Real Madrid and Barcelona may be the best teams with two of the greatest players ever in Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, but the English Premier League is the best division in the world.
Though they have struggled to compete in Europe’s elite competition, with Chelsea being the last English team to triumph in the Champions League in 2012, the Premier League remains the most electrifying and attractive league. With this in mind, What makes an exciting league? The answer to this question is none other than the players.
Over the years, we’ve seen a fair share of audacious and failed signings in the Premier League. But this list is about players that have played in the Premier league and are still active. Indeed, some of the players on this list were once top-drawers in their prime. The point isn’t to bash them for not staying in the best league, but to refresh football fanatics memories of ex Premier League players still pursuing their dreams elsewhere.
Here are fifteen ex Premier League that are still active.
15. Johan Djourou
The Swiss international Johan Djourou spent 10 seasons with Arsenal before his departure in 2014, with loan moves to Birmingham City in 2007-08, Hannover 96 in 2013 and Hamburger SV in 2013-14 bookending his time in London. He would eventually sign permanently with Hamburger SV after a season-long loan spell in 2014.
During his time with the Gunners, the Ivorian-born center-back made 144 appearances in Arsenal’s back-line and defensive midfield, but primarily in the heart of the back four where he was reliable and an imposing figure.
After the loan departure of Philippe Senderos to Serie A giants AC Milan and Kolo Toure’s move Manchester City, Djourou was eager to fight for his place and become a regular in Arsene Wenger starting Xl. However, a knee injury caused Johan to miss eight months and fell in the pecking order, which would later derail his Arsenal career.
When asked about Djourou’s qualities, Arsene Wenger revealed, “Johan was a midfielder and that’s why he likes to come out and play with the ball but he is as well tall, strong in the air and quick. He has all the assets to become a very good centre back.”
14. Tim Cahill
Known for his outstanding heading ability and excessive vertical leap, Tim Cahill has made a career scoring numerous goals with his head.
Former Everton manager, David Moyes signed the Australian international in the summer of 2004 for a reported fee of £1.5 million. Cahill, who’s trademark celebration is punching the corner flag would later go on to become an icon of Merseyside where he spent eight illustrious years scoring 68 goals in 255 games.
Before departing to the New York Red Bulls in 2012, Cahill was the second highest Premier League scorer in Everton’s history. Cahill signed for an Australian league club Melbourne City on August 11th, 2016, after brief stints with Chinese clubs, Shanghai Shenhua and Hangzhou Greentown.
13. Carlton Cole
Carlton Cole forced his way into Chelsea’s first team in 2001-02 season after scoring an astonishing 37 goals for the Blues youth and reserve team. He would later make his debut in April 2002, in a 3-0 win over Everton, when he was just 18-years-old.
Standing at 6’3″, Cole’s uncanny ability to turn and beat defenders with his incredible pace alongside his finishing prowess made him a household name. Comparison to a Chelsea legend, Peter Osgood, was the highest praise the former England international would ever achieve in his career.
12. Tim Howard
Tim Howard started his glorious career for New York/New Jersey Metrostars, where he flourished and became USA first choice keeper.
He’d then move to Manchester, but after falling behind the legendary Edwin Van der Sar in the pecking order at Manchester United, Howard joined Everton in the summer of 2006 on season-long loan. Howard’s impressive display forced Everton’s hands to make the deal permanent and signed the US international to a rewarding four-year deal for an undisclosed fee in 2007.
In ten seasons with Everton, Howard made an inspiring 415 appearances while captaining the side when Phil Jagielka and Leon Osman were unavailable.
11. John Arne Riise
John Arne Riise had no trouble adapting to the English game after spending three seasons at Monaco, where he established himself as an attacking left-back threat.
Liverpool inked the Norwegian stud in the summer of 2001 for £4 million and he made a constant impact by helping the Reds win the Charity Shield and the European Super Cup. Although he was an attacking threat, Riise’s defensive skills were exploited once opposing teams discovered his style of play, which led to his Liverpool exit in 2008. He’d continue playing for top clubs like Roma and Fulham until 2014, before bouncing around to smaller teams and retiring in 2016.
Arriving from Portugal side Benfica in the summer of 2010, Ramires had a tremendous impact on Chelsea’s midfield with his strong tackling and never give up attitude.
The Brazilian international aided Chelsea secure the 2012 Champions League glory with his master class display. Though he played significant games as a defensive midfielder, it was his play on the flank that made him a regular in North London.
His most memorable play for the Blues came in Camp Nou. With Chelsea trailing Barcelona in the second leg of the Champions League semifinal, Ramires clamped onto a Frank Lampard through ball before his magisterial chip on Victor Valdes to put Chelsea back in front in the tie.
9. Andrey Arshavin
The fleet-footed winger transferred to Arsenal in 2009, following an amazing 10-year stint with Russian giants Zenit Saint Petersburg, and became essential to Arsene Wenger well-oiled machine attack line.
Arshavin’s four goals in a 4-4 draw against Liverpool made him the first Gunner to score four goals in a match since Julio Baptista in 2007. The Russian magician wreaked havoc in 2009-10 and 2010-11 , while helping Arsenal earn their first ever victory against Barcelona.
Though he dropped in the pecking order in 2012-13, Arshavin’s final involvement with Arsenal came when he set up Thierry Henry for the winning goal against Sunderland before going on loan to his boyhood club.
8. Shaun Wright-Phillips
Manchester City signed the speedy winger after he was released by Nottingham Forrest and he made his debut in a league cup match against Burnley. Wright-Phillips broke through the scene with Manchester City in the 2004-05 campaign, when he scored 10 goals in 33 games before departing to Stamford Bridge in a big money. He’d inevitably flop with Chelsea and move back to Man City.
In total, Wright-Phillips appeared in 299 Premier League matches and scored 31 times with Manchester City, Queens Park Rangers and Chelsea.
New York Red Bulls signed the experienced winger on July 27th, 2015 and he’s still with them, though he’s hasn’t played many minutes and spends most of his time on the bench. His brother, Bradley, is also with the team and is their star striker.
7. Robin van Persie
Robin van Persie joined Arsenal in 2004 from Feyenoord and was quickly slotted in for his fellow aging countryman, Dennis Bergkamp.
The Dutchman was was seen by some scouts as a gifted raw talent that needed to work on his temper. After years of dealing with injuries that sidelined him for lengthy period of times, Van Persie matured into one of the most potent strikers the club has ever seen. By the time he left the Gunners in August 2012, he had set countless records, including his 132 goals in 278 games.
Club legend Thierry Henry hailed the striker during his time at Arsenal stating.
“What can I say about Robin?” he said in January 2012. “I saw him come in here and at the very beginning he wasn’t the easiest guy to deal with, like I wasn’t I guess. But it’s amazing to see how he has improved. I’m just in admiration. What he is doing, in terms of not just goals but ratio of goals, apart from Ronaldo and Messi, is ridiculous.”
6. Joe Cole
Joe Cole, the footballer that was once the face of English soccer had world class potential that went unfulfilled. When you’re linked to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United as a teenager and being compared to Paul Gascoigne in terms of sheer ability, that means you have the potential to be an elite footballer.
However, it was West Ham that penned Cole and the youngster made his professional debut at the tender age of 17 against Swansea City in FA Cup third round fixture on January 2nd, 1999.
After the Hammers were relegated following the 2003 campaign, Cole signed for Chelsea, where he would spent the next seven years of his career. The former England international scored 28 goals in 182 matches for the Blues.
5. Salomon Kalou
On May 30th, 2006, joined his Ivorian compatriot Didier Drogba at Stamford Bridge on a three-year deal from Dutch club Feyenoord for a fee of £5 million.
Before his move to Chelsea move, Salomon Kalou sat the Eredivisie league on fire scoring 20 goals in 31 games in the 2004-05 season, where he garnered the Johan Cruyff Award, for the best young player in Dutch football. The forward’s display impressed Jose Mourinho and he was signed by The Chosen One after 39 goals in 79 appearances in Dutch football.
While at Chelsea, Kalou made 156 appearances and scored 36 times from 2006-2012, winning a variety of awards with the Blues. He won the four FA Cups, one Premier League title and One Championship League title while there.
4. Eduardo Alves Da Silva
Eduardo Alves Da Silva is a Brazilian-born Croatian footballer that once had world class potential before a terrible leg injury nearly ruined his football career while he was with Arsenal.
He began his career with Dynamo Zagreb in 2001 and his prolific goal scoring record of 73 goals in 109 appearances for his boyhood club put Arsenal on notice, as they quickly scooped him up in 2007. On February 23rd, 2008, the Croatian striker suffered a broken left fibula and dislocated his left ankle in a game against Birmingham City, after a nasty tackle by Martin Taylor.
Eduardo finished his Arsenal career with only 7 goals in 41 games, before joining Shakhtar Donetsk in 2010. Since then, he’s also featured for Flamengo, but is back with Shakhtar today, where he continues to ply his trade.
Gervais Yao Kouassi, started his career in the Abidjan youth academy where he was given a Brazilian style nickname (Gervinho) because of his flamboyant style of play.
He then signed with Lille on July 29th, 2009 for a reported fee of €6 million. His 28 goals in two seasons led to the Gunners signing the Ivorian international, but because of limited opportunities, Gervhino left Arsenal to join Serie A side AS Roma in August 2013 after completing 63 matches for the club. There, he became a star for the team, with his blazing speed creating chances for the team down the left side.
2. Adel Taarabt
The Moroccan playmaker had a boat load of potential as a youth and there was a point when many thought he’d become a big deal in the world of soccer. He started his pro career with Lens before moving to Tottenham Hotspur on loan, that they would then make permanent. Though he was with the club for three-years, Taarabt struggled for playing time due to serious attitude issues and finished his Spurs career with seven appearances in total. He’d make his way to QPR after, where he’d score some wonderful goals, but also wear out his welcome.
1. Didier Drogba
After a breakout year with French club Marseille in 2003-04, scoring 19 goals in all competitions, talisman Didier Drogba made a switch to North London for a then-club record signing £24 million and the rest will be history.
Drogba made his Chelsea debut in August 2004, as the Premier League giants secured back-back league titles in 2005 and 2006. The Ivorian became a vital cog to manager Jose Mourhino’s lethal front line. In his first eight-year spell with the Blues, Drogba produced 157 goals in 341 appearances and scored another seven in 40 games when he returned in 2014-15 campaign, stabilizing his place as the club’s fourth all-time highest scorer.
Drogba signed a designated player contract for MLS side Montreal Impact on July 27th, 2015, where he still plays today.