Top 10 Greatest Soccer Players | All Time Best Footballers

The creativity and zeal that typify “the beautiful game” of football (soccer) 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 peak of the game.

This list now includes Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, who are both close enough to retirement for their careers to be properly judged. Otherwise, it includes retired players from the entire recorded history of the modern game. It does not include active players whose careers are still developing.

YouTube videos are used to showcase the skills of the players listed. The Zidane, Messi, Ronaldo, and Maradona videos are recommended for newcomers to the sport who wish to see a demonstration of its artistic brilliance.

10. George Best, Northern Ireland

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George Best’s career was plagued by drinking problems, but his talent was almost unparalleled. Famed for his dribbling abilities, he won the 1968 European Cup (now the Champions League) and two league titles during his time with Manchester United.As an attacking midfielder, he scored a remarkable 205 goals in 579 games, and he won the Ballon d’Or in 1968. As Northern Ireland has never been a force in international football.

9. Zinedine Zidane, France

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Zidane’s strengths were his individual skill, ball control, physical strength, and passing. His best performances were often in the most decisive games, demonstrating a character not seen in many other sportsmen. As a 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. After retiring, Zidane brought his intelligence to football management, guiding Real Madrid to three consecutive European Cups.

8. Alfredo Di Stéfano, Argentina

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The first forward on the list has to be Alfredo Di Stéfano. 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, Di Stéfano 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 América with Argentina.

7. Ferenc Puskás, Hungary

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Ferenc Puskás 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

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Franz Beckenbauer was a sweeper (a ball-playing defender who contributed to attacks) but that didn’t stop him from scoring 111 goals in 776 appearances for Germany and Bayern Munich. Much like Di Stéfano, he never had a true position on the pitch; he was literally everywhere at once, dictating the game, exerting his influence, and “sweeping up” opposition attacks that broke through the defensive line.

5. Johann Cruyff, Netherlands

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Johann Cruyff had the skill, ball control, and strength of Zidane, and the dribbling and pace of George Best. He was the total footballer, combining a sublime gracefulness with a clinical ability and calculating intelligence. Cruyff was a prolific goalscorer as well, netting 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

4. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

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Cristiano Ronaldo’s career took off when he joined Manchester United as a winger, aged 18. He won 9 trophies there, including 3 Premier Leagues and a Champions League. He was playing as a striker by the time he moved to Real Madrid, aged 24, where he added another 15 trophies, including 2 league titles and 4 Champions Leagues. In total, he has 32 team trophies (including Euro 2016 with Portugal) and 5 individual Ballon d’Ors.

3. Diego Maradona, Argentina

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Diego Maradona’s talent was quite possibly 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 Pelé, Maradona still won the 1986 World Cup with Argentina (almost single-handedly) as well as three league titles and one UEFA Cup with Napoli. Against England, he scored one of the greatest goals of all time.

2. Pelé, Brazil

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Pelé 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 1,282 goals in 1,366 games (including friendlies). His sheer power, strength, pace, and dribbling ability saw him score all varieties of goal for fun. The Ballon d’Or committee said that Pelé would have won the award 7 times (equaling Messi) if it had been awarded to non-Europeans before 1995.

1. Lionel Messi, Argentina

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After a successful trial with Barcelona, Lionel Messi arrived in Spain as a 13-year-old and made his first appearance for the club, aged 16. He would go on to win 10 league titles, 7 domestic cups, and 4 Champions Leagues with the Catalan club. Toward the end of his career, Messi relocated to Paris Saint-Germain, where he won another league title in 2022. In total, he has 38 team trophies and 7 individual Ballon d’ors (a record).

Messi is known for his quick feet, agility, strength (despite his small frame), acceleration, and ability to dribble past defenders. Apart from heading, Messi has the complete attacking skill set, including an accurate shot, free-kicks, penalties, and the creativity to link-up play and provide assists.

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