Who are the most decorated British footballers the game has seen? With the world of football evolving at an ever-increasing pace, managers come and go, and legacies can be forged in a fraction of the time traditionally associated with the term. Talk of Guardiola’s City being the best team in Premier League history seem premature, but it sums up the fast turnaround nature of the modern game.
Andrés Iniesta announced an end to his long and successful time at Barcelona with 32 club trophies to his name after securing yet another La Liga title in 2018, with help from the diminutive tour de force Lionel Messi, who in turn shares the same incredible haul of medals, the days of the one club player might be coming to an end. And it’s a trend that history suggests brings the most medals. Certainly in Britain.
So who are the most decorated British footballers in the history of the game? Well, the bottom line is if you played for Celtic in the ’60s and ’70s or Liverpool in the ’70s and ’80s and moreover Man Utd in the ’90s or noughties, you’ve probably not got a trophy cabinet, more likely a whole room dedicated to your successes! Here’s a definitive rundown of those British players (and one from the Republic of Ireland) who made a habit out of winning.
Just missing out on the top ten with a trophy haul amounting to 16 is Ashley Cole who picked up Premier league titles with both Arsenal and Chelsea. Brian McClair won the league and cup with Celtic before moving to Old Trafford and a trophy-laden stint with Man Utd and another red devil Wayne Rooney also picked up 16 trophies during his time at the club.
One player who certainly looks set to make the list in the not too distant future is Scott Brown, who will take his tally to 17 should Celtic complete a historic second successive treble by beating Motherwell in the Scottish Cup Final on the 19th May.
10th place with 17 trophies
Graeme Souness – Former midfield general Souness had an illustrious playing career. After securing a move from Second Division champions Middlesbrough to Liverpool, he went on to win 5 League titles and 3 European Cups among others.
He also captained Liverpool to a famous victory over Roma at the Stadio Olimpico in 1984. He would later lead Sampdoria to their first Coppa Italia victory and also pick up a League title and Scottish Cup to boot with Rangers.
John Terry – Chelsea’s most successful player and stalwart of the Abramovich revolution, John Terry, managed to pick up 17 major honours during his time at Stamford Bridge.
He won 5 League titles and a couple of trophies in Europe and captained the club through the most part. Certainly revered as Chelsea’s greatest ever, it’ll be interesting to see whether the blues can cope and continue the winning cycle without this man leading the troops.
9th place with 18 trophies
Ray Kennedy – Former Arsenal and Liverpool legend Ray Kennedy has won every domestic trophy on offer and one of the only players on the list to have won league titles at two clubs.
The majority of his success, of course, came at Liverpool where he played a pivotal role in securing 3 European Cups and 5 League Titles. He also won the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup with Arsenal a trophy that later became the UEFA Cup and is recognised by FIFA as a major honour.
Michael Carrick – Michael Carrick might not be the first name you’d think of when considering a list of Britain’s most successful players, but his twelve-year stint with United (set to end this summer) has been littered with medals.
5 League titles, a Champion League and most recently a Europa League, will leave a few good tales to tell the grandkids. Should Man Utd win another FA Cup this year he’ll find himself moving up the list once more.
Terry McDermott – One of Bob Paisley’s first signings after taking the helm from Bill Shankly, Terry McDermott would share in the spoils of Liverpool’s most defining period of success.
5 League titles and 3 European Cups was the standard bearer for that particular side. Later in his career, he signed for Cypriot team APOEL Nicosia, winning the league and cup – a medal’s a medal!
Nicky Butt – One of the less celebrated members of the famed class of ’92, the solid but unspectacular Nicky Butt has a trophy cabinet that would make his former rivals weep.
Winning 6 Premier League titles, 3 FA Cups and a Champions League with Utd wasn’t enough for this man, he also won a league cup with South China – don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!
Ian Rush – The man who holds the record for most goals scored in a season for Liverpool, for another few games at least, played a pivotal role in the dominance of the great Liverpool teams of the ’70s and ’80s.
Ian Rush spent the majority of his playing days with no concept of the idea of defeat. 5 League titles and 2 European Cups and a whole host of individual honours, made him a most decorated of footballing Welshmen.
Ronnie Whelan – Signed a year earlier than Rush, he shared in all the same successes. A superbly gifted, yet at times underrated midfield talent, Whelan’s time at Anfield garnered an impressive 18 medal haul. And yes, we know he played for the Republic of Ireland, so not strictly British, but with him only ever playing domestically he gets a pass here.
An ever-present force throughout the eighties, Whelan took 6 League titles, a European Cup and a plethora of domestic cup triumphs.
Alec McNair – Alec McNair might be a name that leaves many of you scratching your head and to be fair it was the same for us.
But, at the turn of the twentieth century, the intelligent and composed defender with his awareness and confidence on the ball was part of a Celtic side that won 6 successive League titles, 12 in all once he hung up his boots after 21 years with the club. Had it not been for World War 1, McNair would’ve been higher up this list for sure.
Jimmy McMenemy – Ah Jimmy McMenemy. Who?! Teammate of Alec McNair of course and part of the same Celtic team that crushed all who came before them.
A forward with a keen eye for goal, McMenemy remains in Celtic’s top ten goalscorers of all time and actually holds the record for being their oldest ever goalscorer at the ripe old age of 39.
8th place with 19 trophies
David Beckham – Fashion faux pas and fancy haircuts aside, David Beckham managed to win league titles in four different countries.
Of course, most of the silverware came with his boyhood club Man Utd, but after moving to Real Madrid he secured a La Liga with the famed galacticos, before scooping the MLS title with LA Galaxy. In his final season as a professional Beckham won Ligue 1 with PSG and donated his entire earnings to a local children’s charity.
Richard Gough – One of many Scots on the list Richard Gough led Rangers to a remarkable 9 consecutive league titles in the late eighties and early nineties, he had also won the league with Dundee United.
Add to that another 9 cup victories and you’re looking at a pretty impressive medal collection. Spell’s at Tottenham and Everton proved fruitless, but we’re sure he’s not complaining.
Jimmy Johnstone – Once voted Celtic’s greatest ever player, ‘Jinky’ as he was fondly known, the tricky winger with incredible dribbling skills and superb awareness was a key figure in the famous Lisbon Lions team that won the European Cup in 1967.
Nine league titles and a whole host of cup wins marked this team out as one of the most dominant British football has ever seen.
Bobby Murdoch – Another lion of Lisbon midfielder Bobby Murdoch was heralded as the best player the great Jock Stein had managed, by the man himself.
His trophy tally mirrors that of his teammate Jimmy Johnstone, although one of Murdoch’s most telling contributions was surely the shot that deflected off teammate Stevie Chalmers and resulted in the 1967 European Cup victory.
7th place with 20 trophies
Gary Neville – His punditry skills have proved persuasive and it’s hard to argue with a guy who’s won twenty medals of his own. Manchester United’s second longest serving player left the pitch with 9 Premier League titles and 2 Champions League amongst an array of domestic cup victories. The one club man with one hell of a trophy haul.
Denis Irwin -While Gary Neville was making the most of his talents down the right flank, over on left-hand side was Irishman Denis Irwin. Hailed by Alex Ferguson as his greatest ever signing, Irwin was part of the European Cup Winners Cup winning team (try saying that after a few scoops) before remaining an integral part of the many incarnations of success at United in the years that followed. 7 Premier League titles for Denis.
6th place with 21 trophies
Ray Clemence – Standing alone with 21 medals around his neck is former England shot-stopper Ray Clemence, who chalked up over 1000 top flight games during a standout career. Signed by Bill Shankly he would become an integral part of a team that won 5 League titles. But it’s his European pedigree that really stands out, winning 3 European Cups and 2 UEFA Cups with Liverpool, before going on to win another UEFA Cup with Tottenham.
5th place with 22 trophies
Phil Thompson – Another of Bill Shankly’s boys Phil Thompson tasted success after success with Liverpool, even captaining the side to a famous European Cup victory over Real Madrid in 1981.
He also won 7 League titles and 2 UEFA Cups and was unfortunate not to pick up more silverware, as Liverpool won the European Cup and League title in 1984, but having been replaced by a youthful Mark Lawrenson, Thompson’s lack of appearances meant he didn’t qualify for more medals.
Alan Hansen – Phil Thompson’s defensive partner back in 1981 was Alan Hansen who oversaw a later era of dominance that saw his success match the aforementioned all the same.
One of three Scotsmen brought in by Bob Paisley in 1977 that included Souness and a certain Kenny Dalglish, it was these signings that ensured Liverpool would continue their dominance for another decade. Hansen won 8 League titles and the obligatory 3 European Cups, not to mention the rest.
4th place with 23 trophies
Phil Neal – No British player has tasted more success on the European stage than Englishman Phil Neal. During his time at Liverpool he won 4 European Cups, 1 UEFA Cup and a UEFA Super Cup, add that to 8 League titles and you start getting dizzy.
In fact, the only blot on his incredible record is the lack of a FA Cup medal, quite amazing considering the period of dominance he played in. He once played in a remarkable 365 consecutive games for the Reds, a feat in itself.
Billy McNeill – Celtic stalwart Billy McNeill racked up 23 winners medals in an illustrious career, he captained that famous Celtic team to their renowned nine in a row league title successes during a 17-year stint with the Hoops.
His most significant moment though was captaining those Lisbon Lions and in the process becoming the first British player to lift the European Cup.
3rd place with 25 trophies
Bobby Lennox – The final piece in the Lisbon jigsaw is another lion Bobby Lennox who’s medal collection surpasses even the great Billy McNeill.
This lightning-quick wide forward is Celtic’s second-highest goalscorer with 273 in 571 games! There were 11 League titles in total 13 domestic cup triumphs and of course a winners medal from that night in 1967.
Paul Scholes – The diminutive midfielder with a sublime passing range has always been seen as having the continental flair so highly sought by the Barcelona’s and Real Madrid’s of this world, but this one club man scooped 25 trophies in two stints with United.
He retired in 2011 but changed his mind only six months later returning to the team and scooping his 11th Premier League title. He was also part of two Champions League winning sides.
2nd place with 29 trophies
Kenny Dalglish – King Kenny. There aren’t many lists of best footballer blah blah blah that wouldn’t include this man, such was his achievements in the game and incredible talent.
Having dominated in Scotland with Celtic winning 9 trophies in 6 years he moved south of the border where he continued the trend with Liverpool, in 8 years there were another 20 medals, including yep those 3 European Cups. If you included his managerial successes, Dalglish would be in a league of his own. One of the most decorated British footballers of all time.
1st place with 34 trophies
Ryan Giggs – First place goes to Welsh wing wizard Ryan Giggs, the most decorated player in British football history. During his time at United, he won 13 Premier League titles, 4 FA Cup’s, 3 League Cup winner’s medals, and 2 Champions Leagues.
With the ever-changing nature of the modern game, and players of the highest quality less and less likely to remain at one club, added to the fact that periods of sustained dominance are a thing of the past in England at least, it seems unlikely that a player will match this haul of trophies again anytime soon.
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