The 10 Best Italian Forwards to Grace the Premier League - Ranked

Though they are all either silky smooth tacticians or hot-blooded troublemakers in the realm of commentary cliché, Italians have been amongst the most crucial foreign imports in the history of the Premier League.

The early days of the competition saw English clubs plundering Serie A for veterans who greatly accelerated the level of skill within the new, cash-rich competition, while the early 2000s saw several high-profile Italian talents flourish.

Moise Kean

Moise Kean, one of the most-heralded Italian starlets to set foot in England in recent years, however, could be offered an escape by Inter after just one season, with Tuttosport reporting that the Nerazzurri are willing to cough up around €25m for the young forward.

If Kean goes, he’ll be up there with the Dani Osvaldo's and Gabriele Ambrosetti's who couldn’t quite leave their mark on British shores despite their undoubted talents. 

Here’s 90min’s list of the top ten Italian forwards to have played in England, who he might yet emulate if he stays put.

10. Graziano Pellè

Two incredibly solid seasons and one gravity-defying bicycle kick mean that a short period of success was certainly sweet for the former Southampton man, who left the south coast for Shandong Luneng in 2016.

We all remember Simone Zaza’s famous missed spot-kick, but Pellè also had an equally ignominious role in the climax of Germany vs Italy at Euro 2016 (a.k.a. The Funniest Penalty Shoot-Out Ever), gesturing to Manuel Neuer that he was going to chip him before having a tame effort saved.

9. Mario Balotelli

Manchester City's Italian striker Mario

Balotelli… Agueroooooooooo!!!

Where do you start with a man who could light up a Manchester Derby 24 hours after lighting up his bathroom with fireworks? Whose one assist is probably the most memorable in Premier League history?

Controversial suggestion – Balotelli might be the most talented player on this list, but between attempting to chill in his local a women's prison, an infamous attempted backheel against LA Galaxy and many, many other incidents (real or myth), the Golden Boy award winner of 2010 always seemed like an entertainer first and a footballer second.

8. Attilio Lombardo

Crystal Palace Coach Attilio Lombardo

The Bald Eagle and the Eagles were a match made in heaven during Lombardo’s two seasons at Selhurst Park, with the follically-challenged winger bringing a touch of much-needed élan to a miserable relegation campaign in Croydon.

He also was one of a number of player-managers to trot out in the Premier League at the turn of the century, a role that you just don’t see enough nowadays (for entirely sensible reasons, probably).

7. Massimo Maccarone

The Big Mac was not as consistent as some of the names here during his time at Middlesbrough, but his occasional goalscoring (Mc)flurries happened to be amongst the most important in club history.

Maccarone managed back-to-back last-minute winners against Basel and Steaua Bucharest in the quarter-final and semi-final of the 2006 UEFA Cup as Boro pulled off a succession of great escapes, and will remain a figure in Teesside folklore despite some middling Premier League returns.

6. Benito Carbone

Rio Ferdinand and Benito Carbone

One of the OG Italian imports who really got things cooking, Carbone managed to become a fan favourite wherever he went in a career which took him to Sheffield Wednesday, Bradford and Derby amongst other destinations.

His suggestion that he struggled to acclimatise to the Wednesday dressing room because he was teetotal really distils the essence of the early days of the Barclays, and suggests that an injection of Italian professionalism probably gave it a much-needed helping hand.

5. Francesco Baiano & Stefano Eranio

Stefano Eranio

Plenty of Derby fans would struggle to separate the impact of these two iconic forwards, so this joint-entry won’t bother too many, hopefully!

Eranio was a real coup for the Rams, a genuinely established international talent with a heap of titles to his name, while Baiano swapped a formidable strike partnership with Gabriel Batistuta at Fiorentina for a new life in Derbyshire.

It all paid off, with the two now firm cult heroes who will never struggle for a pint in the East Midlands.

4. Fabrizio Ravanelli

Fabrizio Ravanelli of Italy

It will forever remain a mystery to me how the humblest of Premier League clubs were seemingly snapping up Champions League winners at will during the mid 90s, and the White Feather is one of the most glorious examples.

Ravanelli’s staggering 31 goals in all competitions during his first season at Middlesbrough, which took them to both domestic cup finals, couldn’t save his side from relegation, but his constant grumbling about the state of English football ("In soccer, you have to do more than run") probably didn’t help that much either.

3. Gianluca Vialli 

GianLuca Vialli of Chelsea feels the pain of a Vicenza tackle

Once the most expensive player in the world, Vialli’s career was winding down by the time he got to Chelsea, where he retired. However, he certainly did not go gentle into that good night, scoring 40 goals (including three hat tricks) across three different seasons.

Like Lombardo, he combined boots and suits as player-manager, and had slightly more to show for it, winning five trophies with the Blues.

He has been back in the news of late having been given the all-clear in his battle against pancreatic cancer. 

2. Paolo Di Canio

Inconsistent, volatile, and probably a little too obsessed with fascist insignia, Di Canio nonetheless remains one of the most gifted Premier League players of all time, and it’s interesting to think about the alternate universe where ​Manchester United actually succeed in signing him.

He was just as entertaining (if not successful) a manager as a player, memorably celebrating Sunderland’s 3-0 derby win over Newcastle like it was the World Cup final.

1. Gianfranco Zola

Before Chelsea had any history, there was this man.

The Italian playmaker had an uncanny ability to make defenders and goalkeepers look like absolute clowns, and you’d be happy to have scored just one of his best-ever goals.

There’ll be many more Italian players in the Premier League, but not many will come close to the player who provided the spark before Roman Abramovich was a household name.

Source : 90min