Every great side needs a bit of grit and toughness to them – they need a hardman. Being successful requires an edge few footballers can provide these days.
With that in mind, today we’re going to be looking at the 10 toughest Premier League players of all time.
10. Petr Cech
Many people remember Petr Cech for being the one keeper in the league to wear a headguard which might lead you to believe he wasn’t so tough. Well, you couldn’t be more wrong. The former Chelsea and Arsenal keeper wore the headguard after putting his life on the line in 2006 against Reading when he went to smoother the ball and caught Ben Hunt’s knee fracturing his skull. The keeper eventually needed life-saving brain surgery and had he not been given oxygen straight after the incident he possibly could’ve died. To put his life on the line in that way is tough enough but to return and cement himself as one the league’s best ever keepers makes him even tougher. Ultimately, extra respect should be given to every goalkeeper in the league for the way they throw their bodies into flying boots 24/7.
9. Martin Skrtel
Against Arsenal in December 2014, the Liverpool centre back headed home an equaliser in the 97th despite his head being bandaged. That became a defining image of the centre half and was just one of many times he played on with a bandaged head. The battling defender was never phased by a knock and was happy to throw himself at shots and crosses all day long.
8. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
When Zlatan and Lukaku nearly came to blows in the Milan derby, it sparked a debate over who would win in a fight between the pair of former United strikers. If they did fight, I’d fancy Ibra due to his stubbornness. That along with his toughness was there for all to see when he played at Old Trafford. The Swedish striker would not be bullied culminating in a unforgettable and brutal battle with Tyrone Mings. Zlatan wouldn’t back down against the Bournemouth centre back despite being stood on.
7. Razor Ruddock
Razor Ruddock was from an era when you could find hardmen at every team and yet he still stood out. A real 90s player who wouldn’t give an inch in any aspect of the game. He had battles against some real stalwarts including Eric Cantona. Wherever he went, he provided steal even if he did bring a touch of ill-discipline.
6. David Batty
Batty approached the midfield-battle in a carefree fashion happily throwing himself into ferocious tackles. He anchored the Leeds United midfield as he fought for every ball. His battling style of play was at the centre of two fantastic Leeds United sides at the beginning of the 90s and again at the start of the 21st Century. Without the toughness and steel he brought to the centre of the park, perhaps the Mighty Whites wouldn’t have been quite so mighty.
5. Stuart Pearce
One aspect of Pearce’s obvious toughness that is somewhat overlooked is his mental strength. After being let go by QPR in his youth he still battled his way to the top-flight and international football, despite having to start in the non-league with Wealdstone. He was physically tough too flying into tackles whenever he could and being nicknamed ‘psycho’ for good reason.
4. Julian Dicks
Another player with a nickname befitting of his toughness, ‘The Terminator’ defined the no nonsense style of football played in the 90s. His bone-crunching tackles would strike fear into strikers across the league. It’s likely most keepers were afraid of him too given his penalty-taking approach. He’d literally smash the ball into the net testing the keeper’s nerve as well as ability.
3. Duncan Ferguson
Unlike the modern striker, Ferguson was never going to be bullied. He took no prisoners on the pitch and battled physically more like a centre back than a centre forward. Despite his tendency to find himself sent off, he became a cult hero at Goodison Park for his passion and toughness as he fought for everything he could.
2. Vinnie Jones
The footballer turned actor was very much the heart of Wimbledon football club during their Premier League stint. He didn’t seem to feel pain the way he battled in midfield and tussled for the ball. In the same way as Pearce, his mental toughness should be commended as he too started at non-league Wealdstone.
1. Roy Keane
When you think of the word tough in football, Roy Keane is the first name to spring to mind. Like Jones, he battled in midfield and would never give an inch battling for every ball and never being bullied. In fact, he was often the bully brutalising the likes of Alf Inge Haaland and plenty of others throughout his career. Ultimately, his toughness became the backbone of one the best Premier League sides of all time.