Premier League - Greatest XI: Centre midfielders

Mon, 04 Jul 13:44:00 2011

Our summer series giving you the chance to vote for the greatest team in Premier League history continues with the centre-midfielders.

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Next season will be the 20th in Premier League history and over the summer we will be compiling the best XI to grace the top-flight since the competition's inception in 1992.

Each week we will provide a shortlist of players and you can vote for your favourite in the Eurosport-Yahoo! online poll or on the Eurosport Facebook page - web users can click on the link on the right to vote.

Each Thursday our panel of experts will make their decision - their votes count for 50 per cent - while the poll votes will also count for 50 per cent as well and in true reality television style, you - the fans - hold the tie-breaker.

Last week, Cristiano Ronaldo was voted best right-midfielder, and we continue with the 10 best centre-midfielders, of which the top two will make the XI.

On Friday we will announce the final result and post the best user comments left on the Eurosport-Yahoo! website, the Eurosport mobile app and the Eurosport Facebook page.


A fierce competitor who developed a reputation for an uncompromising approach and strong tackles, Batty entered the Premier League era as a reigning champion with Leeds and then formed part of the Blackburn team that memorably won the league in 1995. Batty added bite to a Newcastle side that twice finished second to Manchester United, and the midfielder certainly left his mark on the league, numerous opponents and even team-mate Graeme Le Saux when he became embroiled in a famous fight with the left-back during a European game at Blackburn.

Appearances: 266

Titles: 1991-92 (Leeds), 1994-95 (Blackburn)

PFA Team of the Year: 1994 (Blackburn), 1997, 1998 (Newcastle)


As Arsene Wenger set about breaking up his Invincibles, it was to a wiry teenager from Spain whom he turned as he looked for a creative pivot to build the team around. Entrusted with huge responsibility at a tender age, Fabregas flourished as he set about breaking club records and inexorably grew as a player, gradually adding goals and then the responsibility of the captaincy as he became the heart of the side. However, repeated title tilts would end in disappointment before his mind wandered back to Barcelona.

Appearances: 212 (still active)

Titles: None

PFA Team of the Year: 2008, 2010

PFA Young Player of the Year: 2008

UEFA Team of the Year: 2006, 2008


Few players have enjoyed the kind of influence that Gerrard has exercised over Liverpool in the past 13 years. Whether drilling home a last-minute winner or cajoling his team-mates onto greater feats as captain, Gerrard has the knack of bending games, and Liverpool's history, to his will. That ability was most evident in the unforgettable Champions League win of 2005, but Gerrard almost quit Liverpool weeks later to join Chelsea. One swift U-turn later and the dangerous midfielder ensured he would spend his career chasing that elusive title with the Reds.

Appearances: 386 (still active)

Titles: None

PFA Team of the Year: 2001, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009

Footballer of the Year: 2009

PFA Player of the Year: 2006

PFA Young Player of the Year: 2001

UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2005

UEFA Team of the Year: 2005, 2006, 2007

FIFPro World XI, 2007, 2008, 2009


A leading light in the early years of the Premier League with Manchester United thanks to his dynamism and quality, Ince tried Fergie's patience by styling himself 'The Guv'nor' and along with Mark Hughes and Andrei Kanchelskis was sacrificed in the summer of 1995 to make way for the Beckham generation. However, his ability as a player saw him brought back to England from Inter by Liverpool in 1997 and he spent subsequent spells with Middlesbrough and Wolves.

Appearances: 306

Titles: 1992-93, 1993-94 (Manchester United)

PFA Team of the Year: 1993, 1994, 1995 (Manchester United)


A titanic figure in the Manchester United team that dominated the Premier League prior to Roman Abramovich's arrival at Chelsea, Keane may well be the most fearsome competitor of the era. Though his numerous qualities as a player should not be overlooked, it is the fire and ambition burning inside Keane and the inspirational impact he had on his team-mates that mark him out as so distinctive. Alf-Inge Haaland can testify that the Irishman's anger often rose to unacceptable levels, but it was part of what made him so compelling, and so successful.

Appearances: 366

Titles: 1993-94, 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2002-03

PFA Team of the Year: 1993, 1997, 2000, 2001, 2002

Footballer of the Year: 2000

PFA Player of the Year: 2000


Though not without his critics, there is no disputing the bare statistics of Lampard's goal-laden career at West Ham and then Chelsea: he is the top-scoring midfielder in the history of the Premier League and is fifth on the all-time appearance list. Lampard was a central figure in the back-to-back league triumphs following Jose Mourinho's arrival in 2004 and his ultra-consistent nature and undoubted professionalism have made him a huge asset for the club, and for one manager after another.

Appearances: 491 (still active)

Titles: 2004-05, 2005-06, 2009-10

PFA Team of the Year: 2004, 2005, 2006

Footballer of the Year: 2005

UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year: 2008


A bona fide legend in Newcastle, Lee was a key figure in Kevin Keegan's side as they bravely set about trying to knock Manchester United off the top of the table. Despite his evident ability with the ball and composure in the centre of the pitch, Lee was deprived of even a squad number during the hugely unpopular reign of Ruud Gullit and Tyneside rejoiced when Sir Bobby Robson restored him to the starting XI.

Appearances: 280

Titles: None

PFA Team of the Year: 1996


The greatest midfielder of his generation? No lesser authorities than Zinedine Zidane and Xavi have made that very claim. With unparallelled vision and the ability to perfectly weight a 60-yard pass or flick a ball over a static defence, not to mention his prowess when shooting from long range, Scholes was a wonder to watch prior to his retirement in 2011. A lack of individual honours reflects his shy demeanour and Scholes himself would rather reflect on those 10 league titles, all touched by the genius of the unlikely hero.

Appearances: 465

Titles: 1995-96, 1996-97, 1998-99, 1999-2000, 2000-01, 2002-03, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2010-11

PFA Team of the Year: 2001, 2003, 2007


Though not the most talented in a strong crop of players, Speed makes our shortlist thanks to his impressive longevity and professionalism across a career that encompassed spells with Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle, Bolton and Sheffield United. Speed became the first man to reach 500 Premier League appearances in 2006, and was lauded as the "ultimate professional footballer" by former team-mate Alan Shearer as a result.

Appearances: 535

Titles: 1991-92 (Leeds)

PFA Team of the Year: 1993 (Leeds)


How fitting that it was Vieira who scored the final goal in the Invincibles season as he hared onto a Dennis Bergkamp pass to tuck the ball away and ensure immortality. Following his arrival at Arsenal in 1997, the Frenchman had been the inspiration and driving force for Arsene Wenger's side, his serenity in possession counter-balanced by his fierce winning mentality that saw him become one of English football's dominant figures. His rivalry with Roy Keane captured the public imagination like few before or since.

Appearances: 307 (still active)

Titles: 1997-98, 2001-02, 2003-04 (Arsenal)

PFA Team of the Year: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 (Arsenal)

UEFA Team of the Year: 2001 (Arsenal)


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