As children, most footballers aspire to be the ones scoring the goals. The glory belongs to the guy putting the ball in the back of the net – and what could be more attractive than that?
But a select few are content to occupy that space just to the side of the spotlight. They are the providers, the men that build the stage for the strikers to collect the fanfare.
Here we take a look at the ten footballers in the history of the Premier League to have handed out the most assists.
Most Assists in Premier League History
10. Teddy Sheringham (Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United, Portsmouth, West Ham) – 76
Sheringham was a uniquely talented striker. A deadly finisher with a set of technical gifts rarely seen in the Premier League, he was able to provide almost as many goals as he scored. In the time since, many strikers have tried to do what he did – to varying degrees of success.
The likes of Harry Kane, who has transformed himself into a creative presence as much as a goalscoring threat, owe a lot to what Sheringham did in the Premier League. With 144 goals and 76 assists, he has 220 Premier League goal contributions – a feat emulated by very few.
9. David Beckham (Manchester United) – 80
One of global football’s modern superstars, David Beckham enjoyed a period of Premier League stardom between 1992 and 2003 before heading on his Spanish adventure with Real Madrid.
In that time, he became an iconic if somewhat divisive figure. His metrosexual style did not endear him to a certain demographic of football fans in the UK. A such, he took a huge amount of stick from the terraces. He never let the abuse get in the way of his football, however, and his creative brilliance shone at all times.
Beckham made 80 assists in 265 matches for United, many with his trademark swirling right-footed cross.
8. James Milner (Leeds United, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Manchester City) – 84*
James Milner is a modern Premier League great. The stocky Yorkshireman began his career with Leeds United in the Premier League in 2002-03 and immediately announced himself as a player wise beyond his years.
He spent two years at Elland Road before moving to Newcastle United in 04-05. He was a first-team regular at St. James Park and made a name for himself for his energy and intelligence in playing on the flanks. In 2005, he was loaned to Aston Villa for a season before making the move permanent the following season. It was at Villa Park that his career really took off.
A big-money move to Manchester City soon followed. There, he won two Premier League trophies and adapted his game into a more versatile, well-rounded approach. It is this which has made him such a useful player for his current club, Liverpool, where he has added to his trophy collection and won more hearts and minds.
7. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool) – 92
“It’s always better when you win for your people.” Those were Steven Gerrard’s words when he was asked later in his career about why he chose not to join Chelsea or Real Madrid, where he would almost certainly have won more trophies.
Gerrard’s undying loyalty served Liverpool incomparably well over the years. There were seasons when he almost single-handedly carried the team on his back. As well as scoring 120 league goals for the club, he also provided 92 assists. Few in the history of the Premier League can boast a record as strong as that.
6. David Silva (Manchester City) – 93
David Silva achieved great things with Manchester City having been present right at the start of the opulent era they are now enjoying. Signing from Valencia in 2010, the little Spaniard bristled with creative energy throughout his decade with the club, linking up play and setting up nearly 100 goals.
He was rewarded for his efforts with four Premier League titles and the unique status as one of Manchester City’s greatest ever players. In the twilight of his years with City, David Silva earned the recognition he deserved as one of the division’s finest ever playmakers. It was just a shame there were no fans in the stadium to see him off.
5. Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal) – 94
When he was at Arsenal, the English press christened Dennis Bergkamp the “Non-Flying Dutchman” after his dislike for air travel meant he was unable to play in a number of European matches. But when he was on the pitch, the media certainly had no room to poke fun.
The forward was absolutely imperious with the Gunners. One of the most aesthetically pleasing players to watching the history of the game, Bergkamp was the physical embodiment of class. As well as scoring several truly iconic goals, he set a fair few up as well – 94 to be exact.
His assists proved pivotal in securing three title triumphs with the Gunners between 1998 and 2004.
4. Frank Lampard (West Ham, United, Chelsea, Manchester City) – 102
Playing as an advanced midfielder, Frank Lampard loved to score goals. But as well as a deadly finisher, he was equally adept at laying it off for a teammate to slot home.
Lampard played nearly 450 Premier League matches for Chelsea, winning three titles along the way. Those triumphs would not have been possible without his assists and goals. Combined, the ex-England number 10 has been involved directly in 279 goals – an unbelievable tally that few others can claim to get anywhere near.
3. Wayne Rooney (Everton, Manchester United) – 103
We’ve talked glowingly about players with more than 200 goal involvements, but how about those with over 300?
Wayne Rooney is one member of that ridiculously exclusive club. With 208 goals and another 103 assists, Rooney proved himself as good a provider as he was a finisher over the years.
It is astonishing that, despite being involved in so many goals during his Premier League career, there are still those who question Wayne Rooney and his legacy. A cursory look at the numbers alone ought to dispel any lingering doubts.
2. Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal, Chelsea) – 111
Of all the players in this top ten, no one has a better assists per game ratio than Cesc Fabregas. A Barcelona academy player as a youth, Arsenal were fortunate enough to acquire his services in 2003.
Fabregas began to play regularly in the 04-05 season, and once he had bedded himself in Arsene Wenger’s starting 11, he stayed there. Such was his class, transfer rumours constantly linked him with a move elsewhere and in the end, he moved to Barcelona to be part of Pep Guardiola’s tiki-taka machine in 2011.
He returned to London three years later, but for Chelsea rather than Arsenal. In his time at Stanford Bridge, he won the Premier League title he always craved – two of them, in fact, in 14-15 and 16-17. In the former in particular, his spectacular passing and assists were pivotal.
1. Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) – 162
With 13 Premier League trophies in his cabinet, it’s no surprise to see Ryan Giggs take top spot in this illustrious list. In fact, he is streets ahead of everyone else – he made 51 more assists than his closest challenger.
In his heyday, Giggs was a flying winger and the ideal player for Sir Alex Ferguson’s quicksilver Manchester United. His career was as long as it was glorious, with his first assist coming in 1992 and his last in 2013.
Though he stayed in incredible shape until the end of his career, he did have to adapt his game when he lost much of his blistering pace. Yet Giggs still managed to provide assist after assist. It seems hugely unlikely that anyone will ever match his astronomical total.