Category Archives: The Foreign Legion

The Foreign Legion: Nigeria

Number of Nigerian Players to have played in the Premier League: 42

Most appearances: Shola Ameobi (299)

Most goals: Yakubu (95)

Appearances (Top 25): Shola Ameobi 299, Kanu 273, Yakubu 252, John Obi Mikel 249, Joseph Yobo 228, Victor Moses 220, Victor Anichebe 204, Celestine Babayaro 180, Efan Ekoku 158, Peter Odemwingie 129, Jay-Jay Okocha 124, Dickson Etuhu 111, Alex Iwobi 100, Kelechi Iheanacho 97, Obafemi Martins 92, Wilfred Ndidi 88, Ade Akinbiyi 76, John Utaka 66, Odion Ighalo 55, Isaac Success 49, Daniel Amokachi 43, Sone Aluko 42, Danny Shittu 40, Seyi Olofinjana 37, Finidi George 25

Goals (Top 25): Yakubu 95, Kanu 54, Efan Ekoku 53, Shola Ameobi 43, Peter Odemwingie 37, Obafemi Martins 28, Victor Anichebe 27, Victor Moses 20, Odion Ighalo 17, Kelechi Iheanacho 16, Jay-Jay Okocha 14, Ade Akinbiyi 11, Alex Iwobi 11, Daniel Amokachi 10, Joseph Yobo 8, John Utaka 7, Finidi George 6, Celestine Babayaro 5, Dickson Etuhu 4, Brown Ideye 4, Wilfred Ndidi 4, Victor Obinna 3, Seyi Olofinjana 3, Sone Aluko 2, Ahmed Musa 2

Assists (Top 25): Kanu 29, Victor Moses 26, Shola Ameobi 20, Alex Iwobi 19, Victor Anichebe 18, Peter Odemwingie 18, Yakubu 16, Kelechi Iheanacho 12, John Obi Mikel 11, John Utaka 10, Odion Ighalo 6, Obafemi Martins 6, Wilfred Ndidi 5, Victor Obinna 5, Sone Aluko 4, Hope Akpan 4, Celestine Babayaro 3, Dickson Etuhu 3, Jay-Jay Okocha 3, Taye Taiwo 3, Brown Ideye 2, Isaac Success 2, Joseph Yobo 2, Julius Aghahowa 1, Ade Akinbiyi 1

All data correct upto the end of the 2018-2019 season

One of the most popular African countries in the Premier League era has been Nigeria. There has been a steady influx of Nigerian players in the first 27 years of Premier League football, with no fewer than 42 representatives. Some have had great success and become Premier League champions, whilst others didn’t have the impact they hoped for.

The first Nigerian player to make a significant impact on the Premier League was Efan Ekoku. He joined Norwich City in 1993 and enjoyed a productive spell on these shores. He first came to attention by becoming the first player to score four goals in a Premier League match when he ran riot at Goodison Park in September 1993. Ekoku got four of Norwich’s five on the day in a 5-1 win at Everton. He transferred to Wimbledon in October 1994 and became a fans favourite with the Dons supporters until their relegation in 2000.

Ekoku was joined in the Premier League in the summer of 1994 by Daniel Amokachi who signed for Everton after his excellent performances for The Super Eagles at the 1994 World Cup finals. Under-pressure Mike Walker signed him for £3 million and it took a while for Amokachi to settle on Merseyside. He started to flourish in the second half of the season. He helped the Toffees win the FA Cup final and scored 10 times in 43 appearances before leaving for Besiktas in 1996. Although he had his outstanding games and became a cult hero, there was a feeling that he hadn’t quite manage to justify the transfer fee Walker paid for him.

Nigeria’s leading marksman in the Premier League is Yakubu. He made his Premier League debut in 2003 with Portsmouth and went on to play for Middlesbrough, Everton and Blackburn Rovers in the top-flight. Yakubu often finished in the top 10 goalscorers for the league in most seasons, making a big impact for all of the clubs he represented. He was part of the Everton side that finished fifth in 2007-2008 and reached the UEFA Cup final with Middlesbrough in 2006.

Nigeria has plenty of title winners among their ranks. John Obi Mikel wasn’t always the most popular player at Chelsea but he did provide nearly a decade of service to the west Londoners. He won the Premier League title with the Blues in 2010 and 2015. He would play alongside Victor Moses at Chelsea. After a series of loan periods away at Liverpool FC, Stoke City and West Ham United, Moses came to the fore in Antonio Conte’s debut season as Chelsea manager. Utilised as a wing-back, Moses was one of the success stories of Chelsea’s 2016-2017 title-winning side. Kanu is also a title winner, part of the Arsenal sides that won the championship in 2002 and 2004. He produced some outrageous moments of skill during his Arsenal days. He also provided the Premier League with one of the most famous misses against Middlesbrough whilst playing for West Bromwich Albion in November 2004.

The player with the most appearances from Nigeria is Shola Ameobi. Ameobi made 295 appearances for Newcastle United over 14 years and also added another four appearances to his tally in 2015 during a short period with Crystal Palace. Ameobi was often the perfect foil for Alan Shearer and a capable understudy, even if he never managed double figures in any top-flight campaign he took part in. He did though boast an unbelievable record in the Tyne & Wear Derby against Sunderland, scoring doubles in home victories over the Black Cats in 2005 and 2010.

Bolton Wanderers supporters will never forget Jay-Jay Okocha. Okocha was one of the most skilful players in the Premier League during his four-season stay in Lancashire, scoring 14 goals in 124 appearances. His crucial goals and matchwinning contributions were vital to the Trotters staying in the top-flight in 2002-2003.

Other notable Nigerian players include Odion Ighalo. No player in England’s top four leagues scored more league goals than Ighalo in 2015 and he had a prolific period at Watford alongside Troy Deeney. Peter Odemwingie had a lively spell with West Bromwich Albion which ended acrimoniously after famously pulling up in Queens Park Rangers’ car park in January 2013, believing he was about to sign for them, even though he hadn’t received permission to talk to the club! There are five Nigerian players currently in the Premier League. Their current charge is led by Alex Iwobi, who made his 100th Premier League appearance for Arsenal in May 2019.

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The Foreign Legion: Finland

Number of Finnish Players to have played in the Premier League: 16

Most appearances: Jussi Jaaskelainen (436)

Most goals: Mikael Forssell (34)

Appearances: Jussi Jaaskelainen 436, Sami Hyypia 318, Jonatan Johansson 147, Antti Niemi 143, Mikael Forssell 126, Teemu Tainio 88, Peter Enckelman 54, Shefki Kuqi 50, Aki Riihilahti 31, Jari Litmanen 26, Joonas Kolkka 23, Simo Valakari 20, Mixu Paatelainen 15, Petri Pasanen 12, Hannu Tihinen 8, Toni Kallio 4

Goals: Mikael Forssell 34, Jonatan Johansson 27, Sami Hyypia 22, Shefki Kuqi 7, Jari Litmanen 5, Joonas Kolkka 3, Aki Riihilahti 3, Teemu Tainio 3, Mixu Paatelainen 1, Simo Valakari 1

Assists: Jussi Jaaskelainen 3, Mikael Forssell 3, Teemu Tainio 2, Shefki Kuqi 2, Sami Hyypia 1, Jonatan Johansson 1

Whilst they haven’t enjoyed great success on the international stage, Finland have produced the Premier League with a crop of loyal servants and talented stars during its history. Leading the way is one of the most consistent foreign goalkeepers the league has seen in Jussi Jaaskelainen.

Jaaskelainen came into the Premier League with Bolton Wanderers in 2001 and was a regular stalwart between the goalposts for the Trotters throughout their 11-year spell in the top-flight which ended with relegation in 2012. Jaaskelainen was an intimidating competitor who could produce the spectacular when it came to shot-stopping and this was demonstrated at Old Trafford in October 2001. In Bolton’s shock 2-1 win, Jussi pulled off a remarkable double save which included a point-blank stop from Andy Cole. This finished in the top 10 saves at the 10 Seasons Awards gala back in 2002. Jaaskelainen moved onto West Ham after Bolton’s relegation and finished with a staggering 436 appearances.

Jaaskelainen’s time came at a period where there were a few Finns making their mark on these shores. When it comes to scoring goals for Finland, the leader is Mikael Forssell. Forssell made his debut in 1999 with Chelsea but his goalscoring feats came at Birmingham City. In a fruitful loan spell with the Blues in 2003-2004, he scored 17 goals, exactly 50% of his goalscoring tally in his Premier League career. Had it not been for injuries, Forssell would surely have scored more during his English top-flight days.

Another player who was scoring, though a bit more occasionally at roughly the same time as Forssell was Jonatan Johansson at Charlton Athletic. Johansson spent his entire Premier League time at The Valley, scoring 27 times in 147 appearances in what was the best period of his club career. His debut season was his best campaign, scoring 11 times in 2000-2001 on Charlton’s way to a 9th place finish. A year later, he scored undoubtedly his best goal for the club which was a spectacular overhead kick to rescue a point in an entertaining 4-4 draw with London rivals West Ham United.

Meanwhile on Merseyside, one of the Premier League’s most loyal players was at the heart of the Liverpool FC backline. Sami Hyypia gave up the opportunity of playing Champions League football at Willem II in the Netherlands to come to the Premier League in the summer of 1999. For a decade, he was a colossus for Liverpool, forming a tremendous partnership alongside Stephane Henchoz on the way to Liverpool’s cup treble in the 2000-2001 season. Hyypia scored in three UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the Reds and captained the side for two seasons before passing the armband onto Steven Gerrard as the gentleman he always was in October 2003. LFC fans loved Hyypia’s commitment and this was shown by the touching send-off they gave him in May 2009 when he made his final appearance at Anfield before moving to Bayer 04 Leverkusen. He went on to manage the German side and also Brighton & Hove Albion and whilst management hasn’t quite worked out so far, Hyypia’s place as a Premier League and Liverpool FC icon is assured.

Whilst Hyypia was at Liverpool, he was joined by goalscoring royalty in the form of Jari Litmanen. Litmanen arrived in English football in January 2001 but never quite matched up to his goalscoring feats he’d achieved in the mid-1990s whilst at Ajax. Five goals in 26 appearances was his sum total before returning to his former club in August 2002. Among the other 16 Finnish players to have played in the Premier League include Joonas Kolkka and Aki Riihilahti, who were part of the Crystal Palace side that were relegated in 2005 whilst Peter Enckelman will always be remembered for his horrific own goal in the September 2002 Second City Derby at St Andrew’s whilst at Aston Villa.

There are currently no Finnish players plying their trade in the Premier League but they’ve given the football fans some added flavour and dimension throughout the years.

The Foreign Legion: Korea Republic

Number of South Korean Players to have played in the Premier League: 13

Most appearances: Ki Sung-Yeung (180)

Most goals: Heung-Min Son (42)

All data correct upto 10th April 2019

Appearances: Ki Sung-Yeung 180, Ji-Sung Park 153, Heung-Min Son 125, Chung-Yong Lee 105, Lee Young-Pyo 69, Seol Ki-Hyeon 48, Kim Bo-Kyung 28, Dong-Won Ji 24, Lee Dong-Guk 23, Yun Seok-Yeong 23, Kim Du-Hyeon 16, Jo Won-Heui 5, Park Chu-Young 1

Goals: Heung-Min Son 42, Ji-Sung Park 20, Ki Sung-Yeung 15, Chung-Yong Lee 8, Seol Ki-Hyeon 5, Dong-Won Ji 2, Kim Bo-Kyung 1

Assists: Ji-Sung Park 25, Heung-Min Son 22, Chung-Yong Lee 15, Ki Sung-Yeung 11, Dong-Won Ji 2, Seol Ki-Hyeon 2

In 2002, South Korea wowed world football when at their own World Cup finals; they went all the way to the semi-finals, defeating Portugal and Italy along the way. Guus Hiddink had put together a well-drilled and organised side and firmly put the country on the world football map.

Nowadays, they probably won’t have the success they enjoyed then but they have one of the Premier League’s most in-form players this season in the likeable and energetic forward, Heung-Min Son of Tottenham Hotspur.

Son arrived at Tottenham Hotspur in the summer of 2015 having already made his name in the Bundesliga as a star to watch for both Hamburger SV and Bayer 04 Leverkusen. He is now into his fourth season at the club and with each season, has been growing into a role as one of the leading stars in the Premier League. The most expensive player in Asian history is now the highest-scoring Asian player in Premier League history and has come up with 12 goals in 26 matches despite missing some of the season due to representing his country at the Asian Games and Asian Cup. He is the perfect partner to link up with Harry Kane and is a vital part of Tottenham’s plans going forwards. He ensured his place in Tottenham’s history by becoming the first player to score in their new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium against Crystal Palace in April 2019.

Son has been tipped to be a contender for Player of the Year along with Virgil van Dijk and Raheem Sterling but so far, he hasn’t managed to get his hands on any silverware for any of the clubs he’s represented. It is a different case for Ji-Sung Park who enjoyed a great time at Manchester United. Park became a summer target for Sir Alex Ferguson in 2005 after his goals and assists had helped an unfancied PSV Eindhoven team reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. Ferguson got his man and Park provided time and again in the big matches for the Red Devils. On his way to four Premier League titles at Old Trafford, he had an uncanny knack of scoring matchwinning goals against elite sides, including headers to beat Liverpool FC in March 2010 and Arsenal in December 2010. Leaving Manchester in 2012, he went to Queens Park Rangers and experienced the other side of Premier League football in 2012-2013 which ended in the club being relegated. He is now back at Manchester United as a club ambassador.

In total, 13 South Korean players have tried their luck in the Premier League and the player who has made the most appearances for the country is Ki Sung-Yeung. The midfielder has played for Swansea City, Sunderland and Newcastle United, joining the latter on a free transfer in the summer of 2018. Ki’s best campaign came at Swansea in 2014-2015, scoring eight times in 33 appearances and being crowned as the Swans Player of the Season.

Another popular player in the north east from South Korea is Dong-Won Ji. After impressing at the Asian Cup in 2011, his second goal in the top-flight came on New Years’ Day 2012. He came off the bench to score the only goal to help Sunderland beat Manchester City 1-0 for the second successive season. Ji’s late contribution brought about an excitable reaction from Sky Sports commentator Martin Tyler who screamed out: “For Ji, he’s round the goalkeeper, HE’S DONE IT! Absolutely incredible! It ain’t over until it’s over!” Popular with Sunderland supporters despite making only 24 appearances in the top-flight, he is now in the Bundesliga alongside his international teammate Ja-Cheol Koo at FC Augsburg.

Among the other Korean players to shine in the Premier League are Seol Ki-Hyeon, who was essential to Reading’s brilliant 2006-2007 maiden adventure at this level when they finished in eighth position and left-back Lee Young-Pyo who Martin Jol once called “the best defender in Holland” during his time in that country. Young-Pyo was a regular for Tottenham in 2005-2006 when they narrowly missed out on a top four finish.

South Korea’s 2018 World Cup victory over outgoing champions Germany shows they can still mix it with the best and with Heung-Min Son producing his magic at Tottenham, they also have one of the very best individual players of the 2018-2019 Premier League season.

The Foreign Legion: Ukraine

Number of Ukrainian Players to have played in the Premier League: 7

Most appearances: Oleg Luzhny (81)

Most goals: Sergei Rebrov (10)

All data correct upto 9th April 2019

Appearances: Oleg Luzhny 81, Sergei Rebrov 59, Andriy Shevchenko 48, Andriy Voronin 27, Oleksandr Zinchenko 17, Andriy Yarmolenko 9, Oleksandr Yevtushok 3

Goals: Sergei Rebrov 10, Andriy Shevchenko 9, Andriy Voronin 5, Andriy Yarmolenko 2

Assists: Andriy Shevchenko 8, Oleg Luzhny 4, Andriy Voronin 3, Oleksandr Zinchenko 3, Andriy Yarmolenko 1

In 2018, Oleksandr Zinchenko became the second Ukrainian player to taste success as a Premier League title winner. The young utility player, who can play in defensive midfielder or as a left-back, showed that versatility when along with Fabian Delph, he was asked to fill in at left-back by Pep Guardiola due to a long-term injury to the popular regular first-choice, Benjamin Mendy.

Zinchenko turned down a move to Wolverhampton Wanderers in the summer and seems happy for the moment with his role at The Etihad Stadium and whilst Manchester City are in the running for all the major prizes, there isn’t any reason for Zinchenko wanting to leave.

The first Ukrainian title winner was Oleg Luzhny. Having impressed Arsene Wenger in a feared Dynamo Kyiv side in the 1990s, Wenger signed Luzhny in the summer of 1999, primarily as an understudy in the full-back role to Lee Dixon. Never a first-team regular, Luzhny was still a popular member of the Arsenal dressing room and won the Premier League title in 2001-2002, making 18 appearances in the Gunners double-winning season. His last-ever Arsenal appearance was the 2003 FA Cup final which ended in victory against Southampton and many believe it was Luzhny’s best performance for the club. Unlike Zinchenko, he did go to Wolverhampton Wanderers after experiencing medal-winning success but he made only six appearances at Molineux and was released following their relegation from the top-flight in 2004.

In that Dynamo Kyiv side that Luzhny played his part in were two deadly forwards in Sergei Rebrov and Andriy Shevchenko. Rebrov was the first of the pair to try his luck in the Premier League when he transferred to Tottenham Hotspur for a club-record fee of £11 million in the summer of 2000. After initial promise, Rebrov’s star waned at Tottenham and he scored only 10 Premier League goals before returning to his homeland in 2005 via one season in the Championship at West Ham United. Rebrov is now in management with Ferencváros in the Hungarian National Championship.

Undeterred by Rebrov’s difficult experience, Shevchenko tried his luck a year after Rebrov’s English departure. Roman Abramovich had been very keen to bring the goalscorer to Stamford Bridge ever since his takeover of Chelsea in 2003 and he finally succeeded in 2006. Shevchenko scored on his debut in the Community Shield but never got going in his two seasons at Chelsea. The devastating form he’d displayed at Kyiv and also at AC Milan where he’d won the UEFA Champions League in 2003 had deserted him. He scored just nine league goals and is evidence that it doesn’t matter what reputation you earn in other countries, you sometimes don’t settle in a particular country. That was most definitely the case for Shevchenko.

Andriy Yarmolenko is the other Ukrainian currently in the Premier League but he is unlikely to play again in the 2018-2019 season. Yarmolenko came also from Dynamo Kyiv’s school of excellence and made a bright start to his single campaign in the Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund before fading badly in the second half of the season. He joined West Ham in the summer and two goals in a fine 3-1 away win at Everton in September hinted at bright things. Sadly, an Achilles injury sustained in a home defeat by Tottenham Hotspur in October has kept him on the sidelines ever since.

Once he returns to full fitness, Yarmolenko still has the potential to do great things with West Ham and along with Zinchenko, Ukraine has a couple of players who have the ability to become mainstays in the Premier League for years to come.

The Foreign Legion: Morocco

Number of Moroccan Players to have played in the Premier League: 17

Most appearances: Hassan Kachloul (112)

Most goals: Hassan Kachloul (16)

Records as of 25th March 2019

Appearances: Hassan Kachloul 112, Marouane Chamakh 103, Mustapha Hadji 97, Talal El Karkouri 86, Adel Taarabt 86, Youssef Chippo 65, Tahar El Khalej 61, Karim El Ahmadi 51, Sofiane Boufal 50, Nordin Amrabat 44, Oussama Assaidi 32, Manuel da Costa 30, Noureddine Naybet 30, Nabil El Zhar 21, Abdeslam Ouaddou 21, Youssef Safri 18, Romain Saiss 16

Goals: Hassan Kachloul 16, Marouane Chamakh 15, Mustapha Hadji 14, Talal El Karkouri 8, Adel Taarabt 7, Oussama Assaidi 4, Sofiane Boufal 3, Manuel da Costa 3, Karim El Ahmadi 3, Tahar El Khalej 3, Youssef Chippo 2, Romain Saiss 2, Noureddine Naybet 1, Youssef Safri 1

Assists: Adel Taarabt 11, Marouane Chamakh 9, Nordin Amrabat 3, Sofiane Boufal 2, Oussama Assaidi 1, Karim El Ahmadi 1, Nabil El Zhar 1, Mustapha Hadji 1

Morocco returned to the World Cup stage in 2018 after an absence of 20 years. 17 Moroccan players have tried their luck over the years in the Premier League, all with varying degrees of success and disappointment and whilst they don’t have a title winner from the English top-flight among their ranks, they do boast a wealth of talent and it all started at the turn of the millennium.

Moroccan players were non-existent in the Premier League’s early years but that all changed when in the summer of 1999, Coventry City made the double capture of Youssef Chippo and Mustapha Hadji. The pair had impressed many European clubs during the 1998 World Cup finals in France, so Gordon Strachan did well to attract the pair to Highfield Road. Both quickly settled in and became firm favourites with the Sky Blues faithful. Hadji finished as the club’s joint-top scorer in 2000-2001 but both departed after Coventry’s relegation. Hadji stayed in the Midlands for a period at Aston Villa and finished with totals of 14 goals in 97 matches. It was clear that in his preferred position, Hadji was a major danger for defenders.

Whilst at Villa Park, Hadji linked up with fellow Moroccan Hassan Kachloul, who is the most successful Moroccan player to feature in the Premier League. Kachloul first made his impression on the south coast at Southampton before switching to Aston Villa like Hadji in the summer of 2001. He had a fearsome shot among his armoury and impressed on his way to 112 appearances and 16 goals. However, like Hadji, he probably had his best Premier League days before moving to Aston Villa.

The only other Moroccan player to reach the three-figure mark when it comes to appearances is Marouane Chamakh. Signed on a free transfer by Arsene Wenger after sparkling in the French league with Bordeaux, Chamakh started well in 2010-2011, benefiting from a pre-season injury to Robin van Persie. He scored seven league goals in his debut season at The Emirates and also holds the record for scoring Arsenal’s fastest-ever Premier League goal, achieved after 37 seconds in a 2-0 away victory at Wolverhampton Wanderers in November 2010. Chamakh would go on to have spells with West Ham United and Crystal Palace but never looked like the prolific goalscorer he’d shown from his time in France. Chamakh is currently a free agent.

Sofiane Boufal’s two-season spell with Southampton was deeply frustrating for all concerned and he is now trying to rebuild his career on-loan in La Liga with Celta Vigo. Boufal though did score the Premier League Goal of the Season in 2017-2018 for his amazing mazy run from almost the edge of his own area to score the only goal that beat West Bromwich Albion in October 2017. Boufal’s career in this country is often linked hand-in-hand of that which Adel Taarabt experienced. Taarabt is the leading Moroccan assist contributor in Premier League history with 11 but he flattered to deceive for the likes of Queens Park Rangers and Fulham and ultimately experienced relegation in back-to-back campaigns.

There is one Moroccan player currently in the Premier League and whilst he hasn’t always been a first-choice regular this season, Romain Saiss has played an important squad role in Wolverhampton Wanderers’ excellent first season back in the top-flight since 2012. Saiss scored an equaliser in a Boxing Day draw with Fulham and again in a 3-1 away victory at Everton in February 2019. His versatility to play at centre-back and defensive midfield means he is much-liked by the hierarchy at Molineux.

Morocco is making an impact on the international stage again and with plenty of young talent at their disposal, is likely to be a serious contender at this summer’s Africa Cup of Nations. A good summer for some of those players like Hakim Ziyech of Ajax, Schalke’s Amine Harit and Sofyan Amrabat from Club Brugge and we might see the number of Moroccan players increase in the Premier League for next season.

The Foreign Legion: South Africa

Number of South African Players to have played in the Premier League: 13

Most appearances: Steven Pienaar (214)

Most goals: Benni McCarthy (37)

Appearances: Steven Pienaar 214, Lucas Radebe 197, Mark Fish 124, Aaron Mokoena 124, Shaun Bartlett 123, Benni McCarthy 120, Quinton Fortune 82, Kagisho Dikgacoi 39, Phil Masinga 31, Eric Tinkler 25, Matthew Pattison 10, Mbulelo Mabizela 7, Tokelo Rantie 3

Goals: Benni McCarthy 37, Shaun Bartlett 24, Steven Pienaar 22, Quinton Fortune 5, Phil Masinga 5, Mark Fish 4, Eric Tinkler 2, Mbulelo Mabizela 1

Assists: Steven Pienaar 40, Benni McCarthy 8, Quinton Fortune 4, Aaron Mokoena 1, Eric Tinkler 1

Nine years have now passed since South Africa hosted a successful and rather noisy World Cup tournament. The vuvuzela has its place in South African history and 13 of their footballers have represented a host of clubs in the Premier League. They also have a title winner in Quinton Fortune from his time at Manchester United.

You could argue that Quinton Fortune had great fortune to play for Manchester United during their title dominance and whilst he wasn’t a starting XI regular under Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, he spent seven years at Old Trafford. He made his debut in a 5-1 victory over Newcastle United in August 1999, scoring the first of his five goals in a Boxing Day triumph against Bradford City. Fortune never quite managed to reach the specific criteria of playing in 10 Premier League games in a title-winning season to technically receive a medal. However, having made nine appearances in 2002-2003, he received special dispensation from the Premier League to get a winners’ medal that he arguably deserved for his service to the club. Released in the summer of 2006, he finished his Premier League days with one season at Bolton Wanderers.

The most successful South African player when it comes to goals is Benni McCarthy. McCarthy scored 37 times in 120 Premier League appearances at a strike rate better than one goal per four matches. McCarthy played for Blackburn Rovers and West Ham United in the top-flight and in 2006-2007, his 18 Premier League goals saw him finish runner-up in the race for the Golden Boot to Chelsea’s Didier Drogba. Another player who made a big impact on his club was Charlton Athletic’s Shaun Bartlett. In April 2001, his sensational volley in a 2-0 home victory over Leicester City won the Goal of the Season and was one of his 24 goals he scored in his Premier League career.

The first South African players to play in the Premier League were Lucas Radebe and Phil Masinga. Both were signed by Leeds United in 1994 and Radebe actually only came as part of the package to keep Masinga happy. Ultimately, it was the centre-back who turned out to be the better investment. Radebe would go on to captain the Yorkshire outfit in his 11-year spell with Leeds, making 197 appearances. Masinga scored five times in 31 matches during his two campaigns at Elland Road but his biggest contribution came with a hat-trick in an FA Cup third round replay victory over Walsall in January 1995. In January 2019, Phil Masinga died aged 49 after a short battle with cancer.

Steven Pienaar is probably the most common of South African players to have enjoyed a productive Premier League stint. After impressing as a youngster at Ajax, Pienaar went on to play for Everton in two successful spells, either side of a frustrating year in north London with Tottenham Hotspur. He made 214 appearances, scoring 22 goals and being credited with 40 assists. Among Pienaar’s highlights was being crowned Everton’s Player of the Year in 2009-2010 and scoring the Toffees 1000th goal in Premier League history with a powerful header against ironically, Tottenham Hotspur in December 2012.

There are no South African players currently active in today’s Premier League but they’ve made their contribution over the years and don’t rule out them out from playing a part in the future of the most envied league in the world.

The Foreign Legion: Iran

Number of Iranian Players to have played in the Premier League: 4

Most appearances: Ashkan Dejagah (43)

Most goals: Ashkan Dejagah (5)

Records as of 28th February 2019

Appearances: Ashkan Dejagah 43, Andranik Teymourian 21, Alireza Jahanbakhsh 11, Karim Bagheri 1

Goals: Ashkan Dejagah 5, Andranik Teymourian 2

Assists: Ashkan Dejagah 6

Iran enjoyed their best-ever World Cup performance last summer in Russia. Even though they did see elimination come their way in the group stages, they beat Morocco and then came within a whisker of knocking reigning European champions Portugal out in their final group game. Iran might have had the experience of former Manchester United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz as their international boss but when it comes to well-known players, they are thin on the ground.

Most of the best players from Iran’s history have tended to stay loyal to their homeland. Some have had the ability to try their luck abroad and one of those players is Ashkan Dejagah. Dejagah, who is currently playing back in Iran with Tractor Sazi, enjoyed his time in the European game, especially in Germany where he won the Bundesliga with VfL Wolfsburg in 2009. In August 2012, he became only the third Iranian to play in the Premier League when he joined Fulham for a two-year stint that saw him chalk up 43 appearances, scoring five times. His first year at Craven Cottage was a struggle but he was one of the Cottagers better players in their appalling 2013-2014 campaign which ultimately ended in relegation. All of Dejagah’s goals came in that season including a matchwinner against Newcastle United and goals in the first matches of managers Rene Meulensteen and Felix Magath. Dejagah was voted by the fans as Fulham’s Player of the Season before moving onto Qatar.

The first Iranian player to play in the Premier League was Karim Bagheri. A two-footed midfielder known for his long-range shots from distance, he joined Charlton Athletic in 2000 but the death of his father and injuries restricted him making any major impact at The Valley. His English top-flight experience was restricted to an 18-minute run-out in a 2-0 defeat against Ipswich Town in November 2000. In 2002, he ended his frustrating time in English football and returned to Persepolis.

There is a current player also among the Premier League ranks in the shape of Alireza Jahanbakhsh who is currently at Brighton & Hove Albion. Jahanbakhsh arrived with a huge reputation after finishing as top scorer in the Eredivisie with 21 goals at AZ Alkmaar. He became the first Asian player to become top scorer in a major European league. So far, he has struggled to adapt to the physicality of the English game in the 11 appearances he has made but still only 25, the best could still be yet to come.

Andranik Teymourian is the other Iranian player to have Premier League experience. He played for Bolton Wanderers and Fulham in the top-flight and his two goals as a Premier League player came in a Man of the Match display for the Trotters against Wigan Athletic in April 2007. His time at Fulham was not so productive – just one appearance before he moved on-loan to Barnsley and a return then to Iranian club football.

It is currently down to Alireza Jahanbakhsh at the moment to make Iran have a major impact on the current foreign landscape of Premier League football.

 

 

 

The Foreign Legion: Canada

Number of Canadian Players to have played in the Premier League: 11

Most appearances: Tomasz Radzinski (193)

Most goals: Tomasz Radzinski (35)

Records as of 17th February 2019

Appearances: Tomasz Radzinski 193, Junior Hoilett 150, Craig Forrest 107, Scott Arfield 86, Paul Stalteri 55, Frank Yallop 54, Simeon Jackson 35, David Edgar 23, Kevin Sharp 18, Jim Brennan 10, Terry Dunfield 1

Goals: Tomasz Radzinski 35, Junior Hoilett 16, Scott Arfield 5, Simeon Jackson 4, Frank Yallop 3, David Edgar 2, Paul Stalteri 2

Assists: Junior Hoilett 11, Simeon Jackson 4, Scott Arfield 3, David Edgar 1, Paul Stalteri 1

Canada has had a lack of international pedigree on the global stage. They haven’t appearance at a major international tournament since the World Cup finals in 1986 in Mexico. Nevertheless, they have seen some half-decent players come through their system. 11 of them have played in the top-flight of English football since 1992.

Top of the class when it comes to appearances and goals is Tomasz Radzinski. Radzinski came to the Premier League in the summer of 2001, joining Everton after a fruitful spell in Belgium with Anderlecht. Radzinski scored 25 times in 91 appearances for the Toffees in a three-season period but he left the club on bad terms, publicly criticising manager David Moyes before encouraging Wayne Rooney to leave the club. With 12 months left of his contract at Goodison Park, he was sold to Fulham in the summer of 2004 but was never quite as prolific as he demonstrated on Merseyside and he was released in 2007.

Still producing the goods is Cardiff City winger Junior Hoilett. Hoilett began his Premier League days at Blackburn Rovers, scoring 12 times in 81 appearances including seven goals in Rovers’ relegation campaign of 2011-2012. After a stint at Queens Park Rangers, he linked up with Cardiff City in 2016 and was a key figure in their promotion campaign from the Championship last season. Hoilett has chipped in with two further strikes this season, including a spectacular winning goal against Wolverhampton Wanderers in November that won the BBC Goal of the Month award.

In 2014-2015, Scott Arfield scored Burnley’s first goal back in the top-flight after their four-season absence. It came against reigning champions Chelsea and Arfield had his moments at Turf Moor, only missing one game in 2014-2015 and also featuring 31 times in the 2016-2017 campaign which saw them avoid relegation for the first time in their Premier League life. Arfield left the Premier League in the summer of 2018 for Rangers where he has enjoyed a decent campaign at Ibrox under the guidance of ex-Liverpool FC captain and legend, Steven Gerrard.

Goalkeeper Craig Forrest was one of only 13 foreign players to play on the opening weekend of the FA Premier League when he kept goal for Ipswich Town in their draw with Aston Villa. He did help the Tractor Boys to two shock home victories in three years against Manchester United but also holds the unfortunate record of conceding the most goals in a Premier League match – shipping nine in Ipswich’s 9-0 loss at Old Trafford in March 1995. Five years later, he was in-goal for West Ham when they lost 7-1 at The Theatre of Dreams. Old Trafford has been a place of nightmares for Forrest.

Full-back Paul Stalteri was a solid figure in the Tottenham Hotspur side of 2005-2006 that narrowly missed out on qualifying for the UEFA Champions League and one of his two Premier League goals came in stoppage-time at Upton Park in March 2007. His late contribution helped Spurs to a 4-3 victory at West Ham in what remains one of the greatest London Derbies in Premier League history.

With Hoilett a strong part of the Cardiff City tilt battling to stay alive in the Premier League, a Canadian player could still have a strong say in this season’s relegation run-in.

The Foreign Legion: Georgia

Number of Georgian Players to have played in the Premier League: 5

Most appearances: Georgi Kinkladze (102)

Most goals: Temuri Ketsbaia (8)

Appearances: Georgi Kinkladze 102, Temuri Ketsbaia 76, Zurab Khizanishvili 62, Mikhail Kavelashvili 4, Rati Aleksidze 2

Goals: Temuri Ketsbaia 8, Georgi Kinkladze 7, Zurab Khizanishvili 1, Mikhail Kavelashvili 1

Assists: Temuri Ketsbaia 1, Zurab Khizanishvili 1

Georgia is a nation that with a population of just 3.7 million and having only received independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 hasn’t made too much impact on the worldwide sporting landscape. In fact, its rugby union players are probably as big as any successful footballers, having played at four successive Rugby World Cup finals, coming within a point of embarrassing Ireland at the pool stages in 2007.

From a football perspective, only five footballers have tried their luck in the Premier League – two of them have left a legacy behind. First up was the dazzling and dribbling artist, Georgi Kinkladze. Kinkladze arrived in England in the summer of 1995 after impressing in some international games against Wales. It was Alan Ball who bought him to Manchester City and the fans at Maine Road absolutely loved him. As the team struggled, Kinkladze sparkled. He scored one of the best goals of the 1995-1996 season when he waltzed his way through Southampton’s defenders in a 2-1 victory in March. Ball loved him but the club were relegated from the Premier League at the end of the campaign and when he quit shortly afterwards, other managers didn’t appreciate Kinkladze’s lack of defensive responsibility on the team. Another relegation to Division Two followed in 1998 and he departed having been part of the club’s worst recent spell with two relegations in three seasons. After a difficult time in the Netherlands, he returned to English football with Derby County in 2000 but couldn’t re-ignite the sparkle he’d demonstrated in a Manchester City shirt. Relegation followed again in 2002 from the top-flight. Kinkladze was a luxury player and some managers liked that, whilst others couldn’t stand his desire to keep the ball and attempt to beat several defenders.

On Tyneside, they had their own Georgian they loved and that was Temuri Ketsbaia. Ketsbaia joined Newcastle United in the summer of 1997 after running down his contract at AEK Athens. Eight goals was a modest return but Ketsbaia remains the highest-scoring Georgian player in Premier League history and the fans considered him as a ‘cult hero’ during his three-year stint with the Magpies. Ketsbaia is most famously remembered for his celebration after scoring a winning goal against Bolton Wanderers in January 1998. He ripped his shirt off and started taking out his frustration by constantly kicking an advertising hoarding – apparently because he was frustrated at a lack of starting opportunities under Kenny Dalglish.

The other three Georgian players are largely forgotten. Mikhail Kavelashvili joined Manchester City on transfer deadline day in March 1996 and scored on his debut in a Manchester Derby. It was his only Premier League goal and he made just four appearances before City’s 1996 relegation. Zurab Khizanishvili struggled to hold down a regular starting position at Blackburn Rovers during his three-year spell at Ewood Park whilst Rati Aleksidze’s two-game spell at Chelsea was restricted to substitute appearances that lasted 18 minutes in 2000. Even the most ardent of Blues supporters probably don’t remember his spell at Stamford Bridge.

Thanks to Ketsbaia’s celebration and Kinkladze’s dribble, Georgia has a couple of historical moments in the Premier League archives but little success to show for it.

The Foreign Legion: Ecuador

Number of Ecuadorian Players to have played in the Premier League: 11

Most appearances: Antonio Valencia (324)

Most goals: Antonio Valencia (23)

Records as of 2nd February 2019

Appearances: Antonio Valencia 324, Ulises de la Cruz 104, Enner Valencia 75, Jefferson Montero 66, Christian Benitez 30, Felipe Caicedo 27, Segundo Castillo 17, Juan Carlos Paredes 17, Agustin Delgado 11, Fernando Guerrero 7, Ivan Kaviedes 4

Goals: Antonio Valencia 23, Enner Valencia 11, Felipe Caicedo 4, Christian Benitez 3, Ulises de la Cruz 2, Agustin Delgado 1, Jefferson Montero 1

Assists: Antonio Valencia 56, Jefferson Montero 10, Enner Valencia 8, Christian Benitez 4, Ulises de la Cruz 3, Juan Carlos Paredes 1

Ecuador is one of the smaller nations in South America but they have produced some very talented players, most notably when an exciting, energetic side made the round-of-16 at the 2006 World Cup and were only ousted from the competition by a trademark David Beckham free-kick for England in Stuttgart.

One of Ecuador’s stars in that competition was Agustin Delgado, who scored in group stage victories over Poland and Costa Rica. That came four years after a largely unsuccessful stint in English football with Southampton. It was Gordon Strachan who handed Delgado his debut in January 2002 during a 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United. He made just 11 appearances in over two years and scored once. However, it was a matchwinning goal to send Arsenal crashing to a 3-2 defeat at St Mary’s in November 2002. He left in the summer of 2004.

Another player who made his mark in that well-drilled Ecuador team was Antonio Valencia and he remains the only Ecuadorian player to enjoy plenty of Premier League success. He came to this country after the 2006 World Cup, starring for Wigan Athletic across a three-year period before earning himself a move to Manchester United in 2009. Valencia has won two Premier League titles and seen his role changing from flying winger to versatile full-back. He was made captain during Jose Mourinho’s tenure at Old Trafford although injuries and a lack of form in the 2018-2019 season means his longer-term future in Manchester is massively uncertain. When fit and happy, Valencia can produce some stunning goals, as Everton can testify back in September 2017.

The only other Ecuadorian player to make over 100 Premier League appearances is Ulises de la Cruz. He spent four years at Aston Villa having been signed by Graham Taylor after his performances on the worldwide stage at the 2002 World Cup finals. He scored in only his fourth top-flight appearance, opening the scoring in a 2-0 victory over Charlton Athletic in September 2002. He moved to Reading following their promotion to the Premier League but experienced the heartache of relegation in 2007-2008.

The most tragic story though is that of Christian Benitez. Benitez was a well-sought after striker when Birmingham City acquired him on-loan from Santos Laguna for their Premier League return in 2009-2010. ‘Chucho’ was well-liked but like Delgado several years earlier, he struggled to settle in English football and scored just three times in 30 appearances. After rediscovering his scoring touch in Mexico, Benitez was being linked with a return to the Premier League when at the age of 27, he suffered a cardiac arrest and died, a day after playing for Qatari club, El Jaish Sports Club. Ecuador retired his no.11 squad number after his tragic passing.

Historically, Ecuador players have shown skill and panache over the years but a number of players have found the conditions and surroundings tough when playing in the Premier League. However, thanks to the efforts of Antonio Valencia, they have a double Premier League title winner.

The Foreign Legion: Bulgaria

Number of Egyptian Players to have played in the Premier League: 9

Most appearances: Dimitar Berbatov (229)

Most goals: Dimitar Berbatov (94)

Appearances: Dimitar Berbatov 229, Stiliyan Petrov 185, Radostin Kishishev 178, Martin Petrov 119, Bontcho Guentchev 61, Svetoslav Todorov 48, Aleksandar Tonev 17, Valeri Bojinov 11, Stanislav Manolev 5

Goals: Dimitar Berbatov 94, Martin Petrov 16, Stiliyan Petrov 9, Svetoslav Todorov 7, Bontcho Guentchev 6, Radostin Kishishev 2, Valeri Bojinov 1

Assists: Dimitar Berbatov 42, Martin Petrov 24, Stiliyan Petrov 12, Radostin Kishishev 1, Svetoslav Todorov 1, Valeri Bojinov 1

Currently, there are no Bulgarians playing in the Premier League. However, this country in the Balkans did have a representative in the inaugural Premier League season in 1992-1993. Bontcho Guentchev was part of Ipswich Town’s squad and he made his Premier League bow for both the Tractor Boys and his country in December 1992, playing 84 minutes of Ipswich’s 3-1 victory over Manchester City. Two weeks later, Guentchev scored in a home win over Blackburn Rovers and although his goalscoring record of six goals in 61 games is modest, he became a cult hero with the supporters at Portman Road.

Guentchev was part of the most successful Bulgaria team to ever play in a major tournament as they reached the semi-finals of the World Cup in the United States in 1994. However, the majority of their star players preferred to play their club football either in their homeland or the likes of Spain and Germany. It wasn’t until the millennium when there was a bigger influx of Bulgarian talent on our shores, helped by the country’s appearance at the 2004 European Championships in Portugal.

Martin Petrov scored Bulgaria’s only goal of those championships against Italy and he went on to play for Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers, featuring 119 times between 2007 and 2012. He suffered relegation with the Trotters in 2012 but did trouble many full-backs with his quickness across the ground.

His surname namesake, Stiliyan Petrov, was the Bulgaria national team captain for several years before linking up with Aston Villa in the summer of 2006 when Martin O’Neill took charge of the Villans. Petrov had enjoyed huge success in Scotland with Celtic before moving to Villa. He was one of the leading figures in a talented dressing room that finished in sixth position for three consecutive seasons during O’Neill’s exciting reign at Villa Park. His career was dramatically cut short in March 2012 after being suddenly diagnosed with acute leukaemia.

However, the most famous Bulgarian to play Premier League football was Dimitar Berbatov. Berbatov joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2006 from Bayer 04 Leverkusen and produced some wonderful moments during his two-year spell at White Hart Lane. He moved to Manchester United on transfer deadline day in 2008 and won two Premier League titles with the Red Devils. Highlights included a spectacular hat-trick against Liverpool FC in September 2010 and sharing the Golden Boot honours with Carlos Tevez in the 2010-2011 season. In that campaign, Berbatov also scored three hat-tricks in the season, becoming the first player to achieve that since Alan Shearer in the mid-90s.

Even though Bulgaria doesn’t have a current presence in Premier League football, Berbatov’s legacy means it has a firm place in its history books.

The Foreign Legion: Egypt

Number of Egyptian Players to have played in the Premier League: 11

Most appearances: Ahmed Elmohamady (165)

Most goals: Mohamed Salah (47)

Records as of 5th January 2019

Appearances: Ahmed Elmohamady 165, Mido 94, Mohamed Salah 70, Ramadan Sobhi 45, Mohamed Elneny 39, Ahmed Hegazi 38, Hossam Ghaly 36, Amr Zaki 35, Mohamed Shawky 18, Ahmed Fathi 3, Gedo 2

Goals: Mohamed Salah 47, Mido 22, Amr Zaki 10, Ahmed Elmohamady 5, Ramadan Sobhi 2, Ahmed Hegazi 2, Hossam Ghaly 1

Assists: Mohamed Salah 21, Ahmed Elmohamady 13, Hossam Ghaly 5, Mohamed Elneny 3, Ramadan Sobhi 2, Amr Zaki 2

Egypt is gaining a more global presence in the Premier League, thanks to the exploits of the sensational Mohamed Salah. Salah returned to England’s top-flight in the summer of 2017 after a very successful spell in Italy with Fiorentina and AS Roma. He broke numerous Liverpool FC records last season and also, scored the most goals ever in a 38-game Premier League season on his way to the 2017-2018 Golden Boot.

Arriving as a winger, Salah has virtually been converted into a centre-forward role by Jurgen Klopp and is once again, among the frontrunners for the Golden Boot this season, helped by a recent hat-trick in a 4-0 away win over AFC Bournemouth in December 2018. With his total of 47 goals and 21 assists, including a couple of strikes during an ill-fated spell at Chelsea in 2014, Salah is definitely the most successful Egyptian player to have played in the Premier League.

In total, there have been 11 Egyptian players to have featured in the Premier League but none within the first decade. The most common figure has been Ahmed Elmohamady, who is the only Egyptian player to have amassed over 100 appearances in the top-flight for the likes of Sunderland and Hull City. He is currently plying his trade in the SkyBet EFL Championship with Aston Villa and his tally of 165 will be hard to beat, even for someone like Salah.

Amr Zaki’s spell at Wigan Athletic attracted some headlines in his own country, especially when he made a wonderful start to the 2008-2009 campaign. He scored 10 goals in 16 games for Wigan including a spectacular bicycle kick away at Anfield in October 2008. The likes of Liverpool FC and Arsenal showed an interest but unfortunately, his star waned almost as quickly as it shone.

Another Egyptian player to have a brief spell at Wigan was the nomadic forward Mido. Still only 35, Mido has moved into management since retirement and has also had a go at television presenting too. His loan spell at Wigan lasted 12 games, scoring twice but his best days in the Premier League were at Tottenham Hotspur. His 11-goal haul in 2005-2006 took Spurs to the brink of UEFA Champions League football and was the best return for an Egyptian player in a Premier League season until Salah’s historic acts last season.

Salah isn’t the only Egyptian currently playing on these shores. Mohamed Elneny is still on Arsenal’s first-team books whilst Ramadan Sobhi joined Huddersfield Town in the summer of 2018, although he has recently been loaned out to Al Ahly for the remainder of the season after making just three appearances this season for the Terriers.

Whilst Mohamed Salah remains a figurehead for Liverpool FC, Egypt is going to have a big figure in the Premier League challenging for major honours on a regular basis.