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best italian players in premier league history

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Best Italian players in Premier League history (and 5 of the worst)

Italy has always been a footballing powerhouse with four World Cups and a European Championship to their name. of With many talented players vying for a spot in the national team, lots of Italian players move to the Premier League in a hope of securing a spot for the Azzuri. Over the past 28 seasons, 76 players from Italy have played in England’s top flight bringing a strong mix of the good, the bad and the ugly. So who are the best Italian players in Premier League history? And who are the worst?

 

5 best Italian players in Premier League history

 

5. Carlo Cudicini

It’s amazing to think that Carlo Cudicini never won a cap for the senior Italian national squad. He was Chelsea’s number 1 when Roman Abramovich took over at Stamford Bridge and showcased himself to be one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League during the early 2000’s.

His consistency made him a popular figure at The Blues where he was voted the Player of the Year in 2002. After he lost his starting spot to Peter Cech, Cudicini moved to Tottenham where he provided backup for Heurelho Gomes before moving to the MLS in 2012.

 

4. Roberto Di Matteo

Having represented clubs as both a player and a manager, Roberto Di Matteo is one of the most recognizable Italians to have ever played in the Premier League. A traditional central midfielder, the baby-faced Italian could defend as well as he could attack making him a vital player for Chelsea in the late 1990’s.

A wonderstrike in the 1996 FA Cup Final helped The Blues triumph 2-0 against Middlesbrough and was the first of six medals he would win in England as a player. Di Matteo further endeared himself to the club in 2012 guiding them to their only Champions League triumph shortly after taking over as manager making him one of the most popular names to have graced the club in recent memory.

 

3. Paolo di Canio

Undoubtedly one of the best Italian players in Premier League history in terms of raw talent, di Canio was also one of the more colourful characters during his time in the Premier League.

A tenacious player on the pitch, Di Canio was often a threat in the 18-yard box. This tenacity and eye for goal helped him score 66 goals in 180 matches for Sheffield Wednesday, West Ham & Charlton Athletic including a 16 goal run in the 1999/00 season for The Hammers. His passionate style made him a cult figure for the fans including a now infamous moment for Sheffield Wednesday when he shoved referee Paul Alcock over after being sent off against Arsenal in September 1998 leading to a 11 match ban.

Whether it was his goals or antics, it was hard for anyone to forget Paolo di Canio

 

2. Gianluca Vialli

Vialli’s reputation was already well-known by the time he joined Chelsea in 1996 and he was expected to be one of their leading lights going into the 96/97 season. He didn’t disappoint, scoring 20 goals in his first two seasons at the club.

Vialli was also very adaptable as he could shine both centrally and on the wing, making him an excellent squad player. After 3 seasons at Stamford Bridge, his role changed and he took over as player/manager once Ruud Gullit was sacked in 1998. Vialli enjoyed further success winning 5 trophies in 3 seasons before fractured relationships with several players saw him resign in 2001.

 

1. Gianfranco Zola

The fourth former-Chelsea player on the list isn’t just one of the best Italian players in Premier League history but also the most loved. There are few accolades that Gianfranco Zola failed to earn during his time at Chelsea. The diminutive winger wowed fans and terrorized defences with his pace and trickery and scored 59 goals in 229 games for The Blues.

His best season ironically came in his final year at Stamford Bridge, when he scored 14 goals in 38 games during the 2002/03 season before joining Cagliari.

Zola enjoyed a stellar career with no less than six winners’ medals as well as being a two-time Player of the Year for Chelsea. It’s no surprise then that Zola was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and has come back multiple times as a manager for the likes of West Ham and Watford.

 

And the 5 worst…

 

5. Patrick Cutrone

We move from the best to the worst Italian players in Premier League history and a recent entry to begin with.

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Patrick Cutrone joined Wolves in July 2019 looking to make an impact in England after a rather disappointing time in Serie A with AC Milan. The results were not spectacular though for Cutrone who quickly fell out of favour at Molineux due to poor form and attitude.

As quickly as he joined, he left again, moving to Fiorentina on loan in January 2020 until the end of the 2020/21 season. His fortunes have fared slightly better in Serie A, scoring 4 goals in 19 matches but he was hardly the super striker that Wolves hoped he could be as they looked to break into the top 4 in the Premier League.

 

4. Mario Balotelli

Where to begin with the story of Mario Balotelli? Once perceived to be one of the brightest young talents in world football, Balotelli moved to Manchester City with the intention of helping them win their first Premier League title. The end result was something much different, however, as his increasingly erratic behavior started affecting the efforts and results on the pitch.

Despite scoring 13 goals in the 2011/2012 season, Balotelli’s lack of discipline saw him receive no less than 4 red cards, drawing the ire of teammates and manager Roberto Mancini. Fellow disputes with City officials saw Balotelli leave in January 2013 for AC Milan, before a shock move to Liverpool in August 2014.

This version of Balotelli was a shadow of his former self, scoring just once in 16 appearances before moving on loan to Milan the following year and subsequently to Nice in Ligue 1. Had Balotelli’s demons not got the better of him, it could have been a much happier story for the controversial but talented striker.

 

3. Pierluigi Caseraghi

Ahead of the 1998 World Cup, Caseraghi signed for Chelsea after several successful seasons with Lazio in Serie A to play alongside one of the best Italian players in Premier League history in Gianfranco Zola.

However, his fortunes would be short lived in England as a slow start saw him score 1 in just 10 games for Chelsea. A collision with Shaka Hislop in November 1998 caused Caseraghi to sustain a serious cruciate knee ligament injury which ended his season prematurely.

Despite 10 operations to fix the injury, Caseraghi had to retire due to the injury at the end of the 1999/00 season. The fallout with Chelsea was hardly pleasant with the club accused of not paying his wages whilst the club considered legal action to counter these claims. A dramatic end to an otherwise successful career.

 

2. Alberto Aquilani

Alberto Aquilani arrived in England with a stellar reputation having consistently shone for both Roma and Italy in the early part of his career. His move to Liverpool started off comfortably, with Aquilani notching up seven assists in 18 matches for The Reds.

However, the sacking of Rafa Benitez and the appointment of Roy Hodgson changed everything as Hodgson felt that Aquilani was not fit enough for the Premier League. Instead, he was sent out on loan to Juventus for the season and subsequently sent out on loan again to AC Milan the following year. By this point, his future was beyond the point of no return and was sold to Fiorentina at the start of the 2012/13. A case of what could’ve been for both parties.

 

1. Massimo Taibi

There be no other name at the top of this list than a man who isn’t just one of the worst Italian players in Premier League history but the second worst player in Premier League history overall.

Manchester United went through a goalkeeping crisis after the departure of Peter Schmeichel in 1999 and Sir Alex Ferguson brought in several new faces to try and solve the conundrum.

One of these was Massimo Taibi, who joined from Venezia at the start of the 1999/2000 season. After a hit and miss debut against Liverpool, Taibi made a now infamous mistake against Southampton, letting a Matt Le Tissier shot squirm through his body and into the net.

This, combined with conceding five goals against Chelsea a few games later, meant that Taibi left at the end of the season moving back to Italy with Reggina. It was truly a year to forget for “The Blind Venetian”, one of the worst Manchester United signings ever.

 


 

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