5 best French players to have played in the Premier League

Three of the best Frenchmen to have played in the PL
Daniel Pinder

With the eyes of the world on the Premier League, plenty of foreign players have established themselves in the English top flight. Germans. Italians. Spanish.

Fans have seen the likes of Xabi Alonso, Claude Makelele, Jurgen Klinsmann et al. feature for Liverpool, Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur. The list could go on, but we’ve picked the five best French players to represent their country in the Premier League.

Honourable mentions include Patrick Vieira, Frank Leboeuf and Didier Deschamps but arguably these top five have reinvented Premier League football with their tenacity, power and skill.

#5 Marcel Desailly

For Chelsea, Desailly was a dominant performer whilst being extremely consistent

Former France international and two-time Champions League winner Marcel Desailly was one of the most prominent central-defenders during his time in the Premier League.

Winning five major honours at AC Milan, Desailly joined Chelsea in 1998 as a figurehead for a relatively inexperienced side. During his time at Stamford Bridge, the Frenchman achieved great things – winning the UEFA Super Cup, FA Cup and the Charity Shield.

Although Chelsea are now seen as a European powerhouse, back in the day they didn’t have the backing of Roman Abramovich. Desailly once wrote that Chelsea’s 2-1 win over Liverpool in 2003 was one that changed his life.

The London club went a goal down, before Desailly himself scored the equaliser, in the final game of the season. Legendary Jesper Gronkjaer then scored the winner which brought Champions League football to Stamford Bridge.

For Chelsea, Desailly was a dominant performer whilst being extremely consistent. Very rare did the central-defender put a foot wrong during his time in the Premier League.

#4 David Ginola

There wasn’t a single defender that Ginola wouldn't ghost beyond

Arriving at Newcastle United from Paris Saint-Germain in the summer of 1995, David Ginola went down as one of the Premier League’s greats during his time in the North East, before moving on to Tottenham Hotspur.

At the time, the Frenchman arguably had the greatest touch at Newcastle United. Strong with both feet, there wasn’t a single defender that Ginola wouldn't ghost beyond – it was quite clear to see just why Newcastle broke their transfer record at the time.

Although he didn’t win anything at the Magpies, there’s no doubting he redefined football in the North East during his two-year spell, before his move to London after Kevin Keegan departed.

What he couldn’t do at Newcastle, he did at Spurs. The willingness to improve and learn the game, there’s no doubt that he’s one of the best foreigners to play in the Premier League. His famous goal against Barnsley showed just that. Pace. Power. Goal.

#3 Robert Pires

In 198 Premier League games for Arsenal, Pires scored 63 goals whilst creating 24 during six seasons

To this day, Arsenal are looking for a Robert Pires replacement. Tomas Rosicky – signed from Borussia Dortmund in 2006 – was handed the No. 7 shirt, but unfortunately for the Czech Republic international, injuries hampered his career.

At the time, Arsene Wenger had spent just £5 million to bring Pires to Arsenal from Marseille. Little did the wicked-winger know, he’d go on to be loved by Arsenal supporters.

Named in three PFA Teams of the Year, Pires was also awarded the Football Writers best player award in 2002 after contributing to Arsenal’s double winning campaign – contributing to their unbeaten run whilst scoring 19 goals.

In 198 Premier League games for Arsenal, Pires scored 63 goals whilst creating 24 during six seasons. An achievement that saw him pick up two league titles.

#2 Eric Cantona

Eric ‘King’ Cantona

Football analyst Michael Cox described Eric Cantona as the biggest revolutionary in the Premier League. Signing for Manchester United from Leeds United in 1992, the Frenchman was deployed as a deep-lying forward in a 4-4-2.

Cantona was a match-winner. When United under Sir Alex Ferguson – although not very often – needed someone to dig them out of a whole, the Frenchman was there. The No. 7 may have been missing for much of the game, but that moment of magic propelled him to one of the Premier League’s best foreign imports.

Many footballers qualm under pressure. But not Cantona. He was idolised by fans, and still to this day, the deep-lying forward is a maverick in English football.

#1 Thierry Henry

Arguably the deadliest striker in Premier League history

The greatest ever foreigner to play in the Premier League. There’s always been that debate. Is it Didier Drogba? Ruud van Nistelrooy? Of course, they come close – but no one will come close to what a certain Thierry Henry has achieved in the Premier League.

Arsenal’s record goalscorer arrived as a relative unknown from Juventus in 1999. Playing as a left-winger, Arsene Wenger moved him centrally, where he would go on to scare defences with his pace, power and deadly finishing.

Often criticised for not showing emotion, Henry had the passion and determination to succeed in North London. He loved football. And that made him a better player. Every day he was working hard. That showed with his consistent performances at the highest level. The talisman was always the first name on the teamsheet.

Eight years at Arsenal resulted in 174 Premier League goals and two league titles before a move to Barcelona. Arguably the deadliest striker in Premier League history, Henry will be remembered by Arsenal fans for as long as football exists.

Edited by Staff Editor
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