Top 10 Best Football Players of All Time
Who Are the Best Football Players?
The creativity and ingenuity that typify the beautiful game would render it an art form if not for the physical context within which the sport is played. What distinguishes football from most other sports is the freedom of expression granted to the players. While baseball players and cricketers are limited to specific movements, footballers may shoot, pass, tackle or dribble the ball in any variety of ways, allowing the most talented players to reach the very peak of the game.
This list of the best football players does not include currently active stars such as Lionel Messi and Ronaldo. They can be properly judged once their careers are over. The list includes retired players from the entire recorded history of the modern game.
I have included Youtube videos to showcase the skills of the players listed. The Zidane and Diego Maradona videos are recommended for newcomers to the sport who wish to see a demonstration of the artistic brilliance of the beautiful game.
10. George Best, Northern Ireland
George Best's career was plagued by drink problems, but his talent was almost unparalleled. Famed for his dribbling abilities, he won the 1968 European Cup and two league titles during his time with Manchester United. As an attacking midfielder he scored a remarkable 205 goals in 579 games and won the Ballon d'Or in 1968. As Northern Ireland has never been a force in international football, he never made an impact on that stage. At the age of 28, his alcoholism sent his career into rapid decline, and he never achieved as much as his talent promised.
9. Zinedine Zidane, France
Zidane's strengths are his individual skill, ball control, strength and passing. Zidane's best performances were often in the most decisive games, demonstrating a character not seen in many other sportsman. As a central midfielder, he scored 159 goals in 789 games. With France, he won the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championships. With Juventus and Real Madrid, he won three league titles and one European Cup.
8. Alfredo Di Stefano, Argentina
The first forward on the list has to be Di Stefano. With 511 goals in 702 games, he was a prolific goalscorer for Real Madrid. He wasn't your conventional striker though; he appeared all over the pitch, tackling, passing, and dictating the play. He was the most complete player ever to grace the game. With Real Madrid he won an incredible five European Cups, scoring in all of the finals. He won 13 league titles in his career (1945-1966). His international record is poor due to not featuring in a World Cup, although he did win a Copa America with Argentina.
7. Ferenc Puskas, Hungary
Puskas was probably the most precise goalscorer ever. Combining his finishing prowess with a general intelligence and ability to invent new skills (such as the drag-back), he scored a sensational 700 goals in 705 appearances during his career (1943-1966). For Real Madrid, he won three European Cups and five league titles. In Hungary, he won a further five league titles. At the international level, he led Hungary to the 1954 World Cup Final.
6. Franz Beckenbauer, Germany
Beckenbauer was a sweeper, or a defensive midfielder in today's lingo, but that didn't stop him scoring 111 goals in 776 appearances for Germany and Bayern Munich. Much like Di Stefano, he never had a true position; he was literally everywhere at once, dictating the game and exerting his influence. He was the ultimate captain, but combined with his dribbling, passing and all-round technical ability, he was one of the greatest players ever. He won the 1974 World Cup, the 1972 European Championships, as well as three European Cups and eight league titles during his club career.
5. Michel Platini, France
Platini was an attacking midfielder, scoring 353 goals in 652 games. He was an excellent passer and free kick taker, but he combined this with ruthless goal scoring ability. Almost single-handedly he guided France to the 1984 European Championships, scoring nine goals in the process. He lifted the European Cup with Juventus, and also won three league titles in his club career.
4. Zico, Brazil
Often removed from top 10 lists due to his lack of achievements, Zico's footballing ability was never in question. With 527 goals in 769 games, he was a prolific goalscorer, but also a remarkable creator of goals with a deft touch and an ability to produce unique shots and skills. As an attacking midfielder, he further combined his talents with heading ability and free-kick mastery to be one of the most complete offensive players ever. He made the famed Liverpool side of the 1980s look like amateurs in the 1981 Intercontinental Cup. He also won the South American equivalent of the European Cup, the Copa Libertadores, and four league titles.
3. Johann Cruyff, Netherlands
Cruyff had the skill, control and strength of Zidane and the dribbling and pace of George Best. He was the total footballer, combining a sublime gracefulness with clinical ability and calculating intelligence. He was a prolific goalscorer as well, scoring 401 goals in 710 appearances from attacking midfield. He won three European Cups and 10 league titles, but he wasn't able to gain an international medal.
2. Pele, Brazil
Pele was the ultimate goal-scoring machine in his native Brazil, and he is often ranked the best player ever to grace the sport. He scored an incredible 1282 goals in 1366 games. His sheer power, strength, pace and dribbling ability saw him score all varieties of goal for fun. He brought his goal scoring to the World Cup, which saw Brazil win the tournament in 1958, 1962 and 1970. He also won two Copa Libertadores and five league titles. These victories saw him within teams of highly talented players, including Garrincha and Carlos Alberto. He became a symbol for these teams, and as a result he is often accredited with all of the praise.
1. Diego Maradona, Argentina
Maradona's talent was without a doubt the greatest ever seen in football. His dribbling ability was mesmerizing, his goal scoring was unique and clinical, and his passing and crossing were precise—earning him many assists in his career. From attacking midfield he scored 345 goals in 680 games. With a much more difficult career than Pele, he still won the 1986 World Cup with Argentina as well as three league titles and one UEFA Cup with Napoli. Against England, he scored one of the greatest goals of all time.
Who is the best retired football player of all time?
In summary, the beautiful game has witnessed many geniuses on the field. Whether you are a football fan or not, these videos should demonstrate the artistic brilliance and unique talent shown by the best football players of all time.
While some of the picks may be controversial, remember this is a top 10 list of the best football players, not the greatest. While pure ability and talent often result in trophies, so does being in a team of other talented players. If Messi won a World Cup it would make him a greater player, but it wouldn't make him a more talented player.
Many players marginally missed out on this list. Honorable mentions go to Eusebio, Marco Van Basten, Garrincha, Dennis Bergkamp, Rivaldo, Gerd Muller, Ronaldo (Brazil), Romario, and Giuseppe Meazza. Current players making a case to be on the list in future include Lionel Messi, Ronaldo (Portugal) and Andres Iniesta.
© 2012 Thomas Swan