Currently in its 24th season, the Premier League has become an absolute titan of world soccer, changing the landscape of the game through its sheer size, power and influence. The most watched and, as such, the most lucrative sporting league on the planet, the league has snow-balled since its inception and continues to grow, with another record breaking TV deal coming into effect next season.
Some of the greatest players in modern history have played in the Premier League, with Cristiano Ronaldo, Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry being just some examples of the greats who have graced the league. As always though, there must be bad with the good - and whilst the Premier League has had a number of world class players, there have also been some who were rather less impressive.
Having said that, most of those players do not win a title. Naturally, the team who wins the league tends to have the best, or at least one of the best, teams and squads. Over the 23 Premier League seasons to date, there have been a number of players who stand out as individuals who should never really have won such a prestigious accolade. Here are the top 20 worst players to have won the Premier League:
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20 Christopher Wreh
Former Liberia international Christopher Wreh won the Premier League in 1997-98 with Arsenal. Wreh spent three years with the Gunners, scoring three goals in 28. The far from prolific striker had three loan spells away from Highbury during his three years at the club, having arrived from Monaco. Arsenal had strikers such as Dennis Bergkamp, Thierry Henry, Davor Suker and Nwankwu Kanu in their ranks at the time, and Wreh never mounted to much. His career was unimpressive after leaving Arsenal, playing in the English ninth tier and in Indonesia before retiring.
19 Jesper Blomqvist
After a series of hugely impressive performances on the biggest stage, including helping Sweden to a World Cup semi-final and knocking Manchester United out of the Champions League, Sir Alex Ferguson brought the Swede to Old Trafford. Blomqvist did have ability, more so than most on this list, but he only ever showed glimpses at best whilst playing in England. More often than not he was hugely disappointing. He still left the club after three years of service in which he played 25 league games, scored one goal and won the Premier League, Champions League and FA Cup.
18 Darren Ferguson
From Sunday league to the Premier League, if you're the manager's son your performances will always be put under extra scrutiny and Darren Ferguson was no exception. A youngster at Old Trafford, his father Alex was obviously desperate for the midfielder to make it at Manchester United, but it was clear to see early on that he was out of his depth. Having come through the club's academy he spent four years at Manchester United, in which time he played 27 league games and won one Premier League title.
17 Clayton Blackmore
Former Wales international Clayton Blackmore spent 12 years with Manchester United, in which time he amassed 186 league appearances for the Red Devils, scoring 19 goals and winning one Premier League title. Despite his longevity at Old Trafford, Blackmore was widely regarded as a weak link, and was quickly deposed of after the club won their first Premier League title in 1993. He later played for Middlesbrough, Barnsley and Notts County, before returning to Wales, where he played for Leigh RMI, Bangor City, Porthmadog and Neath Athletic.
16 Oleh Luzhny
A number of players who impress in Eastern Europe struggle to make the transition to life in the Premier League, and there are few better examples of that than Oleh Luzhny. As a defender for Ukraine and Dynamo Kyiv he kept clean sheets in a 3-0 home win and 4-0 away win over Barcelona, and conceded only once as Kyiv knocked out the holders Real Madrid to reach the semi-finals. He joined Arsenal in 1999, where he would spent four years, playing 75 league games and would win the Premier League title in 2002.
15 Jeff Kenna
A former Ireland international right-back, Jeff Kenna spent a number of years as a regular starter in the Premier League, most notably with Southampton and Blackburn. It was with the latter that Kenna won the Premier League title in the 1994-95 season. Kenna joined Blackburn midway through their title winning campaign and was later loaned out whilst at the club, before leaving on a permanent basis after seven years. Kenna later played for the likes of Kidderminster Harriers, Galway United and St. Patrick's Athletic.
14 Mike Newell
Mike Newell's list of achievements suggest that he was a very good player. He played for the likes of Leicester, Everton, Blackburn and West Ham, won the Premier League, scored the fastest ever Champions League hat-trick (at the time) and played for England U-21s. Yet, for the most part, those who saw the striker in action do not hold him in particularly high regard. With Blackburn, where Newell won his Premier League title, he started just two games the year the club won the trophy, finding himself way down the pecking order behind the formidable partnership of Sutton and Shearer.
13 Alexey Smertin
Upon his arrival at Stamford Bridge, billionaire owner Roman Abramovich was clearly very keen to add a compatriot to the Blues ranks, and seemed to pay a little less thought to the fact that Alexey Smertin wasn't very good. The Russian midfielder did arrive with some pedigree, having played more than 100 games for Bordeaux and being a Russian international, but his time in the English top flight was something of a car crash. In three years at Chelsea he was twice loaned out to Portsmouth and Charlton, playing only 16 games for the Londoners, but winning the Premier League title in 2005.
12 David May
Signed by Sir Alex Ferguson as he needed a defender who would not be troubled by the restrictions on foreign players in European competitions. Brought in largely because of this rather than his ability, May played largely as a utility player, featuring in an array of defensive positions in the absence of more regular starters such as Gary Pallister or Gary Neville. May spent almost a decade (9 seasons) at Old Trafford, but only played 85 league games, winning two Premier League titles and never looking fully composed or capable in a Manchester United shirt.
11 Luke Chadwick
Some people would have Luke Chadwick topping this list, or certainly in the upper reaches, but he is only 11th here due to the promise he showed at the very beginning of his career. It has been forgotten it would seem just how highly regarded the wide man was as a youngster when he first burst onto the scene. The fact that there was talk of Sir Alex remoulding David Beckham into a central midfielder to accommodate Chadwick on the right wing highlights this. However, injuries soon took their toll, and Chadwick fell like a ton of bricks, eventually craving out a career in the third and fourth tiers.
10 David Bellion
French forward David Bellion has had a somewhat unusual career. He swapped Cannes for Sunderland in 2001 at the age of 19, and after scoring once in 20 league games for the Black Cats, Sir Alex Ferguson had seen enough to bring the French U-21 to Old Trafford. He was a little more accomplished in front of goal for Manchester United, but not much, scoring four goals in 24 league games in three years at the club, being loaned out twice. Now aged 32, Bellion is currently playing for Red Star in the French third tier.
9 Stuart Ripley
Two-time England international Stuart Ripley played 511 games in the Football League and Premier League, scoring 43 goals. Ripley won promotion to the Premier League with Middlesbrough but then transferred to Blackburn Rovers, who had been promoted that same season. He was briefly the club's record signing, before the arrival of Alan Shearer, and even scored Blackburn's first Premier League goal. Despite all this, Ripley was never highly-rated and scored 13 goals in 183 games for Blackburn, where he won the Premier League. Now aged 47, Ripley has been a qualified solicitor since 2010.
8 Francis Jeffers
Another man who had a remarkably short international career, Francis Jeffers was an English one-cap wonder, playing and scoring once for his country. Sadly the striker couldn't replicate that ratio throughout his club career, scoring - on average - one goal every six games. Jeffers joined Arsenal as a budding 20-year-old forward on big-money from Everton, but scored just four goals in three years at Highbury. Jeffers never regained his teenage form, and ended up playing in Australia, Malta and the English fourth tier.
7 Jeremie Aliadiere
Former French U-21 striker Jeremy Aliadiere was another player who showed promise as a youngster but was ultimately poor in the Arsenal first team. In six years at Arsenal he scored one goal, three if you include loan moves. After failing hopelessly at Arsenal, despite winning the Premier League title in 2004, Aliadiere joined Middlesbrough. There he was relegated and scored just four times in a season in the Championship. He later found some form in France with Lorient, but aged 32, Aliadiere now plays his football in Qatar for Umm Salal SC.
6 Ronnie Wallwork
Manchester-born Ronnie Wallwork came through the Manchester United academy and made his first team debut at the age of 18. Despite showing early promise, which saw him make four appearances for England U-20s, Wallwork never made the grade at Old Trafford. He played a total of 19 league games in seven years at the club, winning the Premier League in 2001 before leaving for West Brom in 2002. He played 93 games for West Brom, with a number of loans to lower league teams before retiring aged 31. Wallwork came out of retirement last year, aged 37, joining seventh tier Ashton United.
5 Stephen Hughes
Stephen Hughes won four trophies at Arsenal, one of which was a Premier League title in 1998. Having started his career at Highbury, Hughes spent five years with the North Londoners, playing 49 league games and scoring four goals. Despite one incredible performance in which Hughes scored a brace as Arsenal overcame Chelsea 2-0, he was not highly regarded over his time at the club. The midfielder later spent four years at Coventry, where he finally looked at home, before ending his career at Walsall.
4 Quinton Fortune
Quinton Fortune won 46 caps for South Africa, playing in both the 1998 and 2002 World Cup's. Fortune showed promise as a youngster, joining Tottenham at 14, playing for Mallorca and Atletico Madrid before eventually joining Manchester United. Another utility player, Fortune could play in both defense and midfield and on both the left of the pitch and through the middle. Despite his versatility, most Manchester United fans didn't appreciate the South African's presence at the club.
In seven years he played 76 league games, winning one Premier League winners medal. In four years after leaving Old Trafford, Fortune played 22 league games for Bolton, Brescia, Tubize and Doncaster Rovers. After being released by Doncaster Rovers, aged 33, Fortune's career came to a brisk end in 2010.
3 Pascal Cygan
When your own fans sing "He's bald, he's s***, he gets a game when no one's fit, Pascal Cygan, Pascal Cygan," you know something's not quite right. The lack of support from the stands may have contributed to Cygan's lack of confidence and terrible performances at Arsenal, given that he arrived with good pedigree, having served as Lille captain. As the chant suggests, Cygan was largely a back-up player, playing 63 league games in four years, winning the Premier League title in 2004. After leaving the Gunners, Cygan played for Villarreal and Cartagena.
2 Robbie Slater
English-born midfielder Robbie Slater moved to Australia at a young age and went on to win 44 caps for the Australian national team, scoring once. Another member of the 1995 Premier League winning Blackburn squad, Slater spent only a single season at Ewood Park, playing 18 league games. In total, Slater spent four years in the Premier League, also playing for West Ham, Southampton and Wolves, but was thoroughly unimpressive, and he returned to Australia in 1998, joining Northern Spirit.
1 Igors Stepanovs
The worst player to win the Premier League is surely Igors Stepanovs, and in truth, no-one ran him particularly close. The only Latvian to have won the English top flight, Stepanovs spent four years at Highbury, playing 17 league games and was an absolute car crash of a signing for Arsene Wenger. Brought in as something of a panic buy after an injury to Tony Adams, Stepanovs looked wildly out of his depth in the division, and even more so in a very gifted Arsenal side.
Arsenal's title challenge took a heavy blow after a 6-1 defeat to Manchester United, in which Stepanovs put in a shocking performance, and barely played after that game. He won the title in 2002 and left the club in 2004 for Swiss side Grasshoppers. Stepanovs later played for a series of clubs, mostly in his native Latvia, winning 100 caps for his country; although that probably says more about the quality of the Latvian national team than that of Stepanovs.
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