For the best part of the last 30 years, the top tier of Scottish football has acted as a great introduction for foreign players getting used to the style of British football. Some have played in their prime whilst others have used it as a stepping stone to bolster their careers but have still left a lasting legacy in both Scottish and European football as a whole. Without any further ado, here are the best foreign players to have appeared in the SP.
Best foreign players in SPL history
Virgil Van Dijk (Celtic)
Now one of the world’s top players and strutting his stuff with English Premier League champions Liverpool, it wasn’t all that long ago that Virgil Van Dijk was anchoring the back line for Celtic.
Having moved to Scotland in 2013 from Groningen, the Dutchman showed off a surprising blend of physical prowess and positioning skills beyond his age. It didn’t take long before Van Dijk developed a taste for goal too with an aerial threat that was hard to deal for teams across the league scoring 9 times for The Bhoys.
His stature earnt him two spots in the PFA Scottish Team of the Year in 2014 & 2015 before moving to Southampton and becoming the superstar we know today.
Stiliyan Petrov (Celtic)
If there was ever a definition of a tireless midfielder, you wouldn’t have to look any further than Stiliyan Petrov. The Bulgarian was always full of running everywhere in the pitch and was vital link between defence and attack helping out all areas for the full 90 minutes.
An inspiration to both teammates and fans on and off the pitch, Petrov was the inspiring captain that led Celtic to many trophies during his 7-year stint in Glasgow. Along with scoring 54 goals in over 200 appearances for Celtic, Petrov was awarded their Player of the Year award in 2004 before moving south to Aston Villa in 2006 and working with former manager Martin O’Neill. Not just one of the best foreign players in SPL history but one of the most beloved as well.
Brian Laudrup (Rangers)
One of the greatest players to emerge from Scandinavia, Brian Laudrup spent four years in the SPL, helping turn The Gers into a force across Europe. The Danish striker linked up well with other top names like Paul Gascoigne and Ally McCoist to pick teams apart on a week by week basis.
His best year was arguably in 1996/97 where he scored 16 goals in 33 games to help Rangers to win a domestic League and League Cup double. His success has not gone unnoticed in Scottish football with Laudrup having earned 2 SFWA Player of the Year awards and 2 Ballon D’Or nominations during his time in Scotland.
Having subsequently been inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame, it’s safe to say that he was one of the all-time greats to play in Scotland.
Ronald De Boer (Rangers)
It’s safe to say that the De Boer twins are probably one of the greatest sibling pairs to ever grace the game so it’s not surprising to see that both of them played for Rangers in the early 2000’s. Whilst Frank only participated in one season, it was Ronald who have the more successful time in Scotland helping lead Rangers into the new millennium.
The Dutchman was exceptionally gifted in the final third providing killer passes to teammates or finishing off moves himself. His best season came in 2002/03 scoring 16 goals in 33 games and leading a clean sweep across all 3 Scottish competitions for Rangers that year. A lasting legacy for a fabled name in football and one of the best foreign SPL players in history.
Nacho Novo (Raith Rovers, Dundee FC, Rangers)
Whilst he may not be the most famous Spaniard in world football, Nacho Novo has become a cult hero in many parts of Scottish football. Having taken the world by storm with an 18-goal season in his first year with Raith Rovers in 2001, Novo took this further with Dundee scoring 19 goals during the 2003-04 campaign underlining his constant goal threat.
The bigger boys came calling with Rangers signing the striker in 2004 where he immediately scored 19 goals during his inaugural campaign as well as winning his first professional trophies that year. His finishing ability and strong composure under pressure allowed him to score 73 goals in 255 appearances at Ibrox and was inducted into the Rangers Hall of Fame in 2014. Not bad for someone who amazingly never earned a senior call-up to the Spanish national side at all during his playing career.
Henrik Larsson (Celtic)
With his iconic dreadlocks and deadly finishing ability, few strikers have been able to eclipse the form Henrik Larsson showed during his 7-year streak with Celtic and he is the first name to springs to mind when compiling a list of the best foreign SPL players of all time.
The Swede joined from Feyenoord with a slight reputation but no one was prepared for the onslaught that would hit Scotland in the coming seasons. Aside from an injury hit season in 1999/2000, Larsson manage to score at least 20 goals each season with The Bhoys culminating in a staggering 35 goals in 37 games during the 2000/2001 season and 53 in 50 in all competitions that year.
His consistency broke records across Scottish football where he has won 5 Scottish Golden Boot awards, the European Golden Boot in 2001 and his 35 goals for Celtic in European competition has helped Larsson become the all time top goalscorer in the Europa League with 40 in total. A stunning legacy for one of the greatest strikers to ever grace Scottish football.