Friday

The ten best football (soccer) players of all time

CC™ Sports Perspective

There is no question that 'the beautiful game' has been blessed with some of the most glorious talent ever assembled in any sports, over the generations. Here are the ten best football (soccer) players of all time according to a consortium of ardent analysts and personalities in the game. 

The list allows many fans of the beautiful game to offer their own opinion and suggestions on the veracity of the rankings.

1) Edson Arantes do Nascimento - Pelé (Brazil) - RIP 

Peak: 1958-70   

Major Achievements: Most career goals (of any footballer ever, like ever), FIFA Player of the Century, France Football's greatest FIFA World Cup player, TIME 100 Most Important People of the 20th Century list, Brazil's all-time leading goal scorer, Santos' all-time leading goal scorer, youngest FIFA World Cup winner, most assists in FIFA World Cup history, 1958, 1962 & 1970 FIFA World Cup, top goal scorer in FIFA World Cup finals, two Copa Libertadores titles, six Campeonato Brasilerio Serie A titles, two Intercontinental Cups, 1970 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, 1958 FIFA World Cup Best Young Player, 1970 Bola de Prata. There isn't really much that needs to be said here. Pele was simply the best and the only player that could have possibly eclipsed him from the premier position would have been Maradona, if the latter had won a second FIFA World Cup.



2) Diego Armando Maradona (Argentina) - RIP

Peak: 1985-90

Major Achievements: 90min's Greatest Footballer of All Time, Corriere dello Sport's Best Athlete in History, 1986 FIFA World Cup, 1986 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, 1985 Serie A Footballer of the Year, FIFA World Cup All-Time Team, FIFA Goal of the Century, Argentine Sports Writers' Sportsman of the Century, two-time South American Footballer of the Year, four-time Argentine Football Writers' Footballer of the Year, two Scudetti, one Coppa Italia, one Copa del Rey, one UEFA Cup. The late Maradona was a football genius and took over a game like no other player did, probably not since the number one player on the list, Pelé.

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3) Zinedine Zidane - Zizzou (France and of Algerian descent)

Peak: 1997-2006

Major Achievements: 1998 Ballon d'Or, 1998, 2000 & 2003 FIFA World Player of the Year, 2002 UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, 2000/01 Serie A Footballer of the Year, UEFA Champions League Best Player of the Past 20 Years, L'Equipe Best French Player of All Time, 2006 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, only player to be named Player of the Year in three of the top five leagues, most goals in FIFA World Cup finals, 1998 FIFA World Cup, 2000 UEFA European Championships, one Champions League, two Scudetti, one La Liga title, one Intercontinental Cup. Zizzou should have won two FIFA World Cups and the evidence of his genius was in taking an average and aging French side to the FIFA World Cup final in 2006, while eliminating a star-studded Brazil side in the process. Zizzou never lost to Brazil when it mattered and he was 2-0 against two of arguably the best Brazillian teams of all time, the 1998 and 2006 teams with stars like Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo ("O Fenômeno"), Roberot Carlos and Cafu, just to name a few.

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4) Johan Cryuff (Netherlands aka Holland)

Peak: 1971-75

Major Achievements: 1971, 1973 & 1975 Ballon d'Or, 1974 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, FIFA World Cup All-Time Team, three-time Dutch Footballer of the Year, two-time Dutch Sportsman of the Year, three European Cups, one La Liga title, nine Eredivisie titles, one Copa del Rey, six KNVB Cup, one Intercontinental Cup. Johan Cryuff was 'Total Football' and he was the architect of modern football, as we know it.


5) Franz Beckenbauer (Germany aka West Germany)

Peak: 1966-76

Major Achievements: 1972 & 1976 Ballon d'Or, FIFA World Cup All-Time Team, 1966 FIFA World Cup Best Young Player Award, four-time German Footballer of the Year, 1974 FIFA World Cup, 1972 UEFA European Championships, three European Cups, five Bundesliga titles, four DFB-Pokals, one Intercontinental Cup. The Der Kaiser, as he is fondly called, won the FIFA World Cup as a player and also as a manager. He is also one of only two defenders to ever win the Ballon d'Or and he infact won it TWICE!


6) Ronaldo aka "O Fenômeno" (Brazil)

Peak: 1995-2002

Major Achievements: 1997 & 2002 Ballon d'Or, 1996, 1997 & 2002 FIFA World Player of the Year, 1998 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, 2002 FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe, 1996/97 European Golden Shoe, 1994 & 2002 FIFA World Cup, 1997 & 1999 Copa America, two-time Pichichi winner, 1998 Serie A Footballer of the Year, two La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, one KNVB Cup, one UEFA Cup, one Intercontinental Cup. Ronaldo easily could have become the greatest football player of all time, but his knees and overall lack of personal discipline, did him in. He was simply a joy to watch!

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7) Ronaldinho (Brazil)

Peak: 2002-06

Major Achievements: 2005 Ballon d'Or, 2004 & 2005 FIFA World Player of the Year, 2005/06 UEFA Club Footballer of the Year, 2004 & 2005 FIFPro World Player of the Year, one UEFA Champions League, two La Liga titles, one Scudetto. 2002 FIFA World Cup winner. Ronaldinho was one of the most gifted geniuses with the ball at his feet. He was exquisite to watch and played with so much joy that his passion seemed like par-for-the-course, even in the most energy-sapping of games. Just ask England in 2002 and they will tell you that no one 'smiled while killing you' with so much ease as Ronaldinho. 

SportMob

8) Alfredo Di Stéfano (Argentina)

Peak: 1956-62

Major Achievements: 1957 & 1959 Ballon d'Or, five European Cups, one Intercontinental Cup, eight La Liga titles, five-time Pichichi winner, World Team of the 20th Century, one Copa del Rey.
Alfredo Di Stéfano is considered by some to be the best player of all time, and many consider that he should be ranked above fellow Argentines Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi. Indelibly associated with the Real Madrid side that won 5 European Cups between 1956 and 1960, remarkably Di Stéfano did not even come to Europe until he was in his late 20s. It was during his time in Spain with Real that created his legend. In 11 seasons, in addition to the European Cup triumphs, he helped them win 8 league titles and the Copa del Rey, scoring 308 goals in 396 appearances for Los Blancos. His partnership with Ferenc Puskás became legendary, exemplified by the 1960 European Cup Final, where Di Stéfano scored a hat-trick, and the Hungarian four in the 7 – 3 defeat of Eintracht Frankfurt, still spoken of, nearly 60 years later, as one of the finest games of club football ever played. 
Football Soccer Cards
9) Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Peak: 2010-18

Major Achievements: 2008, 2013, 2014, 2016 & 2017 Ballon d'Or, 2008, 2016 & 2017 FIFA World Player of the Year, 2014, 2016 & 2017 UEFA Best Player in Europe Award, four-time European Golden Shoe winner, two-time PFA Players' Player of the Year, UEFA Champions League all time top goal scorer, Real Madrid's all time top goal scorer, five UEFA Champions Leagues, two La Liga titles, three Premier League titles, one Scudetto, two Copa del Rey, one FA Cup, one UEFA European Championship and inaugural UEFA Nations League Championship.


10) Lionel Messi (Argentina)

Peak: 2009-18; 2021-2022

Major Achievements: 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2019 & 2021 Ballon d'Or, 2009 FIFA World Player of the Year. 2021 Copa America and 2022 FIFA World Cup winner. Barcelona all time top goal scorer, La Liga all time top goal scorer, six-time Pichichi winner, Argentina's all time top goal scorer, most goals scored in a calendar year, 2011 & 2015 UEFA Men's Player of the Year, seven-time La Liga Player of the Year, 2014 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball, 2005 Young European Footballer of the Year, five-time European Golden Shoe winner, four Champions Leagues, nine La Liga titles, six Copa del Rey.