It is astonishing that Iceland, an island with a population less than 500,000 people, can consistently produce top football stars on a regular basis. Icelandic football is currently in a golden age, having featured prominently at the most recent European Championships and World Cup bringing them into the global spotlight. Many of their best players have headed overseas to ply their trade including to the Premier League, where 17 players have appeared to varying degrees of success. But which of these stars have managed to embrace their inner Viking and succeed on British soil? Here are the best Icelandic footballers to appear in the English top flight.
5 greatest Icelandic footballers in Premier League history
Joey Gudmundsson (Burnley)
Moving to the Premier League as part of a newly promoted Burnley side, Joey Gudmunnson found himself to be one of The Clarets best attacking outlets from the onset. With excellent passing skills and a threat from all set-pieces, the winger often has been at the heart of Burnley’s attacking exploits fizzing in crosses and free-kicks at a whim.
Whilst he has only scored 7 league goals, his efforts around the penalty area have been pivotal to helping Burnley avoid relegation and also earn a Europa League slot for the team in the 2018/19 season.
Herman Hreidarsson (Crystal Palace, Wimbledon, Ipswich, Charlton & Portsmouth)
Spending almost his entire playing career in English football, Herman Hreidarsson was about as committed a left back as you would ever find. Whilst not the paciest of full-backs, he had a cannon of a left foot that was adept at powerful crosses and a physical presence that unsettled all types of strikers.
His consistent form for many of the Premier League’s unsung heroes earnt him no less than 3 Icelandic Footballer of the Year awards, as well as a FA Cup winners medal with Portsmouth in 2007. It’s not a bad haul for a player who holds the dubious honour of most relegations from the Premier League having suffered this 5 times with 5 different teams!
Heidar Helguson (Watford, Fulham, Bolton, QPR)
Always a potent force for lesser sides, Heidar Helguson’s career often saw him trying to help teams avoid the drop and fight for survival. His predatory instincts within the penalty area made him a reliable source for goals even when they were hard to come by.
His best tally was 8 goals in 2005 for Fulham and in 2012/13 for QPR often proving to be a bright light in murky situations. Never one to back down from a fight, Helguson’s tenacity and grit earned him a reputation for being a dogged striker who was never willing to stop helping the little guy!
Eidur Gudjohnsen (Chelsea, Tottenham, Stoke, Fulham)
One of Iceland’s major breakout stars in the world of football, Eidur Gudjohnsen rose to become one of Europe’s deadliest strikers in the early and mid-2000’s and he is undoubtedly one of the greatest Icelandic footballers of all time.
Having moved to Stamford Bridge from Bolton in 2000, Gudjohnsen’s pace and finishing ability made him a force to be reckoned with especially when partnered alongside Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. It was Gudjohnsen’s consistency that made him a hit with The Blues reaching double figure goal tallies in all but two campaigns during his 6-year stint with Chelsea.
His best return came with 14 goals in the 2001/02 season however he would win the league title twice under Jose Mourinho before moving to Barcelona in 2006. Easily the most decorated footballer to come out of Iceland, there is no doubt that Eidur Gudjohnsen remains one of the best players to ever arise from the Land of Fire & Ice.
Gylfi Sigurdsson (Swansea, Tottenham, Everton)
Having first rose to prominence as a teenager with Reading in the Championship in 2009, many people quickly touted Gylfi Sigurdsson as a talent to watch out for. A move to Germany with Hoffenheim dampened the hype but a loan move to Swansea in 2011 quickly revived it. With flamboyant tricks, driving pace and a passion for spectacular goals, Sigurdsson’s reputation grew especially with a big money move to Spurs in 2012.
His dynamic style didn’t click in North London and a move back to Swansea reaped big rewards in 2014 as he found the consistency he had been lacking including an 11 goal campaign during the 2015/16 season. Gylfi’s best form would come later as he moved north to Everton and became one of the star attractions at Goodison Park.
A personal best season came in 2018-19 where he scored 13 goals in the league to stun fans across the country. His consistency has made him Iceland’s biggest star over the last decade winning Icelandic Footballer of the Year every year of the 2010s except 2011 and Icelandic Sportsperson of the Year in 2013 and 2016. If he isn’t already about Eidur Gudjohnsen at the summit of our best Icelandic footballers list, he could be by the end of his career.
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