10. Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Sergio Aguero has been a stand-out player in the Premier League for a decade (GETTY)
An out-and-out goalscorer, Sergio Aguero has been the fulcrum of Manchester City’s title-winning sides for a decade now. The Argentinian’s 180 goals in 261 Premier League games puts him fourth on the list of all-time Premier League top scorers. Yet Aguero is sliding down the top 10 list, rather than climbing up it. He remains City’s most valuable goalscorer but injures and age may see him drop out in the near future.
9. Sadio Mane (Liverpool)
Few players have made such an impact at a new club than Sadio Mane did when he joined Liverpool in 2016. His arrival helped transform the Reds into a quick-fire attacking side, where Jurgen Klopp’s forward three could interchange and frighten opposition defences at will. Mane scores once every two games but his swift, intelligent link-up play with Liverpool’s other forwards is why he makes the list here. There are few more dangerous forwards when he is in full flow.
8. Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Having burst on the scene in a Europa League game way back in 2016, Marcus Rashford’s rise at both Manchester United and England has been exceptional. The forward doesn’t always get the most goals but he is integral to how United set up. Rashford’s intelligence, commitment and drive – not to mention his finishing ability – is invaluable in a Premier League squad. He sets an example for United players even younger than himself — and quite often to more senior members of the squad too. Rashford has already won the Europa League, FA Cup and League Cup with United and his next task is to drive them to a Premier League title.
Is there a better goalkeeper in the country than Nick Pope? (GETTY)
7. Nick Pope (Burnley)
As England’s current de-facto No 2, Nick Pope’s inclusion rightly begs the question ‘so where is Jordan Pickford?’. Well, as exceptional a talent as Pickford is, he hasn’t been as good for Everton as he has for England. Pope, meanwhile, is the bedrock of the Burnley defence and his presence is one of the reasons Sean Dyche’s men have been free of relegation worries for the past three years. Having missed the entirety of the 2018/19 season through injury, Pope averaged a save every 28.5 minutes in the 2019/20 Premier League campaign and kept 15 clean sheets — only Manchester City’s Ederson (16) kept more.
6. Jamie Vardy (Leicester City)
Rarely has a player outside the traditional ‘Top Six’ made such a sustained impact on the Premier League. Jamie Vardy is into his ninth season at Leicester City and has been club top scorer in each of the past five. What’s more, three of those five seasons saw Vardy bag 20 Premier League goals or over. He remains Leicester’s most valuable attacking asset even in his mid-30s. Vardy makes the list not only because he continually dismisses the naysayers but because his consistency over the past five years is matched by very few players. He is exciting to watch, petrifying to play against and a valuable teammate.
5. Mohamed Salah (Liverpool)
While Kane and Aguero may boast reputations of being better finishers than Mohamed Salah, the Liverpool star has proved capable of adapting his game over the past three seasons to better suit the team. Salah scored 32 Premier League goals in his first campaign at Anfield, but has seen a decline in that yield over the past two seasons. Yet what Liverpool have earned in place of those reduced goals is a harder-working forward whose assists, distribution and defensive contributions have all increased.
Salah is a far more rounded footballer than he was when he left Roma for Merseyside back in 2017. And that makes him a more valuable team member when compared to out-and-out goalscorers.
Arsenal depend on Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang to lead the team and grab the goals (GETTY)
4. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal)
That’s not to say there isn’t a place for an out-and-out goalscorer. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is possibly the best in the business right now — and he carried this Arsenal team through the 2019/20 season and to an FA Cup win. Aubameyang is probably more valuable to his club than Vardy, Salah and Pope are to their respective sides. He has bagged over 20 Premier League goals for the past two seasons and scores in two of every three domestic appearances in a Gunners shirt.
What’s even more remarkable is that Aubameyang looks set to get better, even at the age of 31. The Gabon international is manager Mikel Arteta’s captain, has the respect of his team-mates and the drive to win trophies. Arsenal need that because the club are not about to splash the cash on a new title-winning team.
3. Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Youth product Trent Alexander-Arnold has shown over the past four seasons how development under the same system at one club can transform a teenager’s career. The Liverpudlian was one of the first young gems to come through under manager Klopp and he’s never looked back.
Alexander-Arnold is now arguably the most reliable full-back in the Premier League and played all 38 of Liverpool’s games in the 2019/20 season. That was a step up from the previous term but he did it with ease. Now a fully-fledged England international, Alexander-Arnold won the Premier League Young Player of the Year award in 2019/20. He has already won the Premier League title, Champions League and the Club World Cup with Liverpool.
What’s more, Alexander-Arnold is only set to get better. He made the most touches of any player in the 2019/20 season (3,664) and delivered 13 assists. England have not had a better full-back prospect since Ashley Cole.
2. Virgil van Dijk (Liverpool)
Consistency is the key to any Premier League title-winning side and Virgil van Dijk offered just that when he joined Liverpool from Southampton in 2015. The 6ft 4in centre-back finally gave the Reds some defensive foundation after years of disaster at the back. Van Dijk is arguably the best Dutchman to play in the Premier League (hello, Arsenal and Manchester United fans!) and offers the same solidity at the back for Liverpool that Vincent Kompany and John Terry provided for Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.
What’s more, Van Dijk has justified his world-record £75m price tag for a defender. When he joined the Klopp revolution in 2015 the centre-back had impressed at Celtic and Southampton, but was far from the complete player. Klopp instilled in Van Dijk a discipline and courage that has served the Netherlands international well.
He came second in the 2019 Ballon d’Or (behind serial winner Lionel Messi) and led Liverpool’s charge to back-to-back Champions League finals.
Crucially, Van Dijk is also a very disciplined player. He has earned just one yellow card in each of the past three domestic seasons. For a Premier League centre-back guaranteed to start and up against some of the fastest forwards in the world, this is a remarkable stat.
Kevin De Bruyne (right) has proved season after season a superstar player for Manchester City (GETTY)
1. Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City)
Few players can turn a game with a flick of the outside foot or a penetrating pass quite like Kevin De Bruyne. The Belgium international took his Premier League displays to a whole new level in 2019/20, scoring a career-best 13 goals in the campaign and providing a staggering 20 assists.
De Bruyne has been directly involved in 111 of City’s 454 goals scored in the Premier League since 2015/16. That’s a remarkable 24.45 per cent. He has the crossing ability of David Beckham, the vision of Andres Iniesta and the confidence of Thierry Henry. Everything goes through him at City and it’s no wonder he is a mainstay in Pep Guardiola’s XI.
What makes De Bruyne’s rise at City so noteworthy is that he was dumped by Chelsea after just three Premier League appearances. He headed to Wolfsburg and shone in the Bundesliga, proved his doubters wrong and came back to the Premier League hungry for titles. Many doubted De Bruyne’s talents when he rocked up at the Etihad, having cost City £55m — a club record fee.
But he’s been a core member of their title-winning sides ever since. His former manager Manuel Pellegrini said of De Bruyne: “He is a very creative player, he has goals in him, because this team always tries to play attractive and offensive football and for that you need good players. In all senses he was the perfect player to arrive to our team.”