 PL titles. He also played 481 matches with Man United, West Ham and Tottenham.
11. Kevin De Bruyne
- EPL Titles: 3
- Appearances: 182
- Goals: 42
- Assists: 78
Arguably the best passer the Premier League has ever seen. He played for Chelsea but currently plays for Manchester City.
De Bruyne is the first player in Premier League history to provide 15+ assists in three different campaigns. That’s just outrageous. Currently, he is not only the best playmaker in the league, but also one of the most versatile midfielder in the world.
His ability to find his teammates with the most mind-boggling deliveries into the box is incredible. He has 3 Premier League titles and counting.
10. Claude Makélélé
- EPL Titles: 2
- Appearances: 144
- Goals: 2
- Assists: 3
Makélélé was one of the key men in Chelsea’s 2004/05 title-winning side which conceded only 15 goals throughout the Premier League campaign – a record low in the English top-flight. He was a deep-lying playmaker in disguise of a central ball-winning midfielder.
Makelele was so good they named a role after him as he made the defensive midfield position his own at Chelsea. “The Makélélé role” is used to describe a midfielder who is willing to sit in front of the back four, rarely progressing beyond his fellow midfielders and, generally, sacrificing a shot at personal glory for the good of the team.
9. Yaya Toure
- EPL Titles: 3
- Appearances: 230
- Goals: 59
- Assists: 35
One of the colossal figures in Manchester City’s relatively recent history, Yaya Toure was a one-man-show. The Ivorian was blessed with an unbelievably diverse skillset that allowed him to dominate games on his own. On his day, Toure was simply unstoppable. His physique and his amazing skills put him ahead of most midfielders of his time.
His dominating presence in the midfield worked as a cover for the backline, while his sublime ball control and technique allowed him to breeze past opponents with ease. Touré might have been signed as a holding midfielder, but with each passing season, the Premier League saw one of the most versatile and complete midfielders to have ever graced its shores.
Toure was technically an engine room. He is not only known as one of the greatest EPL midfielders, but also as one of the strongest to ever play the game.
8. Cesc Fabrégas
- EPL Titles: 2
- Appearances: 350
- Goals: 50
- Assists: 111
The Spaniard played for both Arsenal and Chelsea but perhaps his most successful period was at the blue half of London. He will be remembered as arguably the best playmaker of the Premier League era. He took the Premier League by storm at quite a young age and never looked back.
He left Arsenal for Barcelona and later returned to the Premier League with Chelsea where he won his first Premier League title in his first season back with an incredible 19 assists.
Fabregas was a metronome like no other, and his ability to control the tempo of the game transformed that Chelsea side. He broke opposition lines for fun every week.
7. Roy Keane
- EPL Titles: 7
- Appearances: 366
- Goals: 39
- Assists: 32
The most successful captain in the Premier League era, Roy Keane, was an enigma operating from the heart of the midfield.
Keane won all that there was to be won with Manchester United, yet it was at Nottingham Forest where he took in the workmanship and art of football. The legendary Irishman is perceived as a traditional holding midfield player and didn’t attack often.
He was unparalleled in his prime in several aspects, most notably those of aggression on the pitch and winning the ball back. Keane could carry the ball higher up the pitch, break opposition attacks, and cover every blade of grass on the field. He was enigma in his own right.
6. David Silva
- EPL Titles: 4
- Appearances: 309
- Goals: 60
- Assists: 93
The fact that he has a statue outside Manchester City’s stadium in his honor show’s he’s quite a legend. The Spaniard was pivotal in making the dreams of winning a first Premier League title a reality. Silva contributed with eight goals and 19 assists across 49 matches in all competitions as City pipped neighbours Manchester United to the title in dramatic fashion.
Silva possesses a unique understanding of the game. His ability to position himself in between the lines and operate from those areas while resisting opposition press is phenomenal.
He has the ability to dribble past opposition players and possesses an immaculate touch, allowing him to wiggle out of tight spaces with ease.
5. Patrick Vieira
- EPL Titles: 3
- Appearances: 307
- Goals: 31
- Assists: 31
He was a key part of that “Invincibles” Arsenal team that won the Premier League unbeaten. Deciphered as a ‘cautious’ midfielder, the transcending Frenchman was basically a box-to-box administrator who ruled the center of the pitch. His special rawness and staggering physicality made him a bad dream for opposition players.
Vieira was one of the best there was for a host of different reasons, ranging from his tactical intelligence to his excellent reading of the game.
Although many could classify him as a traditional ‘defensive’ midfielder, in truth, he was much more than that. His unique physique and unbelievable athleticism also enabled him to win the ball back with utmost ease.
He could participate in the build-up, surge forward into the box as well as score crucial goals from a distance. Vieira was at the heart of three Premier League-winning squads and won a Player of the Year award to go with it. He is widely regarded as one of the PL’s greatest captains.
4. Ryan Giggs
- EPL Titles: 13
- Appearances: 632
- Goals: 109
- Assists: 162
Giggs is the player on this list with the most Premier League titles having won it 13 times. There are only two clubs who have won more English league titles than the Welshman. That is just insane! He was part of Manchester United’s famous Class of ’92 and played for there his entire career.
He became the one familiar face in Ferguson’s ever-changing Manchester United side. While Sir Alex always found a way to reinvigorate his sides throughout his career, Giggs remained an integral part of every single one of those. For every bit that Fergie was a managerial master, Giggs was his legendary lieutenant.
With 162 assists for United, he holds the record for most assists in the league.
3. Frank Lampard
- EPL Titles: 3
- Appearances: 609
- Goals: 177
- Assists: 102
During his time in the Premier League, he played for West Ham, Chelsea and Manchester City. He’s widely regarded as Chelsea’s greatest player of all time. The very fact that he’s the only midfielder on the list of 10 highest goal scorers in Premier League history, speaks volumes about his goal scoring threat.
His ability to strike the ball from both dead-ball situations and open play was unmatched. Lampards versatility and longevity were pivotal in the influence he mustered on the pitch. In terms of pure numbers, Lampard appears to have the edge over the other players on this list and could make a proper case of being the greatest.
His 177 goals and 102 assists mean that he’s one of only three players to have 100+ goals and assists in the league. The three-time Premier League winner also has a Player of the Year award for his superb 2004/05 season. He is undoubtedly a legend of the league and the game in general.
2. Steven Gerrard
- EPL Titles: 0
- Appearances: 504
- Goals: 120
- Assists: 92
The fact that he ranks second despite being the only player on this list without a PL title is a testament to Gerrard’s footballing ability. He’s undoubtedly Liverpool’s most exceptional player in the Premier League era. He’s also arguably the most complete midfielder in the league. Like the number one on this list, he was also a one-club man.
Gerrard was a complete midfielder, he could run box to box, make defensive tackles, take great shots and make aggressive runs, win headers, duals and lead by example. He was known for his leadership and influential qualities. His long range strikes which mostly came at clutch moments were vintage Steve G moments.
Perhaps his most impressive aspect is that he maintained an incredible level of performance despite difficult situations. He came close to winning the league title in the 2013/14 season and if it weren’t for his famous slip against Chelsea, he probably would have added a PL title to his incredible collection of trophies.
One of the most iconic legends in the sport that will be remembered as one of the greatest midfielders of all time.
1. Paul Scholes
- EPL Titles: 11
- Appearances: 499
- Goals: 107
- Assists: 55
Arguably the greatest midfielder in the history of the Premier League. The Englishman was at the heart of Manchester United’s most illustrious period. The United great could do pretty much everything: pass long, pass short, shoot from way out, shoot from close in, he was strong, could keep the ball, and had a vision. If he could tackle, he would have been half-decent.
He won an incredible 11 Premier League titles during his time at Man United. Scholes was lauded for being a complete player as he had the positional understanding to play a range of roles.
The legendary Englishman was an expert playmaker who combined his unparalleled vision with near-perfect execution. He could find his teammates with the most breathtaking passes that split open defences within a matter of moments.
He was a one-club man and loved United so much that he came out of retirement in the 2011/12 season to help the injury-ravaged Red Devils and took up the mantle once again as he signed a short-term deal at the age of 36. He stayed on for one more year as United won the title in 2013, with him pulling the strings sitting at the heart of the midfield in his last hurrah.
Over his 499 Premier League appearances, Scholes racked up 107 goals and set up a further 55 assists, and has an incredible 11 league titles to his name. Paul Scholes is truly a Premier League great, and one of the greatest of his generation.
Greatest Premier League players on other positions: