Best Football Players Ever - The Definitive List!
I started this list with the intention of having the 10 Greatest Players. However it quickly dawned on me that it was not possible to leave any of these greats off a list about the best. I hope you enjoy the read, and please have a vote of your favourite from the list.
What's not to like about Messi? He's humble, down-to-earth, always smiling, but most importantly, he's a brilliant footballer. In the past 5 seasons he has scored 271 goals in 268 games for his club F.C. Barcelona, not to mention countless assists and match winning performances. Many argue that because Messi has never won a World Cup he can not be rated amongst Pelé and Diego Maradona as one of the greatest, but I firmly believe this is a generational thought, as the World Cup is now possibly a lesser standard than the UEFA Champions League which Messi has helped Barcelona win a total of 3 times up until now in his career. Every time Messi steps on to the pitch it seems he is looking to set a new record, and he normally delivers. Messi is already thought of as the best of his generation, with many calling him the best player ever at just 25 years old.
Edison Arantes do Nascimento or Pelé to you and me is one of the most famous footballers ever, because he is one of the greatest! Voted Athlete of the Century for the 1900s it is hard to argue that he's one of the best. He won his first World Cup at the age of 16 and scored 1281 goals in 1363 games, which is a remarkable total. The only argument people have for him not being the best ever, is the fact he never plied his trade in Europe, and the Brazilian and United States domestic football leagues were deemed to be 'easy' leagues, therefore there is no clear definitive answer to if he was as good as Diego Mardona was when he played in Europe.
Loved by many around the World and considered the greatest by a great deal of them, but hated and vilified by other such as England. One game that defined his career was in 1986, against England. The first goal he scored, and subsequently disliked for was his infamous 'Hand of God', but then later on in that same game he scored the magnificent 'Goal of the Century', where he ran most of the length of the pitch weaving in and out of his opponents, only to coolly finish the ball and seal a victory for his team Argentina. Later in the tournament he captained his nation to a World Cup win against West Germany. He will be forever remembered and loved by fans of Napoli, who signed him for a World-Record transfer fee £6.9million in 1984, and he re-payed them by single-handedly wining their only 2 Serie A titles ever, making them the first Southern Italian club to do so, and still to this day he is Napoli's all-time high goalscorer with 115 goals from his 7 seasons in Italy.
Sadly, a forgotten member of the World's Greatest by many, however not by fans of Botafogo, who still to this day fly a flag emblazened with his face a staggering 48 years after his final game for the Brazilian club. In Brazil's 1958 World Cup triumph Garrincha was voted in the 'World Cup Best XI'. Comically, he did not understand why his Brazilian team-mates were celebrating after their final game, as he thought the World Cup was a league where teams would play each other twice, rather than the knock-out competition that it is. Garrincha played in the World cup 4 years later in 1962, and despite having a severe fever, led Brazil to a 3-1 victory in the final against Czechoslovakia, and was voted Player of the Tournament. Throughout his career Garrincha drank heavily, causing him to be involved in several serious car accidents, one which killed his mother in 1969 when he crashed with a lorry, and in the ten years after his 1973 retirement he continued the heavy drinking, causing him to die at only 49 years of age from cirrhosis of the liver in January 1983.
Sir Stanley Matthews
Playing professionally until the age of 50, being knighted while he was still an active professional, Sir Stanley Matthews' career spanned a staggering 33 years at the top level. What was even more staggering, especially by today's standards, he only played for 2 teams. He started his career at Stoke City, had an 11-year spell at Blackpool, and seen out the last 4 years of his career with his hometown team Stoke City once again. In his day he was marvelled for his dribbling style, and is firmly seen as one of the greatest players of the English game of All-Time.
Remarkably, this Goalkeeper is not on this list because of his cat-like reflexes, or legendary saves. He is on the list because he is the first, and probably even the last, for some time at least, Goalkeeper to break the 100 goals scored mark during his career. He has 111 goals, in fact, once scoring 10 in a single season. All of his goals come from Penalties and Free-Kicks, and his conversion rate would make many midfielders in World football proud. The only Goalkeeper to come close to him was José Luis Chilavert, who netted an impressive 56 goals in his career, but was taken over by Ceni 8 years ago, and has went on to double Chilavert's total.
Marco van Basten
A career that spanned 14 years but only 10 at the top-level due to harsh injuries that forced him to play his final game at 28 years old, when he should have been reaching his peak. Van Basten won European Player of the Year 3 times and a FIFA World Player of the Year once. One wonders what he may have gone on to win and achieve, should his body have let him play another 4 or 5 years. In a glittering career for Ajax and Milan he scored 218 goals in 280 games and he netted 24 times for his national side Holland in 58 International appearances.
Ronaldo was a powerhouse striker whose name alone would put fear into the team he was playing against.At just 16 he was part of Brazil's squad which won the 1994 World Cup. At the peak of his powers in 2002 he top scored in the competition leading his country to their 5th World Cup title. Ronaldo Luís Nazário de Lima spent time at Inter Milan, AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid, four of the world's greatest clubs which just goes to show how in demand he was throughout his career. Along with Lionel Messi and Zinedane Zidane his is one of only three men to win the FIFA World Player Of The Year Award three times. Possibly the greatest complete centre forward of all time Ronaldo had every ability you would want from a striker in his locker. With his sheer physcal presence and blistering speed, Ronaldo running at defenders was like a train heading towards them. Every club he has been at, his goal scoring record has been fantastic putting his ijuries aside, showing just how versatile he is to play in any system.
From starting his career for Pumas UNAM in 1976 at 18 years old, where he scored 99 goals in 183 games, until he left Real Madrid in 1992 after scoring 164 goals in 207 games for the famous club, Sánchez was a goal machine. During his 5 years with his first club Pumas, he had short loan-spells to American club San Diego Sockers where he netted 29 times in 32 games. In 1981 he was signed by Atlético Madrid and scored 65 goals in 134 games, thus attracting thhe attention of Atlético's great rivals Real! When playing for Real Madrid, apart from his final season, he scored an average of 35 goals per season, a fantastic record by anybody's standards. Even after leaving Real Madrid he scored quite regularly with sporadic spells at 6 other clubs. He is fondly remembered as the best North and Central American player of all-time and thoroughly deserves to be on this list.
This man is the personification of cool. Never flustered, Henry has graced our football viewing since his first season with Arsenal. He had a slow start to his Arsenal career, not scoring until 3 months in, however the subsequent 7 years saw him score 174 goals in 254 games for the club, helping them to two Premier League titles, but also playing a vital part in the 'Invincibles' season. He moved to Barcelona and won every single title that could possibly be won by a Spanish domestic club. His international career was also sparkling winning the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and the European Championship in 2000. He has simply won pretty much every tournament he has ever taken part in.
A quality, hard-working midfield maestro,and later on in his career an accomplished sweeper, Matthäus amassed a staggering 150 International appearances for Germany over 20 years and played until he was 40 years of age. One of the greatest testaments given to Matthäus was when superstar Diego Maradona called him 'the greatest rival I ever had'. Matthäus was also handy when it came to scoring goals to help his teams out, he scored 161 times domestically and 23 times Internationally. His rocket of a shot was well-renowned. In 1998, despite being the ripe old age of 38, he was voted German Footballer of the Year showing that his class translated into his latter playing years.
Jairzinho was part of the legendary, and possibly 'best team ever' Brazilian World Cup 1970 team. He is remembered for been quick and powerful, playing either as a Striker or on the Wing. During the 1970 Wolrd Cup he scored in every single game, however was pipped to the post for the Golden Boot by German goalscoring legend Gerd Müller. His most memorable contribution to the 1970 World Cup is when he finished a fantastic move with a powerful finish, which is considered to be the 'Best team goal of all-time' against England. He played for Botafogo for the first 15 years of his career where he scored 186 goals and won numerous trophies.
He was often referred to as the 'Original Football Playboy' or 'The Fifth Beatle', all we know is that he was an amazing footballing talent, and undoubtedly Northern Ireland's greatest footballing star. He played like a modern day footballer, and was way ahead of his times in terms of the way he could play the beautiful game. With his natural charm and charisma, he made himself probably the first Celebrity footballer, which sadly caused detrimental effects to his personal life, leading him to heavy drinking, and ultimately his death through complications with drugs he had to take after a liver transplant that was needed due to his excessive alcohol consumption.
When he was 19 years old Gullit was signed from HFC Haarlem by Feyenoord, where he played alongside fellow Dutch legend Johan Cruyff. Cruyff was coming to the end of his career, and Gullit obviously learned how to become a superstar from his elder Dutch-man. As his game developed he was signed by PSV then A.C. Milan, and just before his second season with Milan he won the Euro '88 crown with his national side Holland, where he opened the scoring in the final for the team he was captaining, against the Soviet Union. Gullit held firmly the Dutch ethos of the time of 'total football' and was heralded as on of the best players in the World while playing in this manner. He won individual awards of European Footballer of the Year once and World Soccer Player of the Year twice, amongst the numerous team titles he won.
Another member of the famed 1970 World Cup Winning Brazil side, and the captain of that side no-less! Carlos Alberto was Brazil's heartbeat, and one of the greatest defenders of all-time. He was voted a member of the 'World Team of the 20th Century' and is also a member of the 'U.S. National Soccer hall of Fame'. The style in which he played typifies Brazilians of not just his era, but the modern day era too. He was an excellent tackler, one of the main attributes needed for a defender, but he was also very comfortable on the ball and was renowned for having outstanding technical ability, play-making abilities and an adept dribbler.
Romário is one of only 3 players to ever make it to 1000 goals in a career, Pelé and Ferenc Puskás the other two, however, somewhat controversially, as his records counted youth, reserve, friendly and unofficial games. His actual goalscoring ability has never been under scrutiny though, and has graced many teams with his wonderful toe-poke finishing and everlasting youthfulness. He finally brought himself to retire at the age of 43, bringing to an end a very successful, yet nomadic career.
One of the most exciting footballers you could ever watch. Every game he played it would seem he would use a new trick, and they always fooled the opposition. When he got the ball no matter where he was on the field he would do something to please the eye of the neutral football fan. He would have surging runs from the midfield which usually ended in a beautifully crafted assist or an astonishing goal. He further helped cement his legendary status with a five star performance in the 2002 world cup helping Brazil win the tournament with his wonderful goals and brilliant teamplay. He is credited by some people for bringing barcelona back to the top of world football after joining them and it is fitting that he assisted Lionel Messi's first ever goal for the club, somewhat passing on the baton of a legacy.
Schmeichel was the rock at the back of Manchester United's team during their establishing years at the pinnacle of English football during the 1990s. He never suffered fools gladly and always deafened his defenders during games, even when they were winning heavily, Schmeichel made sure his defense were on their toes and tightly-knit. He made outrageously athletic saves often, even when he seemed beaten, and will be revered for decades at least as the Premier League's greatest goalkeeper. His biggest achievement at a club level was when he was captain in Manchester United's treble winning season of 1999, when in the dying minutes of extra-time, they clinched the Champions League title with two late goals against Bayern München. Although, the most remarkable achievement for him, even more so than the astonishing Champions League victory, was in the 1992 European Championships. His Denmark side were only awarded a place in to the competition because Yugoslavia were excluded from the competition due to national troubles. Denmark went on to win the competition in legendary fashion.
If you read any biography on Roberto Carlos, it would state that he played as a left-back. Although the way he actually played was like a winger or left-side striker. He is famed for having probably the most powerful thighs in the history of football, with his thunderbolt strikes a thing of beauty. He scored a number of spectacular goals during his career, and he added to his individual prowess by helping his sides to numerous titles, and his crowning glory possibly Brazil's 2002 FIFA World Cup triumph!
Müller is a striker whose records stood for more than quarter of a century, until two other players from this list managed phenomenal goalscoring form. The first was a 32 year old record, for the most goals in the FIFA World Cup, Müller scored a total of 14, but Ronaldo broke that in 2006. The second record was a massive 40 years old. Müller had scored 85 goals in all competitions for club and country in 1972, only for the mercurial Lionel Messi to eclipse that total in the 2012 calender year with 5 goals more totalling a number of 91 goals. Just the fact both of these records lasted so long, and were thought to be unbeatable, just shows what a talent Müller really was.
Another World-Class left-back, however unlike Roberto Carlos, defensively, Paolo Maldini was amazing, and coupled that with quality further up the pitch. Maldini played his whole career for A.C. Milan where he won 7 domestic titles, 5 FIFA Champions Leagues, and a number of other cups and competitions. He never won anything with Italy however, only coming runner-up in a World Cup, third in a World Cup and runner-up in a European Championship. A testament to Maldini is the fact he came the closest any defender had at the time to winning FIFA World Player of the Year award, losing out to new team-mate George Weah.
Vieira defined Arsenal in their successful period of the late 1990s and early 2000s. His effortless-looking style calmed the whole team around him, and allowed them to take control of many games they played. He had a successful period with the France national side winning the 1998 FIFA World Cup and the 2000 European Championships. Vieira's career was littered with success. He won a Serie A title with Milan, won 4 Premier League titles with Arsenal, including the 'Invincibles' season, and he won 4 consecutive Serie A titles with Inter Milan, not to mention the many Cups he won, playing an integral part in every single one.
Stoichkov is a Barcelona idol, but also graced many other clubs with his presence in his massive 22 year career. He scored goals with great regularity for whoever he played for. With his goals, he helped Barcelona to four consecutive titles in 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994, and one European Cup in 1992. He was so loved by the fans and people of Barcelona, he even received an International appearance for Catalonia, the local region in which Barcelona is situated, although not a recognized nation, their people strive for national independence, and their 'national' team is a source of great pride, superstars such as Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández have worn the famous Serenya-type colours.
Eusebio's career is mainly defined within the first 18 years of his career, as the remaining 4 were nomadic spells. His career started at Sporting de Lourenço Marques, were he scored a staggering 77 goals in just 42 games. Benfica signed him for 390k Portuguese Escudos, the equivalent of just €125,000 in modern times, a fee that would be half his wage per week for a player of his calibre these days. At Benfica he scored a brilliant total of 317 goals in 301 games, helping them to 11 Portuguese titles, and 4 European Cup Finals, one of which Benfica won! He won the Ballon d'Or in 1965 coming runner-up twice either side of the award. A goalscoring supremo who will be forever remembered, confounded by the fact he won the Golden boot on 2 occasions and the Portuguese Bola de Prata (Top Scorer) 7 times.
A fifteen year career, playing for 3 clubs, Michel Platini scored 312 goals in 580 games for Nancy, Saint-Étienne, and Juventus. He also netted 41 times for France in 72 games. His goalscoring record may not seem too amazing, given the company he holds on this list, however he was a midfielder, and held the French national side goalscoring record until Thierry Henry overtook him in 2007. For this reason, he has been held in particular high regard ever since his playing days, and his notoriety is a big reason that he is President of UEFA, the European Football Governing Body.
Zinedine Zidane is probably the most elegant and graceful footballers we have ever had the joy of witnessing. His technique was impeccable and watching him play was an incredible thing. He spent his peak years at Real Madrid and Juventus where he won trophies with both and at one point was deservedly the worlds most expensive player. In the 2002 Champions League final he scored one of the most memorable goals for Real Madrid with a volley from the edge of the box. At international level he also ran the show guiding France to the 1998 World Cup title where he scored two goals in the final, and the 2000 European Championship trophy. He lead his team to the World Cup Final again in 2006 and then despicably headbutted an Italian opponent thus receiving a red card. He is one of only three men to win three FIFA World Player of the Year awards and the Ballon d’Or never arrived either, ultimately affected by Zidane’s second defining flawed moment of his career, a vicious headbutt on Hamburg’s Jochen Kientz, who was given the duty of man-marking the Frenchman. Nevertheless, a true legend and one of the greatest we will ever see.
Only coming to his best years now, Iniesta has already won a World Cup and two European Championships with his national team Spain, scoring the winning goal of the final of the World Cup. His honours with his club match up to his national standard. A key part in the Barcelona side of 2009 which won all six trophies they were competing in, a first for any team in European football. This team also won three straight La Liga titles and have already went down in history as the best club side to ever grace the game. Iniesta is rated alongside fellow Barcelona teammate Lionel Messi as the greatest ball dribbler in world football today. He also has great vision and picks out wonderful defence splitting passes creating goal scoring opportunities for his team mates. Iniesta has came second and third place in the FIFA Ballon D'or, which will probably elude him for the rest of his career due to the dominance of Lionel Messi. Although it is still a great achievement for a midfielder not known for his goals to do so well in this award.
Bebeto became a well-known with his rock-a-bye baby celebration when he scored a goal in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. However, he was more than a celebration, he was Brazil's star player, and one of the best players in that 1994 World Cup. He became a legend for Deportivo during his stint at the club scoring 86 goals in 131 games, he even has a Murial painted of himself at Deportivo's stadium, Riazor.
Ibrahimović is a nightmare for any defender to play against, he has height, skill, strength and finesse. He is well known for his massive amounts of confidence and when asked how good he is out of 10, he said 10. From the 2003-2004 season with Ajax he has won 8 consecutive titles with five different clubs showing his capability to play with a whole range of players in all different systems. Ibrahimović is also known for scoring outrageous efforts which other players may not even take on, a sign of his self confidence working in his favour. His recent move to new European big spenders PSG has been a thing of delight bringing in one of his best goal scoring seasons and providing masses of assists including four in one Champions League match. Even at 31 Zlatan has enough years and quality left in him to further cement his place as one of footballs greatest centre fowards.
Cannavaro is the oldest ever winner of the FIFA World Player Of The Year Award and one of only two defenders to win it. He led his national team Italy to the World Cup title in 2006 with great leadership and is the most capped player ever for Italy. His nickame was Muro di Berlino, which means 'The Berlin Wall' a show of how strong he was. His move to Real Madrid seen him pick up two consecutive La Liga titles which unbelieveably is the only two titles he won for any club. The main trophy which eluded him was the Champions League, however im sure the World Cup will more than make up for this.
One of the only players to have a skill named after him, Johan Cruyff would bamboozle defenders with his trademark turn, leaving them running the opposite way to where he and the ball were. He became an Ajax and Barcelona legend and is a three time winner of the FIFA Ballon d'Or, a jointly held record until Lionel Messi won his fourth last year. In 1974 he and Holland seemed destined to win the FIFA World Cup, however their 'total football' was outdone in the Final by the more direct West Germany. A legend indeed!
George Weah was a popular figure in European football in the 1990s, memorably scoring a fantastic goal where he ran the length of the pitch, taking on his opponents to score. While playing for Milan he won FIFA World Player of the Year, although the first half of the calender year he had been a PSG player. He also won European Footballer of the Year and African Footballer of the Year during his career.
Alfrédo Di Stefano
Although born in Argentina, Di Stefano represented 3 International teams, Argentina, Colombia and Spain. He scored 29 goals in 41 games combined for them. His goalscoring abilities were apparent at every club he played for, scoring 377 goals in 521 games. He scored the main chunk of his goals while at Real Madrid, where he has became synonymous, and is one of there stand-out legends.
Alongside Iniesta, Xavi has equalled both his International and club honours. Xavi is not a flair player but still goes down as one of football greats. He controls the game from a midfield position with perfect passing at both long and short range. In a 2013 Champions League game against PSG he became the first ever player to gain 100% pass success in a CL game with all 96 of his passes reaching their destination. Xavi speeds up and slows down any game he plays in at will, allowing the players around him get in the right position so he can supply them with the killer ball. He himself admits he thought the type of player he was, was getting phased out of football for more physical players until Pep Guardiola took over as coach. Xavi has two third place finishes in the FIFA Ballon D'or.
Rivaldo, like most Brazilians, was a marvel to watch, with entertaining play, and substance to go with his skills. He spent five years at Barcelona and had good goal scoring stats and was creative as well. Apart from winning the FIFA Ballon d'Or and the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, his greatest moment was possibly a sublime last-game hat-trick, including an Overhead Kick, that ensured Barcelona's record of playing in Europe every season was still in tact.
Since 18 years old, he has been Real Madrid's number one goalkeeper, and since he was 19 he has been Spain's first choice. He is now captain of both, overseeing two European Championship wins and a FIFA World Cup triumph for Spain. At the age of 31 he is already Spain's most capped player and the Goalkeeper with most appearances ever in the UEFA Champions League, and with the career-span of a Goalkeeper considerably lengthier than an outfield player, there is no doubt his records will stand for a long time once retired. Already appearing 143 times for Spain, it is not inconceivable that Casillas will reach 250 International appearances, and even might challenge the 300 cap mark, which would be a remarkable achievement, considering no Man has even made it to 200, with Egypt's Ahmed Hassan reaching 184 caps. The Women's record is held by American Kristine Lilly, who received 352 caps in the International heavy Women's game, before her 2011 retirement, Casillas will have to play for another 20 years one would think to reach those heights, however it seems the chances of that will be slim to none.
84 goals in 85 games for his national side Hungary. 616 goals in 620 games domestically for Kispest, Honvéd and Real Madrid. A legend who won 3 European Cups and 10 domestic titles, 5 for each Honvéd and Real Madrid. Is there much more needed to be said about this fantastic player? Oh, he also won an Olympic Games Gold in 1952 and a the 1954 FIFA World Cup, scoring 4 goals in each, including 1 in each of the finals, despite having a hairline fracture in his ankle in the World Cup Final. A remarkable striker who will be forever remembered as a goal-scoring genius. As worthy as anyone of being on this list.
Laudrup won league titles with 4 of Europe's biggest clubs, including Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona. After taking a decision to retire Internationally in 1990, he somewhat regrettably missed the chance to be part of the extraordinary 1992 European Championship winning Danish side. His International goalscoring record was considerably better than his domestic record, scoring an impressive average of more than one goal every 3 International games. He won 5 La Liga titles in a row, 4 with Barcelona, and then 1 with Real Madrid, after making the switch to the capital.
Lúcio came to prominence with the rise of Bayer Leverkusen in the early 2000s, when they were worthy challengers for the Champions League. Although they never won it, Lúcio's wall-like defending style and his very good dribbling skills to bring the ball up-field impressed many earning him a move to German giants Bayern München, and then Inter Milan. Lúcio was finally successful in the Champions League in 2009/10, when José Mourinho guided the Nerazzurri to the summit of European football.
He shared over 300 games for two of the greatest teams in the World football, the Spanish giants Barcelona and Real Madrid, not to mention two great clubs in their own right book-ending his career, Sporting CP and Inter Milan. Luis Figo was a special winger and once a fittingly World-Record transfer, when he made the move from Barcelona to 'Clásico' rivals Real Madrid. His move sparked anger from the Barça fans who once loved the Portuguese star, resulting in one of them throwing a pig's head at him during the El Clásico derby when he was taking a corner. He was a member of Portugal's so called 'Golden Generation', however they never combined their individual talents to translate the own success in to the International arena.
In his day he was an immense battler, a centre-half playing in midfield if you like. He was part of the Ajax golden generation in the early to mid 1990s, triumphing in the UEFA Champions League final of 1995. His standard was constantly high throughout his career in Italy, however since 2005 at the age of 32 when he joined Tottenham Hotspur, he started slowly declining with age. He stills loves the beautiful game however, performing as Player/Manager for recently relegated League 2, soon to be Blue Square Premier team, Barnet.
It sums Clarence Seedorf up, that he helped 3 different clubs win the UEFA Champions League, winning it on 4 occasions, and was the first player to do so. His quality is still appreciated today, where he is currently forging a career in Brazil with Botafogo. Apart from his Champions League wins he also has 5 domestic titles under his belt, and a number of other cups and competitions.
Zola was not littered with success during his career, although in 1990 he won Serie A with Napoli, playing as an understudy for Diego Maradona. He was massively influenced by the Argentinian, and used this influence to develop his impish style and flamboyantly put a smile on many supporters who watched him play.
Buffon is the most expensive Goalkeeper in the history of football. Juventus signed him from Parma for €51 million in 2001. Ever since, he has performed consistently well for Juve and his country Italy. Buffon even stood by his club when they were relegated, and stripped of a title, due to a match-fixing scandal, helping them re-establish themselves, and currently they are Italian Champions, winning the titles in two successive seasons, the first been an unbeaten campaign. He has never won the UEFA Champions League, however he won the UEFA Cup with Parma a couple of seasons before he left, and he won the World Cup with Italy in 2006.
Cafú was the right-sided version of Roberto Carlos, only without shots as powerful. He was a tireless work-horse and never stopped running during a game. He had good defensive qualities, unlike Carlos, and his class further up-field showed. He kept playing with youthful exhuberance until his retirement at the age of 38 in 2008. His domestic honours were quite impressive, winning National Championships with 3 of his clubs, and a Cup Winner's Cup with Zaragoza. However, Cafú's crowning glories were the World Cup wins for Brazil of 1994 and 2002.
Sir Bobby Charlton
This man is seen as one of the greatest midfielders that has ever played the game. He was part of the 1966 World Cup Winning England team, whose triumph seems even greater these days, having never won it before or since. Charlton is synonymous with Manchester United and was victorious with them, winning 3 national titles.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
van Nistelrooy famously never scored from outside the 18-yard-box for Manchester United. During his career he was an adept finisher, scoring 35 times for Holland in 70 games, which is a very good International conversion rate indeed, and domestically he totalled 249 goals in 449 games. His honours include 5 domestic titles, and although been voted UEFA Champions League Most Valuable Striker, that competition eluded him leaving only his name in the record books because of his goals, and not because of a Winner's medal.
I think it says everything about the man, that the holding midfield role, is often named the 'Makélélé' role, the player who made it cool to play as a semi-defender, protecting his centre-backs with perfectly timed tackles and simply passing the ball to more creative players to do their jobs. When Makélélé was leaving Real Madrid for Chelsea, he was criticized by Madrid President Florentino Perez, with scathing remarks such as 'he lacks speed, skill', 'his technique is average', and 'younger players will make their mark and he will be forgotton', this was upon Madrid signing David Beckham to replace him. However, Superstar Ziniedine Zidane, recognized that losing Makélélé was a huge mistake, stating that Madrid had lost their 'engine' comparing the team to a Bentley, and stating Beckham was just another layer of gold paint. After a £16.8million move to Chelsea, Makélélé impressed and helped Chelsea win a League and Cup double in his second season, and the rest they say is history, he is THE legendary holding midfielder.
When Xavi Hernandez says this about a fellow footballer, then he must be a genius of the game, 'In the last 15 to 20 years the best central midfielder that I have seen — the most complete — is Scholes. I have spoken with Xabi Alonso about this many times. Scholes is a spectacular player who has everything'. Paul Scholes truly did have everything you would want of a centre midfield man. His passing wasn't only inch perfect, it was quick and deadly. He controlled game from start to finish running rings aroud almost anyone he played against. He stayed with Manchester United all his career and gained a mass of trophies and medals including been part of the treble winning side of 1999. He also had a keen eye for goal scoring some wonderful efforts throughout the years, Paul Scholes goes down in history as one of the best Midfielders in football!
Xabi Alonso is possibly the best long-range passing midfielder the game has seen. His play is equivalent to that of an NFL quarter-back, and is very well appreciated for this playing style. His former club Liverpool's demise came hand in hand with him and other stars leaving the club, as there style of play was dependent on his pinpoint passing to the team's strikers. Since leaving to play for real Madrid, he has not been overly successful, however a La Liga triumph last season overcoming the mighty Barcelona and there dominance was a welcome victory for himself. He has been an integral part of the Spanish national side's victories in the World Cup and two successive European Championships.
Gabriel Batistuta was a popular character and goalscorer for both Fiorentina and Roma of Serie A. His icon status for Fiorentina, was largely due to his loyalty, when the club from Florence were relegated in 1993, and he stayed with them in order to help them back in to Serie A. His total career goal tally was 249 goals in 440 games. He also, scored 56 international goals in 78 caps. He only won one league season, which was with Roma in 2000/01, however, early in his career he helped Boca Juniors to a Closing Stage win in Argentinian football. His main successes came with his national side Argentina, winning two Copa América titles and a Confederations Cup.
At the age of 26 Sergio Ramos had won a World Cup, two European Championships and gained 100 international caps. A product of Sevilla youth academy, Ramos was quickly picked up by Spanish giants Real Madrid where he is a fearsome figure in their defensive line. Ramos is a superb tackler, excellent in the air and very technically gifted, meaning you could probably play him in any position and he would do well. He is most often used as a strong centre-back but has no problems in covering the right back spot where he does just as well. In the opposition box Ramos also does well and doesn't stiffen up like a lot of.other defenders do. His tackles can be ferocious at times which sheds light on his poor disciplinary record. Only starting to hit his peaks years now, Ramos is already a great player and will undoubtedly achieve so much more.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Zico, or the 'White Pelé', was probably the best player in the world. He is considered to be one of the greatest finishers and passers of his generation, and even of all-time. H is also considered one of the greatest players never to win a World Cup, although he represented Brazil in three World Cups, with the 1982 squad that he was part of been thought of as possibly the best ever Brazilian squad.
FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year 6 times, 2nd best Goalkeeper ever, an England legend, and the last line of defence for England in their triumphant 1966 World Cup campaign. Gordon Banks is a popular figure, however his career was defined by his exploits Internationally, and not so much by his domestic honours.
Pirlo has been a consistent performer both club and country for the past 10 years, and is seen by many as an adept passer, play-maker and free-kick taker, ranked by most as one of the current best. His career has been a successful one, winning 4 Serie A titles, 2 with Milan, 2 with Juventus, and winning two Champions Leagues, both with Milan, not to mention the World Cup win in 2006. When Pirlo reached the end of the 2010/11 season, Milan believed he was surplus to their requirements. Therefore, upon signing for Juve when released, he has strived to prove Milan wrong, helping his club to an unbeaten domestic campaign in 2011/12, outperforming all in the 2012 European Championships, and helping Juve to their second successive title this season, a fine performer and professional!
Probably the only Englishman to deserve his Brazilian style nickname on the back of his shirt. Gazza was an enigmatic footballer, who played the game for fun, and strived to put a smile on the face of everyone who paid to watch him play. His pride and ambition were worn on his sleeve, and showed their colours when he was given a yellow card in a FIFA World Cup Semi-Final against West Germany, meaning, should England have won the game, he would miss the World Cup Final. Gazza burst in to tears, as he knew it was possibly his only chance of ever making it to such an occasion, and it was. England lost the game in the end, but went back home heroes, and Gazza did grace an International competition once again 2 years later, where he memorably scored a fantastic goal against Scotland, coupled with a long-remembered celebration poking fun at Newspaper stories about him playing a drinking game in a Barber's chair. Sadly since retiring Gazza has gone the way of fellow list-makers Garrincha and George Best, finding himself drinking very heavily at times, and although currently sober, the risk of relapse is ever-present.
The snarl was a default look for Manchester United's ex-captain Roy Keane. His career was controversy ridden, including a World Cup walk-out from himself with his country Ireland expectant of a good campaign, and a purposeful high tackle on Man City player Alf-Inge Haaland, intent on ending the Norwegian's career, in which he was successful in doing. Although Keane had a short fuse, he used this to channel in to his performances. Every game he tried his best, and captained Man Utd to many of there successes. He took no prisoners and would even shout at his own team-mates, if they were under-performing.
He was once the darling of his hometown club, who nicknamed themselves Raúl Madrid at one point, he spear-headed the clubs attack for over 15 years. He helped his club to a very impressive 6 La Liga titles, and 3 UEFA Champions League titles during this spell, and was heavily praised by Real Madrid fans for doing so. He never had the most strength or pace that is normally required for a World-Class striker, however he had a keen positional sense that helped him into goalscoring opportunities more often than not.
Der Kaiser, is regarded as the best German player ever, and possibly one of the best Defenders ever. His early career started as a midfielder, but came to prominence playing as a defender. He is a player that, because of his style, has been often credited of inventing the role of the sweeper. He helped his Bayern München side to 4 Bundesliga titles and an impressive 3 European Cups. he also helped Germany to a 1972 European Championship win and the 1974 FIFA World Cup win.
Sir Bobby Moore
Described by Pelé as the 'Greatest Defender he ever played against', and captain of the England 1966 World Cup winning team. Bobby Moore is a well remembered and respected player. He is most fondly remembered by English club West Ham united, who he represented a number of 544 times, winning the FA Cup, UEFA Cup Winner's Cup and International Soccer League all on one occasion. He was European Footballer of the Year Runner-Up in 1970. The image of Moore holding aloft the 1966 World Cup has became, like himself, an iconic figure of Association Football, and he will always be seen as a footballing great.
He was so good, he has one of the most iconic football stadiums in the World named after him, the Giuseppe Meazza, San Siro, which Inter Milan and A.C. Milan of Serie A ground-share. He played for both of the Milan clubs, although, he starred more heavily for Inter, scoring 241 goals in 348 games for the club. He also appeared for Inter at the very end of his career scoring 2 goals in 17. He was an astute International goalscorer for Italy too, scoring 33 goals in 53 games. While at Inter he won 3 Serie A titles, and was vital for Italy in winning both the 1934 and 1938 World Cup wins.
Yet another Brazilian, although this time it's the only woman on the list. Marta has had an excellent career with a number of clubs, most notably scoring 111 goals in 103 games for Umeå IK during 4 years and scoring 80 goals for her country Brazil in just 72 games so far. Such a fantastic female player, she won the FIFA World Player of the Year for 5 consecutive years between 2006 and 2010.
Ronaldo is the 'complete player', probably the finest football machine to play. For his forward position, everything seems to be perfectly balanced. He has immense strength in his shooting with either foot, he can jump as high as an NBA basketball player, matching there hang-time too. He has pace to burn, a quicker brain than many of his opponents, and uses a trick or two per game to entertain us. He also has the drive and ambition to make himself a greater player, and puts in many hours practicing, as he strives to be the World's best. Since joining Real Madrid he has staggering goalscoring figures, scoring 199 times in just 196 games. It's just pure unluckiness that he was born in the same era as Lionel Messi, because if Messi was not around, Ronaldo would be seen, undoubtedly, as the greatest player of his generation. Ronaldo is worthy of being on this list, and maybe born 10 years earlier or later he may have been seen as the best ever, however, may he continue to entertain us with his ambition of reaching his personal goal of winning the FIFA Ballon d'Or and reaching the pinnacle of individual brilliance in football.