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Top 20 Greatest Footballers of All-Time

Top 20 Greatest Footballers of All-Time

Top 20 greatest footballers. Let me start by stating that curating this list was no easy task. We found it hard to reach a consensus on whom to add, remove or replace from the plethora of great football players who have blessed the world with their footballing talents. So go through this list and enjoy our collective opinion on the greatest players who have left an indelible mark on the game:

1. Pelé

Widely regarded as the greatest footballer of all time, Pelé’s impact on the game is unparalleled. The Brazilian icon won three FIFA World Cups and scored over 1,000 career goals. Pelé possessed a unique blend of skill, athleticism, and goal-scoring ability that set him apart. His dribbling, agility, and clinical finishing made him a true phenomenon.

2. Diego Maradona

An Argentine genius, Maradona is remembered for his extraordinary skill and ability to single-handedly influence matches. He led Argentina to victory in the 1986 World Cup, where his “Hand of God” goal and the “Goal of the Century” showcased his unmatched talent. Maradona possessed exceptional dribbling, close ball control, and an innate ability to read the game.

3. Lionel Messi

Messi, an Argentine superstar, has consistently demonstrated his extraordinary talent, winning numerous individual awards, breaking countless records and recently clinching the 2022 FIFA World Cup with Argentina. His dribbling, vision, and incredible goal-scoring ability have made him one of the most dominant players of his generation. Messi’s low centre of gravity, close ball control, and ability to create chances out of thin air have earned him a place among the all-time greats.

4. Cristiano Ronaldo

The Portuguese forward has established himself as one of the most prolific goal scorers in football history. Ronaldo’s physicality, athleticism, and incredible work ethic have propelled him to great success at both club and international levels. Known for his powerful strikes, aerial ability, and relentless drive, he has won numerous titles and individual accolades throughout his career.

5. Johan Cruyff

Cruyff, a Dutch legend, was a pivotal figure in the rise of Total Football, a style of play that revolutionised the game. Known for his elegant style, technique, and tactical intelligence, Cruyff possessed exceptional dribbling ability and vision. He led the Netherlands to the World Cup final in 1974 and played a crucial role in Ajax’s dominance during the 1970s.

6. Alfredo Di Stefano

Di Stefano, an Argentine-born Spanish forward, was a key figure in Real Madrid’s domination of European football in the 1950s and 1960s. He was a complete player, excelling in every aspect of the game, including goal scoring, playmaking, and defensive contributions. Di Stefano’s versatility, intelligence, and leadership made him instrumental in Real Madrid’s five consecutive European Cup victories.

7. Franz Beckenbauer 

Beckenbauer, a German legend, revolutionised the role of the modern sweeper or libero. Known as “Der Kaiser,” he combined defensive solidity with elegant ball-playing skills. Beckenbauer’s vision, composure, and ability to dictate the game from deep positions were unmatched. He won the World Cup as both a player and a coach and became an icon of German football.

8. Michel Platini 

A French maestro, Platini was renowned for his incredible technique, vision, and goal-scoring ability. He played a pivotal role in Juventus’ success in the 1980s, leading them to multiple domestic and European triumphs. Platini’s ability to control the tempo of the game, his precise passing, and his exceptional free-kick taking made him one of the finest midfielders in history.

9. Zinedine Zidane

Zidane, a French midfield maestro, possessed sublime technique and an exceptional ability to control and dictate the game. He was known for his elegant playing style, close ball control, and remarkable vision. Zidane played a key role in France’s triumph in the 1998 World Cup and led Real Madrid to three consecutive Champions League titles as a coach.

10. Ferenc Puskás

Puskás, a Hungarian forward, was one of the most prolific goal scorers of his era. He played a pivotal role in the success of the legendary Hungarian national team of the 1950s, known as the “Magical Magyars.” Puskás possessed exceptional technical ability, an eye for goal, and a powerful left foot. His contributions to Real Madrid, where he won numerous titles, further solidified his place among the greatest players of all time.

11. Ronaldo Nazário

Ronaldo, known as “The Phenomenon,” was a Brazilian striker who combined speed, skill, and goal-scoring prowess. He won two FIFA World Cups and earned a reputation as one of the most fearsome strikers in history. Ronaldo’s acceleration, close control, and clinical finishing made him a constant threat to opposing defences.

12. Johan Neeskens

Neeskens, a Dutch midfielder, was a key figure in the rise of Total Football and played a crucial role in the success of the Netherlands national team in the 1970s. He combined technical ability, stamina, and versatility, making him an integral part of the Dutch team. Neeskens was a tireless worker in midfield, known for his precise passing, goal-scoring ability, and exceptional timing in arriving in the box.

13. George Best

Best, a Northern Irish forward, was a dazzling talent who thrilled fans with his incredible dribbling and agility. He played for Manchester United during the 1960s and early 1970s, winning multiple domestic and European titles. Best’s close ball control, balance, and ability to beat defenders with ease earned him the nickname “The Fifth Beatle.”

14. Eusébio

Eusébio, a Portuguese forward, was a prolific goal scorer who shone for Benfica and the Portuguese national team. He possessed exceptional speed, technique, and goal-scoring ability, making him one of the most feared strikers of his time. Eusébio’s performances in the 1966 World Cup, where he won the Golden Boot, cemented his place among the game’s elite.

15. Lev Yashin

Yashin, a Soviet goalkeeper, is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers in football history. Known as the “Black Spider,” he revolutionised the position with his athleticism, agility, and acrobatic saves. Yashin won numerous individual awards and played a crucial role in the success of the Soviet Union national team during the 1950s and 1960s.

16. Franco Baresi

Baresi, an Italian defender, was a symbol of AC Milan’s dominance in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Known for his elegant playing style, exceptional reading of the game, and immaculate timing in tackles, he was a key figure in Milan’s success. Baresi’s leadership and defensive prowess made him one of the greatest centre-backs of all time.

17. Roberto Baggio

Baggio, an Italian forward, was a graceful player with sublime technique and incredible skill. He played for several top clubs, including Juventus and AC Milan, and represented the Italian national team. Baggio’s dribbling ability, creativity, and accurate shooting earned him the nickname “Il Divin Codino” (The Divine Ponytail).

18. Marco van Basten

Van Basten, a Dutch forward, was known for his exceptional technique, heading ability, and goal-scoring prowess. He played for Ajax and AC Milan, winning numerous titles and individual awards. Van Basten’s career was cut short due to injury, but his impact on the game, including his memorable goals in major tournaments, solidified his place among the best.

19. Ronaldinho

Ronaldinho, a Brazilian attacking midfielder, dazzled fans with his incredible skills, creativity, and joyful style of play. He played for Barcelona and AC Milan, winning multiple domestic and international honours. Ronaldinho’s close ball control, imaginative playmaking, and audacious tricks made him one of the most entertaining players to watch.

20. Xavi Hernández

Xavi, a Spanish midfielder, was the epitome of a midfield maestro. He played a pivotal role in Barcelona’s success during the 2000s, winning numerous domestic and international titles. Xavi’s precise passing, exceptional vision, and ability to control the tempo of the game made him an integral part of the tiki-taka style of play.

Before you get riled up about our list and missing names, it is important to note that this list is subjective and based on personal opinions. Many other exceptional footballers, such as Bobby Charlton, Gerd Müller, Andres Iniesta, Thierry Henry, Denis Bergkamp, George Weah, Michel Laudrup, and many more, deserve mention. The beauty of football lies in its rich history and the countless players who have graced the game with their exceptional talents.

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