Frenchman Vieira voted greatest foreigner in England

LONDON: Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira was on Monday voted the greatest foreign player ever in English football. 

Vieira polled 17 out of 20 possible votes from top managers and players including Bobby Robson, Claudio Ranieri, Graham Taylor and Tom Finney. 

The full results form part of a new book entitled “England, Their England”, a history of foreigners in English football.  

Author Nick Harris said more than 1,700 overseas-born players have been based in England. 

The voters were asked to name their all-time top teams of international imports, with the biggest vote-winners lining up in a final 11, six of them French. 

In an interview with Harris, Robson paid tribute to the impact of foreign players on the English game, but warned increases could hurt domestic players. 

“They’ve enhanced it and they’ve been brilliant for us (England as a whole),” Robson said. 

“What we have to be careful of is that we don’t bring in ordinary players – we bring in players we haven’t got the likes of in this country.” 

The book names England’s first ever foreign football player as Canadian Walter Bowman, who joined Accrington in 1892 after coming to the country as part of a touring team.  

He went on to play for Ardwick, later Manchester City, before retiring and settling in the United States. 

Manchester United lead the number of representations in the elite 11 with four, despite having only signed 30 overseas-born players in their history up to the end of last season. 

Chelsea have signed the most number of foreign players with 64, starting with Indian-born Charles Donaghy in 1905. The all-time top overseas team: 

Peter Schmeichel (Den – Manchester United, Aston Villa, Manchester City); Marcel Desailly (Fra –Chelsea), Mikael Silvestre (Fra – Manchester United); Robert Pires (Fra – Arsenal), Ossie Ardiles (Arg – Blackburn, QPR, Swindon, Tottenham),  

Ruud Gullit (Ned – Chelsea), Patrick Vieira (Fra – Arsenal), Arnold Muhren (Ned – Ipswich, Manchester United), Gianfranco Zola (Ita – Chelsea), Eric Cantona (Fra – Leeds, Manchester United), Thierry Henry (Fra – Arsenal). – AP 

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