Football didn’t begin in 1992, we’re often told in the United Kingdom. But there’s no denying that the creation of the Premier League is a neat cut off point in distinguishing modern football history from the more distant past.
These are the players who have racked up the most appearances since in the 28 years since.
List of All Time Premier League Appearances
20) Peter Crouch – 468 apps (Aston Villa, Southampton, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Tottenham Hotspur, Stoke City, Burnley)
Since his retirement, Crouchy has transformed into a tv and podcast guru. But in his heyday, he was a lethal striker too. Only 23 players have scored more Premier League goals than him.
A proper journeyman, the 6’7″ forward played for seven different clubs in the Premier League. His most successful spells were with Liverpool and Spurs.
19) Sylvain Distin – 469 apps (Newcastle United, Manchester City, Portsmouth, Everton, Bournemouth)
A towering centre-half, Sylvain began his career in France and is one of just two non-British players in the top 20. The highlight of his career in England was the FA Cup win with Portsmouth in 2008, and it is on the South Coast that he made his biggest impact on the Premier League too.
He spent two full seasons with Pompey, who he joined from Manchester City, before spells with Everton and Bournemouth.
18) Michael Carrick – 481 apps (West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, Manchester United)
Michael Carrick was desperately unlucky to have been born in the same era as Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes. He won just 34 England caps which, for a player of his calibre, is a tiny number.
In the Premier League though, Carrick was an ever-present. He won five titles between 2007 and 2013. His ball circulation was second to none and he is widely regarded as one of the most underrated players of the Premier League era.
17) Wayne Rooney – 491 apps (Everton, Manchester United)
Manchester United are the best-represented team in the top 20. Their all-time top scorer, Wayne Rooney, played just shy of 400 matches for them between 2004 and 2017 with the rest of his 491 appearances coming for Everton across two spells.
Rooney is also the Premier League’s second top-scorer, an achievement which is perhaps underappreciated given that he played long spells of his career in midfield rather than in attack.
16) John Terry – 492 apps (Chelsea)
Most members of England’s so-called golden generation are represented in this top 20. John Terry was the rock at the heart of that side’s defence and played all of his 492 Premier League appearances in the blue of Chelsea.
He won everything there is to win in his 19 years with the club, including five Premier League titles. He’s not short of individual honours either Terry was named PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 04-05 and was named in the Team of the Year on four occasions.
15) Jermain Defoe – 496 apps (West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Bournemouth)
Jermain Defoe represented five different clubs as a Premier League player. He reached double figures on eight separate occasions in the division, and only seven players have scored more goals than him in the league since 1992.
His best season came in 09-10 when he scored 18 goals and helped Tottenham into the Champions League for the first time in their history. He enjoyed something of a career renaissance when he scored 15 goals two seasons running for Sunderland in the 15-16 and 16-17 campaigns.
14) Paul Scholes – 499 apps (Manchester United)
One of just five one-club men on this list, Paul Scholes was one of the finest, most cultured midfielders of the modern era. Along with Gary Neville, Nicky Butt, David Beckham and Phil Neville, Scholes was a leading member of the Class of 92, the remarkably talented generation of players produced by Manchester United’s youth academy.
Scholes boosted his numbers when he came out for retirement in 2012-13 to help Manchester United to their 20th league title. It was Scholes’ 11th – only one player has won more than him. He will feel slightly annoyed not to have made one more appearance to make it a nice round 500.
13) Sol Campbell – 503 apps (Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Newcastle United)
When Sol Campbell made the short trip from White Hart Lane to Highbury in 2001, he was seen as the worst of traitors by half of North London. But for him, the move couldn’t have worked better.
He won the league twice. In 03-04, Arsenal were champions without losing a game, a feat for which Campbell deserves a huge amount of credit.
He later moved to Portsmouth where he would continue to be impressive, winning the FA Cup in 07-8. He hung up his boots after a short spell with Newcastle United in the 2010-11 season. He retired as one of the Premier League’s greatest defenders.
= 11) Steven Gerrard – 504 apps (Liverpool)
Another one-club man, Steven Gerrard, made all of his appearances for Liverpool and in the process became arguably their most legendary player. Although the Premier League alluded him, Gerrard played an integral part in 17 of their seasons between 1998 and 2015.
He scored 120 goals in the Premier League, making him the second-highest midfield goalscorer in the division’s history. A penchant for spectacular goals and a real blood-and-thunder player, Gerrard will be remembered as one of the greatest to play in the Premier League.
= 11) Rio Ferdinand – 504 apps (West Ham United, Leeds United, Manchester United, Queens Park Rangers)
With the exact same number of caps as Gerrard but with significantly more Premier League titles, Rio Ferdinand played 504 times for West Ham United, Leeds United, Queens Park Rangers and – most famously – Manchester United.
He won the league six times under Alex Ferguson and was named in the Team of the Year six times. Long before he was winning silverware, he began his career with West Ham before moving to Leeds United. He finished his career with a disappointing relegation with QPR.
10) Phil Neville – 505 apps (Manchester United, Everton)
In terms of ability, Phil Neville was probably the lesser of the two Neville brothers. But in terms of Premier League appearances, he outstrips Gary by over 100 matches.
Phil played for Manchester United for a decade, winning six Premier League titles before moving to Everton where he would become a fan favourite and captain for eight seasons.
9) Jamie Carragher – 508 apps (Liverpool)
Turning out for Liverpool and Liverpool only between 1996 and 2013, Jamie Carragher played nearly 800 matches in his senior career. Five-hundred-and-eight of those came in the Premier League, a competition which he left his mark on despite never having won.
He was never much of a goalscorer and was famous for having scored more goals against Liverpool than for them. When he hit the woodwork with a 30-yard volley in his final ever Liverpool appearance then, fans could scarcely believe their eyes.
8) Mark Schwarzer – 514 apps (Middlesbrough, Fulham, Chelsea, Leicester City)
The only non-European in the top 50 players with most Premier League appearances, Mark Schwarzer played in goal for Bradford before making a move to Premier League Middlesbrough. There he stayed for 11 years before switching to Fulham.
He spent the last four years of his career as a backup keeper for Chelsea and Leicester, becoming the oldest player to play for both clubs in the process. He was 43 when he made his last appearance for the latter.
7) Emile Heskey – 516 apps (Leicester City, Liverpool, Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic, Aston Villa)
The title of Emile Heskey’s autobiography is “Even Heskey Scored.” It summed up that the striker had become something of a figure of fun towards the end of his career. It was a status that was completely unwarranted.
He scored 110 Premier League goals in total. It’s a statistic which is lent extra gravitas when you consider the fact that Heskey’s role was not only to score goals but to bring his teammates into play. His best season came in 2000-01 when he scored 22 goals for a Liverpool side that won the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup as well as finishing 3rd in the league.
6) Gary Speed – 535 apps (Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton)
Sadly, he is no longer with us, but in life, Gary Speed was a bonafide Wales and Premier League legend. The midfielder was promoted to the old First Division with Leeds United in 1990, and just two years later he was a top-flight champion.
He would later spend time with Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League. He spent 19 seasons in the top-flight in total and was one of the division’s most recognisable faces.
5) James Milner – 536 apps (Leeds United, Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Manchester City, Liverpool)
Bar one six-game stint with Swindon Town in 2003, James Milner has spent the entirety of his career playing Premier League football.
He started out as a youngster with Leeds United before switching to Newcastle United in 2004. From there he moved to Aston Villa who was regularly challenging for Europe at the time. Manchester City then purchased him and it was there that he won his first Premier League title. Another one soon followed. He recently lifted another Premier League title with newly-crowned champions Liverpool.
4) David James – 572 apps (Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham United, Manchester City, Portsmouth)
David James has one of the most varied CVs in Premier League history. His career saw him have stints with Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham United, Manchester City and Portsmouth in the Premier League.
His best football came with Portsmouth from 2006 to 2010. He was a regular in the England first team at that point and won the FA Cup at the end of the 07-08 campaign.
3) Frank Lampard – 609 apps (West Ham United, Chelsea, Manchester City)
The incomparable Frank Lampard can lay a decent claim to being the greatest Premier League player of all time. His 177 goals from midfield make him the league’s 5th highest scorer. On top of that, he won three league titles in his time at Stanford Bridge in addition to four FA Cups, a Europa League and a Champions League.
He spent 20 seasons in the top-flight, six with West Ham United and 13 with the club at which he became a legend, Chelsea. When he turned out in sky blue for Manchester City in his final season in the Premier League, it was very hard to get used to.
2) Ryan Giggs – 632 apps (Manchester United)
No one has won more Premier League titles than Ryan Giggs. His closest challenger is Paul Scholes with 11, but Ryan Giggs won 13 between 1990 and 2014. It is unlikely that anyone will ever even get close to him in terms of winner’s medals.
He scored 109 goals in his Premier League career, which puts him at number 23 on the scoring charts. He has played more than 200 more matches than any other Manchester United player, racking up 963 appearances in total.
1) Gareth Barry – 663 apps (Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton, West Bromwich Albion)
With James Milner the only player active in the Premier League on this list, and with him trailing the leader by more than 100 appearances, it looks like Gareth Barry will hold the record for many years to come.
When Barry was relegated with West Bromwich Albion in 2018, it was the first time he would have to play his football away from the top-flight. He spent 21 seasons in the top-flight, playing more than 30 games in 18 of them. His big break came when he joined Manchester City from Aston Villa in 2009. It was there that he won his only league title thanks to *that* Sergio Aguero goal.
Barry is still active with West Brom in the Championship at the ripe old age of 39.