Is Cristiano Ronaldo the best winger the Premier League has ever seen?

In the 31 years since the Premier League’s inauguration in 1992, many brilliant wingers have dazzled in England.

From the likes of Marc Overmars to Arjen Robben, English football hasn’t lacked in quality.

With the ever-evolving nature of football, the role of a winger has diversified from the traditional left or right midfielder in a 442 system, to varying roles like inside forwards or inverted wingers.

Thus, comparing the roles of players like Marcus Rashford, who’s featured heavily as an inside forward, to a player like Ryan Giggs, who was a conventional winger of old can be quite tricky.

However, football wouldn’t be what it is without a debate ay.

So, here’s my ranking of the Premier League’s best ever wingers.

In this debate I will be considering:


Eye test

Impact on team/Success

The contenders

Honourable mentions

  • Gareth Bale
  • Robert Pires
  • Ryan Giggs
  • David Beckham
  • Marc Overmars

*disclaimer – I won’t touch on Ronaldo’s return to United as he played centre forward rather than winger.

Cristiano Ronaldo

If this was deciding who was the best player over the span of their whole career, than I wouldn’t be here writing this. Ronaldo as a player has won five Ballon D’or’s scoring the most UEFA recognised goals in men’s footballing history. There is no debate in that regard. However, when considering just his period in the Premier League, it opens up the door for a debate.

Statistically, Ronaldo’s years at United are impressive, but not the best on this list. However, what has to be considered is his positioning. When the Portuguese international joined the club, he initially played as a deep right midfielder, who looked to pick up the ball wide off the right flank and drive at the opposition. As Ronaldo matured, his positioning did also, as Sir Alex Ferguson soon saw him as more of an advanced right winger. As a result, Ronaldo’s statistics improved.

In his first three seasons, Ronaldo failed to hit double figures for league goals. However, during this period, the youngster gradually rose up the pecking order at the club, going from a regular substitute to a consistent starter.

Crucially, in order to become the superstar he is now, Ronaldo put in a tremendous amount of work in on the training ground. Ex teammate Rio Ferdinand said: “He didn’t have a great shot when he came. He had a powerful shot but it went everywhere. He used to go out after – he was embarrassed – pick up a bag of balls, walk around to another pitch right over the other side so he could hide behind the trees. Ronnie, where are you going man? I’m just going over there. After a few months you’d see. ‘Where’s Ronnie going? He’s doing shooting, he does stepovers.”

Similarly another ex teammate Carlos Tevez said:If we trained at nine in the morning, you arrived at eight in the morning, he was already there. At half past seven, he was already there. I mean, when can you fool this guy? One day I arrived at six in the morning to grab him and he was already there. Half asleep but he was there.”

Ultimately, such intense work paid off as in the 2006/07 season, Ronaldo scored 17 league goals, assisting eight contributing to United’s first Premier League title since 2003. The following season, Ronaldo went from being great, to world class.

The Portuguese forward scored 31 league goals and assisted seven, winning the Premier League and scoring In United’s Champions League victory over Chelsea. This was enough for Ronaldo to win his first Ballon D’or.

In Ronaldo’s final season under Ferguson, the Portuguese scored 18 league goals and assisted seven, helping United secure their third Premier League title in a row.

Now, when assessing Ronaldo’s performances, particularly in his time at United, it’d be wrong to ignore the impact he had without the goal contributions. The young midfielder was as skilful as anyone had seen in the Premier League, giving defenders consistent headaches. His ability to drive with the ball and take it past multiple defenders made him an

irreplaceable asset. Thus, when Ronaldo added final product to his already elite quality on the ball, it made him a phenomenal player.

The success United had from 2006-2009 is a huge testament to Ronaldo. He was pivotal in their triumph of winning three premier league titles, a league cup and a Champions League title. It could be argued, that without Ronaldo, United probably wouldn’t have won the Champions League that season and may have struggled more in the league.

Mohamed Salah

The Egyptian joined Liverpool with little international presence, but quickly became one of the worlds, if not the best winger in the world.

Usually new signings can take a bit of time to adapt, particularly under Jurgen Klopp’s system, as seen with Fabinho, but Salah immediately amazed.

In his first season, the Egyptian scored a record 32 Premier League goals, assisting 11.

This record has since only been broken by the sheer explosivity of Erling Haaland. Salah also scored 10 Champions League goals and assisted five in just 13 appearances.

In the following season, Salah still scored 22 league goals assisting 10. His five goals and two assists were enough to earn Liverpool their sixth Champions League title. However, they missed out on the League title by one point to Manchester City.

In 2019/20, Salah scored another 19 league goals with 10 assists, which majorly helped Liverpool to win their first league title in over 30 years.

The Egyptian broke yet another 20 goal league season in 2020/21 scoring 22 goals and assisting five. Unfortunately for Salah and Liverpool, these goals weren’t enough to secure Liverpool any silverware.

However, just the season after, Salah’s 45 goal contributions helped Liverpool win the League Cup and FA Cup whilst narrowly losing out in the Champions League final to Real Madrid and finishing one point off league title winners Manchester City.

In 2022/23, Salah had one of his quieter years. This came particularly due to the inconsistency of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool side and the troubles they faced early in the season. However, the elite forward was still able to earn 43 goal contributions. This just illustrates the ridiculous quality Salah has, as even in his quieter seasons, he scores and assists heavily.

On the eye, Salah is a totally different prospect to Ronaldo. Although statistically similar in Ronaldo’s latter years at United, Salah doesn’t possess the breath-taking skills and unplayable quick feet that Ronaldo had. Although, this isn’t to suggest that Salah doesn’t have great dribbling, as the Egyptian is still a brilliant winger with the ball. Salah’s unique strength helps him shield the ball off defenders which he expertly uses alongside his bursting pace and quick dribbling.

This combined with elite final product makes him a fearsome prospect for defenders. One thing which can hinder Salah is his impact when not scoring. When the Egyptian is forced into a wider position, he can struggle to have as big an impact as the likes of Ronaldo and Eden Hazard did. However, Salah rarely has this issue as he scores so consistently.

In addition, Salah was instrumental to Liverpool’s success in recent years. Without Salah’s goals, Liverpool would never have won the Premier League or Champions League.

Eden Hazard

When the young Belgian entered the limelight of the Premier League, there was hope, but no one expected the tricky winger to shine like he did.

Signing from Lille for £32m, Hazard snubbed United in favour of the Champions League winners Chelsea.

The electric winger arrived in London off the back of a great season in France scoring 20 league goals and assisting 18 in 38 games.

In Hazard’s first season in England, he scored 13 goals and assisted 24 in all competition; he managed nine goals and 14 assists specifically in the Premier League.

The following season, the Belgian international managed the same goal contributions in the league, but his tally was flipped with him scoring 14 and assisting nine. This earnt Hazard his first Premier League title.

However, in 2015/16, Hazard’s form capitulated with the attacker only contributing to four goals and four assists in the league that season.

Despite this, by the following season, Hazard had found his rhythm again, scoring 16 goals and assisting five helping Chelsea win their fifth Premier League title.

In 2017/18, Hazard couldn’t match his tally from the title winning season, but was able to still score 12 goals and assist four.

In his final season at Chelsea, Hazard scored 16 goals and assisted 15 in the league securing his best tally in the league ever.

Ultimately, it’s clear to see Hazard statistically is very strong, but when compared to Salah and Ronaldo, he doesn’t quite compare.

However, on the eye, Hazard was remarkable.

In the modern day, stats can be overused to judge a player’s ability with fans often ignoring large aspects of a player’s game.

With regards to Hazard, when he wasn’t scoring or assisting, he was always causing problems and instilling panic into the opposition’s defenders.

His intricate ability to weave his way through countless defenders in such tight spaces made him an utter nightmare to face.

The former Real Madrid winger would use a burst of acceleration to combine with his elite level ball control and dribbling to ensure no defender could stop him.

For many years, Hazard ran that Chelsea side. Yes, he had a poor year in 2015/16, but aside from that, the Belgian winger was the first name on the team sheet consistently for a long time.

Thus, Hazard’s performances without stats cannot be underestimated.

Therefore, his influence on that Chelsea side was monumental. Without Hazard, it could be argued they wouldn’t have won either league title.


Ultimately, you’d be right to argue any of these could be perceived as the greatest winger in Premier League history.

However, Ronaldo just sits above Salah and Hazard due to his wholeness. The Portuguese had it all. He was explosive, inflicting world class performances that left defenders with sleepless nights, which were backed up with unbelievable goal contribution returns.

These performances were fundamental in United’s back-to-back to back wins of the Premier League, as well as their Champions League success. Salah has had better statistical seasons, but Ronaldo’s performances in games when he didn’t score or assist particularly from a deeper position compared to Salah, where just remarkable and sets him apart from both Salah statistically and Hazard on the eye.

Therefore, Ronaldo is the greatest winger in Premier League history.