Soccer or football fans always have their favorites and individual opinion on who they think should be considered number 1. But, even with some disagreement, there are some players that will consistently appear on most people’s idea of a top 10.
So, let’s take a look at the ten most stand-out soccer players of all-time. You can argue over the exact order with your friends, as we know not everyone will agree completely.
(October 23, 1940 – )
Pelé is undoubtedly a soccer legend and a player who really is on everyone’s list. He rocketed to fame with his performance in the 1958 World Cup, when he was just 17 years old. He went on to win two more World Cups – the only player ever to do so – and was a professional player in Brazil for two decades.
He is the all-time leading goalscorer for Brazil with 77 goals in 91 games. Later in his career, he played for the New York Cosmos, and FIFA named him co-Player of the Century in 1999. He finally retired with an amazing 1,281 goals in 1,363 games.
He is a global ambassador for soccer and other humanitarian causes. In 1978, Pelé was awarded the International Peace Award for his work with UNICEF, he has served as Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sport and a United Nations ambassador for ecology and the environment.
Lionel Messi, (Argentina, F.C. Barcelona)
(born 24 June 1987 – )
Messi is still going strong and clearly comes up in conversations, alongside Pelé and Maradona as one of the best in the game. La Liga president Javier Tebas, admitted last year: ‘on the basis of yesterday’s game, I would say Messi is the best player of all time. And I’ve seen him play better.’ The BigLead has him at number 1 in 2018 again.
Messi’s numbers certainly can’t be argued with. He is the all-time La Liga leader in all of the following stats: goals scored (382), assists (149), goals scored in a La Liga season (50), goals in a club football season in Europe (73) and in a calendar year (91). He’s won the Ballon d’Or a record five times, and came second every year in the past 10 years he didn’t win.
He has won 32 trophies during his 14 seasons at Barcelona, including nine La Liga championships and four Champions League crowns, as well as a record-tying four European Golden Shoes. The only glory eluding him is claiming the World Cup victory with Argentina.
At barely 5’7″ Messi is a small, agile an incredibly versatile player. He is an outstanding attacking player who moves quickly and darts around the field. During his career, he’s been a classic winger, a center forward, a true center midfielder and an attacking mid.
Cristiano Ronaldo, (Portugal, Real Madrid)
(5 February 1985 – )
Ronaldo is one of the game’s greatest goal scorers in history. In 436 total matches over nine seasons at Real, he’s scored 449 goals. In 291 La Liga appearances, he has scored 310 goals. Ronaldo ranks sixth all-time scorer with 671 career goals for club and country.
Portugal’s captain and forward have also taken Real Madrid to two La Liga titles (2012, 2017), two Copa del Rey wins (2011, 2014) and three Champions League Trophies (2014, 2016, 2017). Ronaldo along with Messi are the only two players to have been awarded the FIFA Ballon d’Or since 2008.
In 2015, Ronaldo was named the best Portuguese player of all time by the Portuguese Football Federation, during its 100th-anniversary celebrations, and it was the year he also scored his 500th senior career goal for club and country. He also has four European Golden Shoe awards.
He is also a very popular and highly marketable player – in 2016, named by Forbes as the world’s best-paid athlete, and by ESPN as the world’s most famous athlete.
Diego Maradona, Argentina
(30 October 1960 – )
Maradona debuted on the international scene in 1977 at age 16 in a game against Hungary. In his time with the Argentina national team, Maradona scored 34 goals in 91 appearances. He also famously starred for the Argentinean team which claimed the 1986 World Cup.
As thoughtco.com describes of the reverence Maradona inspires: “then there are his Argentinean countrymen, who were left grasping for words after their savior produced the ‘hand of God’ score and the ‘goal of the century’ en route to a World Cup triumph in 1986.”
Maradona’s career was not without controversy, with the low being his expulsion from the 1994 World Cup after testing positive for ephedrine. However, Maradona went on to lead club teams to championships in Argentina, Italy, and Spain, and in 2008, Maradona was hired as coach for Argentinean national team.
Hendrik Johannes ‘Johan’ Cruyff (Netherlands, Ajax, Barcelona)
(25 April 1947 – 24 March 2016)
Cruyff was a top player in the 1960s and 1970s and is still widely regarded as one of the greatest players in football history. He won eight Dutch titles and three European Cups with Ajax, and receive the Ballon d’Or three times, in 1971, 1973 and 1974.
Cruyff was one of the most famous proponents of the football philosophy known as Total Football explored by Rinus Michels – a movement where players interchanged positions.
Franz Beckenbauer (Germany, Bayern Munich, NewYork Cosmos)
(11 September 1945 – )
Nicknamed ‘Der Kaiser’ because of “his elegant style, dominance and leadership on the field, and also as his first name “Franz” is reminiscent of the Austrian emperors”. He is widely regarded to be one of the all-time greatest players, and he captained Germany to World Cup victory in 1974.
He was a versatile player who started out as a central midfielder, then made his name as an attacking sweeper. His best years were playing with Bayern Munich, where he won five Bundesliga titles and three European Cups. Later the played alongside Pelé at the New York Cosmos.s
Zinedine Zidane (France, Real Madrid)
(23 June 1972 – )
Another of soccer’s all-time great players, ‘Zizou’ led France to victory at the 1998 World Cup. He also won club titles in Italy and Spain, and the Euro 2000 for France, whilst picking up three FIFA Player of the Year Awards in 1998, 2000 and 2003 on the way.
Zinedine Zidane was the manager of Real Madrid until his resignation earlier this year.
Michel Platini (France)
(21 June 1955 – )
Platini was a star player with Nancy, St-Etienne, and Juventus. He was a European champion for club and country after winning the 1984 European Championship with France, in which the attacking midfielder scored a phenomenal nine goals in five games.
He won three consecutive Ballon d’Ors, in 1983, 1984 and 1985. Unfortunately, his reputation took a dive when, as UEFA president, an investigation into illicit payments led to a ban from the sport in 2015.
Alfredo di Stefano (Argentina, Colombia and Spain, Real Madrid)
(4 July 1926 – 7 July 2014)
Alfredo Stéfano has been called the best, most complete and influential footballer of all time, and the key to Real Madrid’s dominance in the 1950s. His unmatchable record achievement was scoring in five consecutive European Cup finals, from 1956. He also won the Ballon d’Or in 1957 and 1959.
Ferenc Puskás, (Hungary, Real Madrid)
(1 April 1927 – 17 November 2006)
Puskás famously has an outstanding strike record of ‘83 goals in 84 games’ for Hungary – though there was, in fact, one more goal and one more game from a match vs Lebanon in 1956, that was only recognized as an official game by the Hungarian FA in May 2002. He also scored 514 goals in 529 matches in the Hungarian and Spanish leagues.
Puskás won three European Cups in 1959, 1960, and 1966, 10 national championships and 8 top individual scoring honors. He also led Hungary to the finals of the World Cup in 1954.