The 1997/98 Merlin’s EPL set was one of the greats! It features many rookies and legends of the game. Also, it is a special season for me, personally, as Arsenal went on to become champions in Arsene Wenger’s first full season at the club.
Let’s get to the list!
10 – Shay Given Rookie Sticker – #366
It’s not often a goal keeper makes the list and, I think, Shay deserves it. If you have been reading these top 10 lists, you will notice I like to throw wildcards in at number 10. Shay Given is one of the EPL’s all-time great goal keepers amassing 354 EPL appearances for Newcastle United. Given wasn’t the tallest, but his lighting reflexes made him an incredible keeper.
I always like it when a goalie can make it onto the list and the Irish international definitely deserves it.
9 – Patrick Vieira Rookie Sticker – #15 – Rookie Sticker from Merlin’s English Premier League 1996/97 (Rookie Card from Panini U.N.F.P. 1994/95)
One of the greatest ever centre midfielders, the World Cup winner comes in at number 9. This is Vieira’s 2nd Arsenal sticker and, this season, Arsenal won the league! Vieira had a big impact on this season with his combative style, winning the ball back and starting counter attacks.
Vieira is definitely not a one season wonder. He is in Arsenal’s greatest ever XI, the winner of multiple trophies for club and country, and has played for big teams such as: AC Milan, Juventus, Inter Milan and Manchester City. Well, let’s be honest, City isn’t a big team.
Being one of the all-time greats, investing in early Vieira is always a safe bet.
8 – Dennis Bergkamp – #23 – Rookie Sticker from Panini Voetbal 1990/91
Dennis Bergkamp! In my opinion, the second best Arsenal player of all-time. Probably has one of the greatest first touches in history and is an International legend for the Netherlands.
The 97/98 season was Bergkamp’s best in an Arsenal shirt. Dennis lead Arsenal to the title scoring 16 goals and assisting 11 in EPL games alone. This might not seem like amazing numbers, but consider Bergkamp is a number 10. He was the main creator for the team and put out an impressive goal output. He won the Premier League player of the season, and deservedly so!
Although not close to his rookie, considering Bergkamp’s season this year, I think this is a great collectors item.
7 – David Beckham – #350 – Rookie Sticker from Panini Merlin’s English Premier League 1995/96
Not much explanation needed here. Possibly the biggest name in football. This is his third year sticker and will always hold value!
6 – Harry Kewell Rookie Sticker – #283
The Aussie was a sensation for Leeds early in his career! He had the confidence to run with the ball and had the eye for goal of the season contenders. Kewell earned a move to Liverpool but unfortunately injuries hampered his career. He was never able to replicate his Leeds form.
Despite that, Kewell is a very popular player, especially in Australia. I think this is a great rookie sticker to invest in. Australians will want to buy and, additionally, Leeds and Liverpool supporters would show interest.
5 – Nicolas Anelka Rookie Sticker – #22
Nicolas Anelka is a man that divides opinion and has had his fair share of controversy! Despite this, he is a sensational striker who has scored goals everywhere he goes. He started his Arsenal career (this season) like a man on a mission. He scored goals for fun and the Spanish giants, Real Madrid, came knocking. He transferred for 22 million in 1999, a huge amount of cash for the times!
His time at Real Madrid wasn’t successful and he moved on to MANY other teams. Anelka player for: Liverpool, PSG, Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers, Fenerbahce, Chelsea, Shanghai, Juventus, West Brom and, even, Mubai.
Very much the journeyman and he has scored a huge amount of goals! There will always be a feeling that Anelka never reached his full potential. Nonetheless, he is still and icon of the game and, I believe, this will be a good sticker to have over time.
4 – Ronaldo Nazario – #261 – Rookie Sticker from Panini Voetbal 1994/95
A few of you might be scratching your head wondering when did Ronaldo play in the EPL. You would be right to wonder because he never did play there. It’s a strange one and, even I, can’t figure out why he is in the set. He appears as a random insert where no other foreign players do in the set. It may just be down the fact Ronaldo was scoring goals for fun at this point in history. The other explanation could be that he is playing against England, but it doesn’t look that way from the opposition player’s kit.
In any case, a very cool sticker of one of the most popular players in history. Some people claim he is the best number 9 of all time and with reviews as high as that, its a very safe investment!
3 – Michael Owen Rookie Sticker – #333
In his youth, Michael Owen was near unstoppable. His blistering place left defenders in the dust and, to compliment that, he had deadly finishing. Owen was so prolific that he won the Ballon d’Or in 2001, aged just 22! He went on to score over 100 goals for Liverpool before moving to Real Madrid.
He looked set to become one of the all-time greats until his biggest asset became his biggest enemy. Because of Owen’s pace, his body came under heavy strain, and as a result, he suffered many soft tissue injuries. In the second half of his career, he was plagued with injuries and never was the same player. He lost his speed but his finishing remained deadly as ever. Towards the end he rarely completed a full season which, I think, is very sad.
A super player and a super rookie sticker. This sticker brings back memories of how a young man instantly became one of the worlds best players.
2 – Rio Ferdinand Rookie Sticker – #468
In the conversation for being the greatest ever Premier League defender, Rio Ferdinand was a monster defender. Most known for his formidable partnership with Nemanja Vidic, Rio picked up countless trophies throughout his career.
A defender in second place is the highest a defender has ranked to date on my lists! I don’t think there can be many complaints here. Ferdinand was one of the first modern defenders in the Premier League. He was calm and composed, rarely gave the ball away and was lightning quick, stopping strikers in their tracks.
With Manchester United having the largest fanbase in England, there is only one direction for this rookie sticker!
**Hint: It’s not down! **
1 – Frank Lampard Rookie Sticker – #472
Frank Lampard is the best rookie sticker in Merlin’s English Premier League 1997-1998.
Coming in at number 1 is another man from West Ham’s academy, Frank Lampard. An absolute legend of English football and is in the topic of the great debate, ‘The Big 3’; “Who was the best, Lampard, Gerrard or Scholes?” I am not going to bother with that question, cough cough Scholes, because all were legends in the centre of the pitch!
Lampard’s best years came under Jose Mourinho where he was deployed almost as a second striker. He goal record was incredible, having the knack of arriving in the box late. In the Premier League, Lampard scored a staggering 147 goals in Chelsea colours and probably goes down as their best ever player.
This is a great rookie sticker and is very valuable. I have sold one for a very good price, but as the years go on I will probably go onto regret that sale.
As said in the introduction, this set is one of the greats! I am sure there could be some discussion over who gets the number 1 spot, but I am confident in my choice. As usual there is a good list of honourable mentions!
Honourable Mentions: Di Canio(first year in England), Roy Keane, Paul Scholes, Sol Campbell, Ginola, Zola, Alan Shearer, Giggs, Fowler, Vialli, Dwight Yorke and Ian Wright!
Thanks for reading. Let me hear you thoughts in the comments section.