Who have been the best footballers to have graced the planet? As with any ‘greatest’ list, this is always a difficult question to answer, with the results often being subjective. However, there are some footballers that are impossible to leave off a list due to their achievements and impact on the game. From Pele to Messi, here are some of the top footballers to have ever pulled on a shirt for club and country:
1 – Pele
An easy choice, the Brazilian striker won three World Cups for his country, and claims to have scored over 1,000 career goals. The latter stat is debatable, as many of these goals came in friendlies, while Pele never played for a European club. Still, in terms of his influence on a national side, and his prolific consistency, few players have approached Pele’s impact on the modern game.
2 – Diego Maradona
The 1986 World Cup saw Maradona become arguably the only player to almost singlehandedly win a major trophy for his country. Maradona’s outstanding ability was offset by drug problems off the field, but at his peak the diminutive midfielder transformed Napoli into a world-class side, and came within a goal of winning Argentina a second World Cup in 1990.
3 – Johan Cruyff
The epitome of ‘Total Football’ in the 1970s, Johan Cruyff was the architect of Ajax and the Netherlands’ free flowing style before becoming a star at Barcelona. While unable to inspire the Netherlands to a World Cup victory, Cruyff’s influence on the modern game extended to his later managerial career at Barcelona.
4 – Alfredo Di Stefano
This Argentinian player was the lynchpin of a Real Madrid side that won five consecutive European Cups in the 1950s and early 1960s, and remains arguably one of Spain’s most potent strikers. During his career, Di Stefano played for Spain, Argentina, and Colombia, but never appeared in a World Cup.
5 – George Best
While Best peaked too soon, the Northern Ireland winger was unplayable at his peak, helping Manchester United to their first European Cup alongside league trophies. Best’s decline and off the field problems marred the promise of his early years, but he remains one of the most effortless performers to have ever graced the game.
6 – Franz Beckenbauer
During the 1970s Beckenbauer was the epitome of the cultured European sweeper, masterminding West Germany to a World Cup and European Championship, and Bayern Munich to three European Cups. Beckenbauer later helped popularise soccer in the United States, and managed West Germany to another World Cup in 1990.
7 – Ferenc Puskas
This Hungarian striker achieved his reputation for prolific goalscoring for Hungary and Honved before joining Real Madrid in the 1950s, where he forged an outstanding partnership with Di Stefano. A key influence on future inside forwards for his skill and contribution to a side’s play.
8 – Zinedine Zidane
The French maestro was arguably the best player in the world from 1998 to around 2005, inspiring his country to their first World Cup and the European Championship. Zidane’s playmaking abilities were also essential to Serie A victories in Italy with Juventus, and to a Champions League with Real Madrid. His career was only partly marred by a headbutt in the final of the 2006 World Cup, after which he retired from the game.
9 – Eusebio
The star of a legendary Benfica side in the 1960s, Eusebio scored 727 goals, won the European Cup, and took Portugal to within a game of the World Cup final in 1966. An athletic, powerful striker with outstanding technique, Eusebio was one of the best players of his era.
10 – Lionel Messi
Deserving his place on this list at only 25, Barcelona and Argentina’s Messi has already collected multiple World and European Player of the Year awards, as well as three Champions League medals. Breaking 50 goals a season for the last three years, Messi just about edges out Cristiano Ronaldo as the most complete player of his generation. A World Cup victory for Argentina will complete what has already been a stellar club career.
Author Bio: Liam Ohm is a regular football blogger with a particular passion for football business. He believes the two areas should be seen as one in the soccer industry.