History of foreign imports to the Premier League – hits and misses

Many people argue that the number of foreign players in the Premier League is too high.

These people claim that the lack of success by the England team at international level is a result of the influx of foreign players. That may or may not be true.


What cannot be argued against though, is the colour, passion and excitement these foreign players have introduced to our game.

At the start of the season, Premier League betting odds for the title contenders tended to favour clubs with big name foreign players in their first teams.

But just which foreign players have been the best, brightest, most influential and most expensive? Which foreign players have lit up the Premier League and been idolised by home supporters?

That list is a long one but we will begin at Arsenal.

The Invincibles were built on foreign flair

Arsene Wenger may not be the flavour of the month with a section of his own supporters and many people dislike him.

What he has done, however, is introduce some of the brightest and most influential foreign talent to ever grace the English game.

In June 1995, Arsenal had already paid a then British record £7.5m to bring Dennis Bergkamp to the Gunners from Inter Milan.

After the arrival of Wenger, several more top class foreign players were signed who lit up the Premier League.


Arsenal won the 2003-04 league title without losing a single match. That team became known as “The Invincibles”.

Within that team were some of the biggest and most gifted foreign players to ever play in the Premier League.

Players of the calibre of Thierry Henry, Patrick Vieira, Jens Lehmann, Gilberto Silva, Robert Pires, Freddie Ljungberg and of course Bergkamp.

Wenger went on to purchase more top foreign players in the following years.

Top class players like Mezut Ozil, Alexis Sanchez, Marc Overmars and Emmanuel Petit are just a few that we can mention.

Who broke the bank?

Arsene Wenger can never be criticised for paying “crazy money” for players. He has a great track record of making money on most of his transfer dealings.

Cristiano Ronaldo is perhaps the greatest player in the world at this time along with Lionel Messi. It was Alex Ferguson that brought him into the Premier League.

It was here where Ronaldo built his reputation helping United to numerous trophies and the 2008 Champions League title.

United made a lot of money when they sold him to Real Madrid, but they didn’t pay “crazy money” for him.

Some clubs, however, have stretched the transfer record and paid huge sums to get their targets, and it hasn’t always paid dividends.


In fact, it was the very same Alex Ferguson that paid Lazio £28.1m for Juan Veron in 2001.

The list of expensive foreign flops is also a long one in the Premier League. Veron never really got going at Old Trafford and was quickly sold.

In September 2008, Manchester City signed Robinho from Real Madrid for another British record of £32.5m, and once again he flattered to deceive.

Chelsea also have a history of signing expensive foreign flops.

The career of Andriy Shevchenko never reached the same heights again after his big £30.8m move from AC Milan to Chelsea in 2006.

An even greater fee of £50m was paid for Fernando Torres some years later, and the Spaniard was a shadow of the man who had terrorised defenders for Liverpool and Atletico Madrid previously.

Hits, misses and complete unknowns

The jury is still out on whether or not Manchester United will see value out of the £89.7m that they paid to Juventus for Paul Pogba.

So far his form is failing to live up to such a huge price tag. Luis Suarez on the other hand, was an exceptional signing for Liverpool.

His goals almost took the Reds to the title in 2014 under Brendan Rodgers.

There have been many foreign players that have been massive hits in the Premier League. There have also been a fair number of failures too. We also have the unknowns.

Will players like Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic eventually shine, or will they feature on the “flops” list in years to come? Only time will tell.

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