Italian players are, like the English, not prone to travelling far. In fact, it’s safe to say that most of the best Italian players in recent times have only left their native land to play their trade elsewhere once they were well out of their prime. Totti hasn’t even left Rome for heaven’s sake!
But despite this, the Premier League has still seen some gifted Italian players, some of which have gone on to gain cult status at their adopted English clubs. Here, ranked in order, are the nine best Italian players to have played in the Premier League.
9. Massimo Maccarone
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink once said, ”Massimo, I love him until I die.” after the Italian striker scored twice to put ‘Boro into the final of the UEFA Cup. Somehow he is still playing now…
8. Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli, a walking firework and star of many a myth, is somehow the only Italian player with a Premier League winners' medal. Why only him?
7. Stefano Eranio
Derby legend Stefano Eranio turned heads when he joined the club from AC Milan in 1997. But he went on to feature in almost 100 PL games for The Rams and was voted into their all-time XI, one of only two players from the PL era to make it in.
Source: Die Welt
6. Graziano Pelle
Smooth operator, great goalscorer, sexy man. Says it all really… Now semi-retired and earning a bomb playing in China.
Source: Vbet News
5. Roberto Di Matteo
Brilliant player for Chelsea. Managed them to their first ever Champions League title. Sacked just three months into the next season. Classic.
4. Carlo Cudicini
Unlucky to have never featured in enough games to have claimed a PL winner’s medal, but was an incredible ‘keeper for The Blues before the mighty Petr Cech joined.
Source: Chelsea News
3. Fabrizio Ravanelli
Scored in the 1996 Champions League Final then joined Middlesbrough the next season for £7 million. He was a joy to watch despite looking like someone’s grandad filling in for a Sunday league side.
Source: Gazette Live
2. Paolo Di Canio
Responsible for one of the greatest goals the Premier League has seen and also for one of the funniest moments in the league’s history (Ref Paul Alcock’s weird backwards stumble after being shoved in the chest by the Italian striker). No Italian has scored more Premier League goals. Shame about the fascism, though…
1. Gianfranco Zola
A Chelsea legend, mercurial talent and an all-time Premier League great. Won trophies with Chelsea and was voted Football Writer’s Player of the Year - the only Italian to win the award.
These nine are the best Italians to have graced the Premier League. And despite this, between them they have one less cap than Gianluigi Buffon. I guess that goes to show how few of Italy’s true greats have made the transition to the Premier League.
The multi-cultural Premier League has given us some unreal talent, from all corners of the globe. So how do the Italians compare to the Germans?
9. Lukas Podolski
The answer Arsenal never knew they had to their Robin van Persie-shaped hole. Could have been so much more if given the chance but still a quality player with an unbelievable left foot.
8. Christian Ziege
Moved to Liverpool and won the treble in his first season. Easy.
7. Jerome Boateng
Joleon Lescott was preferred to him when at Manchester City. Laughable.
6. Jurgen Klinsmann
The best way to describe Klinsmann when he came to Spurs is hated. His dirty diving had knocked England out the World Cup four years earlier and his transfer wasn't a popular one. At the end of the season he had won over Tottenham fans banging in 21 goals and winning the FWA Footballer of the year.
5. Jens Lehmann
Being one of the rare breed of Arsenal players who won trophies this millennium probably says more about him than anything else.
4. Dietmar Hamann
The man who turned around Istanbul 2005. Many will claim it was Gerrard, but it was Hamann who came on at half time with his team 3-0 down. Did the same in the 2006 FA cup final coming on with his team 3-2 down and walking away with a winners' medal. You can't argue with facts.
3. Mesut Ozil
Too good for Arsenal and too clever for his teammates. Any misplaced pass he makes is probably the intended receiver's fault - not on the same wavelength.
2. Robert Huth
It does sound like a joke, but the Leicester City defender has three Premier League titles!
1. Michael Ballack
Who else but the German enforcer, one of the greatest players of this generation. A truly ambidextrous player you wouldn't want to be on the end of a shot from either foot.