There have been several iron men in English Premier League history with a dozen players appearing in more than 500 league games since its inception in 1992/93. Most of these players would have more appearances under their belts if it wasn’t for injuries here and there. In fact, some of them actually began their pro careers before the Premier League was born.
This list features the 12 most-durable players in the league’s history by games played and all of them logged more than 500 appearances. A total of 11 players are British with nine being English and two hailing from Wales. The other member of the 500-club is one of just two goaltenders and happens to be Australian.
12. Sol Campbell
English international defender Sol Campbell was a pillar of strength for every team he played for during his steady, solid career. He also had the skill to chip in the odd big goal now and again. Campbell’s Premier League career kicked off back in 1992 after spending time as a youth with London clubs West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur. He played his first 10 years with Spurs and was then hailed as a traitor when he joined arch North London rivals Arsenal in 2001. After five years with the Gunners, Campbell spent three years at Portsmouth before rejoining Arsenal for a short spell and then finishing his playing days with Newcastle United in 2010/11. In total, Campbell appeared in 504 Premier League matches and chipped in with 20 goals. He was also an England regular with 73 caps to his name.
11. Steven Gerrard
Out of the hundreds of players who have come and gone in the Premier League it’s a little odd that two former greats retired with the same number of games played. However, that’s the case with Steven Gerrard and Rio Ferdinand. The tenacious midfielder Gerrard is a Liverpool legend who spent his entire Premier League career with the Reds from 1998 to 2015 after joining the team’s youth academy in 1989. Gerrard played in 504 league matches for the Merseyside club and probably could have played quite a few more. However, he left the UK to join the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2015 and ended up playing 34 games with the MLS club over a season and a half. Gerrard was an excellent all-round player who scored 120 league goals for Liverpool and added 21 more in 114 outings for England.
10. Rio Ferdinand
Back-passing specialist Rio Ferdinand played the exact same amount of games as Liverpool rival Steven Gerrard as they both finished their Premier League careers with 504 games under their belts. Ferdinand’s pro playing days began in London in 1996 with West Ham United after spending four years in the club’s youth system. He also played with Leeds United, Manchester United, Bournemouth on loan and Queens Park Rangers. Ferdinand actually played 514 league games, but 10 of them were in a lower division with Bournemouth. He concentrated on defending and managed just 11 goals in his 504 Premier League contests. Ferdinand was another England regular for most of his career and netted three goals in 81 games with the senior national squad. He ended up playing his last league match in the 2014/15 campaign.
9. Phil Neville
Former English international defender/midfielder Phil Neville usually took a back seat to his brother and former teammate Gary, but he actually outlasted him when it came to games played in the Premier League. Phil spent 1990 to 1994 with Manchester United’s youth team and then turned pro with the Old Trafford outfit. He stayed with United until 2005, playing in 263 league games and contributing five goals. Neville then moved to Merseyside where he spent the rest of his career with Everton. He played another 242 league contests for the Liverpool-based club for a total of 505 league outings. His goalscoring skills never picked up though as Neville scored just four times for Everton until retiring after the 2012/13 season. Neville represented England from the age of 16 and up and played for the senior squad 59 times with no goals to his name.
8. Jamie Carragher
We now get back to another loyal one-club man in Jamie Carragher as he laced up the boots for just one team in his Premier League career, which was Liverpool. Carragher was a rough and tumble defender who would do whatever necessary to gain the advantage over attacking players. His youth career also began in Liverpool, but with Everton, the city’s other Premier League club and the team he supported. Carragher’s pro career spanned from 1996 to 2013 and he participated in 508 league games for the Reds. He wasn’t worried about scoring goals, which was a good thing since he managed just three of them in those games. In total, he played 737 games for Liverpool in all competitions, which is the second-most all-time for the famous club. Carragher also earned 38 caps for England and not surprisingly, failed to score.
7. Mark Schwarzer
The first goaltender on the most-durable list is former Australian international Mark Schwarzer. He would play the second-most games in the Premier League for a goalie as his name appeared on the game sheet 514 times. Schwarzer made hundreds of saves for Middlesbrough, Fulham, Chelsea and Leicester City. Schwarzer’s career began in his homeland in 1990 and four years later he moved to Germany and played a couple of years there. His first English club was lower-division side Bradford City where he played just 13 games. The rest of his career was spent in England’s top-flight until he hung up his gloves and boots after the 2015/16 season. Schwarzer played in 625 league games in total during his career in all leagues and 765 matches in all competitions. On top of that, he played 109 times for the Australian national senior squad.
6. Emile Heskey
Emile Heskey was perhaps a bit short on skill compared to the Premier League’s top strikers, but he never lacked effort. The Leicester-born player spent his youth career in his hometown and also played the first six years of his pro career there. He also had stints in the Premier League with Liverpool, Birmingham City, Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa. He ended up making 516 of his 633 career club games in the Premier League. Heskey also played 42 games down in Australia with the Newcastle Jets. He then finished his career in England with lower-division club Bolton Wanderers from 2014 to 2016 before deciding to retire. Heskey ended up with 117 goals in his Premier League outings and managed to chip in with seven more in 62 appearances for England.
5. Gary Speed
The first player to reach the 500-game plateau in the Premier League was former Welsh international midfielder, captain, and manager Gary Speed. He certainly would have had more Premier League games to his name, but Speed’s pro career kicked off in 1988 with Leeds United, four years before the league was born. Speed left Leeds in 1996 after joining the club 12 years earlier as a youth player. He would go on to play with Everton, Newcastle United and Bolton Wanderers in the top-flight before spending the last two seasons in the lower divisions with Sheffield United. Speed played in 677 career league games, with 535 of them coming in the Premier League. He also had a scoring touch as he contributed 98 goals to the cause. His 85 appearances for Wales rank second all-time and first overall for an outfield player. Sadly, Speed was found dead by his wife in November of 2011 at home from an apparent suicide when he was just 42 years old.
4. David James
The goaltender with the most Premier League appearances under his belt is former England international David James. He suited up with half a dozen Premier League clubs during his career between 1988 and 2014 and played between the posts 572 times. He also posted 170 clean sheets in those contests, which ranks second overall behind Petr Cech, who’s still playing with Arsenal. James’ top-flight teams were Liverpool, Aston Villa, West Ham United, Manchester City and Portsmouth. He also played in the lower divisions with Watford, Bristol City and Bournemouth. In addition, he wound up his career with short stints in Iceland and India. James was considered England’s number one keeper at one time and played 53 times for the senior side between 1997 and 2010.
3. Frank Lampard
Former West Ham United, Chelsea, and Manchester City midfielder Frank Lampard was another player who probably retired from the Premier League a bit too early. Still, he managed to appear in 609 league games during his UK career from 1995 to 2015. He also played nine games on loan with Swansea City. The attacking midfielder spent his first six years with West Ham before moving across London to join Chelsea. Lampard became the club’s all-time leading scorer with 211 goals and helped the Blues win numerous trophies during his stint at Stamford Bridge. He’s definitely a Chelsea legend, but spent the 2014/15 campaign with rivals Manchester City. Lampard then decided to try his hand in Major League Soccer and spent the 2015/16 season with New York City FC during the expansion club’s debut season. Lampard is fourth all-time on the Premier League scoring list with 177 goals and he added 29 more for England in 106 games.
2. Ryan Giggs
The second Welsh player on the list is Ryan Giggs and as of September 4th, 2017 he was actually still the top dog with 632 Premier League, appearances, all with Manchester United. Giggs starred with Man United from 1991 to 2014 after starting his youth career with Manchester City. The former winger has won the most medals in English soccer history and in total he appeared in over 1,000 games in all competitions. He also played 64 times for Wales and captained the Great Britain side at the 2012 Olympics in London. Giggs was a goalscorer/playmaker who found the back of the net 114 times in his 632 premier League outings and another dozen times for Wales. He also has an Olympic goal on his resume. Giggs is another player who began his career before the Premier League was introduced in 1992/93 as his first 40 league games for Man United came in the old First Division.
1. Gareth Barry
We’re going to jump the gun slightly here and crown former English international midfielder Gareth Barry as the most durable player ever in the Premier League. The 36-year-old Barry was just two games behind Ryan Giggs as of September 4th, 2017, but Barry is still playing with West Bromwich Albion. With 630 games to his name, Barry will sit at the top of this list sometime in October as long as he can stay injury-free. He kicked off his youth career with Brighton before joining Aston Villa and then made his pro debut in the 1998/99 season. The former Villa captain left the club in 2009 and played with Manchester City until 2014 with a loan spell at Everton. Barry joined the Merseyside club from 2014 to this year when he left Everton for West Brom. Barry’s a defensive-minded player, but still had 52 goals in his first 630 league games and had three in 53 appearances for England between 2000 and 2012. By the way, Barry has also received the most yellow cards in Premier League history at 121 and counting.