Top 10 Best One-Club Premier League Players in History

Tags: #PremierLeague ,   #Football ,   #footballislife ,   #Soccer

Michael Wendom

Michael Wendom

Last updated:  2023-09-26 11:57:02

Loyalty to a single club is a rarity in modern football, as it's now easier than ever to switch sides. Of course, there's nothing wrong when stars crave new challenges, but often, it's all about the money. Thus, we must appreciate those who stayed, even though they were all wanted by other big clubs. To be on this list, players have to fulfill several criteria. Firstly, they have played for a single club in the top divisions. However, if they were on loan to another team, they still qualify. Secondly, they played at least ten seasons in the English top division and at least one in the Premier League. So, here are the best among them!

10. Gary Kelly

The goal of his career
Team: Leeds United
Years in the team: 16 (1991-2007)
Major trophies won: None
Other teams he played for: Drogheda United (youth squad), Home Farm (youth squad)
Player info

If you've never heard about one player in our article, it's probably Gary Kelly. This Irish legend is the only non-British player on our list, who came to Leeds United at only 17, in 1991. In the 1991-92 season, he played two games for the senior team, contributing to their league title - the last one so far, as they never won the Premier League. However, only in 1993, he got a real chance to shine, playing over 40 games that season. Since then, Kelly became the rock of Leeds's defense, helping the team reach the Champions League semifinals in 2001. Even though Leeds was in massive financial trouble, he stayed with the club, even when they got relegated. After falling out with the team management and another relegation, Kelly decided to retire at 33, rather than transfer to another club. His international career was also decent, with over 50 caps and two World Cup appearances.

Despite originally being a striker, Kelly transformed into a right-back and sometimes played as a right midfielder. His best qualities included consistency, pace, and enthusiasm rarely seen in modern football. Thus, he was the one who would lift the team and make everyone perform better. While the last few seasons of his career were a nightmare, that doesn't diminish his value. The fans still love him to this day, reminding them of some of the best times of the club.  

9. Leon Osman

Osman was never tempted to leave
Team: Everton
Years in the team: 19 (1997-2016)
Major trophies won: None
Other teams he played for: Carlisle United (loan), Derby County (loan)
Player info

Everton doesn't have a great reputation, as the club failed to have a significant role in the Premier League. Even when they grabbed a terrific talent, they couldn't hold them for a while. Thus, Leon Osman is an anomaly! Before joining the senior team, Osman spent four years in their youth squad. However, his progress was slow, as he played only seven times in his first four years in the Premier League! Yet, after a successful loan spell at Derby, he finally earned his spot. After that, he became a crucial team member for more than a decade, with his role decreasing only in his last two seasons. Yet, playing for Everton didn't bring him much glory worldwide, as the team never won anything. Surprisingly, his England debut came only in 2012, when he was 31. Yet, after two calls, he was dropped and never played at the big competition.

Due to his early career injury, many believe that Osman failed to reach his full potential. Furthermore, he lacked physicality, much appreciated in English football. Yet, he was an excellent scorer, often beating his more offensive teammates. In his best days, passing to Osman meant you were almost guaranteed to nab an assist! While he could play on the right, Osman was the best as an attacking midfielder. With a bit more luck with injuries, his legend would be even bigger.

8. Matt Le Tissier

Scoring these was much harder in Southampton than in some better clubs
Team: Southampton
Years in the team: 17 (1985-2002)
Major trophies won: None
Other teams he played for: Vale Recreation (youth squad), Eastleigh, Guernsey
Player info

As you can imagine, it's much easier to forever play for a single team, if that team is one of the best in the Premier League. Yet, there are a few anomalies, and Matt Le Tissier is the biggest among them. During his long career, Southampton only once qualified for the European competition. Furthermore, they barely stayed up at least five times! Yet, Le Tissier refused offers from Manchester United, Tottenham, and Chelsea, even though it would make him the most expensive Premier League player in history! Playing for a below-average team kept him under the radar, as he had only eight caps for England. Yet, he never regretted that, claiming trophies were never his priority. Instead, it was all about having fun.

Le Tissier was an excellent scoring midfielder and an exceptional passer. While his work rate was never impressive, ball control skills often worked to his advantage. Incredibly, he missed a single penalty in his career, hitting the net 47 times! You'll hardly find anyone better in the Premier League or any of the top leagues. While we are sure that his career would be much better if he transferred to one of the top teams, Le Tissier is still a legend not only for Southampton fans but worldwide.

7. Gary Neville

The player you can rely on
Team: Manchester United
Years in the team: 20 (1991-2011)
Major trophies won: Premier League (8x), FA Cup (3x), League Cup (3x)
Other teams he played for: None 
Player info

No one beats Manchester United when it comes to one-team players! One of them is Gary Neville, who made his first step in United, joining their youth squad at 16. Only a year later, he was in the first team but played only three games in his first two seasons. Yet, he has never left the team, even for a loan. His patience did pay off, as Neville became a standard left-back for the team for almost 15 years. Neville contributed strongly to the best era in the club's history winning every national and international trophy. Neville also played for the England national team for more than a decade. Thus, he represented his nation at the highest level, including several European Championships and World Cups.

Neville remains one of the greatest right-backs in modern football history. His consistency, aggression, and professionalism made up for his lack of speed or technical skills. Neville was also fearless leading to many conflicts with the opposing players. Yet, he was a true leader in United, capable of playing under huge pressure while helping his teammates stay calm. Unfortunately, he was also injury-prone, which made him miss plenty of games in his later career. However, Neville remains one of the most accomplished Premier League players.

6. Ledley King

If only he was healthier
Team: Tottenham Hotspur
Years in the team: 16 (1996-2012)
Major trophies won: League Cup
Other teams he played for: Senrab (youth squad)
Player info

The first time we heard about Ledley King was in one of these early Pro Evolution Soccer and FIFA games. Already highly rated, he was a top-choice central back when choosing England or Tottenham. King was a true child of one of the top London clubs, as he came to Spurs at only 15. Despite recognizing him as a great talent, it took King several years to become a starter for the senior squad. Yet, his luck ran out quickly, due to his numerous injuries. Thus, after his 25th birthday, he never played more than 25 games in a season. As some of the problems couldn't be solved even with an operation, King was forced to sit half or more games in the season. That's why it's not a surprise he collected only 21 games for England in almost a decade! Only one of those was at the World Cup, where he played 45 minutes before getting injured.

Interestingly, King was a central midfielder in his early Premier League days. Furthermore, he even held the record for the quickest goal scored in the competition. Yet, he was much better as a central defender, where he could use his imposing physical presence. Furthermore, he was skilled with the ball, so he could create a play from behind. It seems unrealistic, but King was booked only eight times in his career! Thus, that serves as an example of his fairness, often praised by his opponents. If it wasn't for all the injuries, King could have become one of the top defenders of the 21st century. Luckily enough, England and his Spurs won't ever forget him.

5. Jamie Carragher

The best moment of Jamie's career
Team: Liverpool
Years in the team: 25 (1988-2013)
Major trophies won: FA Cup (2x), League Cup (3x), Champions League, UEFA Cup
Other teams he played for: None
Player info

While Liverpool is among the biggest clubs in England, staying there for your whole career in the nineties and 2000s is admirable. When Carragher joined Liverpool in 1988, the team was at the peak of its power. They were champions and won another title two years later. Yet as he joined the team at only ten, it took Jamie eight years to debut. At only 19, he already had a lot of playing time, becoming a reliable starter for the next 15 years. Surprisingly, he only had 38 games for England, and left the national team in 2010, as he never became a starter.

Despite playing in various defensive positions, Carragher was the best as a center-back. His strength, commitment, bravery, leadership, and intelligence made up for his lack of speed or technique. The fans especially love him for his loyalty, as other stars left to win league trophies. Unfortunately for Jamie, Liverpool never managed to win the Premier League - that happened only years after his retirement. Still, he has an incredible cup collection, as he won everything but the FIFA Club World Championship. 

4. Tony Adams

Well deserved!
Team: Arsenal
Years in the team: 22 (1980-2002)
Major trophies won: England League (4x), FA Cup (3x), League Cup (2x), Cup Winners' Cup
Other teams he played for: None
Player info

At only 13, Tony Adams was already at Arsenal. Three years later, he debuted for the first team. However, in his first three seasons for the senior side, he completed only 30 games. Since then, he became a rock in the Gunner's defense, playing with Martin Keown for almost a decade. Unfortunately, Adams was his worst enemy, as he fought alcoholism since his teenage days. Thus, that influenced his performance but also put him in prison. Luckily, he recovered and played longer than anyone could have expected. Furthermore, he contributed to England's national team in three different decades - another proof of his longevity.

Adams had everything needed for center back. He was strong, brave, and intelligent, reading the game perfectly. Furthermore, he was an excellent leader who knew how to keep things under control. The only thing missing was the Champions League title, as Arsenal is still waiting for it.

3. Paul Scholes

The essence of Paul Scholes
Team: Manchester United
Years in the team: 22 (1991-2013)
Major trophies won: Premier League (11x), FA Cup (3x), League Cup (2x), Champions League (2x), Intercontinental Cup, FIFA Club World Cup
Other teams he played for: None
Player info

Alex Fergusson made many football players loyal to Manchester United for a decade or longer. While he trained with United when he was 14, it took Scholes two years before he joined their youth team. Two years later, he signed his first professional contract. However, only in his third season, Scholes became an essential part of the team. However, once he grabbed his chance, he took it and never let it go for the next 15 years. Thus, even in his twilight years, he was important to the team. Incredibly, he even had a successful comeback after retiring in 2011. With many midfielders injured, Scholes managed to greatly contribute to the team, and end his spell with another title in 2013. Surprisingly, his national team career was rather short, with only 66 games in seven years.

Scholes is often described as a complete midfielder who could adjust to every situation. With his accurate passes and excellent long-range shooting, he was always a threat. However, he could also play as a defensive midfielder, often dictating the pace of the game. Despite his small stature, he was tough, earning almost 100 yellow cards in his career. What Scholes proved is that hard work is what gives you an edge and longevity. Ultimately, that should be appreciated more than superstars who can't keep a high level of play for more than several seasons.

2. Steven Gerrard

The art of long-range shot
Team: Liverpool
Years in the team: 27 (1989-2016)
Major trophies won: FA Cup (2x), League Cup (3x), Champions League, UEFA Cup
Other teams he played for: LA Galaxy
Player info

Some players on this list played several seasons for the youth teams before they graduated to the senior squad. Yet, Gerrard spent almost a decade in Liverpool's youth team! At only nine, he was destined for greatness, but it took him a while to progress. Thus, at 14, Gerrard went to trials with other teams, forcing Liverpool to take him seriously. Since his second season, Gerrard was already an important part of the squad, and even in his last season, he played more than 40 games. Yet, it was a bitter-sweet experience. While he won numerous cups, including the Champions League, the Premier League title was missing. Liverpool had a chance to change that in 2014, but Gerrard's error helped Chelsea beat them and crush their title dreams once again. As a rock of England's national team, Gerrard played in three World Cups, but couldn't reach past the quarterfinals.

Gerrard was a dream for every manager, as he could play practically anywhere. Thus, he could be a second striker, a winger, or stay in the central midfield. However, he also contributed as a defensive midfielder and a right-back. Furthermore, he was a natural leader and had a creative role on the pitch. With a powerful shot, he also had many spectacular goals from far away, including crucial free kicks. Thus, no wonder he became a cult hero long before his retirement.

1. Ryan Giggs

Really, really good
Team: Manchester United 
Years in the team: 27 (1987-2014)
Major trophies won: Premier League (13x), FA Cup (4x), League Cup (4x), Champions League (2x), Intercontinental Cup, FIFA Club World Cup
Other teams he played for: Manchester City (youth squad)
Player info

It seems amusing that Manchester City was the first to recognize the talent of young Ryan Giggs, then Ryan Wilson. Yet, Alex Fergusson soon took him under his wing, impressed by his talent. At the time, United wasn't the force we know today. Thus, when Giggs came to play for them in 1987, they only had six titles. Furthermore, the last one came in 1967! Since then, the Red Devils were even relegated once and rarely challenged for the title. Yet, Giggs was an important part of Fergusson's vision, as he had plenty of time to develop. His loyalty extended to the national team. Even though he could play for England, Wales was his choice. Unfortunately, that meant he never qualified for any major competition

 While he mostly played on the wings, the Welshman was excellent in several other roles. His speed, excellent crossing, dribbling, and shooting made him incredibly dangerous. Furthermore, Giggs never received a red card while playing for United, despite his off-the-field troubles. Giggs won everything he could in his club career, which is even more impressive knowing that he helped build this team. He collected 13 league titles and every single European trophy. Thus, he remains one of the biggest legends of United and Welsh football.

As we can conclude, being loyal is much easier when you are already playing for a big club. Thus, it's easier to stay when you have excellent teammates and can win trophies. Furthermore, big clubs can offer big salaries. Yet, it's a fact that every player on this list could earn more if they switched sides. Thus, while money is surely important to them, it's not an absolute priority.

What is your favorite one-team player in Premier League history? Which current Premier League player may qualify for this list in the future?

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