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Top 20 England players of all time - #12

Sports Mole's countdown of the top 20 English players of all time continues with number 12 - Paul Gascoigne.

Paul Gascoigne (57 caps, 10 goals)

Paul Gascoigne celebrates scoring against Scotland for England on June 15, 1996.© Getty Images

Rarely has any player captured the imagination of the English public like Paul Gascoigne, with his mercurial talent and boyish antics making him the darling of the nation.

Gazza has his own highlight reel of iconic moments in an England shirt, from the sublime to the surreal and the terrific to the tearful, and he can lay a very good claim to being the most popular player to ever don the Three Lions badge.

After making his international debut in 1988, Gascoigne had become a vital part of Bobby Robson's team by the time the 1990 World Cup came along and played a huge role in helping the team to the semi-finals in Italy.

In what would become a familiar story over the years, England were eliminated in the semis on penalties at the hands of West Germany, but perhaps the abiding memory of the match is Gazza's tears - and Gary Lineker's subsequent look to the bench - after picking up a second yellow card which would have seen him miss the final had England got there.

Gascoigne had to wait until 1996 for his next major international tournament, where he scored surely the best of his 10 England goals in a group game against Scotland, flicking the ball over the head of Colin Hendry before volleying it past the keeper. In typical Gazza fashion, the following "dentist's chair" celebration was almost as memorable too.

Once again, though, the tournament would end in agony as Gascoigne was inches short of connecting with a low ball across the face of goal which would have fired England into the final on home soil. In the end, another penalty shootout defeat to Germany was the hosts' fate.

The midfielder's international career ended when he was controversially left out of Glenn Hoddle's squad for the 1998 World Cup, by which point his club career was also winding down after injuries has stunted his prodigious talent.

After initially bursting onto the scene with Newcastle United, Gascoigne scored a stunning free kick to help Tottenham Hotspur to the 1991 FA Cup with victory over North London rivals Arsenal in the final, although his glory was once again mixed with despair as he later suffered a serious ligament injury in the same game.

A move to Lazio followed before Gazza returned to British soil with Rangers, where he won two league titles, the Scottish Cup and the Scottish League Cup.

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