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Best Soccer Players of All Time

Soccer Betting Guide

Of all the articles we’ve written for our soccer betting guide, this has been one of the most enjoyable to produce. It’s also been one of the toughest. We’ve had some fantastic debates about which players to include, and it’s been fun to review the careers of so many great players. But settling on the final list has been incredibly difficult. There are just so many great players to consider.

We’re certain that some of you will disagree with our final choices. There are definitely plenty of other players who could have been included, and a few in particular have been very hard to leave out. We simply couldn’t include everyone though. We settled on a total of 80 players in the end, as we felt that any more than that would devalue the whole purpose of the article.

These 80 players are all listed below, divided into the following four categories.

  • Best Goalkeepers
  • Best Defenders
  • Best Midfielders
  • Best Forwards/Strikers

Each category features our top ten players for the relevant position, along with ten more who deserve an honorable mention. A few players could have featured in more than one category, so we’ve had to make a call on where they best belong. We’ve listed Diego Maradona as a midfielder, for example, when he could easily be classed as a forward instead.

We really hope you enjoy reading our list, and please feel free to contact us with your comments!

Best Goalkeepers of All Time

Lev Yashin

  • Born: 1929
  • Playing Career: 1950-1970
  • Nationality: Soviet-Russian
  • International Caps: 74
  • Club Teams: Dynamo Moscow
  • Club Appearances: 326


Lev Yashin was known as both “The Black Spider” and “The Black Panther”. His goalkeeping skills were amazing, and he was especially well-known for his aggressive style of play. Not only is he widely regarded as one of the greatest ever goalkeepers, he’s also been credited for revolutionizing the way that goalkeepers play.

Back when Yashin was first playing, most goalkeepers spent virtually the whole game standing on their line. They were there to make saves when the ball was shot at goal, and not much more. Yashin changed that though. He regularly came off his line to claim crosses and corners, and to meet advancing players. He also made a point of “taking charge” of the defense. He’d constantly be organizing the players in front of him, shouting orders and organizing their positions. His style was effective, and other goalkeepers soon started to copy.

Yashin’s list of achievements is a lengthy one, but there’s one achievement that particularly stands out. In 1963, he won the Ballon d’Or. This is an annual award for the best player in the world (best in Europe at that point), and to this day Lev Yashin is the ONLY goalkeeper to have won it.

Dino Zoff

  • Born: 1942
  • Playing Career: 1961-1983
  • Nationality: Italian
  • International Caps: 112
  • Club Teams: Napoli, Juventus & others
  • Club Appearances: 642


Dino Zoff is the only Italian player to have won both the World Cup and the European Championship with his national team. He is also the oldest player to have won the World Cup, lifting the trophy in 1982 at 40 years old. He has several other records to his name too.

After finishing his amazing playing career, Zoff went in to management. He started at Juventus, and had two separate spells at Lazio before taking over the Italian national team. He then went back to Lazio for a third time. His final job as manager was at Fiorentina.

Gianluigi Buffon

  • Born: 1978
  • Playing Career: 1995-Present
  • Nationality: Italian
  • International Caps: 168
  • Club Teams: Parma & Juventus
  • Club Appearances: 656


We could write an entire article just on Buffon’s achievements. His place among the greatest goalkeepers of all time is fully deserved and beyond argument. He is the most capped player for the Italian national team, and holds a number of goalkeeping records. He’s also won several trophiesand many individual awards.

When Buffon moved from Parma to Juventus in 2001, he became the most expensive goalkeeper in the world. Nearly two decades later, no goalkeeper has ever been sold for more than his €53 million transfer fee.

Gordon Banks

  • Born: 1937
  • Playing Career: 1958-1977
  • Nationality: English
  • International Caps: 73
  • Club Teams: Leicester City, Stoke City
  • Club Appearances: 558


Gordon Banks is England’s greatest ever goalkeeper. He won the World Cup with his national team in 1966, and won trophies at domestic level too. He also has several individual honors to his name, including being named FIFA Goalkeeper of the Year on SIX separate occasions.

During the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Banks made an incredible save against Brazil. The great Brazilian striker Pele headed the ball towards goal from close-range, and Banks somehow managed to push it away. That save has gone down in history as THE best save of all time. You can see it in this video.

Peter Schmeichel

  • Born: 1963
  • Playing Career: 1981-1984
  • Nationality: Danish
  • International Caps: 129
  • Club Teams: Manchester United & others
  • Club Appearances: 648


Peter Schmeichel is most famous for his time at Manchester United. He was the club’s first choice goalkeeper during a period of domestic domination. In the eight years he spent at Manchester United, he won the Premier League a total of five times. He won several other trophies with the club too.

His time at Manchester United came to an end in the best way possible. In his last game for the club, they won the 1999 Champions League final to complete an historic treble. Schmeichel was man of the match, and left as a hero.

Sepp Maier

  • Born: 1944
  • Playing Career: 1962-1980
  • Nationality: German
  • International Caps: 95
  • Club Teams: Bayern Munich
  • Club Appearances: 536


Sepp Maier was nicknamed as “Die Katze von Anzing” in Germany. Translated, this means “the cat from Anzing”. It was testament to his incredible agility and fast reflexes. He was one of the most consistent goalkeepers that soccer has ever seen, and easily one of the best.

Maier won several trophies domestically with Bayern Munich, and had great success with the national team too. He was part of the great German team that won the World Cup in 1974 and the European Championship in 1972. His team mates included Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller and BertiVogts – all of whom are listed on this page as among the best of all time.

Ricardo Zamora

  • Born: 1901
  • Playing Career: 1916-1938
  • Nationality: Spanish
  • International Caps: 46
  • Club Teams: Real Madrid & others
  • Club Appearances: Unknown


It’s easy to focus on the modern era of soccer when compiling these kinds of lists. But we should never forget just how many great players there were in the early years of the game. Ricardo Zamora was one such player, and is fully worthy of his place here.

Nicknamed “El Divino”, Zamora was believed to be a heavy drinker and smoker. Players can’t get away with that in the modern game, but it wasn’t uncommon back in his day. It certainly didn’t affect his performances, as he was easily one of the players of his generation. He’s remembered fondly in his home nation of Spain, where the annual award for the best goalkeeper is named in his honor.

Manuel Neuer

  • Born: 1986
  • Playing Career: 2004-Present
  • Nationality: German
  • International Caps: 74
  • Club Teams: Schalke & Bayern Munich
  • Club Appearances: 372


There was no debate to be had about including Manuel Neuer on this list. He is widely regarded as the best goalkeeper in the world today, and many believe he is the best of all time. It’s difficult to argue otherwise to be honest. He’s certainly a VERY talented player.

Neuer stands out today partly because he’s such a complete player. He literally has everything you could possibly want in a goalkeeper. He’s fast, agile and has amazing reflexes. His distribution is also excellent, and that’s very important in the modern game. There’s still a chance that he could improve even further too. He’s coming to the age where goalkeepers tend to hit their peak, so we may not have seen the best of him yet.

Oliver Kahn

  • Born: 1969
  • Playing Career: 1987-2008
  • Nationality: German
  • International Caps: 86
  • Club Teams: Karlsruher & Bayern Munich
  • Club Appearances: 630


Oliver Kahn is a genuine legend in his home country. Although he never won the World Cup with his national team, he was a consistent performer for them for over a decade. In fact, his performances were the main reason Germany reached the World Cup final in 2002. They lost the final 2-0 to Brazil, but Kahn was awarded with the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player. He became the first ever goalkeeper to win the award, and no-one could say it wasn’t deserved.

Kahn was part of the German squad that won European Championship in 1998, but he was only the reserve goalkeeper at the time and didn’t play. It’s probably fair to say that he didn’t achieve as much he’d have liked at international level, but it was a different story domestically. He won the lot with Bayern Munich, including EIGHT league titles.

Iker Casillas

  • Born: 1981
  • Playing Career: 1998-Present
  • Nationality: Spanish
  • International Caps: 167
  • Club Teams: Real Madrid & Porto
  • Club Appearances: 605


Very few players last as long at Real Madrid at Casillas did. He played for the club from the age of 16 until he was 34, making hundreds of appearances during that period. He was adored by the fans, who nicknamed him “Saint Iker”.

Casillas won an incredible number of trophies while at Real Madrid. He won La Liga five times, the UEFA Champions League three times and the Copa del Rey twice. He also won the Super Cup and the Club World Cup. He won plenty with his national team too. With Casillas in goal, Spain lifted the European Championship twice and the World Cup once.

Honorable Mentions


Ubaldo Fillol

  • Born: 1950
  • Playing Career: 1965-1991
  • Nationality: Argentinian
  • International Caps: 58
  • Club Teams: River Plate, Racing Club & others
  • Club Appearances: 657
  • Shilton

    Peter Shilton

  • Born: 1949
  • Playing Career: 1966-1966
  • Nationality: English
  • International Caps: 125
  • Club Teams: Nottingham Forest & others
  • Club Appearances: 1005
  • Dasayev

    Rinat Dasayev

  • Born: 1957
  • Playing Career: 1976-1991
  • Nationality: Soviet-Russian
  • International Caps: 91
  • Club Teams: Spartak Moscow & others
  • Club Appearances: 420
  • Jennings

    Pat Jennings

  • Born: 1945
  • Playing Career: 1963-1986
  • Nationality: Northern Irish
  • International Caps: 119
  • Club Teams: Tottenham Hotspur & others
  • Club Appearances: 757
  • Gilmar


  • Born: 1930
  • Playing Career: 1951-1969
  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • International Caps: 94
  • Club Teams: Corinthians, Santos
  • Club Appearances: 752
  • Zenga

    Walter Zenga

  • Born: 1960
  • Playing Career: 1978-1999
  • Nationality: Italian
  • International Caps: 58
  • Club Teams: Inter Milan & others
  • Club Appearances: 530
  • Schumacher

    Harald Schumacher

  • Born: 1954
  • Playing Career: 1972-1987
  • Nationality: German
  • International Caps: 76
  • Club Teams: FC Koln & others
  • Club Appearances: 529
  • Beara

    Vladimir Beara

  • Born: 1928
  • Playing Career: 1947-1964
  • Nationality: Yugoslavian
  • International Caps: 59
  • Club Teams: Hajduk Split & others
  • Club Appearances: 265
  • Luis

    Jose Luis Chilavert

  • Born: 1965
  • Playing Career: 1982-1984
  • Nationality: Paraguayan
  • International Caps: 74
  • Club Teams: Velez Sarsfield & others
  • Club Appearances: 622
  • Sar

    Edwin Van Der Sar

  • Born: 1970
  • Playing Career: 1990-2016
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • International Caps: 130
  • Club Teams: Manchester United & others
  • Club Appearances: 606
  • Best Defenders of All Time

    Franz Beckenbauer

    • Born: 1945
    • Playing Career: 1964-1983
    • Nationality: German
    • International Caps: 103
    • Club Teams: Bayern Munich & others
    • Club Appearances: 572


    We made it very clear at the start of this article that we’ve not ranked the best players in our list in any particular order. If we had decided to actually rank them, there’s little doubt that Franz Beckenbauer would be our number one defender of all time. Nicknamed “Der Kaiser” (The Emperor), he had a truly amazing career in soccer.

    Beckenbauer spent thirteen years as a player at Bayern Munich. During that time he won everything there is to win. He helped Bayern to win four league titles, and four domestic cups. He was also captain of the team when they won THREE consecutive European Cups. That alone was an incredible achievement, and he had many more too.

    While playing for his national team, Beckenbauer won both the FIFA World Cup and the European Championship. He went on to win the World Cup again when manager of Germany, becoming only the second man to win the tournament as both a player and a manager.

    With two Ballon d’Ors to his name as well, Beckenbauer’s place among the all-time greats cannot be disputed. Many people credit him with inventing the sweeper role in soccer, and there’s no doubt that he had a major influence on the way defenders play the game.

    Bobby Moore

    • Born: 1941
    • Playing Career: 1948-1983
    • Nationality: English
    • International Caps: 108
    • Club Teams: West Ham & others
    • Club Appearances: 716


    Bobby Moore is one of England’s most treasured players. He was captain of his national team when they won their only World Cup in 1966, and is widely regarded as the best defender the country has ever produced. Few can argue with that point of view, especially as it’s one that’s shared by thegreat Brazilian striker Pele.

    When Bobby Moore died in 1993, Pele was quoted as saying he was THE best defender he had played against. Praise simply doesn’t get much higher than that in soccer. If you never had the privilege of watching Bobby play, you should check out the video below. It’s only short, but it’ll give you an idea of just why his defending was so highly rated.

    Daniel Passarella

    • Born: 1953
    • Playing Career: 1971-1989
    • Nationality: Argentinian
    • International Caps: 70
    • Club Teams: River Plate, Fiorentina & others
    • Club Appearances: 447


    Daniel Passarella won the World Cup twice with Argentina. Those two victories were undoubtedly his biggest achievements, but they’re not actually what he’s best remembered for. Most people who followed his career remember him for his incredible goal-scoring exploits. He scored an impressive 140 goals in 447 appearances at club level, and 22 goals in 70 appearances at international level. And he was A DEFENDER!

    What’s even more remarkable is that he scored most of those goals with his head, despite being relatively short for a defender. He just seemed to have knack of being in the right place at the right time, especially at set pieces.

    His goal-scoring ability was still second to his defensive ability though. He was a VERY tough player, and rarely held back when tackling. It’s fair to say that forwards and strikers didn’t enjoy playing against him!

    Ruud Krol

    • Born: 1949
    • Playing Career: 1968-1986
    • Nationality: Dutch
    • International Caps: 83
    • Club Teams: Ajax & others
    • Club Appearances: 524


    Ruud Krol played for Ajax and the Dutch national team at a time when they were famed for their “Total football”. The philosophy of these teams was that all outfield players should be able to play in any position on the field. Krol was a perfect example. He never relinquished his defensive duties, but regularly contributed in more forward areas too. He would often create goals for his teammates, and even scored himself on occasion.

    A versatile and reliable player, Krol was unfortunate not to win anything at international level. He was twice on the losing side in a World Cup final, and lost a semi-final in the European Championships too. Domestically, however, he won plenty. He was part of an Ajax team that won six league titles and three European Cups.

    Giacinto Facchetti

    • Born: 1942
    • Playing Career: 1960-1978
    • Nationality: Italian
    • International Caps: 94
    • Club Teams: Inter Milan
    • Club Appearances: 476


    Italy has produced some outstanding defenders over the years. Only a few of them compare favorably to Giacinto Facchetti. Facchetti played for Inter Milan for his entire career, and was part of one of their greatest ever sides. He won four league titles with the club, along with a Coppa Italia and two European Cups.

    Facchetti started his career as a forward, but was moved into defense by Italian coach Helenio Herrera. That proved to be an inspired decision, as Facchetti excelled as one of the first attacking full-backs. He not only defended with grace and style, he also contributed at the other end of the field. He scored over 60 goals during his career.

    In addition to his club honors, Facchetti also won the European Championship with his national team.

    Djalma Santos

    • Born: 1929
    • Playing Career: 1948-1970
    • Nationality: Brazilian
    • International Caps: 98
    • Club Teams: Portuguesa, Palmeiras
    • Club Appearances: 964


    Most of the Brazilian greats have been attacking players, but there have been some fine defenders from the country too. Djalma Santos was one of the best. He played in four World Cups for Brazil, winning two of them. He also won plenty with his domestic clubs, including several league titles.

    Santos played in several different positions during his career. Most of his appearances came at right-back, where he impressed defensively AND offensively. His timing when tackling was impeccable, and he was never once sent off. To this day he is one of only three players to have been included in three FIFA World Cup All Star Teams.

    Paolo Maldini

    • Born: 1968
    • Playing Career: 1985-2009
    • Nationality: Italian
    • International Caps: 126
    • Club Teams: AC Milan
    • Club Appearances: 647


    Paolo Maldini spent his entire career at AC Milan. In 25 seasons with the club he won 26 trophies, including FIVE Champions Leagues. He also won seven league titles, a Coppa Italia and five Supercoppa Italianas. He’s easily one of the most decorated players of all time at club level.

    Maldini was capped 126 times by his country, and captained the national team over 70 times. Although he never won an international tournament, he is still considered one of Italy’s best ever players. Throughout his career he showed a level of consistency that few players can match.

    One of Maldini’s greatest traits was his versatility. He could play equally well at left back and center back, and also looked comfortable offensively. He may not have scored many goals, but not many defenders can cross the ball like Maldini could. He was the perfect example of an elegant and cultured player.

    When Maldini retired from AC Milan, the club retired his iconic number 3 jersey. There was, however, an interesting proviso. The jersey will be made available for either of Maldini’s sons should they ever play for the club.

    Carlos Alberto Torres

    • Born: 1944
    • Playing Career: 1963-1982
    • Nationality: Brazilian
    • International Caps: 53
    • Club Teams: Santos & others
    • Club Appearances: 743


    Carlos Torres could probably have played in any position. He excelled as a defender for sure, but he had so much more to his game. His ball control was amazing and he could dribble as well as most wingers in the world. He also had great passing skills and an impressive turn of pace. It’s no wonder he won so many trophies with the clubs he played for.

    His most memorable trophy win was in 1970. As captain of the Brazilian national team, Torres led his side to victory in the World Cup. He was in top from throughout the whole tournament, but he saved his best performance for the final. Impressive in defense, he also scored Brazil’s fourth goal. And what a goal it was. Although it was nearly fifty years ago now, it’s STILL considered one of the best goals ever scored in a World Cup. You can watch it for yourself in this video.

    Franco Baresi

    • Born: 1960
    • Playing Career: 1977-1997
    • Nationality: Italian
    • International Caps: 81
    • Club Teams: AC Milan
    • Club Appearances: 531


    Just like Paolo Maldini, Franco Baresi spent his whole career at AC Milan. He “only” managed 20 seasons though, compared to Maldini’s 25, but his trophy haul was nearly as impressive. He won six league titles and three Champions League, along with several cups.

    Baresi was also a stalwart for his national team. He won the World Cup with Italy in 1982, and played in several other international tournaments too. His international career finished on a low point though, as he missed the decisive penalty in a shoot-out with Brazil in 1994 World Cup final. That was to be his last act for his national team.

    Despite the disappointing end, Baresi remained a legend in the eyes of Italian soccer fans. He is rightly considered one of the best players the country has ever produced.

    Gaetano Scirea

    • Born: 1953
    • Playing Career: 1972-1988
    • Nationality: Italian
    • International Caps: 78
    • Club Teams: Atalanta, Juventus
    • Club Appearances: 435


    Very few players can boast the same achievements as Gaetano Scirea. He won pretty much everything there is to win, both domestically and internationally. And he did all by playing with an elegant grace that most defenders simply aren’t capable of. He was one of the cleanest tacklers of the ball ever, and wasn’t booked ONCE as a player. That’s an amazing feat for a defender.

    Most of Scirea’s trophies came with Juventus. He won seven league titles, two domestic cups and all three of the major European trophies. He also won the World Cup with the Italian national team. Tragically, Scirea died at the age of just 36. While still contracted to Juventus, he visited Poland to watch a team he was due to be playing in the UEFA Cup. He was involved in a car accident while there, and sadly passed away.

    Honorable Mentions


    Robert Carlos

  • Born: 1973
  • Playing Career: 1991-2015
  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • International Caps: 125
  • Club Teams: Real Madrid & others
  • Club Appearances: 575
  • Figueroa

    Elias Figueroa

  • Born: 1946
  • Playing Career: 1964-1982
  • Nationality: Chilean
  • International Caps: 47
  • Club Teams: Internacional & others
  • Club Appearances: 791
  • Santos

    Nilton Santos

  • Born: 1925
  • Playing Career: 1948-1964
  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • International Caps: 75
  • Club Teams: Botafogo
  • Club Appearances: 723
  • Vogts

    Berti Vogts

  • Born: 1946
  • Playing Career: 1965-1979
  • Nationality: German
  • International Caps: 96
  • Club Teams: Borussia Monchengladbach
  • Club Appearances: 419
  • Nesta

    Alessandro Nesta

  • Born: 1976
  • Playing Career: 1993-2014
  • Nationality: Italian
  • International Caps: 78
  • Club Teams: Lazio, AC Milan & others
  • Club Appearances: 451
  • Zanetti

    Javier Zanetti

  • Born: 1973
  • Playing Career: 1992-2014
  • Nationality: Argentinian
  • International Caps: 143
  • Club Teams: Inter Milan & others
  • Club Appearances: 714
  • Brehme

    Andreas Brehme

  • Born: 1960
  • Playing Career: 1978-1998
  • Nationality: German
  • International Caps: 86
  • Club Teams: Kaiserslautern, Inter Milan & others
  • Club Appearances: 509
  • Heinz

    Karl-Heinz Schnellinger

  • Born: 1939
  • Playing Career: 1958-1975
  • Nationality: German
  • International Caps: 47
  • Club Teams: AC Milan & others
  • Club Appearances: 387
  • Sammer

    Matthias Sammer

  • Born: 1967
  • Playing Career: 1985-1999
  • Nationality: German
  • International Caps: 74
  • Club Teams: Borussia Dortmund & others
  • Club Appearances: 291
  • Thuram

    Lilian Thuram

  • Born: 1972
  • Playing Career: 1991-2008
  • Nationality: Franch
  • International Caps: 142
  • Club Teams: Parma, Juventus & others
  • Club Appearances: 503
  • Best Midfielders of All Time

    Zinedine Zidane

    • Born: 1972
    • Playing Career: 1989-2006
    • Nationality: French
    • International Caps: 108
    • Club Teams: Juventus, Real Madrid & others
    • Club Appearances: 506


    In all of our years watching soccer, very few players have brought us much joy as Zinedine Zidane did. He was a delight to watch, and one of the most elegant players that we’ve ever seen. With his sublime ball control and vision, he regularly made plays that literally took our breath away. He was a once in a lifetime type of player, and easily one of the best midfielders of all time.

    Zidane made his name at the French club Bordeaux, but it was when he moved to Juventus that he really began to shine. He won the title in his first year in Italy, and was instrumental in his team’s success. It was a similar story in the following season, when he also won the Ballon d’Or. Hisconsistent performances over the next couple of seasons then earned him a move to Real Madrid.

    His transfer fee at the time was a world record, and has only been beaten a few times since. This was during Real Madrid’s “Galacticos” era, where they were determined to sign the very best players in the world. Zidane certainly fell into that category, and his impact on the team was immediate. Having helped Real Madrid get to a Champions League final in his first season with the club, he then scored the winning goal in the final.

    Zidane experienced success with his national team too, winning both the World Cup (2002) and the European Championship (2000) with France.

    Xavier Hernandez

    • Born: 1980
    • Playing Career: 1997-Present
    • Nationality: Spanish
    • International Caps: 133
    • Club Teams: Barcelona, Al-Sadd SC
    • Club Appearances: 555


    Xavier Hernandez is not a player to get the fans off their seats. He’s not a player who will take on opposition players with an amazing display of skill, or score spectacular goals. And yet he’s widely considered to be one of the greatest midfielders of all time. In fact, there are some who say he is the best soccer player that Spain has ever produced.

    There’s little doubt that Xavi (as he’s usually known) is fully deserving of such plaudits. He may not be as entertaining to watch as some of the other greats on this list, but he’s an incredibly gifted player nonetheless. He’s one of the best passers of the ball that we’ve ever seen, and his ability to control a game from midfield is unrivalled.

    At Barcelona, Xavi was part of one the most successful club sides in soccer history. There’s a reason why he made so many appearances for such a great team, and why he was always first choice for his national team too. He was absolutely CRUCIAL to the way these teams played. Without him pulling the strings from midfield, the more attacking players would have not found the space that enabled them to score so many goals.


    • Born: 1953
    • Playing Career: 1971-1994
    • Nationality: Brazilian
    • International Caps: 71
    • Club Teams: Flamengo & others
    • Club Appearances: 332


    Zico was often referred to as the “White Pele”. According to Pele himself, Zico was “the one player that came closest to me.” So it’s fair to say that Zico was something of a special player. He played mostly an attacking role from midfield, and his excellent vision and passing ability allowed him to pick out passes that no-one else would see. His clinical finishing meant he could score goals himself, as well as creating them for others.

    Most of Zico’s career was spent at Flamengo. He won trophies galore with the Brazilian club, including seven league titles and a Copa Libertadores. Unfortunately for him, he was not able to reproduce that success with the national team. Despite representing Brazil at three World Cups, he never got to lift the trophy. He’s still a legend in his home country though.

    Bobby Charlton

    • Born: 1937
    • Playing Career: 1956-1980
    • Nationality: English
    • International Caps: 106
    • Club Teams: Manchester United & others
    • Club Appearances: 647


    Bobby Charlton was a key player for the England team that won the World Cup in 1966. He was also an important player for Manchester United, where he spent most of his playing career. He was best known for his attacking abilities, with an excellent passing range and a powerful shot. Despite playing from midfield, he scored an impressive number of goals.

    Charlton actually held the record as England’s leading goal scorer for many years. His total of 49 was beaten in 2015 though, by Wayne Rooney. He was also Manchester United’s leading goal scorer with 249 goals, until he lost that record to Rooney too.

    Lothar Matthaus

    • Born: 1961
    • Playing Career: 1979-2000
    • Nationality: German
    • International Caps: 150
    • Club Teams: Bayern Munich & others
    • Club Appearances: 595


    Lothar Matthaus had a long and glittering career. He’s the only outfield player to have played at five World Cups, and he holds the record for playing in the most World Cup games. He won both the World Cup and the European Championship with Germany, while also winning regular trophies at club level. He won the coveted Ballon d’Or in 1990, and many other individual awards too.

    Matthaus was a typical German player in many ways. He was hard-working and industrious, and very well-disciplined. But there was much more to his game than just that. He was a brilliant tacker, and a great passer of the ball. He had a powerful shot too. He was versatile, and extremely consistent. His performances were still at the highest level even into his late thirties.

    Diego Maradona

    • Born: 1960
    • Playing Career: 1976-1997
    • Nationality: Argentinean
    • International Caps: 91
    • Club Teams: Napoli & others
    • Club Appearances: 491


    Maradona was a genius. A flawed genius for sure, but a genius nonetheless. This was a player who could do things with a football that nobody else would even attempt. He’s regarded by many as the best player ever, better even than Pele.

    It’s hard to compare players from different eras, but we’d probably give the Maradona the edge. If his career hadn’t been littered with so much controversy, we suspect this would be a more common view. The man’s skills were just amazing. He was small, with a low center of gravity, and his ability to dribble past players was incredible. He was one of those very special players who could literally take your breath away. We genuinely can’t think of a single other player who was more entertaining to watch.

    If you’re not old enough to have seen Maradona play, you should definitely check his videos out on YouTube. Here’s one of our favorites. It says a lot about how entertaining he was that we have watched this video time and time again, and he’s not even playing in it. He’s just warming up!

    Andres Iniesta

    • Born: 1984
    • Playing Career: 2001-Present
    • Nationality: Spanish
    • International Caps: 117
    • Club Teams: Barcelona
    • Club Appearances: 412


    Andres Iniesta has been at Barcelona his whole career. It says a lot about his talent that Barcelona has experienced one of its most successful periods ever with him in the team. He’s been an important player for his national team, winning both the World Cup and the European Championship (twice)with Spain.

    With a total of 33 trophies to his name, Iniesta is the most decorated Spanish player ever. He’s perhaps not one of the most glamorous players on this list, but there’s no doubt that his inclusion is justified. He’s easily among the very best players of his generation, and one of the most complete midfielders of all time. He has an ability to control games that is virtually unrivalled.

    Michel Plantini

    • Born: 1955
    • Playing Career: 1972-1987
    • Nationality: French
    • International Caps: 72
    • Club Teams: Juventus & others
    • Club Appearances: 432


    Michel Platini won the Ballon d’Or three times in his career. That’s an incredible achievement, and testament to just how good he was. An attacking midfielder with a keen eye for a goal, Platini was both entertaining and efficient. He enjoyed great success at club level, and was an important player for his national team.

    In the 1984 European Championships, Platini put in a performance that has arguably never been matched. In a France team that was full of talented players, Platini stood out as being something special. He scored NINE goals during that tournament, including two perfect hat-tricks.

    France won that tournament – their first major trophy. It wasn’t ALL down to Platini, but he was certainly the driving force. As was so often the case throughout his whole career, his presence on the field made an enormous difference to the players around him. He had an ability to bring the best out of his team mates, as well play to an exceptionally high standard himself.


    • Born: 1953
    • Playing Career: 1972-1986
    • Nationality: Brazilian
    • International Caps: 34
    • Club Teams: Internacional, Roma
    • Club Appearances: 274


    Brazil has produced many amazing midfielders over the years. There’s no doubt at all that Falcao is up there with the best of them. Once the highest paid player in Europe, he had a hugely successful career. He didn’t just win trophies though, he also won the hearts and minds of soccer fans the world over. He was a bona fide genius.

    One of Falcao’s greatest attributes was his tactical intelligence. He seemed to ALWAYS know where he should be on the field, and what he should be doing. He was great at organizing his team mates too. He was almost like the conductor of the team, keeping the rhythm and making sure everyone was in tune.

    Falcao played mostly as a deep-lying playmaker, but he’d help out defensively when needed. Although he had plenty of flair, he was also tenacious and strong. That’s a rare combination, and it served him well. He was one of the most complete midfielders ever to play the sport.

    Duncan Edwards

    • Born: 1936
    • Playing Career: 1953-1958
    • Nationality: English
    • International Caps: 18
    • Club Teams: Manchester United
    • Club Appearances: 151


    Duncan Edwards is the only sentimental inclusion on our list. He didn’t really play long enough to be legitimately considered as one of the best players of all time, but he certainly had the talent required. If it wasn’t for his tragic death in the Munich air disaster of 1958, who knows what he might have achieved.

    Honorable Mentions


    Michael Laudrup

  • Born: 1964
  • Playing Career: 1981-1998
  • Nationality: Danish
  • International Caps: 104
  • Club Teams: Barcelona, Real Madrid & others
  • Club Appearances: 479
  • Ronaldinho


  • Born: 1980
  • Playing Career: 1998-2005
  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • International Caps: 97
  • Club Teams: Barcelona, PSG & others
  • Club Appearances: 440
  • Rijkaard

    Frank Rijkaard

  • Born: 1962
  • Playing Career: 1980-1995
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • International Caps: 73
  • Club Teams: Ajax, AC Milan
  • Club Appearances: 414
  • Zizinho


  • Born: 1921
  • Playing Career: 1939-1962
  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • International Caps: 53
  • Club Teams: Flamengo, Bangu & others
  • Club Appearances: 664
  • Keane

    Roy Keane

  • Born: 1971
  • Playing Career: 1989-2006
  • Nationality: Irish
  • International Caps: 67
  • Club Teams: Man. United, Nottingham Forest
  • Club Appearances: 473
  • Garrincha


  • Born: 1933
  • Playing Career: 1953-1965
  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • International Caps: 50
  • Club Teams: Botafogo & others
  • Club Appearances: 692
  • Neeskens

    Johan Neeskens

  • Born: 1951
  • Playing Career: 1968-1991
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • International Caps: 49
  • Club Teams: Ajax, Barcelona & others
  • Club Appearances: 481
  • Rivera

    Gianni Rivera

  • Born: 1943
  • Playing Career: 1959-1979
  • Nationality: Italian
  • International Caps: 60
  • Club Teams: Alessandria, AC Milan
  • Club Appearances: 527
  • Best

    George Best

  • Born: 1946
  • Playing Career: 1963-1984
  • Nationality: Northern Irish
  • International Caps: 37
  • Club Teams: Manchester United & others
  • Club Appearances: 604
  • Figo

    Luis Figo

  • Born: 1972
  • Playing Career: 1989-2009
  • Nationality: Portuguese
  • International Caps: 127
  • Club Teams: Barcelona, Real Madrid & others
  • Club Appearances: 577
  • Best Forwards/Strikers of All Time


    • Born: 1940
    • Playing Career: 1956-1974
    • Nationality: Brazilian
    • International Caps: 92
    • Club Teams: Santos, New York Cosmos
    • Club Appearances: 694


    We had to start with Pele really. His place on our list was never in doubt, as he’s generally regarded as THE greatest soccer player of all time. Despite his retirement over 40 years ago, he’s still one of the best-known players in the world. Pretty much every soccer fan has heard of Pele, and knows what he achieved in the game.

    According to the record books, no soccer player has scored more goals than Pele did. He scored 650 times at club level, and 77 times for Brazil. And that’s just in official games. With friendlies and tour games included, Pele is credited with an astonishing 1281 goals. It’s safe to say that’s a record that will never be broken.

    Pele’s greatest achievement was to win the FIFA World Cup three times with Brazil. He lifted the trophy in 1958, 1962 and 1970. Only a select few players have won more than one World Cup, and Pele remains the only one to have won three. He will always be remembered as a true legend of the sport.


    • Born: 1976
    • Playing Career: 1993-2011
    • Nationality: Brazilian
    • International Caps: 98
    • Club Teams: Barcelona, Real Madrid & others
    • Club Appearances: 343


    Ronaldo was nicknamed “The Phenomenon” during his playing career. At the height of his abilities he was perhaps the most gifted soccer player we’ve ever seen. When he was dribbling at speed, and taking players on for fun, he was an absolute joy watch. His clinical finishing ensured he scored goals at an incredible rate, and he could have broken all kinds of records had he not suffered his injuries.

    These days, Ronaldo is often referred to as “The Original Ronaldo”. This is due to the emergence of Cristiano Ronaldo as another great player. There have been many debates about who is the better of the two, and it’s a debate that splits opinion. We give the original Ronaldo the edge in terms of pure talent, but Cristiano wins in terms of longevity and consistency.

    If you’re young enough not to have seen Ronaldo play at his peak, you should take five minutes to watch this video. We bet you’ll immediately to see more of him in action. He really was THAT good.


    • Born: 1942
    • Playing Career: 1957-1979
    • Nationality: Portuguese
    • International Caps: 64
    • Club Teams: Benfica & others
    • Club Appearances: 431


    There are conflicting reports about just how many goals Eusebio scored in his career. The figures that seem to be most widely accepted are 749 goals in 745 games. This includes games at both club level and international level. Assuming these number are true, Eusebio’s goal scoring record is genuinely beyond belief. He scored at a rate of more than a goal per game, which is simply amazing.

    But then, Eusebio WAS an amazing player. He was quick, strong and agile, and he could hit the ball with ferocious power. He won all kinds of individual honors during his career, including the Ballon d’Or in 1965. He also helped Benfica to win 11 league titles, and a European Cup.

    Lionel Messi

    • Born: 1987
    • Playing Career: 2003-Present
    • Nationality: Argentinian
    • International Caps: 117
    • Club Teams: Barcelona
    • Club Appearances: 382


    Lionel Messi is undoubtedly one of the best players of the modern era. He has performed consistently well for Barcelona for over a decade, scoring an incredible number of goals along the way. He’s also helped his team to win trophy after trophy after trophy, and broken countless records.

    Messi has been awarded the Ballon d’Or more times than any other player (5). He’s scored more goals in a calendar than any other player (91 in 2012). He’s the highest ever scorer in La Liga, and the highest assist maker too. We could go on. Messi is a VERY special player, there’s no doubt at all about that. The greatest of all time? We’re not sure, but he’s definitely in the conversation.

    Ferenc Puskas

    • Born: 1927
    • Playing Career: 1943-1966
    • Nationality: Hungarian
    • International Caps: 85
    • Club Teams: Budapest Honved, Real Madrid
    • Club Appearances: 521


    Ferenc Puskas was an incredible goal scorer. He scored 84 times for Hungary, in just 85 games. That’s basically a goal every game, which is a near impossible achievement at international level. He also scored 352 times in 341 games for Budapest Honved, and 156 times in 180 games for Real Madrid. That’s A LOT of goals, so Puskas’ place on this list simply cannot be disputed.

    Puskas won nearly everything during his playing career. He won five league titles while at Budapest Honved, and five more with Real Madrid. He also won three European Cups with Madrid, and many individual awards.

    Unusually for a soccer player, Puskas played for TWO national teams. After four years in Spain with Real Madrid, he was made a Spanish national. This allowed him to play for the Spanish team, although he appeared just four times and failed to score. That’s just a tiny footnote to an otherwise amazing career though.

    Cristiano Ronaldo

    • Born: 1985
    • Playing Career: 2002-Present
    • Nationality: Portuguese
    • International Caps: 138
    • Club Teams: Sporting CP, Man. United, Real Madrid
    • Club Appearances: 486


    Cristiano Ronaldo versus Lionel Messi is one of the greatest debates in the current era of soccer. These two have been the best players in the world for several years, and it’s almost impossible to split them. They’ve both scored an incredible number of goals during influential careers with two of the biggest soccer clubs on the planet.

    We’re not going to get into this debate here, because it’s been done so many times before. We’ll just say that they’re both great players, and leave it at that. They certainly both belong on this list.

    We’ve already talked a little about Messi, and the story is similar for Ronaldo. He’s played for more clubs though. He moved from Sporting CP to Manchester United at a young age, and was setting the soccer world alight before long. In the 2007/8 season, he scored 42 goals in just 49 appearances. That was VERY impressive in a league as competitive as the English Premier League, and it’s no surprise he caught the attention of Real Madrid.

    Ronaldo moved to Madrid just one year later, in 2009. His first season was excellent, and he scored 33 goals in 35 games. That was just a glimpse into what was to come though. He subsequently broke all kinds of records, scoring at least 50 goals in six consecutive seasons.

    Johann Cruyff

    • Born: 1947
    • Playing Career: 1964-1984
    • Nationality: Dutch
    • International Caps: 48
    • Club Teams: Ajax, Barcelona & others
    • Club Appearances: 514


    Very few people have had more influence on soccer than Johann Cruyff. As a player for Ajax and for his national side, he was at the heart of the famous “Total Football” style of play. He was the ultimate multi-purpose player, suiting that style perfectly and helping it to develop.

    Cruyff also invented a piece of skill that became known as “the Cruyff turn”. After he first demonstrated it in 1974, it was soon copied by players around the world. It remains a popular trick to this day, and you can see it in the video below.

    Cruyff’s moved into management when his impressive playing career came to end, and he was arguably an even better manager than he was a player. That’s why he also features on the following list.

    Alfredo Di Stefano

    • Born: 1926
    • Playing Career: 1945-1966
    • Nationality: Argentinian
    • International Caps: 41
    • Club Teams: Real Madrid & others
    • Club Appearances: 422


    Alfredo Di Stefano was part of one the most successful club teams of all time. He played for Real Madrid during the 1950s, when the club was winning in everything in sight. During that period he won eight league titles and five European Cups. All five of those European Cups were won in consecutive years, between 1955 and 1960.

    De Stefano was key to Madrid’s success at that time. He was a powerful and fast striker, and scored a lot of their goals. In total, he scored 216 times in 282 appearances for the club. He won a number of individual honors in that time, including two Ballon d’Ors.

    Gerd Muller

    • Born: 1945
    • Playing Career: 1963-1981
    • Nationality: German
    • International Caps: 62
    • Club Teams: Bayern Munich & others
    • Club Appearances: 555


    Gerd Muller was the ultimate goal poacher. His finishing was clinical and instinctive, and he scored over 500 goals during his career. Many of those goals came from inside the six-yard box, where he was at his most lethal.

    Muller played for Bayern Munich for most of his career, making over 400 appearances for the club. Among other trophies, he won four league titles and three European Cups. He was awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1970, and won several other individual honors too.

    Nicknamed “Der Bomber” (the bomber), Muller also played for his national team. He won both the World Cup and the European Championship with Germany, and is one of their highest ever goal scorers.

    Marco Van Basten

    • Born: 1964
    • Playing Career: 1981-1995
    • Nationality: Dutch
    • International Caps: 58
    • Club Teams: Ajax, Milan
    • Club Appearances: 280


    We think that Marco Van Basten would be on most people’s list of the best forwards ever. We certainly had no hesitation in including him on ours. He had an excellent career and was a thoroughly entertaining player to watch. He’s rightly considered a legend of the sport, but his legacy COULD have been even greater were it not for a career-ending injury.

    Van Basten played his last game at the age of 28. He should have been entering his peak at that point, but a persistent ankle injury forced his early retirement. We’ll never know for sure what he could have achieved if he’d gotten over that, but we’re pretty sure it would have been impressive.

    His career was impressive enough anyway. He scored 218 goals in 280 club appearances, and won plenty of trophies. He was prolific for his national team too, scoring 24 goals in 58 games. The most famous of those goals came in 1988, with the Netherlands on their way to winning the European Championship. In the final, Van Basten hit one of the sweetest strikes you’ll ever see. His incredible volley from a tight angle is considered one of the greatest goals of all time.

    Honorable Mentions


    Eric Cantona

  • Born: 1966
  • Playing Career: 1983-1997
  • Nationality: French
  • International Caps: 45
  • Club Teams: Manchester United & others
  • Club Appearances: 369
  • Moreno

    Jose Manuel Moreno

  • Born: 1916
  • Playing Career: 1935-1961
  • Nationality: Argentinian
  • International Caps: 34
  • Club Teams: River Plate & others
  • Club Appearances: 489
  • Bican

    Josef Bican

  • Born: 1913
  • Playing Career: 1928-1955
  • Nationality: Czech-Austrian
  • International Caps: 34
  • Club Teams: Slavia Prague & others
  • Club Appearances: 406
  • Friedenreich

    Arthur Friedenreich

  • Born: 1892
  • Playing Career: 1909-1935
  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • International Caps: 23
  • Club Teams: Paulistano & others
  • Club Appearances: Unknown
  • Romario


  • Born: 1966
  • Playing Career: 1985-2009
  • Nationality: Brazilian
  • International Caps: 70
  • Club Teams: PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona & others
  • Club Appearances: 448
  • Meazza

    Giuseppe Meazza

  • Born: 1910
  • Playing Career: 1927-1947
  • Nationality: Italian
  • International Caps: 56
  • Club Teams: Inter Milan & others
  • Club Appearances: 463
  • Baggio

    Robert Baggio

  • Born: 1967
  • Playing Career: 1982-2004
  • Nationality: Italian
  • International Caps: 56
  • Club Teams: Juventus, AC Milan & others
  • Club Appearances: 488
  • Bergkamp

    Dennis Bergkamp

  • Born: 1969
  • Playing Career: 1986-2006
  • Nationality: Dutch
  • International Caps: 79
  • Club Teams: Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal
  • Club Appearances: 552
  • Rummenigge

    Karl-Heinz Rummenigge

  • Born: 1955
  • Playing Career: 1974-1984
  • Nationality: German
  • International Caps: 95
  • Club Teams: Bayern Munich, Inter Milan
  • Club Appearances: 424
  • Cantona

    Thierry Henry

  • Born: 1977
  • Playing Career: 1994-2014
  • Nationality: French
  • International Caps: 123
  • Club Teams: Monaca, Arsenal & others
  • Club Appearances: 581
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