Five-time Premier League champion Wayne Rooney and Arsenal’s ‘Invincibles’ captain Patrick Vieira have today been inducted into the official Premier League Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame recognises and celebrates the exceptional skill and talent of individuals who have graced the Premier League since its inception in 1992. It is the highest individual honour awarded to players by the League.
Rooney is one of the League’s greatest scorers, with his 208 goals placing him second in the all-time charts. He was renowned for spectacular strikes, typified by the memorable goal he scored as a 16-year-old for hometown club Everton against Arsenal soon after breaking into the first team.
After joining Manchester United, he twice won the Premier League Goal of the Season award, for his long-range volley against Newcastle United in 2004/05 and his bicycle kick against title rivals Manchester City in 2010/11.
During 13 seasons at Old Trafford, Rooney scored 183 Premier League goals to become the club’s record scorer in the competition. He won the League five times, including three in a row between 2006/07 and 2008/09. Thanks to a combination of raw talent and technical ability, he was named Player of the Month five times and won the League’s Player of the Season in 2009/10.
Rooney said: "It's a huge honour for me to be named in the Premier League Hall of Fame, alongside an incredible group of players who have already been inducted.
"Growing up, I watched the Premier League as far back as I can remember. My dream was always to become a professional footballer, score goals, and win trophies, and I was lucky enough to win the Premier League five times.
"I have so many brilliant memories from my years playing for Everton and Manchester United, and I'm really proud of what we achieved. To enter the Hall of Fame is very special for me personally and I'm grateful to be recognised."
Vieira won three Premier League titles during 11 seasons with Arsenal, helping the Gunners win the League for the first time in 1997/98, his second season at the club.
Vieira was named Premier League Player of the Season in 2000/01 and won the League a second time the following year. After becoming Arsenal captain, he led the ‘Invincibles’ team to the title in an unparalleled season, not losing a match in 2003/04.
Across his career, Vieira helped to redefine the holding-midfielder position. The Frenchman – who is now a Premier League manager with Crystal Palace – scored 31 goals and assisted his team-mates 34 times during 307 appearances.
Vieira said: “Being inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame is a fantastic achievement. When I received the news, I thought about being a young boy playing in Senegal, or in a suburb of Paris. To be there with the best players in the Premier League, the best league in the world, is bigger than what I was ever thinking about. To have my name around those players makes me proud and makes me realise how good I was.
“It’s not bad company to join. I was lucky to play at the same time as some of them, of course including Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp. So to share the stage with them makes me realise I had a really good career.
“What really makes me happy and proud is when your name is mentioned by new, up-and-coming holding midfielders as an example of how they would like to play.”
A shortlist of 25 additional nominees eligible to join the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2022 will be announced later today [Wednesday 23 March] at 4pm, with fans invited to help select six further inductees. Voting will take place at www.premierleague.com/halloffame and on the official Premier League app until 9pm (UK time) on Sunday 3 April.
The eight inductees will be formally honoured at a Premier League Hall of Fame event later next month.
All inducted players receive a medallion engraved with their name and the year of their induction, with a £10,000 donation made by the Premier League to a charity of their choice.
Premier League Chief Executive Richard Masters said: “When it launched last season, the Premier League Hall of Fame captured the imagination of fans around the world as they voted for their favourite players to be inducted.
Wayne Rooney and Patrick Vieira are two of the finest players to have played in their respective positions and are worthy additions to the eight players who entered the Hall of Fame last year.
I think everybody who is old enough to remember Wayne bursting on to the scene for his hometown club Everton as a teenager will agree it is a defining moment of the Premier League era. At Manchester United, he went on to become one of the greatest forwards this country has produced, capable of scoring every kind of goal.
During more than a decade with Arsenal, Patrick was a tower of strength in midfield and very few players have matched his combination of power and finesse. He was an integral part of the team and a leader on the pitch, captaining the only side to have gone unbeaten through an entire Premier League season.”
The Premier League has released two videos to celebrate the careers of Rooney and Vieira and to mark their induction into the Hall of Fame. Both videos feature archive footage and interviews with the players’ former team-mates and opponents.
These are available to watch as part of the dedicated Hall of Fame content at www.premierleague.com/halloffame. For more information, follow @premierleague and search for #PLHallOfFame on social media.