Since forming in 1992, the Premier League has become one of the most widely followed leagues in all of sports. It is, arguably, the greatest league in all of football, and this is because it is so tightly contested and where the top talents around the world go to see if they can cut it. La Liga and the Bundesliga may have some of the best teams and the current best players in the world, but it is not as competitive as Premier League football, where on any given day a team scrapping at the bottom of the table can pull off a big upset.
There are fierce battles for positioning throughout the table, with teams scrapping to avoid the drop, to finish in the top half, to play in Europe next season and of course for the all important top spot. This means that every single game (and goal) is hugely important to both teams, as on the last day of the season there could be just one point (or even a goal, as United learnt) that separates the teams. With 38 hard fought games, including some not so glamorous fixtures throughout the Christmas period, it means that this is one of the most sought after trophies in the world.
Despite its competitiveness throughout the table, since the competition became known as the Premier League, it has been largely dominated by Manchester United, with Arsenal, Chelsea and now Manchester City leading the pack a few seasons. The only other team to have come out on top is Blackburn Rovers, who lifted the trophy at the end of the 1994-95 season. This means that there are many elite players that have never gotten their hands on the trophy, but they have still contributed to making this one of the greatest and most entertaining leagues in the world. Many of these players stayed loyal to their team and consequently limited their success, some jumped from team to team but never made it onto one of the dominant sides, and other players took their talents abroad and reaped the rewards of doing so.
Here are the top 15 players to never lift the Premier League trophy. Honourable mentions for Stuart Pearce and Paul Gascoigne, who are iconic figures that never lifted the trophy, as more of the defining periods of their career happened before the Premier League formed in 1992.
15 Marcel Desailly
Desailly is recognized as one of the most talented defenders of his generation and one of the best modern French players, and he also enjoyed a huge amount of success in his career. He famously lifted the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship in 2000, as well as the Champions League trophy in 1993 with Marseille, and again with AC Milan in 1994. With AC, Desailly also won back to back Serie A titles, establishing himself as one of the greatest defenders in the game. He joined Chelsea in 1998 after winning the World Cup, forming a tough partnership with Frank Leboeuf. Desailly would spend six years at Chelsea and would continue his fine form, but would only lift the FA Cup in 2000.
14 Shay Given
Shay Given has spent nearly 20 years in the Premier League and has been a very reliable keeper, and for a period one of the best in the world, but the Irishman has never managed much silverware in his career. It all started at Blackburn in 1994, where he was loaned out until 1997, when he signed for Newcastle. Here he became first choice keeper and spent an impressive 12 years, establishing himself as one of the most reliable keepers in the league. He then moved to Manchester City, where he proved his worth and impressed during the 2009-10 season. Given eventually lost his spot to Joe Hart, and then moved to Aston Villa in 2011. Frustratingly for Given, City won the league in the 2011-12 season.
13 Sami Hyypia
Sami Hyypia enjoyed 10 years at Anfield and became a cornerstone to their success in this period. He played alongside a number of Liverpool greats in this time, including Jamie Redknapp, Robbie Fowler, Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard, sharing the captain’s armband throughout his tenure. The Finnish centre back enjoyed a stellar career during his time at Liverpool, making 464 appearances and playing an important role in winning two FA Cups, two League Cups, two FA Community Shields, a UEFA Cup, a Champions League and a pair of UEFA Super Cups. This includes the famous treble in 2000-01, but as this list demonstrates, there are many Liverpool greats that are one very important trophy short of a full set.
12 Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane is one of the most prolific scorers the Premier League has even seen, and sits 12th on the all-time scoring list with an impressive 126 goals. He is also a fierce competitor, which is what made him such a popular figure around the league. Keane spent the majority of his career at Spurs in two spells, and helped them win the 2008 Carling Cup whilst continuing to pour in the goals. He also played at Coventry, Leeds, Liverpool and Aston Villa, but no team he ever played for were title contenders. He now plays in the MLS for LA Galaxy, where he has won the MLS Cup three times. The third came earlier this month, where Keane scored the winner in extra time in dramatic fashion. He also won this seasons MVP award, but the Premier League trophy is one that he has never got his hands on.
11 Xabi Alonso
One of the many top Liverpool players to never win the Premier League trophy, Xabi Alonso has won pretty much everything apart from the sought after trophy. The Spaniard has played important roles from midfield in helping Liverpool and Real Madrid to become top teams, as well as for Spain where he has won the World Cup and two European Cups. He has won the Champions League with Liverpool and Real Madrid, as well as other honours such as the FA Cup, La Liga, Copa Del Rey and the UEFA Super Cup. Now playing for Bayern Munich, it is likely that he will be key in helping them to more silverware. Despite all this success and stellar play, he could never help Liverpool to the league trophy during his impressive career at Anfield from 2004 to 2009, where he became one of the most reliable midfielders in Europe.
10 Ledley King
Had his career not been hampered by lingering knee injuries, Ledley King may have been one of the all-time great centre backs. He stayed his entire career at Spurs, as the team knew the best way to manage his injury. He was a terrific servant and loyal captain for Tottenham, and when fit he often demonstrated his extraordinary vision, pace, leadership and ability to read the game; this made him a fan favourite and respected widely around the league. Despite his injuries, King did everything in his power to play as often as he could, and played a huge role in helping Spurs to the Carling Cup in 2008, captaining the team in a victory over Chelsea. There are always questions about what could have been with King, but even with his injuries he proved himself to be one of the best centre backs the Premier League has ever seen.
9 Paolo Di Canio
Paolo Di Canio was one of the brightest and most entertaining Premier League stars, but during his time in England he failed to capture any silverware. He played for Sheffield United, West Ham (where he was most prominent) and Charlton Athletic, and Di Canio was always in the headlines. This could either be for an incredible goal that he scored, or a controversy which he was never far away from and often overshadowed his career. Due to the teams he played for, Di Canio never looked likely to lift the Premier League trophy, but he did once come close to joining Manchester United where he surely would have lifted many. Although he never lifted the trophy, he remains an iconic Premier League player.
8 Les Ferdinand
Statistics show that Les Ferdinand is one of the greatest goalscorers the Premier League has even seen, and he also came close to lifting the Premier League trophy, twice, during his time at Newcastle. It was at Newcastle where he enjoyed the most success, but ‘Sir Les’ also played at Tottenham, QPR, West Ham, Leicester, Bolton and Reading, making him quite the journeyman and also a fan favourite around the league. Ferdinand poured in an incredible 149 goals during his career, putting him 8th on the all time leading scorers. Despite his knack for finding the back of the net, he never managed to lift the Premier League trophy.
7 Matt Le Tissier
Matt Le Tissier was a one man club, which earned him the respect of many (in particular Southampton fans), but it also meant that he never won any silverware during his career. He was a star and goal scoring machine (over 100) for Saints, but they were a team that were often battling to stay alive in the Premier League instead of fighting for trophies. The big teams came knocking for Le Tissier, but he opted to stay on the South Coast. Some say this loyalty kept him from becoming one of the all time greats and it held back his international career, but nonetheless he remains a Premier League legend. He is also perhaps the greatest penalty taker the league has even seen, scoring an astounding 47 out of 48 career penalties.
6 Robbie Fowler
‘God’, as he was known to Liverpool fans, may be one of the most prolific and entertaining strikers the Premier League has ever seen, but he never managed to lift the league trophy in his career. He has 163 Premier League goals to his name, and a number of memorable ones, but this was not enough to fire Liverpool to the top. He can take some comfort in the fact that he won a historic treble with Liverpool, where they won the League Cup, FA Cup and UEFA Cup in the 2000-01 season. Fowler’s career was also full of controversy and scandal, which saw him go on to play at several other teams (and back to Liverpool), but the Premier League trophy still eluded him.
5 Cesc Fabregas
If any of the active players on this list are going to lift the trophy, it will be this man. Cesc Fabregas is one of the greatest midfielders the Premier League has ever seen, and since returning at the start of this season he has been instrumental in Chelsea’s dominance. The Spaniard rose to fame with Arsenal, breaking into the squad in the 2004/05 season (just after their unbeaten campaign). He became key in Arsenal’s creative play, proving himself to be a goal scoring threat as well as one of the better passers in the league. He then joined his boyhood club Barcelona, where he played alongside the best and helped them to a number of trophies. Now back in the Premier League, but for London rivals Chelsea, Fabregas is back to what he does best and has contributed 11 assists so far. It will pain Arsenal fans to see it, but Fabregas looks set to separate himself from the other players on this list in May.
4 David Ginola
The silky Frenchman was an elite player in the Premier League during his time at Newcastle and Tottenham, but never managed to win the league with either of these teams or at Everton and Aston Villa, who he went on to play for. He came close during his time at Newcastle during the 1995-96 season, where his team led the pack at Christmas by an impressive 12 points, but would eventually be overtaken by Manchester United. Ginola moved to Spurs where he would become a club hero, bringing flair and excitement to games with his dazzling skill and several sublime goals. Spurs were never challenging for the title, but Ginola did lift some silverware when they won the 1999 League Cup. He also won the 1998-99 PFA Players’ Player of the Year and Football Writers Player of the Year.
3 Jamie Carragher
Liverpool and Premier League legend Jamie Carragher played an incredible 737 games for Liverpool, spanning a 17-year career at Anfield. He was a one club man and was even born in Merseyside, so it is clear why he is considered such a legend around Liverpool. Despite this lengthy career playing for Liverpool, the defender never managed to win the league title. He was the heart of their squad and renowned as a fierce fighter, which did help them to lift a number of other trophies. Carragher managed to lift the FA Cup twice, the league cup three times, the UEFA Cup and famously the Champions League trophy.
2 Gianfranco Zola
Throughout his career, Gianfranco Zola dazzled crowds with his breathtaking skill and countless sensational goals. This made him a fan favourite, and there have been few players since that possess the skill and wizardry which the Italian demonstrated during his time at Chelsea. He enjoyed 7 years at Stamford Bridge, establishing himself as one of the top players in the game. He may not have lifted the Premier League trophy, but he did help them to two FA Cups, the League Cup, Charity Shield, UEFA Cup, Winners Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. Zola remains hugely popular today, and not just with Chelsea fans, due to his breathtaking skill and talent.
1 Steven Gerrard
Gerrard has now become the most famous player to never win the Premier League, and partly because he came so agonizingly close last season. He has had a long and illustrious career at Anfield, where he has established himself as one of the all time great midfielders. There are a number of Liverpool players in this list, but none more deserving than Gerrard. He is not only fantastically talented in multiple areas and an excellent goalscorer, but also a terrific leader, captain and positive role model. He has picked up many trophies (see the other Liverpool entries) and dozens of personal accolades, but there is the one trophy that has eluded him. The 34-year-old will be eyeing retirement soon, and if he is to finally get his hands on the trophy then it seems his only option will be to jump ship and join a rival club. This seems unlikely for a player as fiercely loyal as Gerrard, who is more likely to end his career overseas, or at Anfield with a very notable omission from his otherwise full trophy cabinet.