Top five Italians to play in the Premier League

Following the transfers of Marco Borriello and Antonio Nocerino to West Ham United, Sports Mole picks out the top five Italians to have played in the Premier League.

In their hour of need, West Ham United have turned to Italy. In a bid to retain his side's Premier League status, manager Sam Allardyce has recruited Marco Borriello and Antonio Nocerino.

They are, of course, not the first Italian footballers to have played in England's top flight.

So, ahead of their potential debuts against Chelsea this week, Sports Mole has picked out five of the best footballers from the Southern European country who have featured in the Premier League.

Benito Carbone in action for Bradford City on November 25, 2000.© Getty Images
1. Benito Carbone
The pint-sized frontman arrived at Sheffield Wednesday in 1996, having played for seven clubs back in his homeland, including Napoli and Inter Milan. He made a big impression during his three years at Hillsborough, so much so that the supporters voted him their Player of the Season for his performances during the 1998-99 campaign. Such form earned him a move to Aston Villa, where he spent one season, during which he scored hat-trick against Leeds United in the FA Cup to help John Gregory's team reach the final against Chelsea. A move to Bradford City followed in 2000, but despite some memorable goals at Valley Parade, he was released after two years with the club unable to pay his wages.

Roberto Di Matteo scores against Middlesbrough during the FA Cup final on May 17, 1997.© Getty Images
2. Roberto Di Matteo
Chelsea parted with almost £5m to land Di Matteo from Lazio in the summer of 1996 and by the time that he departed Stamford Bridge six years later, it would be fair to say that the midfielder had more than repaid that fee. His debut season ended with an outing in the FA Cup final, in which he scored the showpiece event's fastest ever goal against Middlesbrough in 42 seconds to help Chelsea on their way to 2-0 victory. The following campaign he scored in the League Cup success over the same opposition, as well as collecting a medal as the West Londoners won the Cup Winners' Cup. Injuries began to take hold, though, and despite scoring the only goal of the 2000 FA Cup final against Villa, he was eventually forced to retire in 2002. He returned to Stamford Bridge in 2012 as manager and guided the club to another FA Cup, as well as their first ever Champions League trophy.

Paolo Di Canio celebrates scoring for West Ham United on October 03, 1999.© Getty Images
3. Paolo Di Canio
Things are never dull when Di Canio is around, are they? He signed for Sheffield Wednesday from Celtic in 1997 and despite being the club's leading goalscorer during his first season, he is best remembered for pushing over referee Paul Alcock - an offence that was punished with an 11-match suspension. A move to West Ham followed in 1999 and he would go on to spend the next four years at Upton Park, where he would score one of the Premier League's most memorable goals during a clash against Wimbledon in 2000. West Ham's relegation in 2003 prompted a switch to Charlton Athletic, but after just one term he headed back home with Lazio.

Gianluca Vialli, then of Chelsea, controls the ball against Manchester United on November 02, 1996.© Getty Images
4. Gianluca Vialli
Having won trophies with Sampdoria and Juventus, much was expected of Vialli when he signed on at Chelsea in 1996. At times he found it hard to force his way into Ruud Gullit's side, but that problem was eradicated when he was appointed player-manager of the Blues following the departure of the former Dutch international. His time with Chelsea, for whom he scored 40 goals in three years, saw him win a host of honours, including two FA Cups and the Cup Winners' Cup. He was sacked at the beginning of the 2000-01 campaign, though, as a result of disputes with a number of key players.

Gianfranco Zola celebrates scoring against Manchester United on December 16, 1998.© Getty Images
5. Gianfranco Zola
He may only measure up at around 5'6", but Zola stands out when it comes to Italians in the Premier League. Having been mentored on the art of free-kick taking by Diego Maradona at Napoli, Zola signed for Chelsea from Parma in 1996, costing a mere £4.5m. He won the same trophies as Di Matteo and Vialli, but he made an even bigger impression than his compatriots. In the latter stages of his Chelsea career, his starting opportunities were limited, yet he still scored top-class goals, including a flicked volley against Norwich City. In 2005, Zola was voted into the club's Centenary XI.

Sam Allardyce manager of West Ham United looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between West Ham United and Arsenal at Boleyn Ground on December 26, 2013
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