How the Premier League became a global playground

    Story highlights

    • English Premier League turns 25
    • First season featured no players from South America or Asia
    • Now the world's most diverse division

    (CNN)It's been dubbed the "best league in the world," but when the English Premier League kicked off 25 years ago a foreign name on the teamsheet was rare.

    In its first ever season, back in 1992/93, 71% of registered players were English and just 55 came from outside of Britain.
      By the 2007/08 campaign, that percentage of domestic players had halved, with over 350 players from 60 nations represented.
      Now, on the 25th anniversary of its inception, CNN Sport analyzes how the world's richest football league has changed the game forever, becoming the favorite destination for many of the globe's best players.

      1992/93

      Leeds United's Eric Cantona (left) scored the first ever Premier League hat trick in a 5-0 win over Tottenham in August 1992.
      Before the Premier League became awash with cash, some players did come from overseas but most hailed from Scandinavia -- a far cry from the global influx of today -- with Danish goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel helping Manchester United to the title.
      The division featured 22 teams, and all were led by a British manager. Even more remarkably given the turnaround in managers these days, only one -- Chelsea's Ian Porterfield -- was sacked in that inaugural season.
      There were no players from South America, Asia, Italy or Portugal.
      The only Frenchman to take to the field that year, Eric Cantona, scored the Premier League's first ever hattrick for Leeds United.

      1997/98

      Patrick Vieira embodied the physical power of Arsene Wenger's early Arsenal teams.
      Five years on, Arsenal had lured French manager Arsene Wenger to the Highbury dugout from Japan -- he was appointed in September 1996 -- and the pace of change really began to accelerate.
      The majority of the 602 players registered that year were still English, but the number of different nationalities featured across the season had almost doubled.
      Arsenal's Dutchman Dennis Bergkamp thrilled supporters with his finesse and technique, scoring 16 league goals on his way to winning the PFA Player of the Year award.
      Former Italy striker Gianluca Vialli replaced former Netherlands midfielder Ruud Gullit as manager of Chelsea, illustrating a growing appetite for foreign leadership.
      Wenger, having scoured the continent for talent including Patrick Viera and Emmanuel Petit, became the first manager from outside the British Isles to lift the Premier League trophy.

      2002/03

      Not all expensive foreign imports were successful. In 2001, Juan Sebastian Veron became the most expensive player in the history of British football, only to leave two years later.
      On Boxing Day 1999, Vialli became the first boss to field an entirely non-British starting XI in the history of English football.
      By the 2002/03 season, 77 nationalities were represented in the 20 squads, and there were more foreign recruits (58%) than homegrown players.
      The French national team had been the dominant force in international football in the preceding years, lifting the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championships, and English teams increasingly looked to their close neighbors for new talent.
      One thing hadn't changed -- Scotsman Sir Alex Ferguson still prowled the Old Trafford touchline -- and Manchester United saw off Arsenal to clinch the title.