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Top 15 Premier League players of the decade

Sports Mole selects its top 15 Premier League players of the past decade, including players from Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool.

As the Premier League has developed its reputation as the best league in the world over the past decade, so to has it attracted some of the planet's best players.

There have been world-record signings and sales in the English top flight over the past 10 years, while some clubs have managed to unearth bargains and others have reaped the rewards of handing players a second chance in the division.

Homegrown talent has also had a chance to shine, with fans being treated to a host of players who will go down in the competition's history as some of the greatest to have graced it.

Here, Sports Mole takes on the daunting task of whittling that list down to the very best 15 from 2010 to 2020.



15. Kevin De Bruyne (Chelsea, Manchester City)

Kevin De Bruyne scores for Man City on November 30, 2019© Reuters

Kevin De Bruyne was a long way from featuring in a list like this when he left Chelsea in 2014 having made just three appearances for the club, but he is not the only one to have proven the West Londoners wrong.

The Belgian midfielder has since established himself as the league's chief playmaker, topping the assist charts in 2016-17, 2017-18 and leading the way again this season. Indeed, had he not spent the bulk of last season out injured then he may well have been even higher in this countdown.

A two-time Premier League champion, two-time Man City player of the year and one-time inductee in the PFA Team of the Year, De Bruyne has dominated much of the second half of this decade and is well on course to go down in Premier League history as one of the best creative midfielders the competition has seen.



14. Raheem Sterling (Liverpool, Manchester City)

Raheem Sterling celebrates scoring during the Premier League game between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur on August 17, 2019© Reuters

Much was expected of Raheem Sterling from the moment Liverpool committed to spending up to £5m on the then 15-year-old when signing him from Queens Park Rangers in 2010. The winger has not disappointed in the decade since, starring for Liverpool before leaving for Man City in a deal which saw him become the most expensive English player of all time.

Sterling helped Liverpool to within a whisker of the title in 2013-14, when he earned the prestigious Golden Boy award for his performances, but it is under Pep Guardiola at Man City that he has truly flourished. The England international scored a combined 35 goals over the course of City's title-winning 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns and is on course to challenge those tallies again this season.

The latter campaign was particularly fruitful from an individual award point of view, with Sterling winning the PFA Young Player of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year awards, in addition to being named in the PFA Team of the Year for the first time.



13. Mohamed Salah (Chelsea, Liverpool)

Liverpool's Mohamed Salah in action against Red Bull Salzburg on October 2, 2019© Reuters

Like De Bruyne, it looked as though Salah would become a forgettable footnote in Premier League history when he left Chelsea in 2016, with the Egyptian cast off on loan to Serie A after making just 13 appearances in the competition. Salah went on to rebuild his reputation in Italy, but even Liverpool could not have expected what was to come when they brought him back to England in 2017.

The forward's debut season at Anfield will forever have a place in Premier League folklore as he broke the scoring record for a 38-game season, netting 32 times in the top flight and 44 times across all competitions to earn the PFA Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season awards, in addition to a place in the PFA Team of the Year.

Salah went on to win his second Golden Boot from two seasons on Merseyside with a 22-goal haul in 2018-19 as Liverpool missed out on the title by a solitary point, and this term he is bidding to become only the third player - after Alan Shearer and Thierry Henry - to claim it three years in a row.



12. Wayne Rooney (Manchester United, Everton)

Wayne Rooney for Manchester United© Reuters

One of only two players to have scored more than 200 Premier League goals, Wayne Rooney's placing in this list is affected by the fact that his peak was spread between the 2000s and the 2010s. There were still a huge amount of highlights in the latter decade, though, including all three of his highest-scoring Premier League campaigns - in 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2013-14.

Rooney was voted PFA Players' Player of the Year, PFA Fans' Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season in 2009-10 despite United missing out on the title, although he did add two more winners' medals to his trophy cabinet in 2010-11 and 2012-13.

The former England captain's 2011 bicycle kick against Man City was voted the Premier League's greatest ever goal, while the decade also saw him become United's all-time leading goalscorer. Two of his three selections in the PFA Team of the Year came after the start of 2010 too.



11. Virgil van Dijk (Southampton, Liverpool)

Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring for Liverpool on November 30, 2019© Reuters

If the ranking were selected on impact alone, Virgil van Dijk would deserve to be considerably higher up this list. The Dutch colossus moved to the Premier League with Southampton in 2015, but it is with Liverpool that he has truly established himself as one of the division's most commanding central defenders.

The world-record £75m fee to take him to Anfield was heavily questioned at the time, but he has since made that look like a bargain with a series of composed and consistent performances. Van Dijk's arrival almost immediately transformed Liverpool into trophy contenders both in England and abroad, with the club reaching the Champions League finals in both of his seasons so far and only missing out of the Premier League title by one point last term.

Despite Man City ultimately pipping the Reds to the post, Van Dijk's performances were recognised by winning a host of individual awards, including the PFA Player of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season. Van Dijk went on to be named the UEFA Men's Player of the Year and earlier this month finished second in the Ballon d'Or voting for 2019 - the only Premier League player to finish in the top three all decade.



10. Luis Suarez (Liverpool)

Luis Suarez for Liverpool© Reuters

Another player who made an enormous impact in a relatively short space of time, few forwards in Premier League history have been as difficult to deal with as Luis Suarez on his day. After arriving at Liverpool in January 2011, Suarez's never-say-die attitude and desire to fight for every ball quickly endeared him to the Anfield faithful.

Controversy was never far away from the Uruguay international, but as a player he was without equal at times in the top flight, particularly during the 2013-14 campaign. Liverpool ultimately fell short of the title that season, but Suarez's 31 goals in just 33 games earned him the PFA Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season awards, in addition to the Premier League and European Golden Boots.

Suarez was twice included in the PFA Team of the Season despite spending only three full years in the Premier League, and went on to enhance his reputation even further when he left Liverpool for Barcelona in 2014.



9. Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)

Gareth Bale pictured for Tottenham in 2013© Reuters

Like Suarez, Gareth Bale also secured a big-money move to Spain following a particularly fruitful spell in the Premier League, with the Welshman becoming the world's most expensive player when he joined Real Madrid in 2013 off the back of a season which saw him score 21 goals in 33 games.

The Welsh winger almost single-handedly dragged Spurs to victories in that campaign, which remains his highest-scoring to date, with his performances earning him a clean sweep of individual awards - one of only two players, after Cristiano Ronaldo, to have achieved that feat with the PFA Young Player of the Year included.

Bale was also named PFA Player of the Year in 2011, making him the only man to have won the award twice this decade and one of only five in history to have picked it up on more than one occasion. Selected in the PFA Team of the Year for three consecutive seasons at the start of the decade, Bale showed plenty in his relatively short 2010s Premier League stint to earn a top-10 slot in this list.



8. Yaya Toure (Manchester City)

Yaya Toure in action for Manchester City on May 9, 2018© Reuters

Man City had already laid some foundations for their upcoming dominance of the decade before it began, but it was arguably the summer of 2010 which put the final building blocks in place. Yaya Toure was one of the players to join during that transfer window, and he quickly had people wondering why Barcelona let him leave Camp Nou.

While the Ivorian could sometimes blow hot and cold, when on form there have been few midfielders quite so dominant. In the 2013-14 campaign especially he was nigh-on unstoppable at times, scoring 20 goals from midfield as City won one of three Premier League titles with Toure in the team.

Unsurprisingly, he was named in the PFA Team of the Year for 2013-14 - as he was two years previously after City had also won the title - and he went on to make 230 league appearances across the course of the decade before leaving in 2018.



7. N'Golo Kante (Leicester City, Chelsea)

Chelsea midfielder N'Golo Kante scores the opening goal in his side's EFL Cup semi-final second leg with Tottenham Hotspur on January 24, 2019© Reuters

Whereas Yaya Toure was a physically imposing specimen, N'Golo Kante managed to dominate the midfield despite his more diminutive figure. A little-known name when he arrived at Leicester City in 2015, Kante soon became one of the most important players in the Premier League as the Foxes stunned the sporting world by winning the title against 5,000-1 odds in his debut season.

There were many who felt Kante deserved individual accolades ahead of teammates Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy that year, but he was recognised the following season when he helped Chelsea to another Premier League crown, in doing so becoming the first player since Eric Cantona in 1993 to win back-to-back titles with different clubs.

Kante won the PFA Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year and Premier League Player of the Season awards in 2016-17, as well as being named in the PFA Team of the Year for the second successive campaign. Now a World Cup winner as well, Kante continues to develop his reputation as one of the best midfielders around heading into 2020.



6. Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Harry Kane celebrates scoring Tottenham Hotspur's third goal against West Ham United on November 23, 2019.© Reuters

Another player who came from relative obscurity to take the Premier League by storm, Harry Kane earned his place in the Tottenham Hotspur team by scoring regularly in the Europa League and has not looked back since. Already a two-time Golden Boot winner, Kane looks the most likely bet to reach Alan Shearer's all-time tally of 260 Premier League goals, having already broken the Newcastle United legend's record for number of goals in a calendar year - hitting 39 in 2017.

The England captain scored a remarkable 29 goals in just 30 league games in 2016-17 and followed that up with a 30-goal haul the following season, which earned him his fourth consecutive place in the PFA Team of the Year. Named the PFA Young Player of the Year in 2014-15, Kane is yet to get his hands on the senior prize but was voted the PFA Fans' Player of the Year for 2016-17.

Only Sergio Aguero has scored more Premier League goals over the course of the decade, and it looks as though there will be plenty more to come during the 2020s barring a move abroad or injuries.



5. David de Gea (Manchester United)

David de Gea in action for Manchester United on November 24, 2018© Reuters

The only goalkeeper to make this list, David de Gea is somewhat unfortunate that his time at United has coincided with a downturn in the club's success. The Spaniard has only won one Premier League title since joining in 2011 but has still managed to forge a reputation as one of the world's best shot-stoppers over the last nine years.

Things did not go so smoothly initially and De Gea was even taken out of the team by Sir Alex Ferguson for a spell in his early United years, but he has been the undisputed first choice for much of the decade and has already secured his place as one of the Premier League's all-time great goalkeepers.

De Gea has been named in the PFA Team of the Year five times over the course of the decade - more than any other player - including four years in a row between 2014-15 and 2017-18. The latter season saw him claim the Premier League Golden Glove too, while he has won Match of the Day's Save of the Season award a whopping five times.



4. Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)

Manchester City defender Vincent Kompany in action during the EFL Cup final against Chelsea on February 24, 2019© Reuters

One of the stalwarts of Man City's most successful era, we can only speculate as to how many more trophies the club would have won had Vincent Kompany not missed so much time through injury. Indeed, it is remarkable that he managed to enjoy so much success with such a lengthy list of absences, and even more so that he played such a big role throughout that time.

The Belgian's goal in the Manchester derby saw them leapfrog United with only two games of the season remaining in 2011-12, allowing them to win their first title since 1968, and his long-range strike to see City past Leicester last season was arguably even more memorable.

Kompany captained City to all four of their title triumphs during the decade and was named in the PFA Team of the Year on three occasions, including the 2011-12 campaign which also saw him named the Premier League Player of the Season.



3. Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

Chelsea forward Eden Hazard celebrates his first goal against Arsenal in the 2019 Europa League final on May 29, 2019© Reuters

Ask any Premier League defender over the past 10 years who is the most consistently difficult player to mark and Eden Hazard's name will always be high up the list. The Belgian's close control, low centre of gravity and lightning-quick dribbling skills made him a nightmare to deal with on his day, and it was no coincidence that he was regularly the most-fouled player in the division.

Hazard perhaps should have scored more goals given all that talent, but he did still reach double figures in all but two of his seven Premier League seasons, as well as topping the assists chart last term. The 2014-15 campaign was arguably Hazard's finest as Chelsea won the title, although he was also instrumental in helping them regain the crown in 2016-17.

During his time in England Hazard won the PFA Player of the Year, FWA Footballer of the Year, Premier League Player of the Season, PFA Young Player of the Year and PFA Fans' Player of the Year awards, in addition to being including in the PFA Team of the Year on four occasions.



2. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring their third goal on August 31, 2019© Reuters

The final piece of Man City's jigsaw, Sergio Aguero joined the club in 2011 and went on to help them to their first title for 44 years during his debut campaign. The striker's place in City history was secured on the final day of that season when he scored a last-gasp winner which snatched the title away from local rival Manchester United in the most dramatic way possible.

Aguero has since ensured that his legacy lasts long beyond that one goal, though, going on to become the club's all-time record goalscorer and one of the finest imports in Premier League history. The Argentina international has passed the 20-goal mark in six of his eight Premier League seasons, including each of the last five, and his 26-goal haul in 2014-15 earned him the Golden Boot.

It was a curious quirk that one of the league's best players had to wait until 2017-18 for his first inclusion in the PFA Team of the Year, but he made the cut for a second successive season last term as City won their fourth Premier League crown since Aguero joined the club.



1. David Silva (Manchester City)

Manchester City midfielder David Silva in action during the Premier League clash with Wolverhampton Wanderers on January 14, 2019© Reuters

Narrowly pipping his long-time teammate to top spot is the man who has kept Man City ticking throughout the decade - David Silva. Since joining in the same summer as Yaya Toure in 2010, Silva has delighted football purists with his guile, class and creativity, not posting the numbers others in this countdown can boast but always providing a world-class presence.

An integral part of all four of Man City's title wins during the decade, Silva's genius lies in the consistently high level of his performance and always making the basics look easy, from perfectly-weighted passes to dictating the tempo of a match. The Spaniard may not have the individual moments of an Aguero or a Kompany, or even the standout seasons of a Salah, Bale or Suarez, but there has been no more relentlessly brilliant Premier League player than Silva over the course of the past decade.

The fact that he has never been named PFA Player or FWA Footballer of the Year, or that he has only been voted into the PFA Team of the Year on two occasions, proves that his contribution has perhaps been underrated at the Etihad Stadium, and it may be that he is only fully appreciated after he leaves the club next summer.

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Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring their third goal on August 31, 2019
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