A sport loved by over 4 billion fans all over the world, football (soccer) since the dawn of the 20th century has been subject to considerable public acclaim and attention. As a result of the attention that football has garnered, the best in the sport has often been in the spotlight during the peak of their careers. These adept footballers not only compete to be the best among their contemporaries but struggle to create as well as break records for which they will be remembered, long after they hang up their boots. Aside from creating records that give insight into their amazing prowess, these records help in recognizing these talented footballers as not just virtuoso during their heydays, but competent contenders for the title of the greatest football player of all-time.
We dig through history as we present to you our updated list of the top-10 greatest footballers of all-time.
10. Alfredo Di Stéfano
‘Saeta Rubia’ as he was often called, Stefano had a very successful football career which lasted more than 2 decades. Within this period, the Argentine won several individual awards as well as championship which include the Ballon D’Or which he won in 1957 and 1959, the Spanish Player (Athlete) of the Year which he won on four occasions and the South American Championship which he won with the Argentinian national team in 1947. His contemporaries also recognized his amazing wits as seen in the words of ex-UEFA president and french footballer Michel Platini who hailed Stefano as the great among the greats.
9. Roberto Baggio
One of Italy’s greatest footballers, Roberto Baggio was an exceptional footballer who captivated fans. Baggio throughout his 30 years career mesmerized fans with his unique dribblings that it was said that angels sang in his legs. He was a terrific footballer who mastered to the core the art of curling freekicks and netting set pieces. He won the World Soccer Player of the Year award and the Ballon d’Or in 1993 as well as Italy’s Player of the Century in 2000.
8. Michel Platini
No doubt, in terms of footballers who have left an indelible print in football in the 20th century, Platini would emerge as one of the most competent candidates. The French footballer had a really successful career which lasted over two decades. Throughout his career, Platini won the 1984 UEFA European Championship and emerged third place in the 1986 FIFA World Cup. He also won the Ballon d’Or on three occasions and the World Soccer Player of the Year twice.
7. Johan Cruyff
Creating a name in football is a daunting task, but creating an exceptional style unique to yourself, is, even more, a daunting and rigorous challenge. However, Johan Cruyff defeated the odds to achieve both. The Cruyff turn which players in modern football widely use was invented by the Dutchman. He won the Ballon d’Or three times, the 1974 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball and led his side to second place in the 1974 FIFA World Cup.
El Fenomeno, as Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima is often called, ruled the world of football at the peak of his career. The Brazilian forward created a reputation for himself as a result of his impeccable style of dribbling, amazing speed and wonderful finish. Before El Fenomeno clocked 23, he had reached a record goal of 200 for both club and country. He won the FIFA World Cup twice, the Copa America twice, the FIFA Confederation Cup once and the Ballon d’Or on two occasions.
5. Zinedine Zidane
Zidane’s phenomenal understanding of football even after retirement is an obvious indication that he was one of the best footballers of his time. Just like any of the greatest players to have graced the pitch, Zidane created a football-style unique to him. On the pitch, Zidane played with a calm and balanced sense of style and elegance. His technique worked well in his favour as he continued to be a fan favourite, even after retirement. Zidane won the UEFA Champions League, the FIFA World Cup, the Ballon d’Or and many other awards during his career.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
Currently playing for the Serie A club, Juventus, Cristiano Ronaldo is a wonderful forward who has awesome scoring abilities. The Portuguese forward is known for his determination to strive for success. So far, Ronaldo has gathered admiration throughout the three countries he has played club football in. He has won the Ballon d’Or five times, the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Nations League, and the FIFA Best Men’s Player award.
3. Lionel Messi
A football demi-god, Lionel Messi emerged from obscurity to become one of the best and most prolific goalscorers in the history of football. His antics on the field is one which keeps fans in suspense. Messi is known for converting freekicks in admirable fashion. Aside from that, he is an excellent playmaker who provides wonderful passes for clinical finishes. The Barcelona legend has won the Ballon d’Or six times, the UEFA Champions League, the FIFA Club World Cup and the Best FIFA Men’s Player award.
2. Diego Maradona
Possessing a small stature in football may work against you, but if you’re skilful enough, that could be one of your biggest advantages. For Maradona, his small stature was an advantage which he made use of. The Argentine footballer controlled the ball effortlessly made astounding dribbles and scored jaw-dropping and memorable goals. His senior career lasted 21 years and within that period, he won the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Player of the Century, the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball and the FIFA World Cup Golden shoe award, to mention a few.
The king of football, Pelé, at just the age of 17 announced his presence to the world, in a fashion that convinced many that he was here to stay. He went on to thrill football fans with his wonderful football antics and his amazing goalscoring abilities. Pele throughout his career which lasted 24 years scored more than a record 1000 goals. He won several individual awards, as well as tournaments with the Brazilian football team which include the FIFA World Cup, the FIFA Player of the Century, the FIFA World Cup Best Young Player award and many more.
There you have it—our curated list of the top-10 greatest football players of all-time. What do you think? Which of the best soccer players did you expect would make this list? Please share with us in the comments section below.