The game of soccer has garnered some tremendous talent, and it doesn’t do much justice when it comes to picking the top ten soccer players of all time. But, for what it’s worth, here are our picks for the greatest footballers of all time.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento, 1958, 1962, and 1970 World Cup winner, to give him his full name, is considered the greatest footballer of all time. Pele won several titles with Santos, with whom he played the best years of his career, before joining the New York Cosmos for a brief period. Pelé scored 760 official goals, and was a great striker and dribbling off the ball, but he also managed to unite well with his teammates and stands out prominently in the goal accumulation.
Diego Maradona (1976-1997)
Diego Armando Maradona is one of the greatest dribblers we’ve ever seen. His hand of God’s goal against England in the 1986 World Cup and the amazing solo effort that followed summed up this flawed genius better than any words. Maradona didn’t always play by the rules and admits his expulsion from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive is one of his saddest memories. But Maradona, who led Argentina to the World Cup finals in 1986 and helped unfamiliar Napoli in 1987 and 1990, was irrepressible.
It’s no exaggeration to say that the “atomic flea” is now challenging Pele for the crown of best footballer ever, and he will surely surpass the Brazilian if the rest of his career is as fruitful as his opening years. Joining Barcelona when he was just 13 years old, scoring on his debut at 17, Messi now enriches the faithful Camp Nou side on a regular basis with his exploits in dribbling, passing, and goals. He broke Gerd Muller’s record for most goals in a calendar year when he scored 91 in 2012.
Cristiano Ronaldo (2001-present)
The Portuguese pavilion wizard deserves his place among the great players of Football. His top scorer since joining Real Madrid from Manchester United is out of this world, and in January 2014 he hit his 400th goal at just 28 years old. Ronaldo’s performance in recent years has meant that along with Messi, he is considered by some distances as the best footballer in the world. Strength, power, control, and finishing – Ronaldo has the full repertoire.
Johan Cruyff (1964-1984)
The outspoken Dutchman excelled for Ajax and Barcelona in the 1960s and 1970s and is considered by many to be Europe’s best-ever player. His name was synonymous with the “total football” movement of Rinus Michaels, with players swapping positions. Cruyff was effective in both wide and central positions and was known for his ability to transform players. Cruyff won seven Ballon d’Or awards (European Player of the Year), eight Dutch titles, and three European Cups with Ajax, and made a controversial move to rivals fleeing Feyenoord.
Franz Beckenbauer (1984-1964)
“Der Kaiser is the only man who has led his team to victory in the World Cup and managed it. In the early 1970s, Germany revolutionized the game by transforming him from midfield into a formidable attacking role where he dictated play from behind by dribbling. His team attacks, as he enjoyed his greatest years with Bayern Munich, winning 5 Bundesliga titles and 3 European Cups, but he also spent time with Pele at the New York Cosmos.
Michel Platini (1973-1987)
Platini’s star with Nancy, Saint-Etienne, and Juventus, he was a European champion for club and country after winning the 1984 European Championship with France and the European Cup the following year with Juventus. One of the best passers in football history and a free-kick expert, the attacking midfielder scored nine goals in the 1984 victory.
Alfredo Di Stefano (1943-1966)
Di Stefano’s scoring feat in five consecutive European finals is unlikely to be met. Born in Argentina to Italian immigrants, but playing internationally for three different teams, Di Stefano’s career was nothing if not global. A player of exceptional levels of physical fitness, the Saeta Rubia (blond arrow) was instrumental in Real Madrid‘s dominance in the 1950s, although the history books could tell a very different story if he joined Barcelona instead of Merengues in 1943.
Ferenc Puskas (1944-1966)
Puskas was one of the best strikers ever, averaging the match goal at the club and international levels. He was a prominent member of the Great Hungary team in the 1950s, known as the Mighty Lunatics. Puskas was La Liga’s top scorer with Real Madrid four times and scored seven goals in the UEFA Cup finals. He won five league titles with Budapest Honved before moving to Real Madrid in 1958 and collecting another five. The left of the interior also boasts three European Cups.
The “Black Panther” was considered the greatest footballer in Portugal until Ronaldo came. Scoring nine goals in the 1966 World Cup Finals, Eusébio possesses explosive pace and deceptive ability. The striker turned out to be a host of teams, but his best years were with Benfica where he scored more than one goal per match. Eusébio told World Soccer magazine in 2010 that he signs photos of himself every night to give to kids the next day.