Football is by far the most popular, played, and watched sport in the world. The love for this game is stupendous. And what makes fans around the globe fall in love with this game is the players that this game produces. Over the decades, the game has witnessed some of the greatest players leave the world amazed at their extraordinary talent and mastery of the game, whose supernatural gifts have raised the bar for what is possible on the pitch.
Good players win titles, great players break records, but legends change the game. A sportsman’s true mark of excellence is the ability to step up under pressure and deliver when it matters the most, consistently. Each time a golden generation hangs up their boots a new breed comes in and lifts our hearts. The game of football has been blessed with some phenomenal talents and it takes a strong argument when it comes to choosing the greatest football players of all time.
Here are the top 10 greatest football players in history.
Pelé, the legendary Brazilian footballer, is generally deemed the best football player in the world of all time. Pelé is considered the god of football. There’s not a single player who has won more world cups than him. Pelé was a goal-scoring machine who also served as the major point of attack for both club and country. His goal-scoring stats are simply jaw-dropping. He’s the only player to score more than 1200 goals. Scored twice in the 1958 World Cup final against Sweden, Pelé is the youngest player (17 years and 249 days) to do so.
2. Diego Maradona
Diego Maradona, supremely skilled and a magician with his feet, could accomplish things with a football that mere mortals could not possibly imagine. El Diego was fearless of breaking the rules if it meant winning, for his famous Hand of God antics and he was unquestionably the hero of Argentina’s spectacular triumph in 1986.
Maradona’s vision, passing, ball control, and dribbling abilities were paired with his tiny height, which provided him with a low center of gravity, allowing him to move better than most other players. His presence and leadership on the field had a significant impact on the overall success of his squad. Undoubtedly, Maradona was one of the greatest and best football players of all time.
3. Lionel Messi
The magisterial Messi, the little magician, and whatnot. Oxford’s dictionary can’t define this man with a perfect adjective. We still don’t believe that he’s human. With a World Cup win to his name, there aren’t many records left for Lionel Messi to break. He has enjoyed a stellar career winning almost everything both at the club and international level.
Arguably, the best footballer of all time or some say GOAT, Lionel Messi has astoundingly won seven Ballon d’Or, the most by any football professional. The little wizard developed himself as one of the best football players in the world of all time to ever grace the game, first under the guidance of Frank Rijkaard and then, more crucially, under Pep Guardiola.
4. Cristiano Ronaldo
You can’t create a list of the greatest football players without mentioning Ronaldo. This guy is phenomenal. An unpolished gem, Cristiano started his career at Sporting and was identified by Sir Alex Ferguson as a precocious talent in Sporting CP, and it is at Manchester United that the Portuguese superstar initially established his legacy as one of the best footballers of our age.
Then it was with Real Madrid that he established himself as the greatest footballer of all time. His greatness didn’t stop there when he made a switch to Juventus. With a strong mental drive to be the best, Ronaldo has become the single most known name in international football today, owing to his tenacity and dedication, as well as his supreme talent.
5. Johan Cruyff
The most influential football player and manager, Johan Cruyff is a Picasso of football. No individual or coach in the history of football has had as much influence as Johan Cruyff. Cruyff was a trailblazer who introduced the great concept of ‘total football’ to Ajax, Barcelona, and the Netherlands national team. He had a remarkable career for both his club and national teams, playing some exquisite football along the way.
The Dutchman won three Ballon d’Or. Apart from his great antics in football, he is primarily remembered for bringing a revolutionary change at Barcelona and thus establishing his greatness at the club with his next-level ‘total football’. He truly deserves a place in the list of the greatest football players of all time.
6. Zinedine Zidane
“Give me Zidane and 10 pieces of wood and I’ll win you the Champions League.” This was a quote given by Sir Alex Ferguson. Need we say more? Zizu was an exceptional football player on the pitch. The Frenchman is admired and respected by football fans as well as the game’s top stars. Zidane won every major prize achievable with both club and country.
The former Madrid legend is widely regarded as one of the best football player in the world of all time. The Frenchman is remembered for his famous headbutt in the 2006 World Cup final against Italy. After hanging his boots, Zidane began his management career. Even as a coach, he was unstoppable and won many titles with his former side Real Madrid.
7. Ronaldo Nazario
Also known as O Fenômeno, R9 was one of the most dangerous strikers of all time and we won’t ever see a player like him. Imagine a player playing for Barcelona, Real Madrid, Inter Milan, and AC Minal and still wasn’t hated by a single football fan, well that’s the kind of admiration and respect he had. The Phenomenon won two Ballon d’Or and two World Cups with Brazil. Ronaldo caught the world by storm, finishing as the leading scorer with an astounding eight goals, and won the Golden Shoe. The famous striker was poised, calm, and lethal in front of the goal, scoring in all of the major games.
If we had an award for footballer with the best smile, it would surely go to Ronaldinho. He was indeed a showman who used to entertain every single fan in the stadium. Ronaldinho left a slew of wonderful experiences in the hearts of football lovers and is certainly one of the best player in football history. His skill with the ball was head and shoulders above the others.
He is without a doubt one of the most gifted and best football player in the world of all time. He communicated a lot of delight and pleasure when playing the game, and he possessed individual abilities of such high caliber that everyone around the globe adored him. He was one of the greatest footballers of all time who graced the game.
9. Franz Beckenbauer
You might not have expected a defender in this list, well that’s what makes him extraordinary from other defenders. Also known as Der Kaiser, the German was touted as one of the best defenders in the world. His elegant playing style, leadership, and dominance made him truly a versatile player.
No one could get past him, everyone used to fear the German brick wall. The German won two Ballon d’Or and a World Cup. Extremely elegant, terrific on the ball, and a fantastic game reader. Calmness, speed, and the ability to move into midfield and attack with ease. He had a photo of each player on the field inside his mind.
10. Alfredo Di Stéfano
Alfredo Di Stéfano, Real Madrid’s finest-ever player and an important component of their domination in the 1950s, had a long 20-year career during which he was consistently ranked among the top players in the world. Di Stéfano, who played as a supporting striker or offensive midfielder with Puskas and Gento, was always at his best during important games and holds the record for being the only player to score in five European Cup finals. The Argentinian won 15 honors with the Los Blancos side, including a record five champions league in a row. Undoubtedly, Alfredo is one of the best player in football history.