The 20 Greatest Footballers of All Time

By | July 11, 2017
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20. Gerd Muller

Career span 1963-81
Country West Germany: 62 caps, 68 goals
Clubs 1861 Nordlingen, Bayern Munich, Fort Lauderdale Strikers
Position striker
Medals 1 World Cup, 1 European Championship, 3 European Cups, 1 Cup Winners Cup, 4 German titles, 4 German cups

In the heightened level of modern football discussion, one of the more contentious theories is that “goals are overrated”. The idea behind the argument is that the basic numbers of goal returns rarely tell the full story – no matter how sensational. You don’t know when they came or what their exact importance was.

Ability 82
International 81
Club 80
Total 81

19. Xavi

Career span 1998-till date
Country Spain: 133 caps, 13 goals
Clubs Barcelona, Al-Sadd
Position midfielder
Medals 1 World Cup, 2 UEFA European Championship, 4 UEFA Champions League, 8 La liga titles, 5 Spanish Cups

Ability 78
International 81
Club 83
Total 81

18. Ronaldinho Gaucho

Career span 1998-2015
Country Brazil: 97 caps, 33 goals
Clubs Gremio, PSG, Barcelona, Milan, Flamengo,  Atletico Mineiro, Queretaro, Fluminense
Position Midfielder
Medals 1 World Cup, 1 Copa America, 1 Confederations Cup, 2 La liga, 1 Seria A, 4 Domestic Cups

So far as one can tell, there has never been a player like Ronaldinho. His dominant characteristic is the suddenness of his movement and the unpredictability of his decision-making. No one has ever stopped and started while in possession of the ball with such an instant control of his own limbs.

Ability 92
International 75
Club 75
Total 81

17. George Best

Career span 1963-81
Country Northern Ireland: 37 caps, 9 goals
Clubs Manchester United, Stockport County, Cork Celtic, LA Aztecs, Fulham, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Hibernian, San Jose Earthquakes
Position winger, forward
Medals 1 European Cup, 2 English titles

For a footballer that became the sport’s first true celebrity and fashion icon, it is fitting that Best came to primarily symbolise the freedom of the ’60s.

Ability 94
International 68
Club 81
Total 81

16. Ronaldo de Lima

Career span 1993-2011
Country Brazil: 98 caps, 62 goals
Clubs Cruzeiro, PSV, Barcelona, Inter, Real Madrid, Milan, Corinthians
Position striker
Medals 2 World Cups, 2 Copa Americas, 1 Uefa Cup, 1 Cup Winners Cup, 2 Spanish titles, 2 Brazilian state championships, 4 domestic cups (2 Brazil, 1 Holland, 1 Spain)

Ability 92
International 77
Club 75
Total 81.3

15. Franco Baresi

Career span 1977-97
Country Italy: 81 caps, 1 goal
Clubs Milan
Position sweeper, centre-back
Medals 1 World Cup, 3 Champions Leagues, 6 Italian titles

When you look through the pantheon of great Italian defenders, one of the most striking aspects is the exact range of styles. For a part of a team that requires order and rigidity, the Italians have developed quite a depth of nuance.

Ability 89
International 72
Club 84
Total 81.6

14. Eusebio

Career span 1957-79
Country Portugal: 64 caps, 41 goals
Clubs Sporting de Lourenco Marques, Benfica, Boston Minutemen, Monterrey, Toronto Metros-Croatia, Beira-Mar, Las Vegas Quicksilvers, Uniao de Tomar
Position striker
Medals 1 European Cup, 13 domestic titles (11 Portugal, 1 Mozambique, 1 American), 5 Portuguese cups

When Alfredo Di Stefano gave his shirt to Eusebio at the end of the 1962 European Cup final, it was seen as a symbolic passing of the torch.

Ability 89
International 78
Club 79
Total 82

13. Didi

Career span 1946-66
Country Brazil: 72 caps, 24 goals
Clubs Americano, Lencoense, Madureira, Fluminense, Botafogo, Real Madrid, Botafogo, Sao Paulo, Botafogo, Veracruz, Sao Paulo
Position midfielder
Medals 2 World Cups, 2 European Cups, 4 Brazilian state championships

Didi didn’t play in the 1950 World Cup. But then, so traumatic was it for the country that it was burned on every Brazilian’s memory.

Ability 90
International 81
Club 75
Total 82

12. Michel Platini

Career span 1972-87
Country France: 72 caps, 41 goals
Clubs Nancy, St Etienne, Juventus
Position playmaker
Medals 1 European Championship, 1 European Cup, 1 Cup Winners Cup, 3 domestic titles (2 Italy, 1 France), 2 domestic cups (1 France, 1 Italy)

With five wins out of five and 14 goals plundered in fantastic fashion, France 1984 were Europe’s version of Brazil 1970. And, tearing teams apart in the number-10 shirt, Michel Platini was the European Championship’s Pele.

Ability 90
International 82
Club 75
Total 82.3

11. Giuseppe Meazza

Career span 1927-47
Country Italy: 53 caps, 33 goals
Clubs Inter, Milan, Juventus, Varese, Atalanta, Inter
Position inside-right, -left
Medals 2 World Cups, 3 Italian titles, 1 Italian cup

“Having Meazza on the team,” the great Italian manager Vittorio Pozzo once declared, “was like starting the game 1-0 up.”

Ability 89
International 90
Club 70
Total 83

10. Zinedine Zidane

Career span 1988-2006
Country France: 108 caps, 31 goals
Clubs Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus, Real Madrid
Position attacking midfielder
Medals 1 World Cup, 1 European Championship, 1 Champions League, 3 domestic titles (2 Italian, 1 Spanish)

Very infrequently, football provides the kind of symmetry that can seem supernatural.

Ability 92
International 80
Club 77
Total 83

9. Ferenc Puskas

Career span 1943-66
Country Hungary: 85 caps, 84 goals; Spain: 4 caps
Clubs Kispest, Budapest Honved, Real Madrid
Position forward
Medals 1 European Cups, 10 domestic titles (5 Spain, 5 Hungary), 1 Spanish cup

“If a good player has the ball,” Hungary’s Jeno Buzansky once said, “he should have the vision to spot three passes. Puskas always saw at least five.”

Ability 88
International 82
Club 83
Total 84.33

8. Garrincha

Career span 1953-72
Country Brazil: 50 caps, 12 goals
Clubs Botafogo, Corinthians, Portuguesa Carioca, Atletico Junior, Flamengo, Olaria
Position winger
Medals 2 World Cups, 3 Brazilian state championships

“Remember,” Vicente Feola told his anxious Brazilian team ahead of their crucial 1958 group game against USSR, “the first pass goes to Garrincha.”

International 90
Club 72
Total 84.67

7. Franz Beckenbauer

Career span 1964-82
Country West Germany: 103 caps, 14 goals
Clubs Bayern Munich, New York Cosmos, Hamburg
Position sweeper
Medals 1 World Cup, 1 European Championship, 3 European Cups, 1 Cup Winners Cup, 8 domestic titles (5 Germany, 3 USA), 4 German cups

Dettmar Cramer was going blue in the face. But Helmut Schoen just wouldn’t be moved.

Ability 90
International 82
Club 82
Total 84.67

6. Alfredo Di Stefano

Career span 1945-66
Country Argentina: 6 caps, 6 goals; Colombia: 4 caps, 0 goals; Spain: 31 caps, 23 goals
Clubs River Plate (Huracan), Millonarios, Real Madrid, Espanypol
Position forward
Medals 1 Copa America, 5 European Cups, 13 domestic titles (8 Spanish, 3 Colombian, 2 Argentine), 2 domestic cups (1 Spain, 1 Colombia)

To put it quite bluntly, there has simply never been a club career as perfect as Alfredo Di Stefano’s.

Ability 95
International 63
Club 98
Total 85.67

5. Johan Cruyff

Career span 1964-84
Country Holland: 48 caps, 33 goals
Clubs Ajax, Barcelona, LA Aztecs, Washington Diplomats, Levante, Ajax, Feyenoord
Position forward
Medals 3 European Cups, 10 domestic titles (9 Dutch, 1 Spain), 7 domestic cups (6 Dutch, 1 Spain)

While Alfredo Di Stefano may have greatly influenced the entire history of a club, Johan Cruyff helped create an entire football philosophy.

Ability 97
International 80
Club 86
Total 87.67

4. Christiano Ronaldo

Career span 2002- till date
Country Portugal 143 caps, 75 goals
Clubs Sporting CP, Manchester United, Real Madrid
Position forward
Medals 1 UEFA European Championship, 5 domestic titles (3 England, 2 Spain), 7 domestic cups (4 England, 3 Spain), 4 UEFA Champions League.

Ability 97
International 82
Club 85
Total 88

3. Leo Messi

Career span 2004- till date
Country Argentina: 141 caps, 74 goals
Clubs Barcelona
Position forward
Medals 4 Champions Leagues, 8 Spanish titles, 5 Spanish cup

Too high, too soon?

Only because of the fact he has too much quality. Without doubt, Messi’s abilities are up there with football’s genuine immortals.

Ability 100
International 75
Club 91
Total 88.6

2. Pele

Career span 1956-77
Country Brazil: 92 caps, 77 goals
Clubs Santos, New York Cosmos
Position forward
Medals 3 World Cups, 2 Copa Libertadores, 1 Recopa Intercontinental, 5 Brazilian championships, 10 state championships

The same could not be said of his rival. Even it if is impossible to say anything else negative.

Ability 99
International 86
Club 81
Total 88.6

1. Diego Maradona

Career span 1976-97
Country Argentina: 91 caps, 34 goals
Clubs Argentinos Juniors, Boca Juniors, Barcelona, Napoli, Sevilla, Newell’s Old Boys, Boca Juniors
Position attacking midfielder
Medals 1 World Cup, 1 Uefa Cup, 3 domestic titles (2 Italy, 1 Argentina), 1 Italian cup

Ability 100
International 90
Club 79
Total 89.67

Who do you think should be on this list and who shld’nt be?

7 thoughts on “The 20 Greatest Footballers of All Time

    1. Mike

      Ronaldo clearly surpasses Messi if we are considering their performances in their respective national teams only, but for club performances and general ability Messi is better. He has shown his tremendous ability by scoring 91 goals in a calendar year a feat Ronaldo isn’t even close to achieving. Also Messi has more titles to his name than Ronaldo. Ronaldo currently holds the record for the highest Champions league goal, but considering that he is 32 and Messi is 30 there is high chance that Messi will surpass this record and many more that Ronaldo currently holds.

      Reply
    1. Mike

      You might even say Xavi doesn’t deserve to be on the list but not a lot of Players have won as many titles as the midfield maestro. Note that a lot of Criteria were considered not just players’ ability.

      Reply
  1. Esquizza

    What!!! Xavi is a BOSS.. he deserves to be there O. On merit, awards ability, trophies and effectiveness.. No one dictates the game, dominates midfield, assists, important goals, leads his team like the Midfield Maestro.. He plays his own game. You can’t say he reminds you of another great.. He is just Xavi..

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Yes, he is all that u said of him but tell me one final that is recalled a Xavi’s final? Zizou has got many particularly France 98 and champions final of 2002. Don’t get it on the over drive Xavi was a great player but at best a compliment to team play and greater players he was on the same team with.

      Reply

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